We live in an age of latte salutes and rampant military illiteracy, our military history neglected by faculties of Vietnam draft-dodgers. When only one-half of 1 percent of Americans serve in uniform while the other 99 percent kibitz from the sidelines, the greatest social danger is not uneven sacrifice, but something far worse. What happens when those military illiterates elect one of their own as president?
It is as though the passengers on a crowded Airbus, before the doors were closed and the aircraft pushed back, were asked to elect one of their number as pilot. The results were on display the other day when President Obama returned the crisp salutes of his Marine guards with a latte in his right hand. Because we come from the same culture, I can tell you exactly what those Marines were thinking: “So who elected this guy?” (That’s soldier-speak cleaned up for publication a family newspaper.) It’s a good question best answered in front of a mirror.
Because it was written by the survivors of Valley Forge, men who had faced the massed volleys of British regulars, our Constitution does not view national defense as a spectator sport. Our Founders viewed faith in God and personal morality as the essential underpinnings of liberty, particularly the all-important ideal of duty. To a generation that spawned the Minutemen, a standing Army was not only unnecessary, but unthinkable. Duty would raise any armies needed in the event of what George Washington called “any interesting emergency.”
At least until 1973, when military service became a personal option, not an obligation of citizenship. Thereafter, we embarked on a new era of American wars being fought with Other People’s Kids. Even after Sept. 11, 2001, the volunteer military was working so well that you were more likely on American campuses to encounter virginity rather than prior military service. My kid is doing just fine at Maryland; thanks for asking. And is yours surviving his second tour in Kandahar? (more…)