There is an old saying that old men send young men to war. It wasn't always this way in a democracy.
In ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy, if you voted for war - you held your sword, your shield and took your place in the line of battle in defense of your city or ideals. Today, lawmakers decide when to send our children into battle and how to spend money to support them. We hope that they understand the consequences of their decisions; we hope they make decisions as if our children were their own. But, do they really?
The current "budget crisis" - which is a leadership crisis - will cause overseas tours to be extended for our armed forces. Since we have reduced our forces in theater and told the enemy when we will withdrawal, the Taliban et al have become more aggressive and more deadly. Consequently, these strategic choices have created an increasingly dangerous situation for our troops.
The budget crisis is a result of political gamesmanship, poor planning, and lack of courage to make tough decisions at critical junctures. I always hear politicians telling their constituents that they are "going to Washington to fight for them". We don't need politicians who fight; we need politicians who can think, compromise, and effectively plan. We need politicians who are stewards of this country's ideals and resources.
The system has failed. The impact of poor leadership on our military forces is just one small example. If politicians had to personally serve these extended tours (or had to send their own children to replace our stretched forces on the front lines) would their "fighting spirit" remain the same?
Immediate consequences tend to sharpen the senses. Unfortunately for us, lawmakers are separated by too many layers of comfort to feel the pain that their lack of leadership causes. I wish every lawmaker had to pick up a rifle and ruck up in Afghanistan to live through an extended tour.
That's leadership by example.