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Oh, There's a War?

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorSeptember 30, 2010 8:17 PM


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As climate-concerned folks know, global warming hasn't resonated with the average person in the U.S. because its impacts can't be felt. That's a big reason why there is no serious, sustained public debate about the issue. Most people just don't care enough about it. A similar disconnect explains why there is no real public conversation about the war in Afghanistan. (You ever hear it discussed at the water cooler or at your local watering hole?) What's going on here? As David Wood recently noted:

The U.S. Army now begins its 10^th continuous year in combat, the first time in its history the United States has excused the vast majority of its citizens from service and engaged in a major, decade-long conflict instead with an Army manned entirely by professional warriors.

I'm not the first person to recognize what it would take for Americans to sit up and take notice of the wars being waged in their names. In 2007, here's how Andy Roony ended his weekly commentary:

Now comes the part of this I never thought I'd hear myself say: Whenever we, as a nation, decide to fight a war "“ in Iraq or anywhere else "“ it should be fought by average Americans who are drafted.

One year ago, as President Obama was set to announce that he was sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, Bill Moyers said:

Let's share the sacrifice. Spread the suffering. Let's bring back the draft. Yes, bring back the draft -- for as long as it takes our politicians and pundits to "fix" Afghanistan to their satisfaction. Bring back the draft, and then watch them dive for cover on Capitol Hill, in the watering holes and think tanks of the Beltway, and in the quiet little offices where editorial writers spin clever phrases justifying other people's sacrifice. Let's insist our governing class show the courage to make this long and dirty war our war, or the guts to end it.

Now one could argue that liberals who suddenly pine for a national draft are doing so for ulterior motives. But it seems obvious to me that the emotional and intellectual detachment of most Americans from two wars results from not having a personal stake in them. Maybe that's reason alone to revive the draft. On the other hand, as Fred Kaplan noted six years ago in Slate:

The prospect of compulsory military service raises fundamental questions"”and agonizing dilemmas"”for a free and democratic society.

Still, ten years and counting in Afghanistan, I'm surprised that the issue doesn't come up more. It strikes me as weird that America is engaged in two wars but that most Americans don't feel, much less think about, being at war.

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