President Trump is being savaged by all sides for his decision to remove our troops from Syria. This allowed Turkey to invade areas occupied by the Kurds, our allies in the fight against ISIS. The House of Representatives voted 354-60 to decry the policy. Newspaper editorials and armchair pundits on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC have berated the President. ABC News even fabricated a fake video of a Turkish attack on the Kurds (it was actually from a shooting range in Kentucky). One pundit in the Wall Street Journal described the President’s policy as “Speak Loudly but Carry a Toothpick.”
But do any of these armchair warriors have any skin in the game? Do President George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton and President Obama, architects of this policy that the president inherited, have to worry about Chelsea, Sasha, Malia, Barbara or Jenna being killed in the mid-East. No, they do not. Why? Because there is no draft.
In the 1960s, while there was still a draft (it applied only to men), the Vietnam War became wildly unpopular. Riots ensued on elite campuses – Harvard, Yale and Columbia among others – as students questioned the wisdom of this proxy war to stop the spread of communism. Attending college permitted deferments. Other protesters burned their draft cards or fled to Canada. America’s elite and upper middle class saw little sense in personally being killed or maimed in the jungles of Vietnam. The political result – the draft was abolished, and to this day, we have an all-volunteer army.
Now our ruling class, with no worry of their children’s safety, is gung-ho for war; thus, President Trump — who incidentally avoided the draft himself by having a doctor write a letter stating that he had “bone spurs” — is being attacked from all sides.
But what was the President supposed to do? According to published reports, President Erdogan of Turkey (a NATO ally) threatened to invade Syria and establish a buffer zone in an area where 2,000 of our troops were stationed. Should President Trump have placed another 50,000 troops there to stop this assault? Should he have threatened to bomb Ankara? Or should he fulfill a campaign promise and remove our troops from harm’s way and stop our involvement in what he termed “endless wars?” He chose the latter option.
Yes, he sold out the Kurds. But those savaging the President pretend that this is new to American history. President Truman allowed Russia to enslave eastern Europe and refused to allow General MacArthur to free northern Korea. When we left Vietnam, we had alliances not only with factions in Vietnam but with our supporters in Cambodia. The pay back for our Vietnamese allies was so vicious that they got in boats with nowhere to go. The Cambodians were not so lucky. The brutal Communist dictator Pol Pot killed over 2 million of his so-called fellow citizens. We once made a treaty with the Sioux and Arapaho Indians in 1868 to allow them to retain their lands in the Black Hills of South Dakota and parts of Wyoming. Ask Red Cloud how that worked out? Selling out allies and breaking agreements for military and political reasons is as American as apple pie.
I recently attended my high school class reunion in rural western Pennsylvania. Several classmates showed me pictures of their children, young men and women in uniform, and said, “Joe, please pray for my son. He’s stationed in Afghanistan.” These are the deplorables than our ruling class enjoys ridiculing, when not sending them off into unwinnable wars so that they can play “nation building.”
So, when Chelsea Clinton, Malia Obama and Jenna Bush have the same chance of being injured by a land mine as the children of my high school pals, then maybe the general public will share our ruling class’s thirst for endless wars against countries that are no threat to us. But I strongly suspect the opposite. If our ruling class feared a draft notice that put their children in the midst of the Syria fiasco, the riots against the Vietnam War would look like picnics.
Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.
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