Letter: The military and paying for it
I voluntarily served as an Army officer in the active Army from 1966-68 and in the Army Reserve for about five years after that. My principal active duty assignment was to an armored cavalry squadron in Korea, a few miles south of the Demilitarized Zone. I was certainly no war hero, but had a way of legally and respectably avoiding military service altogether and chose to do my part despite it not being popular among the “in crowd” of my generation.
As a lieutenant, I was not privy to the overall plans of the U.S. armed forces for opposing Communist expansion worldwide. But it was obvious that the priorities regarding the combat capabilities of ground forces were to Vietnam and Europe. In Korea, it was obvious from the declining age of our equipment, the paucity of certain types of critical equipment such as helicopters, and the difficulty of obtaining spare parts, that we were essentially regarded as a “trip wire” force.
We officers generally believed that we were backed up by the credible threat of nuclear retaliation against another invasion by North Korea. But I was nevertheless irritated by the fact that we were being denied the best equipment in the U.S. arsenal so that President Johnson and his liberal supporters could wage real war while simultaneously ramping up a domestic “War on Poverty” — all without requiring anywhere near the level of domestic sacrifice that was so instrumental in the U.S. and its allies winning World Wars I and II.
With that background, I agree with Roland McLean’s criticism of “war on the cheap” as it has been practiced for the past several decades. But what he did not address is that a policy of “war on the cheap” is something that is driven not only by peace-at-any-price “progressives” (to use a current perversion of an historically honorable term) but also by good ol’ flag-waving, anti-“gov’ment,” anti-tax, “SuperAmerican” conservatives.
If there is one thing that people on both extremes of the political spectrum have in common, it is to is to have government tax them less while simultaneously providing more programs that benefit them personally. Knee-jerk opposition to taxes is most apparent among conservatives and libertarians, while knee-jerk support for more spending on “social programs” is more apparent among “progressives.”
You correctly observe that the bulk of the people who serve in the armed forces come from smaller communities in the South and West (excluding “upscale” ones like Aspen). These are mostly “working class” people who express their patriotism by assuming the risk to their lives that is inherent in serving in the armed forces. Due largely to the limited realistic choices available to voters in America’s two-party political system, these people — who support the armed forces with their lives — formed an unholy alliance with wealthy people whose experience with the armed forces is minimal to elect Donald Trump.
So, while I agree with everything McLean said regarding higher compensation for military personnel, it begs the question of how this should be financed. In other words, who (primarily) should pay, and/or, what other government programs should be cut?
My answer to that is the opposite to what is implied by the tax-cutting on wealthy people advocated by President Trump and conservatives in Congress. As a moderately higher income person myself, I recognize that higher income people already pay the bulk of federal income taxes, and I reject the socialist claim popularized by Bernie Sanders that higher income people and corporations should be taxed more because of the way that they allegedly “exploit working people.”
Nevertheless, I think that we wealthier people should consent to pay more in taxes, not as a matter of guilt, but as a matter of civic pride, to finance worthwhile government programs that benefit everyone. This would include the increased pay to military personnel that you advocate, increased maintenance of public infrastructure and increased enforcement of immigration laws – all of which should be done with fiscally conservative oversight to insure cost-effectiveness. I regard that willingness to contribute more to the common good as genuine patriotism.
Carl Ted Stude
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