I appreciate the comments and questions my recent open letter elicited, and I am happy to clarify.
I wrote the letter because everyone on Facebook was superimposing the French tricolor on their faces and I thought, “That’s a nice gesture, but it doesn’t really help. If people really did want to help, what would that look like?”
I concede the futility of writing an open letter. I know that few people and zero elected officials read this blog or my Facebook feed, which is why I sent the message directly to the indicated officials. My purpose was to encourage others to write their own letter or share mine. The piece attracted more readers than most of my posts do, and generated more discussion on Facebook than is normal, and I felt truly honored when a friend told me she adapted my letter and sent it to some elected officials.
I recognize that any individual communication to an elected official is inconsequential, but collectively, our voices and our votes matter very much.
I am ready to make any personal sacrifices needed to obliterate ISIL and ensure that neither my son nor anyone else’s child has to live under terrorism.
Specifically: please draft me, raise my taxes, monitor my communications, regulate my activities — whatever it takes to prevent terrorism and defeat ISIL overseas.
- Draft Me
I recommend reinstating the draft because that is by far the most equitable way to staff a war. The Vietnam War raised many legitimate concerns about the injustices of the conscription system in the ’60s and ’70s: Namely, a system of exemptions that allowed affluent, well-connected people to finagle safe stateside assignments or to avoid service altogether, forcing poorer and darker people to shoulder far more than their share of the overseas fighting and dying.
Unfortunately, instead of correcting the problems, Congress chose to end the draft entirely. Hippies fantasized that ending conscription represented progress, but in fact an all-volunteer force makes it even easier for the wealthy to avoid military service, and poverty continues to compel Americans from poor and minority backgrounds to bear even more of the burden than they did under the draft.
Perversely, the end of conscription has made it even easier for our leaders to wage unnecessary wars. They can can argue that everyone in the armed forces voluntarily accepted the risks, and they can ensure that neither their children—nor the offspring of their corporate masters — will ever come under fire. As a conservative friend of mine noted, “I would… be more in favor of mandatory service for all so the sons and daughters of the rich and ruling class have some skin in the game.”
Bringing back the draft would revive the principle that every American — even rich people! — has a duty to serve the country in wartime. It would also signal the nation’s absolute commitment to the cause.
I regret that our leaders failed to reinstate conscription after 9/11, when the public would have been much more receptive.
2. Raise My Taxes
Wars are extraordinarily expensive. Raising taxes during wartime is fiscally responsible, shows that you’re serious about winning a war, and requires civilians to sacrifice something to support the war effort.
In this country’s first two centuries, it was routine to finance wars through a combination of tax increases and expanded borrowing, including the sale of war bonds. When people buy war bonds, they are really lending money to the US government to show support for the war and to receive a modest return sometime after the war. This mitigates the need for tax increases and borrowing directly from banks. Sadly, the US has not sold war bonds since World War II.
After 9/11, it would have been responsible for Bush the Younger to ask Congress to repeal the 10-year tax cut plan he had signed shortly before the terrorist attack, and to replace it with tax increases to finance some of the costs of the War on Terror. Instead, our leaders chose to finance the war entirely by borrowing. Public debt skyrocketed, which became a particular problem when bank failures and recession required even more borrowing to revive the economy.
3. Monitor My Communications
I suspect that law enforcement at all levels is already doing what they need to do to keep us safe. I do not think that monitoring my phone calls or emails or those of most Americans would make the country any safer, but I wanted to clarify that I fully support any surveillance necessary to spy on actual terrorist suspects.
4. Regulate My Activities
I do not think that any of my present activities are harming the war effort, but I am eager to help however I can.
In past wars, our leaders asked civilians to free up food and supplies for our soldiers and allies by driving less, planting victory gardens, abstaining from alcohol, skipping certain foods on certain days, collecting scrap metal for recycling, etc. These activities were helpful in and of themselves, but their practice also had the psychological effect of deepening the public’s commitment to the war effort.
I regret picking on Bush the Younger for the second time in a short essay, but I was appalled after 9/11 when Americans asked what we could do for our country, and he recommended only that we go shopping to support the economy. Given the gasoline scarcity then prevailing, I was hoping he would ask us to drive less, for example, and maybe ask NASCAR to shut down for a few years.
That’s all for now. In my next post, I’ll address more of the feedback I have received.