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A draft and a tax

With President Obama’s decision regarding an increase of troops in Afghanistan and the setting of a tentative withdrawal schedule, surely the floodgates will open and vitriol will pour forth from the extremes. In times like these — marked with incivility and knee-jerk partisan rhetoric — the responses are guaranteed.

Whether the decision to save a war effort clearly lost by a previous administration is successful, remains to be seen. Whether it is right, in the best sense of the world, will be debated now and for a long time to come.

There will be those who say the additional troops are not enough, that the decision was made too late, that the president “dithered” and does not show the excess of muscle desired. They will likely complain about the deadline as well.

There will be those who lament the fact the president did not decry the botched efforts of his predecessors and begin an immediate withdrawal from what they see as an unwinnable conflict and a war of choice.

Other lines will be drawn concerning the question of whether or not the war should have been engaged in the first place — whether it was in the best interests of the nation and the American people.

Some will argue our national interests were clearly threatened following the attacks of September 11, that a rogue government in Afghanistan was sheltering enemies of our state and had to be destroyed. They will note that the threat continues in the region, albeit much of it in Pakistan.

Another war, of course, got in the way — one with a succession of justifications, each jettisoned as its invalidity became obvious — and the war that supporters would label “just” was put on the back burner.

Others will argue the war in Afghanistan is unsupportable, that sanctions and other methods could have been used to deal with the core problem, long before war was a viable option. They will argue that the lessons of centuries of conflict in the region have been ignored and will submit that the lessons of Vietnam have been ignored as well. They will warn of a quagmire, of year after year of conflict waged with no clear victory in sight.

Back and forth it will go. As it should.

When we think of this war and of the decisions made by our government, we go to another point: We wonder about the commitment of the American people to this war, and to the war of occupation we are waging in Iraq.

We wonder about the fact that, aside from brief attention to blips on the media radar, most Americans seem to be little interested in these wars. True, we celebrate our veterans and those in active service to their country. As we should. But, there was a time, not long ago, when officials urged us to go about our business as usual … to shop. And we did.

There seems to be little uproar about the fact that our wars are now fought by a volunteer military, its resources stressed, troops increasingly fatigued by repeat deployments.

There is little outrage at the fact we are fighting prohibitively expensive conflicts in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, with politicians all the while yapping about reducing an enormous deficit.

We believe something must be done, if we are at war, to ensure the full and spirited involvement of the entire nation, to spur an effort to end military conflicts as quickly and successfully as possible, with the answer determined by the people.

Two ideas, each affecting a particular segment of the population.

First, for those of age to serve: a draft.

Second, for those beyond the age of service: a war tax.

Impose a draft and a war tax and we will find out, quickly, what level of support there is for war. If the mission is worthy, the opposition will be scant.

If the war in question is unsupportable, there will be riots in the streets.

Put a draft and war tax in place, and let the people speak with their reactions.