The expression “boots on the ground” has become uncomfortably affiliated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Traditionally meant to invoke images of tens of thousands of Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors in harm’s way, today it has simply become misapplied.
Political figures like to reference this term when discussing how they would take the fight to the enemy. After the Paris attacks, they tried to determine who would be the more appropriate future president, and who would be unprepared to respond. These mental games ignore the most basic aspect to boots on the ground. It is not a question as to when a political leader would be willing to deploy troops against an enemy. It is a question of when a nation will be willing to look to their children, and tell them it is their turn to step up against an enemy.
The two may seem contradictory, but in reality the issue is quite recent. During the surge in Iraq, new service members were needed so badly that even those with little to no capabilities were being offered enlistment bonuses in the tens of thousands. In 2007, quick ship bonuses were paid out up to $20,000 per soldier. The average bonus issued was $15,000, but the maximum allowable was $40,000. These were predominantly high school graduates with no major skill sets, and yet the demand was for service members.
The issue: nearly 30 years ago, approximately 25% of 17-24 year old males were interested in joining the military. In 2007, only 15.7%. So what happened? September 11, 2001 was only a few years prior, and the emotional event still stays with many of us.
Consider though, the concept of time. In 2007, an 18 year old service member was 12 years old when the towers fell. Most 12 year olds are busy playing games, running outside, and having fun. They were all too young at the time to immediately join or have an emotional reaction that would have allowed them to do so. Instead, many of them had to wait.
Move forward in time. In 2015, an 18 year old service member was four years old. The concept of injustice from that day is something that is shown and taught to them, but not something viscerally understood at the time.
So, when we see events that happen in the world, the real question shouldn’t be about when a politician will choose to send troops; it is about when the American people as a whole will decide that the event justifies it. For our grandfathers, it was Pearl Harbor. An affront on a nation that hit a nerve. For us it was the Trade Center. In reality though, it is the combination of two factors that plays a role on such an emotional level.
First, it is an iconic element. It is something that defines a location or the nation. Second, it is the amount of people lost. Combine these two elements into an audacious attack, and you have yourself a visceral and immediate reaction. If the attack is performed by official members of a country, it is easy to pick a fight with them. If it is a terrorist group like ISIS, it is harder to single them out, but that does not mean impossible.
At the end of the day, politicians should always assess this question as to whether or not they would send themselves or their own children to war. If not, then boots on the ground is something that should be avoided at all costs.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.