It is a sad, and potentially fatal, fact that most Americans know virtually nothing about the United States military. That astounding reality is all the more incredible given that our very survival ultimately depends on the men and women in uniform who defend this country.
Such ignorance is, ironically, a testament to the success of what is known as the All Volunteer Force. It is also a national defect, one that may soon be the undoing of a system based on the willingness of a few to protect the rest of us at great risk to themselves.
Since conscription was ended as the Vietnam War wound down, the American military has been rebuilt - most especially by Ronald Reagan - around extraordinary people who sacrifice normal lives (the creature comforts civilians take for granted in America, the quality time with their families, watching children grow up, witnessing births and birthdays, the ability to decide where they will be and what they will do at any given time, etc.) Even more remarkable, in every case, they are offering to sacrifice life itself, for their country and for us.
But fewer and fewer of us have anything to do with such people. There are a fraction of the bases around this country that there were after World War II or even twenty years ago. The workforce associated with what a generation of Americans were encouraged to revile as the "military-industrial complex" has contracted dramatically. Most of us only come into contact with servicemen and women, if at all, as they transit through airports, train or bus stations on their way to a base or a deployment. All too infrequently are they even acknowledged, let alone thanked, for their service.
Now, President Obama is hoping to capitalize on our ignorance of these folks and the reality of their lives in uniform - notably, the phenomenon known as "forced intimacy" that is inherent in communal bunkrooms, showers, latrines, shipboard sleeping compartments and foxholes. He is insisting that the United States Senate accede during the post-Thanksgiving lame-duck session to his demand for the repeal of a 1993 law prohibiting homosexuals from serving in the armed forces.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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