30 December 2006

Brought to you by Friends of William Blake (& their friends): A Strategy for Ending the War in Iraq

We are on the verge of a New Year and our country still is debating how best to prosecute or not the debacle the Bush Administration has created in Iraq. The options seem to run the gamut from sending a large infusion of troops to beginning a gradual withdrawal to (for a few lonely voices) leaving Iraq more or less immediately and totally. For a thoughtful lament about the inability or unwillingness of American liberals to endorse this last strategy I recommend this post by J.M. Tyree over at 3 Quarks Daily (which, along with Crooked Timber is the best blog going).

One problem is that such policy debates are carried on largely by folks with hardly a stake in the the matter. Of course, they have political stakes and mostly are engaged in ideological crusades or electoral butt-covering. But they have no real personal stake in the question of how long we have troops on the line in Iraq. Very few of their sons and daughters are (with perhaps a few exceptions) not in harm's way. According to press reports, in 2003 of the 535 members of Congress, seven (7!) had a child doing military service in Iraq. I doubt the number has increased in the interim. And, as is common knowledge, none of the principals in BushCo bothered to march off to war given the opportunity. (On this see, for instance, these two items in The Nation [1] [2].) The same apparently is true of the incoming Republican class in Congress [*]. I have ranted about this sort of hypocrisy before and will resist the urge to kick that dog again. The point is that there is no cost to our politicians and policy makers. It is unlikely that they will go home and prevail upon their kids to enlist.

Perhaps the most effective way to influence this debate is to address a more important group, namely the kids who are being pressured by military recruiters to sign up for service. One important policy component would be to advocate for programs that allow kids to finance higher education of various sorts without joining, say ROTC. But a more immediate tactic is to address the kids themselves about the dangers; in other words treat them with respect, as adults who face a crucially important decision. Here I suggest a project conceived by the collective Friends of William Blake. They have created The New Yorkers' Guide to Military Recruitment and along with collaborators Visual Resistance and Sabrina Jones launched a Brown Bag Project aimed at young men and women in neighborhoods targeted by military recruiters.

This projecct is located in "the five boroughs," but it may be even more crucial to start such undertakings in the hinterlands. For instance, in Western New York cities like Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo (to say nothing of smaller towns and rural areas) have incredible levels of economic insecurity for young men and women. And the most basic information about the war - say casualty numbers - is not readily available. For example, as I have mentioned here before, our local newspaper The Democrat & Chronicle does not run the casualty figures. Fortunately the City Paper not only publishes the figures each week, but has been covering the labor struggles going on at the Gannett operated D&C. I don't want to get too far off the track here; the point is that desperate kids with little if any unbiased information are being pressured by military recruiters. Start the New Year right. I encourage you to, at a minimum, support the Brown Bag Project financially - send some cash. Beyond that, think about how you might extend the project or something like it to the place where you live. It is hard to wage a war if there are no soldiers to fight it.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're too kind to us, Jim - I have greatly enjoyed strolling through your very cool and thoughtful blog.
JMT (of 3QD).

18 January, 2007 18:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

William Blake has many groups of friends. One has this website:


launched after the rediscovery of Blake's grave, its exact location having been lost.

I am a friend of these friends!

John Peirson (UK)

06 February, 2007 15:50  

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