I still remember stepping off the plane into a crowded airport after a tour in Iraq. It felt strange walking around after just leaving a war zone. Everyone seemed oblivious to that world and the fact that I just left it. I wasn't in uniform and I shouldn't have expected them to know, but it still angered me. I started feeling guilty about being there while I still had friends deployed. It seemed wrong how disconnected the "home front" was from the battlefield. Shouldn't there be a personal connection to the battlefield and individual sacrifice felt by all when we send young men and women off to war? It used to be that way.
Those born during the Great Depression are often referred to as the Greatest Generation. A lot of that praise is due to the individual sacrifices everyone made during World War II. Able-bodied men went off to war, women worked in the factories, grandparents took care of the children, and most Americans bought war bonds, grew victory gardens, and went without luxuries so those resources could be re-directed toward the war effort. That collective sacrifice drove public policy.
Today, we don't make that same collective sacrifice during a war (declared or not). Sure, we show our gratitude and honor our veterans, but that isn't the same as making sacrifices for the war effort.
I started brainstorming about the ways to ensure our collective sacrifice. How about an amendment to the Constitution? The purpose of this amendment would be twofold: First, it would help to clarify when we are actually at war and, second, it would make sure that all Americans contribute to the war effort. This draft is not an all-inclusive one, and more input would most certainly improve it, but maybe this effort will get the ball rolling toward a more collective declaration of the war decision-making process.
Draft Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The purpose of this amendment is to clarify when Congress is compelled to vote on declaring war and what contributions each American will make during a war.
Congress will vote on a declaration of war within 96 hours of the following:
- When 5,000 or more service members are deployed to an area outside the United States, Congress will have to vote if these members suffer loss of life or life-threatening injuries from a hostile force on more than three separate occasions in any 365-day period. Hostile forces include countries, organizations, or any individuals associated with those countries or organizations (e.g., suicide bombers or roadside explosives).
Congress is not limited to voting only for war under the abovementioned circumstances. However, these circumstances do currently constitutionally require Congress to vote on a declaration of war. If a war is not declared, then the President of the United States must withdraw those troops within 30 days and will not be allowed to redeploy any troops to that area for at least 365 days.
Congressional requirements for voting on any declaration of war:
- Individual members of Congress can vote on a declaration of war if they meet one of the following requirements:
o Have an immediate family member (parent, child, spouse, or sibling) currently serving in the military and eligible to deploy to a combat zone.
o Agree to deploy to a combat zone and serve in a support or combat role with a forward-deployed combat unit for a period of one year. They will be deployed within 60 days of a declaration of war.
o Agree to deploy to a forward deployed medical trauma unit in a support role for one year. They will be deployed within 60 days of a declaration of war.
o Agree to serve three years at the Veteran's Administration in a support role for no fewer than 40 hours a week. Congressional members selecting this option will be required to attend three support group sessions, three mental health assessments and evaluations, and three physical therapy sessions a week. They will begin their three-year service exactly 365 days after a declaration of war. Additionally, Congressional members electing this option will immediately serve, on a rotational basis, as color guard for the Killed in Action (KIA) service members and accompany a chaplain to notify the next of kin for all KIA service members until the war ends.
- If a member of Congress does not meet at least one of the abovementioned circumstances, then he/she will recuse him/herself from voting.
- Members of Congress who deploy will be given four hours a day by their unit commander to conduct Congressional duties, including casting absentee votes.
Instituting a military draft:
- To meet operational demands, a military draft will be instituted if any service member is deployed to a combat zone for more than 365 days in any two-year period. All males and females ages 18 to 49 will be eligible for this draft. No exemptions will be allowed.
- If a draft is instituted, Congress will hold a lottery for its own members according to the following criteria:
o One-third of Congressional members will be required to serve for a period of 365 days in the U.S. military in the following manner:
• If 49 or younger, they will serve in a direct or support role for a forward deployed combat unit.
• If 50 or older or physically unqualified to serve in a combat unit, they will serve in a forward deployed medical trauma unit.
o This lottery will be conducted every 365 days until the war has ended. No Congressional members will be compelled to serve more than 365 days in a two-year period.
Requirements for all Americans:
The following requirements for all Americans will be instituted immediately upon a declaration of war and will remain in effect until the end of that war:
- The President of the United States, the Vice President, Congressional members, members of the President's Cabinet, and all military members serving in an advisory role to the President or Congress will have their salary reduced to the average pay of a service member for the duration of the war. To account for the fact that some politicians have considerable wealth and therefore receiving a service member's pay will not be much of a sacrifice, all Congressional members with a net worth over $5 million will donate 75% of each dollar over $5 million to the war effort annually.
- For all U.S. citizens:
o Individual tax levels will be increased to completely fund war expenses.
o A 50% annual tax will be imposed on every dollar of individual net worth over $5 million for the duration of the war. This money will be split evenly between the war effort and the Veteran's Administration to care for veterans.
- For all corporations
o An amount equal to 50% of after-tax profits will be devoted to the war effort. This money will be split evenly between the war effort and the Veteran's Administration to care for veterans.
- For service members deployed to a combat zone:
o Basic pay level will increased by 100% and will be tax-exempt.
o Free tuition to any state or private school will be offered to those who serve over 30 days in a combat zone or are injured in a combat zone.
o Automatic approval for Veteran's Administration mental health treatment will be given, if requested.
- For service members killed in a combat zone:
o Basic pay will increase by 200%, be tax-exempt, and be paid to the next of kin for five years.
o Free tuition to any state or private school will be offered to the children and spouses.
o Primary next of kin will receive retirement benefits including medical, pay, and all other benefits extended to retired service members.
- The President and each member of Congress will be required to appoint an advisor for the duration of the war who meets the following requirements:
o Must be an immediate family member (parent, spouse, or child) of a person killed in a military conflict.
o Must be from an opposition political party.
o Must meet with the President and Congress member at least once a week, for a minimum of one hour, to discuss concerns.
Note: Net worth numbers can be increased annually at the same rate military pay is increased.
Some may think that Congress would never approve something that puts so much of their own "skin in the game," but remember that Congress doesn't have to approve an amendment to the Constitution. Article V allows for the ratification of amendments through the approval by conventions in three-fourths of the states. That's how prohibition ended--our founders were brilliant!
This amendment may seem a little extreme for politicians, corporations, and everyday Americans, but that's the point. The decision to go to war should be a hard one that's made only when absolutely necessary.