Something important has happened in the United Kingdom. Prince Harry, 22, the younger son of Crown Prince Charles and the late Diana, plans to take part in the war in Iraq as a platoon commander. Britain is amazed to see the third in line to the throne risking his life on Her Majesty's service, and it happens to be of great interest to grandma. And it certainly is a great cause for concern: Life is not a film, and grandma is Elizabeth II, not Helen Mirren I.
Britain is already on its way out of the valley of the shadow of death. Last week Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that 1,600 soldiers will be leaving, using the idiotic excuse of "a stabilization of the security situation in southern Iraq" around the city of Basra. By engaging in active combat, Prince Harry is likely to cause a further acceleration of the withdrawal of the remaining 7,000 soldiers. From now on the lost war will penetrate the palace; it will also penetrate every British family anxiously keeping an eye on its prince at the front. Suddenly the war will be so close.
That is the nature of several of today's wars, that they are too far away. They seem to be taking place beyond the hills of darkness, somewhere out there, out of sight and out of mind. In 1970, 74 sons of members of the United States Congress were serving in Vietnam, whereas today only the son of Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia is serving in Iraq, in the Marines. Recently, at a reception, President George W. Bush asked the senator "How's your boy?" and the senator replied coldly: "That's between me and my boy, Mr. President."
Bush, who has sent 150,000 soldiers to Iraq and about another 30,000 to Afghanistan, does not know a single one of them. His own family, his relatives and his acquaintances do not send candidates to the U.S. Armed Forces during its wars. Their children "kill themselves in the tents of Torah" in the most prestigious colleges. Although it is known that leaders all over the world love all the boys and girls, they love their own offspring even more, and that's natural. If they knew the names given to these children by their mothers and fathers they would be less wasteful and more thrifty in using their blood.
To date 3,180 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and as far as official Washington is concerned, they might as well be buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At least 23,000 soldiers have been seriously wounded, and they receive medical care in disgraceful conditions. In the White House and the Pentagon they had no idea how soldiers were being treated and rehabilitated under their noses in the highly regarded and accursed Walter Reed Hospital until The Washington Post and ABC Television told them two weeks ago, to their shame.
Here the situation is different, for the time being, and it is particularly good. In Israel quite a few sons of important people still serve in combat units. Defense Minister Amir Peretz's son, who recently enlisted in the Paratroop Regiment, is one positive example. But here, too, the ranks of the fighters who come from the well-connected percentiles are gradually thinning, and our wars are also liable to become distant from the circle of decision-makers and people of influence; they are liable to widen the gap between the glorious rhetoric about victims and the victims themselves. Noblesse oblige is the rule in England, and it should oblige all the members of the aristocracy in Israel even more.
It is therefore recommended that we keep an eye on all the local princes - the sons and grandsons of VIPs - who with various excuses evade military service altogether or risk their lives on the home front. That's all we need, to imitate the Americans, as is our wont, and the Israel Defense Forces will stop being an army of the entire nation, and the same will be true of its wars and monuments.
Beware the leaders, the great educators of the generation and the preachers who do not have a single Harry at home. And the more such Harrys, the fewer the wars, or at least the shorter.
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