When it comes to matters of war, a brave few assume the risk for millions. And as Americans debate over what actions should be taken regarding the Islamic State, or any other situation that could send the country to war, most of us don’t have to worry about actually putting our lives on the line. We have the luxury of sitting comfortably at home while less than one percent of the population fights for us.
It’s easy to say we should be taking more military action in the Middle East, or that we should put “boots on the ground” against ISIS. It’s easy because, deep down, we know that whatever decision is made won’t directly affect most of us. But the decisions of officials we elected have a profound effect on the soldiers who have sworn to protect us.
For those not in the military, the fighting overseas is simply something seen on TV or read about online; we don’t experience it first hand. We might know people who have, and a great many of us have seen the effect that two, three, or even four tours in the Middle East has on soldiers – post-traumatic stress syndrome, loss of limbs from roadside bombs, and unfortunately even death. But most of our experience with combat is indirect or second hand.
Reinstating the draft and the war tax would change the way the country views sending troops to fight.
As Sen. Charles Rangle (D-NY) said in an op-ed piece for The Guardian, “war becomes more personal when you have to pay for a loved one to fight in it.” When American families realize that it could be their sons shipped off to fight for our country, the readiness to jump into battle changes.
And not to leave out America’s daughters, Sen. Rangle has introduced a bill that would include women in the draft registry, “doubling the approximate 13.5 m[illion] currently eligible for conscription – not to send women off to the battlefields, but to give them a voice on matters of war.”
Women currently make up over 50 percent of the population, but only about 16 percent of the military. Requiring women to register for selective service would not only increase the number of available troops should they be needed, but would also bring greater attention to issues currently affecting women who are enlisted, including the sexual harassment and assault problems female soldiers regularly face. The more people an issue might affect, the more people care that the issue is resolved properly.
Bringing back the war tax would also give Americans a vested interest in our foreign policies. “When we require citizens to pay out of their own pockets, the costs become more real,” wrote Rangle.
Americans know that their tax dollars pay the national defense budget, but defense gets funded whether the country is at war or not. An additional tax would require Americans to really think about whether or not the fighting is worth it.
“Nearly 6,900 American service men and women paid the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Rangle said. “War should be our last resort … But if we must go back to war, we should decide and fight together as a nation.”
Having to weigh the consequences of our actions before we make the decision to put “boots on the ground” could result in fewer risked and lost lives, fewer soldiers completing multiple tours of duty, and fewer tax dollars spent on unnecessary combat. Knowing that our decision to jump into combat will have a direct effect on every American, whether it be financial or physical, would change the way we think about war as a country.