Charles Rangel's idea that we bring back the draft is a non-starter.
I think the idea that you can't, or shouldn't, discuss war policy without having fought is flawed.
But on the other hand, we've got an adolescent foreign policy debate There's a disconnect between our assumption of rights as Americans and the responsibility we accept in exchange for those rights, and there's a lot of important work that is going to have to be tackled, even absent a war, by strong hands and young hearts.
War is all hell, as General Sherman said. People die, people are mangled, women are raped, lives are destroyed. None of it can really be put back together. Someone else rebuilds in time.
Yet our leaders, and their followers, treat war as my 15-year old son treats it, as an academic exercise. My son can be forgiven for this. The leaders of our country cannot be.
They have forgotten or are ignoring the horror of it. They consider themselves immune. Most Americans, as Lawrence O'Donnell has written so memorably, consider themselves immune.
This wasn't the case before. It was not the intent of the Nixon Thesis to make it the case. Nixon himself reinstituted a real draft, with few exemptions, and forced hard choices on a generation, including (perhaps most famously) Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But with the end of that war the draft was ended, the "all-volunteer" army was constituted.
And that worked, for a while. Until the Iraq occupation. Because that occupation required far more human sacrifice than its supporters were ready to give.
So first National Guardsmen were treated as active duty, contravening the enlistment agreements they had signed, and then they were sent again. And those in the regular service were sent several times. Enlistments were arbitrarily extended, creating a "back-door" draft. So-called "contractors" were employed for military work, essentially creating an army of mercenaries exempt from the discipline of regular troops.
In the context of the respect our military men and women deserve, I believe all these actions constitute War Crimes.
Only now, with Democrats gaining some power in Congress, are we even beginning to contemplate the implications of all this. And Rep. Rangel says, OK, a draft. Everyone is drafted, but most will go into peacetime pursuits. They will teach the poor, or rebuild the parks. Those who actually go into the military will earn more, during and after, but some may still have no choice. And the forcing of that dilemma will not be based on race or class, but luck.
There is something to be said for that. There is more to be said for the idea that we stop trying to occupy anyone, that we get out of the occupation business entirely. There is more to be said for the idea that our military should be reserved for defense, and for simple, well-defined missions, all subject to the now-discarded Powell Doctrine.
I hope that someday we reach that level of maturity, because everyone involved in foisting this occupation on our military -- whether in the Administration, or the media, or the think tanks, or the warbloggers -- deserves nothing less than to experience these horrors first-hand. (Beware that click -- it's X-rated for graphic violence.)
But, again, there is something to be said for Rangel's basic premise. That is, young people owe their country something for the benefits it has given them. And while I myself am 51, I would like to add that I am very conscious of that unpaid debt. And if a place can be found for me in this new peace corps, I would be quite willing to do my year, or two.
So long as you're willing to do yours.