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Leftist sacrifice-a-thon

By Jackson Murphy
web posted January 13, 2003

I was listening to the Imus in the Morning program last week and heard presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin going on, and on, about how there shouldn't be a new series of tax cuts. Instead she argued that America should be spending money on infrastructure and healthcare. Just like good old FDR during World War II. Welcome to the leftist sacrifice-a-thon.

In Salon.com writer Robert Sheer agrees: "With no draft and a completely dominant military, most Americans have come to view war as something akin to the dark twin of the Olympics: an international test of strength accompanied by big opening-night fireworks over the host city."

Democrat Rep. Charles Rangel
Rangel

Democrat Rep. Charles Rangel has announced that he wants the draft to return. Rangel contends that the all-volunteer armed forces of the United States don't have enough rich or elite people in it. As Rangel tells it: "for those who say the poor fight better, I say give the rich a chance."

Writer Arianna Huffington has blitzed the media with commercials that cleverly connect SUV's and their high gas consumption and aiding terrorists. "This is George. This is the gas that George bought for his SUV. This is the oil company executive that sold the gas that George bought for his SUV. These are the countries where the executive bought the oil, that made the gas that George bought for his SUV. And these are the terrorists who get money from those countries every time George fills up his SUV."

Institute the draft, build stuff, and dump the blessed SUV. And the war will begin to go much better. Reality check: fighting is what will wins wars. Not spending money on dams or fences or ditches.

The idea that by the virtue of porking out the federal government will somehow make people feel better through shared sacrifice is outrageous. In his new book The Right Man, David Frum recounts a memo written by White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels. "Daniels wrote a memo in December pointing out that when Franklin Roosevelt mobilized the nation to fight World War II, he ordered that all expenditures be ‘held at the present level and below if possible, and all new work projects trimmed out.'" In fact Frum says that between 1939 and 1942 federal social spending was actually cut by 22 percent.

It would seem that Goodwin confused the Roosevelt who spent during the early years of the Great Depression with the Roosevelt who geared the nation up to fight. They were not spending cash on making everyone feel good. The lesson from Roosevelt would seem to be slash social spending and increase war mobilization spending.

At the outset of war the gross national product of the U.S. economy was about $100 billion. By the end of the war it was well over $200 billion. The government spent some $186 billion on war production. In 1943, at the height of production (where about two-thirds of the economy was in some way related to war), the U.S. was fast turning out equipment and good. By 1945: 296,000 airplanes, 15 million rifles and machine guns, 64,000 landing craft, and 6,500 ships were built. Worse, the federal government's civilian employee rolls grew almost four fold. The war on terror, even with the bonus Iraqi war, is simply not going to require this. And what's wrong with that?

Rangel's idea of service and sacrifice are not with out their merits, in theory. But as Homer Simpson would say, "In theory…in theory Communism works." Indeed. One writer, James S. Robbins of National Review Online, is suspect. "So in an effort to revitalize antiwar feeling and resurrect the spirit of the Sixties, [Rangel] and John Conyers (D., Mich.) have come up with a great idea — bring back the draft. By reinstituting conscription we could alienate a new generation of American youth and get back to the kind of civil unrest the Left has been yearning for."

Even Robbins admits that he can't make much sense of this. The truth is the idea doesn't make sense. Taking a professional and successful military and making it less professional and certainly gambling with its potential success does not sound the makings of an acceptable game of national sacrifice-unless by sacrifice they mean vulnerable, hand cuffed, and useless.

For Huffington, a devout ‘McCain-iac', sacrifice means getting rid of that SUV and getting into that sexy compact hybrid. Is the SUV the problem or is readily accessible and relatively cheap oil that temps us to drive behemoths like the new compact Hummer? The left loves this idea. Stopping the flow of cash to the Middle East oil nations would not stop terrorism-in fact as they came upon hard times, as demand then price dropped, a new class of angry young anti-Americans would rise. Arianna, darling, you know how you make SUV drivers accountable for their actions? Let them drive them, and spend their hard earned cash on ridiculous amounts of gasoline.

What nobody needs is some cumbersome federal program mandating, organizing, or managing sacrifice. A large social spending orgy, a forced draft, or getting rid of your trusty SUV are not going to win this war. You know what wins wars? Bombs baby! But we don't have to sacrifice as much because we don't need that many bombs because they are smarter. Too bad some of us aren't.

Jackson Murphy is a commentator from Vancouver, Canada. He is the editor of "Dispatches" a website that serves up political commentary 24-7. You can contact him at jacksonmurphy@telus.net.

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