Where Have All The Soldiers Gone?” A line, of course, from Peter, Paul, and Mary’s iconic song from the ’60s. Some might remember the words and music. If not, dig deeper into the memory bank and try, “Hell No, We Won’t Go.” These were both products of the Vietnam War era, both having a tremendous impact on soldier recruitment and willingness to fight.
The former was a rhetorical question; the latter the cry of draftee protesters, American youths selected to serve alongside our volunteers to fight in the jungles of Southeast Asia. These protestors opted not to serve, escaping to the safety of Canada or elsewhere. Others, still with a sense of responsibility and patriotism, stayed, and fought.
But these are not the ’60s. Two generations have passed. In that time, eight years of William Clinton and eight years of Barack Obama permitted each to formulate national policies that allowed infectious socialism to creep into the minds of our young population through our grade and high school teachers, and the subversive teachings of the leftist professorial elite at our major universities. No one bothered nor wanted to stop them. Few were even aware it was happening.
Simultaneously, almost covertly, were signs appearing of the acceptance of an emerging socialist nucleus in our congressional ranks in both houses. This, like cancer, grew. As with our educational system, no one bothered nor cared to stop it.
Here is the problem, America. In the two generations that have passed, “Hell No, We Won’t Go” and the turncoat actions by a relatively few draftees have turned into defiant cries by members of the “entitled generation”—members of society who have been raised to believe they are victims of injustice and require, as a minimum, reparations, not responsibility to our country.
Add to the list members who believe it is their birthright to receive “free everything” in lieu of “earning anything.” Add members of high school and university graduating classes raised to believe America was and remains an evil country needing its history rewritten and revised to reflect the ideology of Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky.
Keep in mind wars are fought not by generals photo-op’d on the steps of the Pentagon. They are won by 18-year-old soldiers on the ground, slogging through swamp, in jungles, on deserts, in urban areas, in dirt and sand and mud, all to prosecute a war dictated by politicians.
In truth, with the changing times, a large segment of our future force would come from a different environment than those of the ’60s. It would be the product of the now broken public education system, students deprived of the study of history, English, civics, and social studies, basic courses that explain America and its greatness, and no longer taught in many of our public schools.
Sadly, this reality is never challenged by parents paying the taxes to support the schools, or parents who seemingly have little interest in the production of a curriculum affecting their own children. In a short time, such students, now in their formative years, will be exposed to university staff allowed to instill the merits of socialism perceived as needed to govern America along with the modification of her Constitution.
Justification for service to our country, then, is increasingly nonexistent. A savvy group of young men and women, who at one point held political heroes, both Republican and Democrat, as symbols of strength and patriotism, find instead purposely divisive congressional leaders, many who are weak, abject failures in meeting their responsibilities to govern, but desperately seek to gain reelection and maintain perks and power.
Into this ideological morass, it will be largely pointless to ask our young Americans to fight the nation’s battles, as we, as a nation, have fairly well lost our moral authority to do so.
Reality is that the most essential element of our fighting forces, our volunteer soldiers, may not be there to fight the next war. They’ll have no reason, as over the years our country has failed and continues to fail in building into them a love of our great America and a reason to protect her.
Picture, if you will, tomorrow’s youth storming the beaches of Normandy. An impossible delusion.
To the greater point, we may have already lost the next ground war, should that day ever come. No longer is there a need to ask, “… Where have all the soldiers gone?” They definitely will have refused to join the ranks in the first place, as they believed themselves to be “entitled” to freedom from responsibility, totally unlike today’s patriots, volunteer men, and women defending our nation every day.
Sadly, in two crucial generations, we failed to teach our youth they had a nation to defend as citizen soldiers. This, then, left our country with few willing to protect her; and thus may have begun the crumbling of the greatest democracy in history, as any semblance of deterrent power was lost, and “peace through strength” became a pipe dream.
Reversible? Yes. But only if the nation’s cultural course is reset toward restoration of old and true American values as, for example, those of our “Greatest Generation.”
Matthew R. Kambrod is a frequent op-ed contributor on defense issues
and author of “Lobbying for Defense: an Insider’s View.”