When saw our son Ben off to the United States Air Force Academy, we did it with pride and the knowledge that our family was confirming, in a big way, a tie to a greater military institution that has prominently been part of our lives since World War II. The idea was to take the superior attributes of this young person and see him fashion a special role as a leader.
Going to Falcon football games, watching him perform with the Drum and Bugle Corps and seeing the variety of the combat aircraft fly over before every game gave us the feeling of pomp and circumstance. The reality of the seriousness and bloody work that military service entails came later into our awareness on 9/11.
The military at its elementary level is a close knit group and a true “band of brothers” that watch out for each other to survive in battle. The commitment is to one another and the careers that blossom from that relationship are key motivators for service to country.
The American military is no longer about taking time off from work or school to do your duty and serve when your number comes up. The unpopular Vietnam War and its consequences saw to it that a citizen army no longer be required to fight the country’s battles.
After the tragedy that was Vietnam, the military restructured itself as a volunteer professional institution doing an everyday job. The “everyday” part of the job calls for it to be in a constant war that justifies its extra large budget.
The 1990-91 Gulf War represents the first great triumph of the professional military as when the battle began in earnest, it took 100 hours to do away with the enemy. The Armed Forces of the United States had effectively shaken off the bad memories of the Vietnam debacle.
Then came 9/11 and the morning for its victims after which President Bush came out to say that we would not be intimidated by the terrorist attack and invited Americans to live normal lives, go shopping and enjoy the football season. It was a way of saying, “Don’t worry, we got this.”
So our country and its coalition went to war in Afghanistan, then Iraq, then Afghanistan and now Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and looking to do something in Venezuela and North Korea. All of this has been done on a credit card that has and is charging trillions of dollars that obliterated the balanced budget and debt pay-down by the Clinton Administration.
America is at war and the common citizens are going about normal life as if it is someone else’s problem and only hears about tax cuts for some and reduced benefits for others. The public is so divorced from its military that 16 years of conflict is tolerated and accepted without even a declaration of war by Congress.
The military separation from its citizens is so vast that increasingly appearing is another method of waging war while reducing casualties that make headlines. Did you know that there are 12,000 U.S. paid mercenaries in Afghanistan?
They are called contractors, but play the same role as the “contractors” that fought for decadent Rome before its fall. The Blackwater types of organizations are doing very well in this environment.
The point is that America must find a way of bringing back its citizen military in some fashion. War has to be every one’s business and not be this remote thing that we see in movies or CNN.