Chapter 2 - The Red Badge of Courage   

Few acts of Congress carry weightier consequences than taking the nation to war, yet few acts are so far removed from the typical member of Congress’s comprehension. No more than one out of every five members of the current Congress has served in the military and few of them have ever been on the front lines. It is time we ask our leaders to show the same courage that our military servicemen and women show day in and day out. It is time they experience first-hand the consequences of their decisions. If we, as a nation, are to go to war, shouldn’t our leaders be standing alongside the troops?

This pledge of honor is not a call for members of Congress to take up full-time military service, but rather to undertake special tours of duty, up to several weeks in length, during congressional recess. War would no longer be just an abstract notion within a policy debate; it would be made real for Congress, just as it is for those who do the fighting. When the members of Congress start putting their own safety on the line, their decisions will be based on more than just political motives. They will, for once, have some “skin in the game.”

How can we expect our leaders to make wise decisions about going to war if they don’t have an understanding of it? Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), an Iraq war veteran, was quoted in a New York Times article (February 17, 2015) as saying that she wondered whether “the leaders of our country and those in positions of making these decisions really understand what the impacts of their decisions were…One of the reasons I ran for Congress was to make sure we didn’t repeat the mistakes of the past, of going into war without a clear strategy.”

Let me be clear: this is neither an anti-war nor a pro-war issue. It is a call for our leaders to “walk the talk.” It is a call to bring a renewed sense of heroism, honor, and shared sacrifice to Congress.

The time was when every American schoolchild read The Red Badge of Courage, the classic Civil War novel following 18-year-old Henry Fleming’s journey as a Union soldier....[Purchase the book here to keep reading]