Commit the people, then troops

Unfortunately, too many Americans seem to be ignoring the fact that one of the greatest causes for the amount of debt our nation now is burden by is our two undeclared wars.

Rachel Maddow, a MSNBC personality, has recently written a book titled, “Drift.” The theme of the book is that America has begun to drift into a war-like country, too ready to engage in international intervention and adventurism.

One of the problems with our nation is that we have created an all-volunteer army. Previous to this, in time of crisis, the Selective Service System was activated and would call up able-bodied men to serve as members of our armed forces. While the American population has responded in a spectacular way in times of crisis, it is clear the principle of civilian control of our armed forces has always been foremost in most of our citizens’ minds. Although many draftees served with great valor and bravery, most of them disliked every minute they spent in the armed services. Such an experience is a great safeguard against the military ever, as a unit, taking over and replacing our Democratic form of government.

Another great problem with an all volunteer Army is that Americans have become so complacent that we apparently engage in warfare too readily because there is no personal sacrifice required of those of us not serving in the armed forces. Such a mindset can be dangerous to our Republic.Part of what caused the collapse of the Roman Empire was that the Empire engaged too long in constant warfare beyond its borders. It decimated the treasury of Rome and ultimately was one of the great factors in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

Our constitution addressed the issue of when America should go to war; in short, it should be when Congress declares war, ostensibly against another nation. Congress sat on its hands as President George W. Bush sold the concept of war on a situation, not on a country. No war was actually declared, and the war was conducted off the books.

Bush sold the concept of the war on terror. Just how silly that concept is can be seen if one thinks about what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson mobilized the armed forces to feed the poor or build housing for the unfortunate having declared his war on poverty.

We should demand of Congress the concept put forth by Ross Perot. His idea concerning the commitment of troops was that we should first commit the people and then the troops. We should demand of our leadership that no Americans should be placed in harm’s way, nor should American taxpayers be burdened with a senseless war unless the Congress of the United States is willing to declare war on someone. Of course there should be authority for the president, our commander-in-chief, to respond to sudden attacks or national emergencies, but it should be clear that is the case and not just the desire of key people in the government to have us engage in wartime activities and call it something else.

Carl Parker has practiced law in Port Arthur since 1958. He is a 1958 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and the Senate in 1976, Parker continued to practice law while writing and sponsoring hundreds of bills that became laws relating to every aspect of life in Texas.