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Will President Obama Ask All Americans to Sacrifice for Afghanistan–And I Don’t Just Mean Through Taxes

As Derrick and others have suggested, it would be a great, and long overdue start, for politicians supporting the war in Afghanistan to raise taxes in order to fund the enormous expenses of this war.  Rep. David Obey has introduced the "Share the Sacrifice Act", which would place a 1% surtax on everyone’s federal income tax as well as an additional surtax on higher earners.  That’d be a good start, and it would be nice to see some intellectual honesty from Republicans and right-leaning Democrats who support the expensive war but oppose any and all taxes needed to fund the war.  I’d like to see more, though.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, I kept waiting for President Bush to call on Americans to serve.  The only thing I heard him ask is that we go shopping.  I was more than willing to help, as were millions of Americans.  On September 11, I wandered over to a building near my apartment, I think it was a high school auditorium.  I was a in a daze, but I’d heard that people were gathering to help.  I found hundreds of fellow New Yorkers there.  We all wanted to donate blood, but, horribly, not much blood was needed as the expected injured survivors were not there.  We signed up to provide services, to do whatever we could.  I went from one blood donation site to another, turned away each time (there were more than enough people there before me).  I brought supplies to my local fire station and I stood as near to the attack site as I could get, along with others who held signs and cheered on the vehicles heading to the site.  Though I am one of the least likely candidates for military service that you could imagine, I contacted the Defense Intelligence Agency to see if I could help gather information that might prevent future attacks.

I wanted to do more, but it was not easy to find out how.  I grew up reading about World War Two, and I imagined a national effort in which the population would be enlisted to respond to a threat to the nation.  The call to service never came.

President Bush never asked millions of Americans to sacrifice.  Instead, he sent a small percentage of the population to fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he asked these troops, and their families and loved ones, to bear the burden.  If we really have a compelling reason to be in Afghanistan, then President Obama ought to present that case and ask all Americans to participate in some way.  A military draft might be part of that solution.  If staying in Afghanistan is indeed a compelling mission, then I believe Americans will respond to the call.  If it is not, then I think Americans will let President Obama know that it is past time to end the war in Afghanistan and focus on priorities, domestic and foreign, that really do implicate our core national interests.

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Chris Edelson

Chris Edelson

Chris is a lawyer and professor at American University who writes frequently about current political and media issues. His writing has also been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metroland (Albany, NY), and at