an old man’s war, but a young man’s fight." It’s been said through the ages, but nobody has ever done anything
about it. War is an injustice indeed, especially to the young who have not had their chance at life. But two simple steps
can change that once and for all.
father is a World War 2 veteran of the Army Air Corps where he was a flight mechanic. He told me that while working on planes
he would notice other mechanics taking shortcuts or doing work improperly. “Hey, you’re doing that wrong,”
he would say, only to hear, “Who cares?... I’m not going up in this plane…” It troubled him then-as it does even now-how callous and cynical men can sometimes be with the lives of
no flight mechanic serving under Colonel John “Killer” Kane ever did careless work. Kane, son of a Baptist preacher,
led the famous air attack of the heavily defended Romanian oilfields in 1943. Kane every so often would walk out to where
the mechanics were working on a plane and say,” Are you boys just about finished? Draw your parachutes. We’re
all taking this plane up in one hour.” Imagine the resolve and attention to detail the mechanics exercised in their
work- after word went around about Kane's method of inspection.
understood that men act in their own self interest, and I wonder if this principle could be applied to our time, where the
burden of war is carried by 1% of the population, mostly young guys between the ages of 18 and 22, barely out of childhood.
What if all our wars from now on were fought by the entire population instead of delegated to youth?
first step toward this end would be to reintroduce the draft. Yes, the draft. Everybody- and I mean everybody- between the
ages of 18 and 65 would register and be ready for active duty. Anyone old enough to work a job is old enough to serve his
or her country. Thomas Jefferson said, “Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans,
and must be that of every free state.“
course those most physically fit would still take the role of active combatants. But I suspect this role would not fall exclusively
upon the young. I routinely see forty-something yuppie women at the gym in peak, hard-body condition from their aerobics and
pilates regimens. Men with gray hair who cross-country ski, run in marathons and climb mountains. And let’s not forget
the arm chair war-enthusiasts, the neighborhood-tavern blowhards, and barber shop strategists who- from their talk at least-
would be eager to see some “action.” And so, why not? Most jobs in today’s military are non-combat anyway,
so the army can use everybody.
and just as important. Decisions about war and peace are too important to be made by a coterie of politicians, even the best
of whom are ambitious, and inclined to make decisions based on political expediency or their own unresolved personal neuroses. Therefore, war could only be declared by a vote of the people of the United States, and then by a two- thirds majority. If there
is to be war, then let it be a people’s war: everybody's war, or it is nobody's. The president could call for a vote
at any time as often as needed.
nay-sayers will cry foul. What about top secret information to which only the president is privy? But intelligence has been
so inept that it failed to foresee the coup against the Shah of Iran. And the fall of the Soviet Union.
And the Bay of Pigs. And 9/11. Even President Bush admits he got faulty information about
Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
will complain that if people vote for their own wars, they won’t choose war unless the country is directly attacked, and then only against a clearly defined aggressor, which is exactly the point. War
is to be used as an ultimate, last ditch resort after all other means have been exhausted. Remember the lesson from Colonel
Kane? Everybody acts in their interest. We would not eliminate wars, but we’d have a hell of a lot less of them.
can the American people really be trusted with such an important decision? Thomas Jefferson addressed that question: “I
know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened
enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.”
Draw your parachutes. We’re taking this plane up in one hour.