2006-06-29 / Editorial


By Robert Morton-Ranney

If you have seen the recent movie "Mrs. Henderson Presents," you will recall that at one point Judi Dench explains to a group of eager young men why it is that she has chosen to feature in her newly purchased theater a non-stop live review, the highlight of which is the display of nude young women in carefully staged poses.

It is the summer of 1940, in the middle of London, and the Luftwaffe has changed tactics so that the outcome of the Battle of Britain now depends largely on the tenacity of this city.

Upon the death of her son at age 21, Mrs. Henderson had found under his mattress a "French postcard," a small image of a young woman without benefit of clothing. And somewhere in her mourning, she decided that if ever she had the chance to allow a young man the honest vision of the subject of his dreams in all her native beauty, she would do all she could to bring it to pass.

The life of Alec Henderson had been taken by the War To End All Wars. Addressing fresh uniforms, Mrs. Henderson adds that all mothers who lose a son to war know in their hearts that their son's death has been in vain. For there will always be another, and a new generation will be consumed by it.

It is not surprising that the United States of America is involved in warfare once again. This nation was born in war. Its identity was clarified through warfare on its northern and southern borders and among its own states.

Beyond attempts to defend, maintain, or assert its power this is a nation that cannot articulate its self-understanding without reference to war.

The United States will be waging war in some form until another power becomes so great that the U.S. is no longer able to do so.

The latest rendition follows on the heels of the horrific events of 9/11 and has been labeled the War on Terror.

Debate grows about whether this new wave of combat is just. More seriously, from the point of view of the national interest, questions are being posed as to whether -particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan - it is effective.

Many wonder whether we have committed the same error Robert McNamara identified regarding American involvement in Vietnam. Have we once again

violated Sun-Tzu's central tenet in "The Art of War," and not taken the time to understand our enemy?

Debate is good. An open, and an honest, society requires it.

But perhaps one of the greatest differences between the War on the Domino Effect and the War on Terror is that we did not try to win the hearts of minds of the Viet Cong and their sympathizers by placing M-16s predominantly in the hands of teenagers who just wanted to get financial assistance for college.

In Vietnam, everybody went, or they had to find a way not to go.

Many believe it was the draft that brought about the end of the War in Vietnam, that people got tired of burying their children because of a war that wasn't ending.

How shocking.

The draft is the most realistic referendum a nation will ever hold. And it is the surest test of political will available.

How is it that the National Guard has become International Guard?

If we're going to fight a war, let's all fight. Let the conscientious objectors do their time. Let the draft dodgers do their bit to balance the scales of immigration.

But let us not claim that we are fighting for sacred principles by sending young women who want to teach kindergarten, and others who see military service as the only way out of the ghetto.

An all-volunteer army is fine when serious military activity is minimal, and the national need is met by those drawn to the military life.

But if this war truly matters, if it really is more than a marketing opportunity exploited by those who would rather not have us talking about universal health care, then, let's do it.

Let's make everybody be part of it. Let's give every family a chance to send one of their children.

We will always ask whether the cost of warfare is worth bearing. But there can be no question that, once undertaken, it is a cost that must be shared.

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