Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Short-term military duty - Teddy Roosevelt would approve

My latest idea that will go nowhere is this: let war supporters, not just Iraq war supporters but any war supporters, put their money where their mouth is by giving them a real option to serve in the war they support. Signing up for a two-year-plus stint in the military doesn't quite cut it - that's a little much to ask when the war could last a much shorter time, and the volunteer wouldn't even be able to guarantee she'd be serving in the war theater.

So my idea is enabling people to volunteer for 6 month periods, in the war zone, doing something simple but still in harm's way that requires minimal training. They wouldn't be an all-purpose soldier, maybe they wouldn't even carry a gun or be allowed to shoot someone. They could still be an extra pair of eyes standing sentry though, or do the simple aspects of construction grunt work that military contractors are getting paid big bucks to do because it's dangerous.

I got this idea listening to Teddy Roosevelt on a public radio program called The Thomas Jefferson Hour. Normally the Jefferson Hour has a historian who takes on the persona of Thomas Jefferson and answers questions that reveals Jefferson's ideas, but this time the historian played Teddy Roosevelt. I was initially struck by how similar Teddy's worldview was to our current president (expansionist beacon of freedom, blah blah blah) and wondered why conservatives don't play up the similarity. Then I found out why - Teddy said he'd never ask anyone to take a risk he wouldn't take himself. As a middle-aged man he volunteered for the Spanish-American War and served under dangerous conditions. He told his 3 sons that he'd disown them if they didn't serve in World War I, and one of them died. He begged his political enemy Woodrow Wilson for a military commission in the war as well, but was denied.

The contrast between Shrub and TR became pretty clear, and I started thinking about how the modern military could allow people to have Roosevelt's consistency on this one type of moral issue. Maybe people would be a little less warlike under a circumstance that realistically gives them a chance to serve.

UPDATE: corrected the number of sons from four to three.

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