There is a great moral conundrum in the Iraq situation.
The pro-war position that we cannot abandon the mess we've made does have great certain moral authority. There are now millions upon millions of Iraqis whose lives have been ruined in this war and millions upon millions more whose lives continue to be at risk due to the chaos that was unleashed by the war and during the time that America has been in charge of the country. To abandon them and fail to establish a secure and decent level of civilization is reprehensible.
But there are two problems.
The first is that nobody who supports the war and continuing America's presence in that war has proposed what is required to achieve our moral responsibility.
According to both the Army's old and new counter-insurgency manuals, it takes 40 troops per 1,000 members of the civilian population. Iraq has 26 million people. That means 670,000 troops. Not just for three months, or six months, or a year. Insurgencies and civil wars go on for a long, long time. Five years if we're very lucky. Ten years is reasonable.
If we are going to live up to our moral commitment, the moral commitment that the political right continues to point up in any discussion of the war, we need to triple the size of our military. That means a draft.
The second problem is that I have two horses in that race. A daughter and a son. I will fight tooth and nail and move to Canada, before I let them become cannon fodder in a war that has been morally outrageous and ethically repugnant from the beginning. Nor would I suggest that anyone else's daughter's and son's be drafted and give up three years of their lives, at a minimum, and perhaps their limbs, their minds, or their very lives, to make up for this madness, stupidity and ineptitude.
However, there are a lot of people who supported the war. Lots and lots of them.
They should go. George Bush likes wearing uniforms. Let him march in Baghdad. We might say that Dick Cheney is old and feeble, but he can certainly do secret administrative duties from an undisclosed location in Iraq. John McCain can run the POW camps. Hillary Clinton, who voted for the war, can serve, as an example to women. John Kerry, who promised to fight the same war better and smarter, and who voted for it, can serve. I would pay good money to see Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz in uniform. Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity would make great MPs, or failing that, do great at KP, or digging latrines.
How hard can it be to find a couple of million pro-war folks?
Notice, please, that I have not recommended drafting the children of pro-war people. Their lives are their own. The Bush twins, the Cheney girls, should not have the sins of their fathers (and/or mothers) visited upon them. Except, insofar as they themselves are, or were, pro-war.
If we are to speak of a moral obligation, let those who speak of it, or support those who speak of it, live up to it. They should no more visit their moral obligations on us than we should visit their sins upon their children.
Draft the war supporters. Send them to Iraq. Let them put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. They deserve it. We deserve it. The good people of Iraq deserve it.
Larry Beinhart is the author of Wag the Dog, The Librarian, and Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin. All available at nationbooks.org