In January 2006 I stepped off a C-130 in Tal Afar, Iraq. As I began my 13-month deployment, I imagined an American public following our progress with the same concern as my family and friends. But since returning home, I have seen that America has changed the channel.
Young investment bankers spend their impressive bonuses on clubs in Manhattan and many seem uninterested in the soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a Princeton graduate and a former financial analyst, I was once a part of this world, and I like returning to it, putting the Spartan life of Tal Afar and Anbar Province behind me. But even as I enjoy time with the friends who have welcomed me home, my thoughts wander back to other friends who continue to fight as the city parties on.
Serious problems with the war in Iraq are well chronicled, but I am struck by one that does not seem to trouble the country’s leadership, even though it is profoundly corrosive to our common good: the disparity between the lives of the few who are fighting and being killed, and the many who have been asked for nothing more than to continue shopping...
Can we continue an interventionist foreign policy with a country divided in this way? The president says that America is engaged in a struggle between good and evil, but is he addressing all citizens when his policies touch so few of us? To ask this question is inevitably to raise the issue of whether we should reinstate the draft. As a recent infantry officer who has younger siblings, I recognize what a profound question this is.
A draft would have one of two consequences. The first is that it might actually relieve the strain on today’s soldiers and end the “backdoor draft” of volunteers who have already served while their civilian peers remain comfortably undisturbed. I am aware that Army leaders fear that a draft would hurt the professionalism of today’s force. However, the lowering of recruiting requirements, as well as the offering of big signing bonuses to impressionable high school students, is already diminishing standards.
The other possible consequence is that serious consideration of a draft could set off such a violent reaction from the American public that the pressure on politicians to abandon their cliché-ridden rhetoric and begin a well-considered withdrawal would be overpowering.
Either situation would accelerate movement toward a decisive point — a commitment to victory, or the realization that Americans simply do not believe the threats cited are really worthy of the sacrifices required to vanquish them. Many years and many lives later, the very least we can do for my friends fighting a world away is to try to decide.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Opinions: Will Bardenwerper
"Party Here, Sacrifice Over There" by Will Bardenwerper (New York Times)