The all-volunteer army is the "lesson" we learned from Vietnam.
With no obvious personal stake in the war in Iraq, most Americans are indifferent to its consequences. In an interview last week, Alex Racheotes, a 19-year-old history major at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, said: “I definitely don’t know anyone who would want to fight in Iraq. But beyond that, I get the feeling that most people at school don’t even think about the war. They’re more concerned with what grade they got on yesterday’s test.”Indeed, apocalypse and chaos are our sources of entertainment now.
His thoughts were echoed by other students, including John Cafarelli, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, who was asked if he had any friends who would be willing to join the Army. “No, definitely not,” he said. “None of my friends even really care about what’s going on in Iraq.”
This indifference is widespread. It enables most Americans to go about their daily lives completely unconcerned about the atrocities resulting from a war being waged in their name. While shoppers here are scrambling to put the perfect touch to their holidays with the purchase of a giant flat-screen TV or a PlayStation 3, the news out of Baghdad is of a society in the midst of a meltdown.
This is the difference between Bobby Kennedy's speech and any similar speech made today about Iraq. The violence is being inflicted in another country, where we have committed fornication; and besides, the wench is dead. It is of no real moment to us. This makes it so much easier to honor swagger and bluster and, when we are tired of it, to simply say "There's no place like home!" and click our heels together three times.
Still, it would be a simple matter to recast Sen. Kennedy's words to apply to Iraq. Change a reference here or there to include people subject to violence because of our actions as a nation, and you'd have it. It's a small act of imagination to do that. But a huge leap of imagination, to envision any politician, any public figure, speaking with such force, such eloquence, today.
The standing army, by the way, is the "lesson" we learned from World War II. The "Good War."