Ross Mackenzie

Brief comments on five items in the news:

The Pentagon will increase the number of troops in Iraq as the elections there approach - elections President Bush resists delaying, contrary to the wishes of anti-democrats everywhere. The increase in troops will cause yet another hardship on those in the U.S. military - active duty, Reserves, and National Guard.

A standard line says, I told you so, and the force augmentation takes us another step toward the inevitable resumption of a draft. There can be no doubt the nation requires a larger military cohort and greater appreciation of what the military does. But a draft is not the way to go. Reason: Because some serve and some do not, a draft is inherently unfair.

A fundamental lesson of the 1960s was that in a modern liberal democracy, the fairness issue renders politically unsustainable any draft that is substantially less than universal. What the nation needs is a one-year civilian-based program of universal service for all men and women 18-23, no exceptions, with a front-end military component - the equivalent of boot camp. The nation would receive one year of give-back from the young, with the added benefit that the military would win (a) greater appreciation and (b) a partly trained manpower pool from which it could draw in times of a stressed and stretched military - such as now.

XXX

Dan Rather is about to leave and Tom Brokaw has gone. Some are saying good riddance to both. Others see Brokaw as the less-egregious and wish he were still at NBC anchoring on.

Among network anchors, CBS' Rather scrapes along the bottom - no doubt about that. Over Thanksgiving weekend America Online asked its customers to rank the anchors on the basis of excellent, good, fair or poor; more than 110,000 responded.

Brokaw's numbers: 41 percent excellent, 11 percent poor. Rather's - close to a mirror image: 41 percent poor, 22 percent excellent. Even an apology from Rather to President Bush for the former's autumn slam on the latter with bogus "memos" about Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard - an apology yet to come - probably would not raise Rather above the level of a bottom-feeder in public esteem.

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Are spending growth and wild-blue-yonder deficits always caused by a president, as some charged regarding President Bush during the elections? No indeed. A large part of the problem - the largest? - is Congress.

Think about it.


Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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