Wednesday, October 25, 2006

War without public sacrifice

We are told over and over again the current conflict in Iraq is tied to a larger war against terrorists and this is the challenge of a generation not unlike WWII. However, during WWII sacrifices were asked and expected of everyone whether it be service in the armed services, taxes, rationing, conservation, wage and price controls, etc. The challenge to our generation has resulted in tax cuts and no sacrifices asked of us other than to vote Republican.

Does anyone wonder why there is a sense of detachment by the American people from this conflict in the Middle East?

This from Richard Stern at the New Republic’s Open University blog following President Bush’s press conference this morning:
I've just heard President Bush's not ineloquent description of the war that the rational, peace-loving people of the world are waging against the evil murderers who hate liberty, democracy, and peace. He speaks of this as a war very different from but comparable in importance to the war against fascism which concluded the year before he was born. I was alive and aware during that war, and as far as quality of national life goes, it did not resemble the life we are leading now. Like almost every boy in my class, I did such things as collected and rolled tin foil into supposedly usable balls and when in the country, had a small "victory garden" where I raised a few radishes. My mother rolled bandages down at the Red Cross. My uncles were either in war-related businesses (the silk business which was involved in parachute making) or volunteering their time at the Office of Price Administration. Uniforms were everywhere, the trains were packed with soldiers, the stations tense with
heartrending farewells. Everyone you knew was somehow connected with the war: Your cousins were fighting in North Africa, Sicily, the Pacific; your friends'
older brothers and parents were far away and mailing the thin blue email letters
back home. Almost everyone followed the day's battleground events, charted the
progress or retreats on the map, knew the casualty figures, cheered and booed
the political leaders in the newsreels. Total war.

Today, the war is something on the television news, the occasional
press conferences, the newspapers. Few are in uniform. I know no one fighting in
Iraq or Afghanistan and whenever I hear of someone's nephew or cousin fighting,
I'm a bit more engaged than I otherwise would be. In World War II, President
Roosevelt's sons were in the army. Indeed, 18 year old G. H.W. Bush volunteered
as a pilot and postponed his life at Yale. Is there anyone in his son's large
family serving in the military? Have none of them been persuaded by his
eloquence and force to volunteer to fight in the great cause he espouses?

And the rest of us? Oh yes, we were aroused on that amazing day in
September when the two great towers disintegrated before our eyes and for a few
days afterward we digested a new turn in the life of the nation and perhaps, to
a small degree, in our own lives. But now? Weariness, disgust, anger,

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