Jacobs: Know anybody who’s defending you?
9/11 attacks failed to generate the patriotic response of Pearl Harbor
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tries to give the impression that the proposal to add 92,000 soldiers and Marines to the active duty force is the solution to our worldwide security challenges. So, let’s put this into perspective: Even with that increase, only one-half of one percent of our population is on active military service. This means that you would have to knock on 200 doors to find one home of a selfless American who is serving this Republic. Is this any way to defend ourselves?
The Second World War started long before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Although we sent millions of dollars of material support to our allies in their futile resistance to Nazi aggression, we didn’t enter the fray until the war in Europe was already almost three years old. That was nothing compared to Asia, where the war was raging for about a decade before we reluctantly started fighting. We really don’t like to go to war unless we absolutely, positively have to.
However, after the Pearl Harbor attack, and until we defeated the Axis, more than 16 million Americans served in uniform. That was more than 10 percent of the population at the time, twenty times the rate of military service we have today. On 9/11, we were attacked on our homeland again, in fact geographically closer to most Americans than in 1941, and yet we can’t seem to generate the same dedication to defense as we did 65 years ago.
Part of the problem is that we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Told for decades that technology has made us free, that highly accurate weapons and a massive nuclear capability are cheap and effective substitutes for millions of patriotic American 20-year-olds, it’s now patently obvious to the casual observer that we have deluded ourselves. And because only a small handful of dedicated kids (and older Reservists and Guardsmen, too) believe that the responsibility is theirs, we are now more at risk than at any time in our history.
There are lots of ways to make universal service palatable and minimally disruptive. But unless and until all of us are committed to participate in our own defense, we will continue to rely on the miniscule number of Americans who understand the value of selfless service.
MORE FROM MSNBC
Add msnbc headlines to your news reader: