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March 9, 2023

Just three years short of the nation’s 250th anniversary, the moment may have arrived when Americans no longer deserve our freedom. The latest points in evidence:

  • The abduction by Mexican drug cartels of four Americans in Matamoros, hard by the border town of Brownsville Texas. In case you have been asleep these last two years, Mexico and the entire border region is now under the exclusive governance of the drug cartels, not the Department of Homeland Security and certainly not its hapless Bidencrat-in-chief, Alejandro Mayorkas.
  • While the security of our homeland is still quivering from border to border (now including the flyover states recently visited by that Chinese spy balloon) American military pre-eminence is openly challenged by our traditional adversaries in Russia and China as well as such upstarts as Iran and North Korea.

As if all that were not enough, it appears that our volunteer military has fallen on hard times since both the Army and Air Force are falling well short of their recruitment goals. Even their sister services have been scrambling to deal with a tough labor market and an increasingly indifferent youth cadre.

Because in 2022 the Army fell farthest behind – 15,000 short of the 60,000 replacement troops it needed - Army Secretary Christine Wormuth recently visited Chicago-area recruiters to get a handle on the problem. Her visit was especially sensible because Chicago residents typically deal with casualty rates and daily mayhem worse than most battlefields. However, beleaguered Army recruiters were blunt in their assessment of civilian educational leaders, “many (of them) skeptical that the Army offers a good career option for their students. “I’m going to use the word hostile,” one recruiter told her. “There’s no other word to use.”


Worse yet, “Army leaders say their surveys show that young people don’t see the Army as a prime career choice, often because they don’t want to die or get injured, deal with the stress of military life or put their lives on hold.” But perhaps the greatest obstacle Secretary Wormuth encountered was “resistance from teachers’ unions and school board members who don’t see the value in offering students the military as a career option. In some cases, school officials view the military through a post-Vietnam era lens.”


As a Vietnam-era draftee, I believe todays Army is still dealing with the latent effects of both Vietnam and the Great Divorce that followed immediately thereafter. While the volunteer Army re-established professionalism during the generation that followed, most Americans became accustomed to thinking of the Army – and the Armed Forces in general - as someone else’s problem. Even the shock of 911 didn’t bring national mobilization since we effectively transferred its burdens onto the Reserves and those hyper-deployed volunteers. Today we are defended by a brave but tiny force representing less than half of one -percent of our population. Small wonder that civilian educators in Chicago and elites elsewhere else recognize a segregated, sacrificial community when they see one!


            While we have happily lived with those anomalies for decades, such a force becomes problematic when you need an Army to defend our own borders. The combination of cartel violence and the curse of fentanyl –already said to have killed more than one hundred thousand Americans – led Senators Lindsay Graham and John Kennedy to call for a declaration of war against the cartels: “We are going to unleash the fury and might of the United States against these cartels…We’re going to destroy their business model and their lifestyle because our national security and the security of the United States as a whole depends on us taking decisive action.”


But barely were the words out of his mouth than White House spokes-person Karine Jean-Pierre responded, "Designating these cartels as…foreign terrorist organizations would not grant us any additional authorities that we don't really have at this time. The United States has powerful sanctions authorities specifically designated to combat narcotics trafficking organizations...” Thanks again, Baghdad Bob!


This Oscar weekend do yourself a favor and look up an old movie that portrays our new realities better than any DC bureaucrat: Sicario: Day of the Soldado. This 2018 thriller captures the ambiguities, tragedies and pathos of what an all-out war against the Mexican cartels would look like. Along the way, we might also find that the greatest tragedy of life imitating art is the creeping realization that both should have been better planned!  

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