ROSE NOLEN: We need to do right by our military

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | 4:57 p.m. CDT; updated 11:46 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 24, 2011

It’s deeply troubling.

According to an exclusive story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, more members of the armed forces are dying by their own hands than in combat. That’s the first tragedy. The second tragedy, as far as I’m concerned, is that very little attention is being paid to this fact by the American public.


Related Media

As I see it, this is the major problem resulting from a volunteer army. Only those soldiers and their circle of family and friends seem to be touched by this horror. Because these tragedies are not shared by the country as a whole, a precious few Americans are bearing the burden.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on so long that people are no longer engaged in the pros and cons of them. Deploying the same soldiers over and over again would seem to me, at the least, a questionable course of action. When these young soldiers go off to war, many of them leave behind families to undergo the strains and stresses of everyday life without the benefit of one of the parents. For members of the middle and working classes, everyday life is made up of difficult challenges that frequently require more than one adult to handle. The solution to this problem seems simple enough to me. Our leaders need to wrap up these wars or find a better way to recruit more fighters.

During the days when our military power could be weighed by the number of sophisticated weapons we had at our disposal, things were decidedly different. When warfare becomes guerilla-style, with hand-to-hand combat and hand-thrown bombs, we need to ask ourselves: Are we prepared to endure year after year with enemies who are fighting on familiar terrain by familiar rules of conduct?

The fact that the majority of us are sitting at home with our families within touching distance while this minority of American citizens is undergoing such tortuous lifestyles is, I believe, unconscionable.

I’m certainly not naive enough to imagine that we will return to a nonvoluntary army. But, if that is the case, then we need to find a diplomatic way of handling conflicts. We are simply going to run out of people who are willing to put in the major portion of their young lives on a foreign battlefield.

It is true that we have a segment of our population that iscomposed of serious warmongers. Just as there are members of certain cultural groups in America who they despise, there are members of certain cultural groups throughout the world that they also hold in contempt. What Americans have to determine is: How much of their treasure are they willing to place on this altar of hatred?

My sincere sympathies go out to these families who have lost loved ones who died by their own hands. To all the mothers and fathers who have lost sons and daughters, and to all the children who have lost fathers and mothers, there is no way we can repay your loss.

We can only hope that this matter will find a place at the top of the American agenda. Folks, we need to come to grips with the terrible price that is being paid for our freedoms and man- and woman-up to pay our fair share of that price.

The military draft may or may not be the answer to this dilemma, but I think we owe it to those who serve and have served to seize the opportunity to work the problem out. The world is getting more and more restless and beset with warring forces on all sides.

We need to deal with the mess on our own plate, and we need to do it now. Young lives are at stake. It’s time to do the right thing.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Michael Williams June 21, 2011 | 8:38 p.m.

Rose said, "It is true that we have a segment of our population that is composed of serious warmongers. Just as there are members of certain cultural groups in America who they despise, there are members of certain cultural groups throughout the world that they also hold in contempt."

Care to elaborate on these statements? I'm unsure what kind of "linkages" you are making.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 21, 2011 | 10:01 p.m.

@ Michael Williams:

I know you're familiar with Rose's columns. Surely you've noticed that from time to time large, sinister but only vaguely-identified groups or forces pop up.

This particular situation is unfortunate because the subject of the column - the future fate of people who serve in America's military (as opposed to mere military hardware) - is an excellent and deserving topic. I'd like to see Col. Miller address it.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 21, 2011 | 10:21 p.m.

Since one horrific generalization deserves another, Rose.......

Perhaps these young soldiers wouldn't be dying at their own hands if certain political stripes which apparently include you WOULD LET US WIN THE DAMNED THING, GET IT OVER WITH, AND BRING THEM HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

Your notion of "support" for our troops needs a new definition. If you "support" me in some endeavor like you "support" troops, I'd ask you to please take your support elsewhere....I neither want or need that kind of "support".

