Monday, July 25, 2005

Citizenship and Service

David M. Kennedy opines in today's NYTimes about the discontinuity of citizenship and a sense of duty. Many Americans seem to actually believe that freedom is free, and that service in the military can be left to "others". Fixer and I agree that some kind of National Service would be a Good Thing and Mr. Kennedy seems to be catching up to us.

The life of a robust democratic society should be strenuous; it should make demands on its citizens when they are asked to engage with issues of life and death. The "revolution in military affairs" has made obsolete the kind of huge army that fought World War II, but a universal duty to service - perhaps in the form of a lottery, or of compulsory national service with military duty as one option among several - would at least ensure that the civilian and military sectors do not become dangerously separate spheres. War is too important to be left either to the generals or the politicians. It must be the people's business.

I am reminded of the difference between commitment and involvement. Take, f'rinstance a plate of ham 'n eggs: The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

In the phony criminal war in Iraq that was made possible largely because of the lack of involvement, largely by design for political ends, of the American people - I hesitate to call them citizens, the only ones with their bacon committed are our volunteer troops. For now.

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