That’s where we are now: the American people have sub-contracted our military conflicts out to Congress and the Pentagon. At any given time, only 1% of the population serves in the military. It’s an all-volunteer force: there is no draft, and there is no such thing as National Service. There is support for those who serve, but not necessarily for the wars in which they serve.
The problem with that mindset is, that it’s not just the military that goes to war. The entire country does. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, it wasn’t just myself and my fellow service members who went; every American went along with us. We are a democratic republic: the people elect the nation’s leaders. If those leaders decide to wage war, it’s done on every citizen’s behalf. Simply put, we’re all in this together. In the most liberal interpretation, EVERY American is complicit in everything this country does, right and wrong.
Another result is that there is a big disconnect between veterans and the rest of America. Civilians don’t know what it means to serve and to truly sacrifice. Not just one’s life, but the separation of servicemen and women from their families, and from a sense of normalcy. This is in stark contrast to even before the American Revolution, when all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to serve in the militia.
On the other hand, veterans/military personnel no longer fit in the civilian world. Most of our experience and skills don’t resonate with most employers: it’s not a good idea to list “machine gunner” on a resume. We’re expected to reconnect and fit back in with the rest of the population, but that’s impossible.
A good analogy is the differences between people who suffer from life-threatening illnesses, and those who don’t. Healthy people have no idea what it’s like to be handed a potential death sentence like cancer.
That’s a damn good thing, and bad. Because we say we care and try to help them in any way we can, but those afflicted with these illnesses-and their families-are alone in their suffering. To the rest of us, it’s always happening to SOMEONE ELSE. That lack of true empathy stops with telethons, crowdfunding, and collection jars at the checkout line. It prevents us from going a step further and pressuring our elected leaders into allocating much, much more money toward cancer cure research.
Since its creation in 1930, the Veterans Administration has continually dropped the ball in carrying for this nation’s veterans. In the past few years, we’ve witnessed scandal after scandal involving the treatment of those who’ve served our country. There’s outrage on the part of the country, but it doesn’t last beyond the next news cycle.
If the Draft were to be reinstated, or if this country instituted National Service like Israel and Norway, where being in the military is mandatory, more people could possibly be sent into harm’s way. There would be more families who could possibly lose a loved one to war. More citizens would be coming home wounded, and require care and treatment at the VA. And the next time a president decided to wage war based on flimsy evidence, those families could contact their senator or representative, and tell them:
“If you vote to go along with this, we will vote you out of a job.”
And just maybe, it will no longer be too easy to go to war.