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SPOTLIGHT
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'Rich man's war, poor man's fight'

Published on -3/31/2013, 2:08 PM

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War no longer is hell for most Americans, and some find it easy to start a war they don't have to fight or pay for.

There was a time when Civil War General William Sherman famously declared, "War is hell." Even the Southerners who hated Sherman agreed with this assessment.

Our nation's involvement in battleground conflicts often has been described as "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight." Politicians got us into war and then drafted poor folks' sons to do the bleeding and dying.

All of that has changed. Beginning with the Iraq blunder, American leaders such as Bush and Cheney lied us into war and then assigned an all-volunteer army to bleed and die for the nation. This policy is loved by chicken hawks, who missed the Vietnam fighting because they "had more important duties to perform" than to either bleed or die. Then, when they couldn't pay the $2.2 trillion the Iraq fiasco cost, they did the only sensible thing left to a conservative who won't increase taxes. They borrowed it.

These hawks want to preserve the all-volunteer forces of men, and now women, to fight for them. They have their eyes on a war with Iran. They back our armed forces (into which they won't need to draft their sons) in a world where we face no significant armed threats from any nation. The real goal is to provide a world police force.

How else can we explain that 66,418 U.S. troops are stationed in Germany? (That war ended 68 years ago, as did our battles with Japan, where we still station 53,360 U.S. troops.)

The upshot is Germany and Japan, our two main foes in World War II, no longer field much of an army. This leaves those nations free to undercut us in world trade while never worrying about an invasion.

Citizens who would like to trim our defense spending don't feel we should be the world's unpaid policemen. They point out one-third of our U.S. foreign aid goes to Egypt and Israel -- a total of $4.7 trillion (with a T). Most of this pays for armaments. For a nation such as the U.S., which is recovering from a depression, this could build a lot of American highway bridges and put many Americans back to work.

We also should cut defense spending so we can pay for the hospitalization and services to aid the patriotic men and women who were maimed in our wars.

Modern tactics actually have given us one blessing. With the advent of drones, it seems wars might require less soldiers to hurt and bleed. Technology seems to have changed some battles into huge video games where the combatants sit amid their toys while they wreak havoc on our enemies. This Pacman type of war sneaked up on us while we weren't looking, and now we must deal with the reality of it.

Darrel Miller lives near Downs in rural Osborne County and is a retired weekly newspaper editor.

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