by srolle, Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 10:40:18 AM EST
All Americans should serve in armed forces (Adam Hart guest column)
By Adam Hart
November 15, 2004
Maybe the best time to write your dilettante Daily column doesn't come right after you've finished your first bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 blue raspberry. I do, however, think that I need to demonstrate to people, especially you fantastic and wonderful Northwestern students, that there are reasons why people make the decisions that they do. There are reasons why people feel accountable to the way that they brandish the power (euphemistically, responsibility). There are also reasons that people don't feel accountable.
My favorite question in light of the recent election was Bush's foreign policy argument: "Would you volunteer to fight in Iraq?" No, I would not volunteer -- I would not even consider volunteering. But I do have another question to ask. Why do these soberingly naïve 18-year-olds end up risking their lives while we comfortably sit in our homes and reassure ourselves that America is doing the "right thing?"
The answer really is quite obvious. It happens because people decide for them. Yet this is somewhat of a violation of the precepts upon which we base our supposedly democratic government. These naïve 18-year-olds should be deciding for themselves, or at least someone who shares their common best interest.
So let's take a look at who actually make these decisions. Sure, we were all frustrated and angry when we watched "Fahrenheit 9/11." We watched Michael Moore embarrass our Congressmen when he encouraged them to enlist their own children in the U.S. military. Moore's goal was to compel us to see the outlandishness of the decision by the Bush administration (and the Republican Congress) to commit to the military operation in Iraq. But I think it is more instructive to take a look at Moore's actions at face value rather than how they support his viewpoint. What if Senators were committing their sons and daughters to a chance of engaging in potentially mortal combat? What if people were, in fact, making a decision for their own kin?
It sounds like a fairly simple solution, yet it violates the process by which Americans would implement such a policy. The elite decide when we risk our troops, and the elite decide how we decide. Yet, as we saw in Moore's film, the elite have nothing to risk themselves.
As I see it, the only way to introduce a sense of real integrity into these "elite" policymakers is to introduce a sense of accountability as well. Why not make Moore's proposition a fact? Why not force Mr. Senator to decide whether or not to send his own son into Baghdad or Fallujah or Afghanistan? Why not make every American who basks in the privilege of American culture also submit himself in the rather ugly decision to protect our interests, or perhaps our moral imposition, on a global scale?
Military service should not be delegated by socio-economic, "inherited" elitism, but rather be an essential element of American participation.
Now I am by no means conveying that mandatory national service would be a trivial moment for Americans. I'm not saying that our young people pressed into America's military endeavors shouldn't feel a sense of absolute hopelessness and dread when they are faced with a potentially fatal foreign tour -- I would feel the same. But this burden should be distributed equally among everyone who enjoys the perks of living in this country.
The people who decide to make the grave sacrifices should also be in the company of your fellow 18- and 19-year olds who bear the grave sacrifices.
Adam Hart is a McCormick senior.