Monday, December 2, 2013

A modest political proposal

It's that time of year.

Social media will again pass around a number of memes that show American servicemen and women stationed overseas and away from those they love and care about at the holidays.  And justly so that our collective attention should be called to the situations of these fine people.  They are far from home during a time when it is hard to be such, they sacrifice much (sometimes everything), and they endure hardships that very few of us could ever know.  They are deserving of our eternal gratitude.  I cannot, however, help but think about the people who put them in these places.

Back in 1991, I was in Haiti.  As I have blogged before, I was witness to scenes that were about as close as you can get to war without actually being on the battlefield.  I learned that bodies still twitch even after someone shoots them in the head and that when human flesh burns it smells just like burgers or hot dogs on the grill.  I got out safe and was never really the target of anything.  I can't imagine what it must be like to truly be in the thick of it and have your own self targeted.  My point being, I've since been cautious about advocating sending young men and women to war.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm no peacenik.  I've read enough history to know that there have been and probably always will be incidences where the only option is a military one.  Dictators seem to know little else.  Even while knowing that, I still hesitate sending someone else to go do what once scared the hell out of me.  Do our political leaders have the same understanding?

So here's what I'm thinking.  Any politician who serves on a Senate or House committee that has anything to do with military matters needs to have served at least one year in an active combat zone.  Get a taste of it.  See what you're sending young men and women to go do.  That should, hopefully, keep chickenhawks out of the equation.  No, you can't just slap a magnetic yellow ribbon on your car and say, "There.  I support the troops."

I'm aware this brings problems, especially if you extend the rule to the presidency.  Conservatives would be unhappy as it would have excluded Reagan and liberals would decry the loss of Bill Clinton.  I'm aware that a leader can make sound decisions on military matters without having served.  I'm also aware that several politicians such as George HW Bush and John McCain know full well the strains and agony of combat, especially McCain.  At the same time, I don't see how it could hurt to force civilian leadership to at least have an understanding of what transpires in a war zone.

Indeed in recent years it has seemed that there are politicians and there are troops and seldom do the twain meet, excepting leaders such as the aforementioned McCain and also Tammy Duckworth.  What if we changed that?  At least in terms of how decisions are made to deploy military force?

If nothing else, they might think twice because they know.
And it just might make a few a families a bit happier at this time of year.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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