Friday, February 6, 2009


The New York Post, Manhattan's right of center daily paper, recently carried a editorial entitled "Lessons of the Bulge," which drew some instructive parallels between one of the most important battles of WWII and our nation's present day struggle against terrorism. The piece was insightful in that it reminded of the courage and persistence of our armed forces during that dangerous time.
For those of you who may have been asleep in history class the Battle of the Bulge occurred 60 years ago. It was Hitler's last-ditch attempt to win the war. In a surprise winter attack the Fuhrer’s armies hit several vulnerable points in the Allied line and brought unwelcome chaos, disarray and death to a series of American units that were caught flat-footed.

If you want to have some idea what it was like to fight in that horrible battle, wake up at 3:am on some freezing cold Severna Park morning. Put your summer coat on and go stand outside. Once you get out there imagine for a moment that the clothes you have on your back are all the protection you will have against the elements for the foreseeable future. Also imagine that in the vicinity are hundreds of German soldiers whose goal is to hunt you down and kill you. Finally, imagine a situation where only the loss of your legs will get you off the battlefield. No matter how sick you get, as long as you can walk and carry your rifle you will be in the line of fire. Sound tough? it was, but somehow despite these hardships our army persevered and was able to strike a final blow against Nazi tyranny.

The aforementioned events remind us that whether one is for or against the incursion into Iraq, it is clear that similar acts of sacrifice are taking place today in the thousands of places around the world where the War on Terror is being waged. Some believe the past victories that determined the fate of Western civilization were largely due to the thoughts and actions of great strategic thinkers like Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. But the true reality is that wars are won not by those at the top but by the millions of individuals in the trenches who somehow find a way to hang on through unbelievable adversity. Were it not for this kind of character and dedication it is unlikely that our nation would never have survived. But while there are important parallels between WWII and our current day challenges, there are equally distressing differences.

For one, during this fight, our country is (amazingly), is cutting rather than raising taxes. During WWII all Americans were asked, appropriately, to pay more in taxes In 1943; America's most affluent households faced a 93 percent tax rate on all their income over $200,000. The next year, 1944, the nation's top tax rate would rise even higher, to 94 percent on income over $200,000-the highest rate in American history. FDR did this not because he was some kind of a crazy socialist, but because he needed money to help win the war.

On a personal level, everyone and (I mean everyone) was involved in the fight. FDR’s son Elliot flew P-38’s. The son of Harry Hopkins, FDR's closest advisor and the Karl Rove of his day was killed in combat. The progeny of some of the richest men in America, like John F. Kennedy, volunteered for some of the most dangerous tours of duty. Big time movie stars like Jimmie Stewart and Henry Fonda all saw combat (Can you imagine Brad Pitt or Ben Afleck joining the army or Marine Corps to fight in Iraq).

In 1945 the war was not something that you saw on Fox News. What was happening "over there " was of constant concern. When H.V. Kaltenborn said “there is good news tonight," he was not only telling you that the Allied armies were succeeding, but that the moment when you might once again see your dad, husband of brother was a little bit closer.

The upshot is you don't have to be an historian to realize that we are going to succeed in our current efforts we will need more sacrifice on the home front. If we are really sincere we should:

1.Put an end to any additional tax cuts.
2. As Tom Friedman of the Times has suggested, levy a $1.00 tax on every gallon of gasoline to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and provide additional resources.
3. Reinstitute the draft (highly dubious) OR provide incentives to bring the manpower levels in the all-volunteer force up to the required levels.

"But wait Pat,” you say, " this war on terror is different. We are not confronting massed armies that surrender and negotiate terms. It is unfair to compare the challenges of today with those of 1945." Perhaps so, but I think we can all agree on one thing, namely that whether our nation is fighting Germany or the Carthaginians we should give those in harms way EVERY available resource to assist them in their efforts.

Some 229 years ago, a group of intrepid patriots pledged their lives and their posterity to bring about a better world. Since that time that pledge has been played out not only on the battlefield but on the home front as well. Therefore we must muster the courage to support our forces not only on a spiritually and philosophical lever but also on a material one as well. It is one thing to say "I support our troops," but quite another to agree to pay higher taxes to provide the manpower, technology and resources they need to prevail. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, I am willing to pay whatever is needed to help some soldier, sailor, airman or Marine to one day come home to their family. Let’s resolve to back the attack not only in word but in deed.

No comments: