Sunday, September 30, 2012

Who Pays the Price of Freedom?

I recently learned that a military organization, in which I played a long and rewarding part, is being reduced in size and capability. The reasons have to do with the new economic reality, but the consequences will be felt for a long time, I believe.

We had the best of it, that's for sure. We grew up in an age of challenge, but it was also one of possibilities. The end of the Great Depression, the years of global warfare, but better than that, what I like to think of as the Age of Sacrifice.

Even that ill-conceived event known as the Korean Police Action, and its next iteration, Viet Nam, were heavily dependent on a broad swath of America to carry the burden. It was also because so many were active participants, that both events were eventually seen by many as wrong.

I don't know when it went wrong, but my sense is that when we began to think of our military as a way to exploit tax dollars for private gain (Revolutionary War), and make military service a volunteer situation (same time as the other part), we rode all over the Founding Fathers' idea of a civilian-oriented military. Today we have a philosophy gone wild, I think: "rake in tax dollars and spread them around among your friends, and the economy will benefit," doesn't work, because defense of a nation isn't something you can buy.

 More and more people are stepping back from their responsibilities as citizens, and the result is a loss of capability, of strength, and of future. It isn't this president's actions (or lack of them) that has brought us to this point. It has been going on for a long time. Remember Eisenhower's admonition to beware of the military-industrial complex? This is what he was talking about. And hiring paramilitary organizations to defend the country at home and abroad didn’t begin with our current president. The result is that we are, by and large, becoming distanced from the defense of our liberty, of peace and prosperity.

It is everybody’s job. It isn’t something we can buy.

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