The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Saturday, September 25, 2004

Why the Story Won't Die 

The always insightful Monica White has an interesting post at Th'Inkwell entitled "A Question of Service". Here is a small tidbit to wet your palette:

What would you expect upon joining the army?

Well, if you believe the recruitment advertisements of Australia's armed services several years ago - a nice steady job in carpentry (rebuilding schools and hospitals in war torn parts of Asia), playing with fancy, blinking gadgets or 'being a leader' (don't ask). Nowhere in the recruitment drive were a few key facts mentioned:

- There may be a war
- You may be shipped out to war
- You may need to kill
- You may die

The whole thing is very good and I highly recommend reading it. One part that I found especially good (probably because it had crossed my mind several times when Farenheight 9/11 first came out) was this:

I remember seeing Michael Moore being interviewed during the Democractic convention. He seemed to revel in the idea that he had caught his interviewer out by asking him whether he would send his own child to Iraq. The interviewer, of course, stated that this would be solely the child's decision. Michael would take none of it and asked the same question again and again, thinking he had caught the interviewer out at some guilty admission.

Michael is living in the wrong decade, if not the wrong century. People willingly sign themselves up for military service in America these days. Conscription is (thankfully) a thing of the past and children are no longer chattels only doing their parent's bidding.

The thing got me thinking about the entire Bush vs. Kerry Vietnam battle, which seems to have taken a back seat lately to Memogate. Kerry went to war, and Bush stayed home in the National Guard. Cheney got a deferment, as did John Edwards. The fact that John Edwards got a deferment is probably why we haven't been seeing too much of him (except at county fairs and such) since the whole Vietnam thing has really been at the forefront. Hell, even John Kerry tried to get a deferment, then he tried to get into the Natoinal Guard himself. When both of those attempts failed, he "volunteered" for the Swift Boats, which at the time he signed up was actually one of the easiest services around. It wasn't til after he got in country that the force was re-tasked to inland river patrols making it one of the most dangerous. But that's all besides the point.

Why the hell are people so possessed to still talk about something that happened 30 years ago? One possible answer dawned on me while reading Monica's post. The National Guard ain't what it used to be, and some people might be resentful, even if only deep down. Back in the days of the Cold War and the draft, the National Guard had two purposes (and I'm speaking in extremely general terms here). First it was a service that stayed behind while others went to war to protect against a possible attack from the U.S.S.R (remember them?) Second it was a place for people to get out of going to war, when we went to war, and the draft was in full force. But the Guard is a different place now. First of all, there is no draft. So how do we get people to join the armed forces voluntarily? One way is that we carrot and stick you with V.A. medical benefits and college tuition money after you get out. But who wants to join the Army full time when I can be a weekend warrior in the National Guard? I can do a couple weeks a year, plus some weekends and still get some of the benefits. Plus it's the National Guard, so I never actually have to go to war right? It's a brilliant plan.

And there is the rub. The National Guard hasn't been a place to get out of going to war for 20 years or more. After the draft was abolished, our full time standing army shrunk, which meant that those weekend warriors were going to actually be relied upon to pick up the slack if we ever went to war again. They were called up during the 1st Gulf War, and they're being called up again in the war on terror. Hell, they were even been called up at various other times in the 90's when we were in places like Bosnia (remember Bill Clinton's war?) I want to be careful here. I honestly don't think we have a lot of reservists who are resentful. I don't even think their families are for the most part. You can't be. You have to support those you love who are being sent to protect their country, because they depend on you while they are gone. I bring this up because I think its buried deeper than that. But I wonder if that's the reason this story just won't die. Are some people thinking that Bush is cheating the Guard members... sending them to war when he never got sent to war? Why won't he give them the wink and nod like he got? I don't believe it personally, but I sometimes wonder.

I wish the story would die. I can think of too many things that are way more important than a war that was fought more than 30 years ago. There is a war today. There is our country's future to be decided today. Let's talk about today for once. Leave the past where it belongs.

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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.


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