Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Volunteers and sacrifice

Atrios and Glenn Greenwald have been reflecting on war fans and volunteering for actual war.

I've always had reservations about antiwar bloggers taunting war fans about not joining the service if they're in favor of the war. Although I have done it myself once or twice. For one thing, I wouldn't want anyone to just rush and sign up for the infantry just because they had a testosterone "surge" (that's becoming a popular word) and felt like they had to show everybody they were as tough as their words. Guys have been known to do things like that. And not only young ones, either. The truth is, signing up for the armed forces, especially if it's likely you'll be sent to war, is a serious decision that affects not only oneself but family members and other people with whom they are connected. It's not a decision to be taken lightly.

Having said all that, I do think it's entirely appropriate when people start accusing war critics of being traitors and the like because they oppose the war to challenge them to put their money - or in this case their bodies - where their mouths are. Still, it's a fairly easy taunt to counter with something like, "That's a serious and personal decision and I don't choose to discuss my reasons in public," or some such.

But in the more general sense, the Iraq War has always been marketed as a war without sacrifice for most of us. After 9/11, Bush told us all we should serve our country by going shopping and paying less taxes. Bush and his Party have never proposed renewing the draft. The overheated rhetoric about the importance of the Iraq War has never been matched by calls for volunteers or other general sacrifices like war taxes from our Republican leaders.

But still, being in the service or being a veteran doesn't make it all right to call somebody a traitor. Putting someone on the level of a Scooter Libby is a really harsh thing to say and people just shouldn't be saying stuff like that without cause.

It's also important to remember that war is everyone's business. The Halliburtons of the world obviously make more profit from it than most of us. But it's something that every citizen can and should pay some attention to. It's not just a concern for veterans and serving members of the armed forces. As we have seen these past 5+ years, even our infallible generals often aren't. Infallible, that is. People need to use their heads and also pay attention to serious military opinion. But war is always about more than purely military considerations. The fact that it would be militarily possible to, say, overrun Canada doesn't mean it's a good idea.

And speaking of war profiteering, that phrase has now re-entered "respectable" political conversation, thanks to Sen. Pat Leahy, the target of Dick Cheney's famous "Go [Cheney] yourself" comment. He introducted the War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007 on the first day of the new Congress.

He proposed the act in March, 2006, but - guess what? - the Republican Senate rejected it.

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