The plight of Sgt. Robert Bales is testament that our country is placing an unfair burden on those men and women who volunteer to maintain American military might. On his 1192nd day of combat, over four deployments, Bales broke, apparently losing control and going on a killing spree that has set back the efforts of the Obama administration to broker an exit strategy from Afghanistan.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Secretary have been warning that our military, including National Guard, has been stretched to the breaking point for several years after more than 10 years of war. This is not due to a lack of will by our men and women in uniform. This is a political failure, both by the people we elect and by we who elect them.
In spite of the fact that our men and women in uniform have fought in numerous conflicts, suffering tens of thousands of dead and many times that in wounded, this country has not been in a state of declared war since the end of World War II. Why? Either a war is worth fighting or it is not.
As Commander in Chief, the President of the United States can order our troops to any part of the globe. The power to declare war, however, rests solely with the Congress of the United States. It takes the assent of both branches for those troops to remain committed since Congress can simply withhold funding for any presidential action they disagree with. The Korean War, Vietnam War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could have been stopped at any point by either the legislative or executive branches of government. Failing to do so implies consent and complicity.
A president, by refusing to ask for a declaration of war, or Congress, by refusing to declare war, can both then play the “blame game.” Unfortunately, that leaves our armed forces as pawns. It is time to put an end to these games and only the American voter can accomplish that. A Congress that allows any conflict to continue without a declaration of war should be replaced at the next election.
If there is a vote to declare war, then a draft should be implemented immediately. Our voluntary military is meant to be a firewall for unexpected conflicts until the country can mobilize. National defense is every citizen’s responsibility, whether you agree with the decision of our legally elected representatives or not. The National Guard is only supposed to be used during emergencies. The only emergency in 10 years of the current war has been the cowardice of Congress to implement a draft that would have spread the price of freedom among all its recipients. Those who serve voluntarily, and their families, deserve better.