Needed: A renewed sense of service and sacrifice

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Nov 18, 2004 12:00 AM

Herewith some key policy recommendations for the second Bush administration now forming up - with emphasis on a biggie. . . .

Among others, the new administration should do these things:

- Complete the mission in Iraq and move to a strategy of coalition troops in key locations as ultimate backups while stable, unified democracy takes root there.

- Track all illegal aliens (including terrorists) in the United States, and move to temporary-worker cards for legals.

-Crack the legislative code on the liberal Democratic lock stymieing so many administration nominees to the federal bench.

- Infuse the environmental "problem" with free-market solutions.

- Likewise, infuse the developing energy shortage with incentives that will bring about energy independence.

- Enact a private-investment corollary to Social Security, now facing unfunded liabilities of $26 trillion. As even Bill Clinton pointed out, the only options for reforming Social Security are: raise taxes, cut benefits, or invest privately. John Kerry ruled out the first two; President Bush embraced the last.

- Permanentize the Bush tax cuts and eliminate the estate tax.

- Further, simplify the tax code - truly simplify it, even through a revenue-neutral flat tax whereby taxes would be filed via hardly more than a post card asking, How much did you make last year from all sources? The tax paid would be a stipulated low percentage of that amount.

-And - the biggie - move to one year of compulsory universal service with a front-end military component for all men and women 18-23.

This is the biggie because - well, let's go back.

It is clear our standing active-duty military is too small and currently stretched thin by demands in Afghanistan and Iraq - with the prospect of difficulties with the likes of Iran and North Korea to come. We are overstressing our Reserve and Guard forces through rarely envisioned long-term use of their services.

It is equally clear the nation could benefit hugely from an enhanced sense of service on the part of the young. Compulsion and service are notions commonly - but not exclusively - fostered by the left. For example, in the presidential campaign just ended, Kerry floated a plan as part of his Real Deal to (his words) "require service for high-school students":

John Kerry believes we need to think big and do better and get more young Americans serving the nation. As part of his 100-day plan to change America, (he) will propose a comprehensive plan that includes requiring mandatory service for high-school students.

Moreover, in September the Democrats began rumoring that a re-elected Bush would reinstate the military draft - and never mind denials by Republicans from Bush to Vice President Cheney to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ("The truth is, we don't need a draft. We're not going to have a draft."). Bush was similarly emphatic: "We will not have a draft so long as I am president of the United States."

Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel, mumbling about domestic class war or something, submitted a measure to reinstate a military draft. Led by Majority Leader Tom DeLay ("We're going to put a nail in that coffin"), the Republican House killed the Rangel measure 402-2. Democrat Kerry evidently favored the Rangel position. In an interview aired Sept. 26 he said he would not reinstate a draft now, but: If we had a need for a general mobilization at some time in the future, then I think that's the only fair way to do it.

So we have arrived at this juncture:

(a) The military is strained (the Army has 10 active-duty divisions, with nearly all either in Iraq, just returned, or preparing to go). The left, especially, wants to remedy the situation by reinstating the draft.

(b) Just about everybody sees the need to instill the virtue of service in the young; high-schoolers themselves unabashedly pad their resumes with testimonials about all the volunteer service they have done - the better to please collegiate admissions officers. Some high schools already make community service a condition for graduation.

Then why not a program addressing both issues: one year of compulsory service - no exceptions? The service component could be satisfied by practically anything on a long approved list, from nursing homes and mental wards to soup kitchens and juvenile homes.

That component would follow the front-end military component - the equivalent of boot camp. All would get a taste of the military, even an appreciation for it, so as to understand it better. And there would be established thereby a constant, lightly trained cohort from which the military might draw in times of stress on its regular forces - as now.

This is the biggie.

With the nation in by all accounts a protracted World War IV against jihadist terrorism, what is lacking is any sense of sacrifice. These days post-9/11 flags are broadly absent on cars and front porches; undermining any determination to win the war, the administration has told us repeatedly to go about our business as though little had changed.

But much has changed. We require a renewed sense of service and sacrifice. We also require a populace fully appreciative of the importance of the military, and knowing full well where additional manpower will come from should the need arise. The way to accomplish all that is through a new program of compulsory universal service with a front-end military component - one year, no exceptions. Now.