Fight the War Yourself or Just Shut Up
By Camillo "Mac" Bica
Recently, at a community forum on the war in Iraq, three individuals who termed themselves collectively as the "Patriots" made the argument that the war in Iraq was, and continues to be, necessary and important to fighting the war on terrorism, creating stability in the Middle East, and perhaps, even to prevent World War Three. Interestingly, none of the three "patriots" were, are, or intend to become members of the military. Nor were any of their immediate families. In response to my question about whether this fact somehow jeopardizes their credibility on the subject and the force of their argument, together the patriots formulated the response that they did not believe it necessary to join the military or to have family members who do, in order to be patriotic, to recognize a serious threat to our country, and to conclude, however reluctantly, that war is a necessary, legal, and moral response in such dire situations. Given the difficulty the military is experiencing in meeting its recruitment quotas, I don't think it farfetched to view these three individuals as representative of many of those self proclaimed patriots who continue to support President Bush's occupation and escalation of the war in Iraq.
For purposes of argument, I will accept that such patriots - those who remain personally unaffected by the war in the sense that neither they nor members of their family serve in the military - sincerely believe in the justness and morality of their position. For why else would sane and rational human beings advocate an enterprise that results in the deaths and injuries of so many Americans and Iraqis and support the expenditure of billions of dollars that could certainly be better spent on health care, education, developing alternative fuels, etc. Though it may be the case that greed and ambition has and continues to motivate unscrupulous individuals and corporations to urge and support war, I am going to accept that these patriots are not "war profiteers."
To urge that our nation continues, even escalates, the occupation and war in Iraq, entails the belief that Iraq poses a real and imminent threat to our national security, to our economy, and to the values we hold most sacred. In the face of such a threat, the patriots argue, war is justified, perhaps even morally required. There is, as well, a dire sense of urgency as "we cannot wait for the final proof - the smoking gun - that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." Not being a pacifist myself, I accept, at least theoretically, the patriots' general contention that sometimes, as in a response to aggression, war may be a moral and legal recourse of last resort.
Rational analysis will show, I think, that the patriots' argument advocating and supporting war while at the same time "choosing" not to participate or to have their family members participate, is, at best, confused and inconsistent, at worst, disingenuous and dishonest. Since war requires a citizenry willing to make great sacrifices in behalf of national defense, if the patriots have no intention of fighting the war themselves or of sending their children to fight, then clearly they must reject the validity of their own argument. That is, they must believe that the threat is not real, or imminent, or, perhaps, not serious enough to warrant risking their own lives or well being or that of their family members. Since we conceded, however, that our patriots are sincere in their belief that the war in Iraq is necessary and must continue, they must believe the threat posed by Iraq is real, immediate, and grave. So I guess we must rule out this explanation for their non-participation.
Another possibility is that perhaps these patriots do not love America sufficiently to be willing to make the necessary sacrifices in its behalf. Again, since we conceded the verisimilitude of their patriotism, we must rule out this explanation as well. The only possibility that remains, I think, is that the unwillingness of these patriots to participate in what they argue is a necessary war is indicative of their belief that they and their loved ones are somehow exempt, perhaps for reason of affluence, power, status, or ethnicity, from the inconveniences and risks entailed by fighting in war. They are arguing essentially that America must continue to the occupation and war in Iraq, and that it is the obligation of other people, and of other people's children, to make the necessary sacrifices.
Certainly, civilians and non-veterans can be patriotic. Surely, they can recognize a serious threat to our country, and conclude that war is necessary to maintain our freedom. Patriotism requires, however, especially in a democracy with an all volunteer military, that the onerous burden of national defense be shared by all who love America - by all of America's citizens. When war is just and necessary, we are all equally bound, rich and poor, powerful and powerless, not to the extent that wealth and position can enable avoidance of sacrifice, but to the extent to which we are capable of serving. Justice requires that the burden be shared fairly by all who benefit from living in this nation. Freedom is not free, you know. Perhaps one may even argue that those who benefit most from their freedom, those who have become wealthy by availing themselves of all that America has provided, have even a greater obligation to serve than does those who have benefited least - the poor and the destitute.
My advice, therefore, to those patriots who would argue that the occupation and war in Iraq must continue is that they must re-evaluate their position. Unless they are willing to fight in the war themselves, and/or encourage their family members to fight as well, they must abandon their support for the war and argue instead for its immediate cessation. It is time that these "patriots" are recognized for the chickenhawks that they are and either back up their shallow words with actions or just shut up.