My friend Gary Johnson, who I respect for his genius, his ethics, and his own service to this country–both as a civilian and as a young Air Force officer–wrote today’s post in response to my question, “Why is the transition from warrior to civilian so hard?” I agree with Gary that Americans and the U.S. would benefit from a national service requirement. Dr. Gary Johnson’s essay follows:
The transition from warrior to civilian is hard because civilian society appears to have abandoned its roots. The warrior believes in: service, team work, and sacrifice. Today’s civilian believes in: being served, pursuit of personal objectives, and selfishness. On the one hand: service before self, on the other: self before service. Its tough to invert your priorities…
Who’s right? The warrior. Remember, at the country’s beginning, we were all warriors.
What good does being right do? Evidently none in the short term… But, in the longer term, if we still have a country, it will need warriors to fix all the things that today’s civil society has broken.
The pressure on warriors like Marine Cpl. Clay Hunt must be enormous. It is no surprise that even the strongest succumb to it.
Compare the press reports of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s service with that of Cpl. Hunt. It is said that Cheney concatenated five deferments to avoid military service. Hunt served voluntarily and gave everything he had for his country. No contest.
The divergence of norms in the military and civilian societies in our country has been exacerbated by the transition to an all-volunteer force. The military benefits from having people in (temporary) involuntary service who don’t really want to be there. They are free to criticize the things that need improvement because they don’t see such criticism as threatening their personal futures in civilian life. The country’s civilian society benefits from mandatory military service because it provides all citizens with the opportunity to understand that they are part of a country that is much larger than their individual aspirations – and inextricably linked to their future.
The very fact that I resort to citing two societies – military and civilian – in our one country disturbs me. If we all have a stake in this country, then we all need to be warriors again. This is a country – not just a place to hang out while trying to get rich…
Citizen warriors created this country. If we want our country to continue to thrive in a hostile world, citizen warriors are needed to defend it and keep it great.