Seamans: Sharing the military burden

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(HOST) Veteran ABC News correspondent and commentator Bill Seamans has been thinking about military service – and sharing the burden in the Obama era.

(SEAMANS) During the last year of his regime, President Bush had been deeply preoccupied with his legacy in an apparent effort to leave a better image than that drawn by the spectrum of political and journalistic observers.  

From the list of failures attributed to Bush, one that commands special attention was offered by John Broder who is regarded as the dean of the Washington press corps.  Broder wrote in the Washington Post that he thought that President Bush’s greatest failing was his refusal to ask any sacrifice from most of the American people when he put the nation on a wartime footing after the 9/11 attacks.  Broder said that Bush put the entire cost on a tiny fraction of American families with loved ones in the armed services and that the only thing we the people were asked to do was to "go shopping."  

Broder added that the question rises whether President Obama will acknowledge that failure and will he, as long as our servicepersons are being killed or wounded – will Obama lead the people beyond bumper stickers to realistically share that sacrifice?

Our military quagmire in Iraq will not be reduced quickly.  The war in Afghanistan is in the "mission creep" stage involving more and more American troops with no end in sight.  It has been argued that the only way to spread the burden of warfare fairly among the men and women of all levels of our society would be to renew the draft.  But those opposed say there are enough volunteers to keep the ranks filled.  Their opinion is supported for now by a report that the Army has exceeded its volunteer quotas – and that the Marines, Navy and Air Force have waiting lists.  It‘s said that in this era of increasing joblessness, many are being attracted by the military’s steady paychecks, benefits and training that could help their return to civilian life.  

Since a draft looks out of reach, what could President Obama do to equalize the sacrifices of war?  A simplistic answer might be to withdraw from and avoid war altogether – an idea that growing global tensions make unrealistic.  We’ll always need a considerable, highly trained state-of-the-art military as the backbone of our national security.  

But how President Obama will be able to make a fairly shared military burden the commitment of the American citizen’s personal honor and responsibility could rise as one of his most sensitive problems – how to persuade all the people to share the sacrifices of the men and women we send into harm’s way, as well as the burden on their families – the sacrifices of true patriotism – which are far from where we stand right now when the losses of war are in some cases censored and others are hardly even reported.

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