THERE’S SOMETHING FUNNY about this war.
It reminds me a bit of 1972, my first year in high school. America was still fighting in Vietnam.
My English teacher, Mr. Anderson a World War II combat veteran grew reflective one day in class.
"I don’t think there’s ever been a war like this," he said. "GIs are fighting overseas. But people back home are living their lives as if nothing is happening."
He was right. History books and pop TV miniseries’ may portray the Vietnam era as a psychedelic montage of riots, anti-war marches, and napalm strikes. But for Middle America, the turmoil was confined to two-dimensional images on our TV screens.
Real life consisted of football games, barbecue cookouts, fluorescent-lit supermarkets and fresh-mown lawns.
It was a lot like today. But with one difference.
During the Vietnam War, people actually had to fight.
As young men approached draft age, grave issues confronted them. Would they serve or flee? And, if they served, how would they stand the test of combat?
These questions faced anti-war protesters and gung-ho patriots alike. No one escaped them.
The War on Terror is different. Once again, we have pro-war patriots and anti-war protesters. Tempers flare. Flags wave. Throats grow hoarse from singing patriotic songs.
But today’s hawks and doves argue in a vacuum. Theirs is a war of words alone. No one asks or expects them to fight. No posters declare, "Uncle Sam Wants You!"
In fact, Uncle Sam has no use for us. The citizen soldier has been phased out.
Today, skilled professionals do the fighting, slipping invisibly through the night in B-2 bombers or stalking Taliban outposts in face paint and night-vision goggles.
If we have a manpower shortage, Uncle Sam no longer calls on citizens to fill it. He imports trained specialists from abroad.
Following the September 11 attack, NATO aircraft and crewmen were brought in from Europe to patrol American skies presumably because U.S. forces were stretched too thin, after a decade of downsizing.
According to an October 24 article in PilotOnline.com, the NATO flights include crewmen from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Greece, England, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey.
That’s right. Turkey. A Muslim country.
While foreigners guard our homeland, we aging Baby Boomers watch our blood pressure, fret about our cholesterol, and fantasize about the warriors we might have been.
Call us The Wistful Generation. New York Post editor John Podhoretz gave voice to our inner yearnings in an October 16 column.
"We affluent New Yorkers and media aren’t sitting in comfort while the children of the working class go off to war... This time, we ourselves are on the front lines."
Well, not really. But I know what Podhoretz means. We’re not actually frontline soldiers. But there is a tiny spark of manhood still glimmering in our flabby bodies that wishes we were.
As surely as God gave antlers to the elk and tusks to the boar, he gave to every man a secret wildness in his heart.
We of The Wistful Generation never unleashed that wildness. We never felt the clash of antlers, never pounded our hooves on the prairie.
And so we sit in our offices, nursing vague anxieties about anthrax spores and telling ourselves, "This is war."
"We are living in an atmosphere of steady anxiety not entirely dissimilar to the clammy fear felt (so I am told) by military men. Only, unlike those in the military, we have not been through basic training. We have no mindless and comforting rituals to practice to help us through the fear."
Podhoretz has stated the problem. Now what is the solution?
In Switzerland, national defense is handled by a citizen’s militia. Young men serve in the front lines. Older men serve in the reserves. Everyone goes through basic training. Everyone has a job to do, replete with "mindless and comforting rituals" galore.
In a November 10, 1999 article for NewsMax.com, I wrote:
"The Swiss have proved that a well-trained and well-equipped militia can defend a modern state. For a generation stricken with `Private Ryan’ guilt, the rebuilding of our lawful and constitutionally-mandated militia would be a worthy project indeed."
That project has taken on a special urgency in recent weeks.
Uncle Sam may not want us. But who says we have to wait for his call?
The time is now to start planning, organizing and working with state and local officials to restore the "well-regulated militia" that was once America’s glory.