During our totally poignant and virtually perfect goodbye to President George H.W. Bush, many speakers referred to the former president as “the last of the war-time leaders.” I imagined hearing a voice shouting, “Good riddance!” It didn’t mean good riddance to the man or the leader. It meant good riddance to “the Greatest Generation” that won World War II.
It made me wish all of my “dire warnings” were as accurate as this one and all were treated to the highest respect of policymakers. This is exactly what I’ve dreaded for many decades. We’ve gone from the era when all our leaders had worn the uniform to the era when none of them has worn the uniform.
Our military has become a kind of hated minority. The military has deflated from an institution disparaged by none to one ridiculed by all.
And I lay the blame squarely on the elimination of the draft!
The elimination of the draft and the embracing of the all-volunteer force segregates and isolates the military. American thinking regarding the military has corroded from “all of us” to “us and them”! It sets the military aside as specialists in distasteful pursuits. It gives rise to a caricature vision something like, “The French do our cooking. The Italians do our singing. The blacks, depending on their gender, do our yard work and raise our children. The Jews help us with our income tax, so not an unwarranted nickel goes to the IRS. The Chinese do our laundry. And the military does our fighting!”
If you long to hear a symphony of insults, just observe how liberals really feel about our defenders in uniform. The draft means we’re all in this together. The all-volunteer military says the opposite. Despite the best efforts of our leaders to honor “The Troops,” it doesn’t quite make it. It’s like dropping a honeysuckle down the Grand Canyon and waiting for an echo.
Bring back the draft. Let every American man and woman take a year of military training, including the care and use of firearms, physical fitness and history. None of that rah-rah garbage about America’s battlefield glories. Tell them about the 700 men we lost in a drill rehearsing for D-Day off the English coast. The truth will be glorious enough.
President Reagan said, “I’ve lived through a lot of wars and not a single one was caused because America was too strong.” The more men and women we have militarily trained the less likely that they’ll ever be needed.
The term can be as short as one year. The rewards of a draft are not limited to national security. National unity and solidarity will get a nice lift, and the big beneficiary would be the draftees themselves living through a year of military discipline.
I took my basic training in 1953. If a crisis were to fall upon America, that long-ago military training would allow me to be helpful rather than a burden. It’s said that Japanese Adm. Yamamoto warned against landing troops on America’s West Coast because too many Americans were armed. Would that some future ambitious aggressor were to study the wisdom of invading an America where almost everybody – instead of almost nobody – was trained and ready to fit into national defense!
Also, everybody goes who’s physically able. No deferments, no strings pulled, no anguished calls to congressmen etc.
That field hand in South Carolina gave us the right attitude during World War II. His boss said, “Mose, I hear you got your letter from the draft board. Are you ready to go?”
“No, Sir. I’m not ready,” he replied. “But I’m willing to go unready!”