A few American liberals are sometimes rude and often unpleasant to the people around them and, sadly, to the people beneath them. These sour liberals have apparently convinced themselves that their public commitment to programmatic compassion absolves them of any personal responsibility to be civil to the folks they meet.
Such liberal inconsistency is rightfully ridiculed. Kindness cannot be subcontracted to any agency, public or private. Charity cannot simply be institutionalized. And neither can patriotism, someone might add.
That's precisely what our conservative Republican administration seems to be trying to do. By now, even the slowest of us have learned that government cannot solve problems simply by throwing money at them. Except, we now learn, in the case of the problems of national defense and the all-volunteer army.
On the matter of the all-volunteer army, present conservative theology is totally at odds with our national values and practical experience. But unfortunately, many liberals, still traumatized by Vietnam, seem uncomfortable in any national defense debate unless they are doing a bad imitation of Bertrand Russell.
If the liberals were willing to seek one authentic "lesson" from Vietnam about the volunteer army, it might go something like this: In Vietnam, the U.S. Army was an army of the poor. The sons of affluence and privilege, thanks to their college deferments, spent the war spilling beer instead of blood. In Vietnam, the spilled American blood came overwhelmingly from the children of the working class and the underclass.
In Vietnam, American blacks and Latinos, who together constitute one-sixth of our total population, sustained 40 percent of all infantry casualties. Today's all-volunteer army is nearly three times as black as was the 1964 army. Any future action virtually guarantees that American casualties and, yes, corpses will be overwhelmingly black and brown. That's not an America most us like to think about. That doesn't seem fair.
The last time we used military substitutes on a grand scale was during the Civil War. It's not an episode that Americans much boast about. In 1862, a substitute cost about $800. Today, the Reagan administration keeps raising the ante. Defense Secretary Weinberger this week asked for a 26.1 percent salary increase for uniformed personnel over the next fiscal year.
This comes on top of a lot of other money: Half the total defense budget now goes for manpower costs. That's an awful lot of money. Yet the army, in its own readiness reports, found 10 of its 16 divisions in the continental United States to be unfit for combat.
The liberals, faithful to their demoncratic principles, could be leading the charge for the return of the draft. In the Reagan/Haig foreign policy, there is a lot of straight talk and a large dose of swagger. No Nervous Nellies, thank you. America will become a rapid deployment force, we are told. But what about the Reagan administration and the draft and sharing that burden among all Americans? Should not all citizens welcome the responsibility to defend their nation during this "present danger," which the president's platform called "greater than ever before in the 200-year history of the United States"? No, in spite of the evidence and the cost and the manifest unfairness, the Reagan administration clings blindly to the All-Volunteer Force.
We ask the military to do the difficult and dangerous and dirty work of keeping all of us safe. Now is the time for Ronald Reagan to ask all of us to share in that task, to ask all of us to share in that task, to ask all of us to sacrifice. Defending the United States is just as much the responsibility of Nick and Adam as it is of Jose' and Tyrone. To admit that checkbook patriotism is un-American and will no longer do would be an act of real presidential leadership.