As we contemplate another undeclared war for oil in the Middle East I offer some thoughts on American belligerence. I have long thought one of the major reasons Americans have become so comfortable sending troops anywhere in the world to fight in undeclared and in some cases unacknowledged wars is because of the all volunteer military.
Today’s American soldier is often someone who joins the military in order to win a chance to rise out of poverty. In a very real sense, many of today’s soldiers are gambling their lives for a college education. And many of these soldiers, coming from the lower economic demographics, are not connected to the people in Washington who angle for new places to deploy them in order to increase their or their supporters’ profits. If a kid from East L.A. or Bumblescum Arkansas is killed in Africa or Central Asia, who cares? It’s what they signed up for, so our President says. Unless we are related to or personally know them, most of us don’t have any skin in the game. And what’s more important, legislators and military and civilian officials who callously put them in harm’s way don’t have any skin in the game. The kids are just numbers, and you can always get someone to replace them. They get a “free” college education, after all. If they don’t die.
I don’t think the United States has been able to articulate a valid national security reason for military action on a large scale since World War II or maybe Korea. Eisenhower warned us against the rise of the military industrial complex but we paid no heed. Vietnam was a war to prop up French colonialism, even after the French had long been forced out. Saddam invaded Kuwait, but when the US led coalition ousted him it was certainly not to defend democracy. Not even American life and property.
In the second Gulf War the much ballyhooed threat of weapons of mass destruction turned out to be illusory. Congress did approve the operation, but unlike the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution it was not a rubber stamp. Still, I wonder how many of those who voted in favor would have been so quick to agree if they knew their own children, or the children of their constituents, might be casualties. You can bet they would want to make sure there was a valid reason for risking American lives.
If the United States is going to use its military it needs to be to counter a real threat that all Americans, not just war mongers and poor kids looking for a college education, are willing to sacrifice to oppose. If you’re not willing to put your life or your kid’s life on the line to enrich American capitalists, then we shouldn’t expect anyone else to do it either. Re-institute the draft, and watch those pushing aggression cower back into the shadows.