Time Magazine Cover by Time, Inc.
The cover article in Time Magazine asserts that there is a growing cultural divide between the GIs returning from deployments in combat zones and the civilians they protect. In fact the gap represents a fundamental difference in life experience between veterans and non-veterans. The article suggests that many American civilians are both unaware of and uninterested in the wars which these men and women have been fighting. Though over 6,000 have died, and many more have suffered debilitating physical and mental wounds, Iraq and Afghanistan are not at the forefront of civilian's lives or concerns. The personal sacrifices of the civilian population is practically nil. Our government has borrowed the money to pay for the combat, and there has been no rationing of consumer goods, no call for civilian participation, no war tax burdens.
The man in the street has not been even slightly inconvenienced. But the GI has been placed in harms way, given impossible missions, and in addition has patriotically accepted the personal loss of freedom that comes with military service. Gis live where they are told to, wear the clothes they are issued, and work whatever hours the mission requires. They don't get to quit or even complain - at least no publicly. The share a high standard of integrity and self discipline that is trained into them.
We could go a long way to fixing the growing military-civilian social gap by instituting two policies: a combat surtax, and compulsory national service. The combat surtax policy would require that all combat funding be financed with an automatic surtax on all civilian income. This would be a separate deduction that you'd see along with unemployment insurance, social security, and other taxes. We'd all feel the bite and the hardship. The compulsory national service would demand that everyone be enrolled in some form of military service: National Guard, reserves, ROTC, or active duty. Certain alternative service that involves some degree of sacrifice could be considered: Peace Corps, Teach America, and perhaps careers as first responders or police. The point would be for absolutely EVERYONE to, in some significant way, serve and share the burden of protecting and nurturing our nation's vital interests.