Bob Herbert once again bemoans the relative few in this country who are actually sacrificing for Mister Bush's woebegone war in Iraq. This time, Bob calls for the children of the privileged to serve along with their less fortunate "warrior class" contemporaries.
I appreciate your sentiments, Bob, but it won't happen. Even if we were to reestablish the draft, we'd have the same thing we had in Vietnam. Poor kids would slog rifles; rich kids would get deferments or serve in safe, cushy billets. The Bush twins would serve as flight attendants with the Texas Air National Guard.
This war should serve as a wake up call to American on several fronts, among them the reality of the inverted pyramid of wealth and privilege. The neoconservative cabal that concocted the war in Iraq was able, due to their positions in life, to evade serving during Vietnam. They grew up to assume vital positions in government (largely during the Nixon administration) and industry (specifically energy and defense contracting.) Their children, raised to take their places in positions of power, have no intention of serving in this war.
The private energy and defense sectors have become one and the same with government (as witnessed by Mister Bush's recent appoint of a Northrup Grumman executive to Secretary of the Navy). The governing elites continue to borrow money for this war--that they pay, in essence, to themselves--leaving a suffocating debt for succeeding generations of the working classes to make good.
I heartily support the efforts of Cindy Sheehan and others in demanding immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. I especially appreciate Ms. Sheehan's debunking of Mister Bush's "stay the course to honor the dead" mantra. We don't honor the dead by adding to their number for no real purpose, and it's quite clear that Iraq will most likely not become the friendly, cooperative federal republic the neocons envisioned when they lured us into this excursion. We may in fact, find ourselves in any of a number of scenarios far less favorable than the one we had when Saddam Hussein was in power. (One of the most likely is a pan-Shiite coalition between Iraq and Iran that is friendly to China.)
I don't think, however, that an "immediate" withdrawal is entirely practical. We need to see Iraq through it's next election (which needs to happen on schedule) and then we need to start packing.
But I also think the "out now" groups need to keep up the pressure on the administration, which I'm afraid will cling to its vision of military domination of the Middle East (and control of the region's oil) through a base of operations in Iraq. That's what they had in mind since before they chose Mister Bush as their presidential candidate, and the dreams of power mongers don't die easily.
We need to figure out how to keep another disaster like Iraq from happening again. That will require a change of some kind in our electoral process. I'm not a socialist by any stretch of the imagination, but we have a political problem with the way wealth is distributed in this country. As things are, one percent of the population has the fiscal clout to determine the outcomes of elections (and subsequently control the elected officials).
The first thing we should change is the Electoral College process that selects the president. At present, the power brokers play red state blue state strategies, and are able to target big campaign bucks at a handful of key states. We could break up this paradigm by eliminating the state-by-state winner take all bloc votes. We'd keep the current distribution of electors (i.e., Rhode Island keeps a 3 to 1 per capita advantage over California), but the electors' votes would reflect the distribution of votes within their respective states. This would bring several immediate benefits.
-- Every vote really counts. If you live in a red state but vote blue, your vote will be reflected in the Electoral College.
-- Emergence of the center (swing) vote. When every vote counts, more people will be motivated to vote. The more people who vote, the less impact the polar fringes will have on election outcomes
-- Big money influence wanes. When every vote counts, campaign money has to be spread throughout all 50 states, diminishing its effect to such an extent that at some point, it has little to no effect at all.
-- Diminishes/eliminates ballot fraud. Party machines can't focus battalions of lawyers in an Ohio or a Florida.
Changing the character of presidential elections will have a trickle down effect on other elections as well. Federal congress races won't be tied so closely to partisan support of party presidential candidates. Senators and representatives will need to focus on local issues.
Of course, there's a major problem with this scheme. The people who need to decide to make the change are the very people who benefit from maintaining the status quo.
Nonetheless, I firmly believe a change like this is vital to reversing the militaristic trend the neoconservatives have foisted on contemporary America. Only by breaking up the big money paradigm can the citizens who actually fight and pay for war become empowered to decide which wars to fight and how long to fight them.