Yeah, it's an offensive generalization....just like yours. How's it feel to be on the receiving end of a really bad extrapolation?

Stinks, doesn't it?

Is the "Apology" word in your lexicon?

PS: Good luck with that "diplomacy" thingie. If you can't bring Americans around to your way of thinking with your writings, what makes you think you can bring the rest of the world around? FYI, our Secretary of State has the same dilemma.

PSS: When will folks learn that no one...that means NO ONE....ever won a war (or street fight) worrying about collateral damage. That means if you want to worry about collateral damage, don't go to war.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire June 21, 2011 | 10:32 p.m.

ALRIGHT!!! Let's have a war at MIKE'S!!!

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 21, 2011 | 10:36 p.m.

Ellis: The particular passage I quoted from Rose's column was one of the more offensive ones she has written. Says a lot about what is in her mind and how she thinks.

She doesn't like those who despise other cultures. But I'm wondering if she holds cultures in contempt to circumcize women so, heaven forbid, they can't enjoy coitus. Or those who kill post-partum deformed babies. Or kill millions of their citizens like Pol Pot, Saddam, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao. Are all these "cultures" ok? Are they legit? In Ms. Nolen's mind, are all cultures created equal and should be accepted by her, and us?

Or are some of these examples something over which we should make war if diplomacy fails? Where does Ms. Nolen's responsibilities to citizens of the world begin...and end?

Perhaps Ms. Nolen can answer my chronic...but unanswered...question to those who believe in cultural equivalence: If all cultures are created equal, what is the purpose of Amnesty International?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 22, 2011 | 3:03 a.m.

Michael Williams:

Thanks for your response. You touched on something else that seems unique about Rose: unlike other regular columnists in this newspaper she does not address comments and questions posed by readers.

I'm reminded of a significant moment in Jewish history: presentation to the Jewish people (by Moses) of the Ten Commandments. There was also no mechanism for the people, either individually or as a group, to question or even discuss with God the material presented.

God of course is omnipotent. Is Rose?

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller June 22, 2011 | 7:50 p.m.


While I respect your right to express your opinion, I have a problem with the allegation that " It is true that we have a segment of our population that is composed of serious warmongers." In my 76 years on this earth, 35 of which were spent in uniform, I have yet to meet one of them--we must travel in different circles indeed.

Nevertheless, the notion that the military's major problems stem from the all volunteer armed forces is one that has no basis in fact. There are still a number of people who long for a return to the draft in the false belief that we are better off conscripting our young people to ensure a level playing field of participation and suffering; however, the complexity of not only the battlefield but also the sophistication of the weapons of war have rendered the two year draftee obsolete.

The Selective Service System is still in place to draft citizen soldiers for the duration of another World War, but the regional combat missions the U S faces today are best served by professionals who opt to be there by volunteering and completing the rigorous training requirements necessary for success. While it may appear to be unfair for the same combatants to deploy and redeploy several times, particularly the Marines and Soldiers who make up the pointy end of the spear, they are volunteers and the majority of them believe in what they are doing to make the world a better place.

Everyone's heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and to those who have sustained severe and debilitating combat wounds. However, when one realizes that reinstating the draft would spread the combat obligation among a greater segment of the population, it must also be recognized those drafted to serve are far less apt to possess the esprit de corps, the training and the confidence of the professional soldier--thus resulting in a greater casualty ratio.

As for diplomacy supplanting warfare in the handling of conflict, in a perfect world, one in which the milk of human kindness flows through everyone's veins and one bereft of economic envy would be utopian indeed. However, until that becomes a reality, we cannot afford a kinder, gentler military geared to operate meals on wheels and toys for tots type missions. So long as evil exists in the world, the only realistic deterrent is a strong and professional military.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson June 22, 2011 | 11:10 p.m.

If I am not mistaken, Certain Cultural Group is opening for The Serious Warmongers' show sometime next week at The Blue Note. Check the website, and get there early, if you want a table.

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.