Rob Douglas: The decline of patriotism


Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at

Find more columns by Douglas here.

— If you’re looking for a flag-waving commentary about the U.S. Armed Forces as we honor our war dead this Memorial Day in the Yampa Valley, turn the page; you’ve come to the wrong column. Not because the men and women who stepped forward and paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country don’t deserve to be honored — of course they do. But because so few of us are willing to make any sacrifice for America’s global war on terror as it expands into its second decade, it’s time we confront the ugly truth of America’s growing indifference to endless warfare.

It is time to admit that most Americans aren’t sacrificing one iota — physically, emotionally or financially — for the multitude of U.S. military operations around the world.

It is time to challenge the decline of American patriotism.

It is time to institute mandatory military service.

Less than 1 percent of Americans serve in our military. That is the lowest percentage since before World War II. With each succeeding generation, a smaller number of Americans know anyone who has served in uniform. Many Americans give no thought to our nation’s ongoing military adventurism.

Since last Memorial Day — if it even happened then — when was the last time you were at a get-together with family and friends where anyone raised the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan for serious discussion?

Did you notice the flags at half-staff Thursday? If you noticed, did it cross your mind that the flags were lowered to honor a Colorado soldier? Do you know the name of the Fort Carson first lieutenant who was killed in Afghanistan on May 11? Do you know 1st Lt. Alejo Rene Thompson is survived by a 12-year-old son who never will toss a ball again with his Dad, a 5-year-old daughter who never will walk down the aisle on the arm of her Papa and a wife who never will fall asleep in her husband’s arms again?

Do you know that Thompson is the third soldier from the 4th Brigade Combat Team to be killed in Afghanistan since the team deployed less than three months ago?

I didn’t know, either.

To reinvigorate the patriotism of America and thereby get us all focused on the life-and-death consequences perversely coupled with the political gamesmanship behind our never-ending wars, it is long past time that we institute mandatory military service.

I never wore the uniform of my country. Throughout the years, I’ve excused myself because I missed the Vietnam draft by three years. And, as the descendent of a grandfather and father who saw combat in World Wars I and II, respectively, I look back and feel confident that I would have answered the call to serve had the war and draft not ended before my 18th birthday.

Still, even though the draft and war ended, I could have volunteered to serve in uniform. I did not. It is one of the deepest regrets of my life.

I regret it more with each passing day as our military casualties mount, slowly but steadily, because our elected representatives in Washington too often use the men and women in our military as expendable pawns in political maneuvers camouflaged as national security.

Do you believe President Barack Obama’s military strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan has been based on protecting the national security of the U.S. or protecting his own political skin? If you answered national security, you’re either a naïf or blinded by partisanship. Obama is not the first president to issue military orders for political advantage, and he won’t be the last — unless more Americans have a direct stake in the wars we conduct.

How can we increase the odds that warfare conducted under the American flag is warfare of necessity and not political opportunism? Give every American a life-or-death stake by way of a two-year military service requirement.

Our military leaders will correctly argue that our all-volunteer forces are the most effective fighting force in our nation’s history. But that ignores the growing disconnect between those fighting our wars and the civilian population that has little understanding of what war entails. That disconnect allows the permanent political class in Washington to entangle our nation in misguided and unconstitutional wars.

Therefore, every American must have skin — real flesh and blood — at risk.

After all, our nation’s history is replete with examples of how focused the collective conscience of America becomes when the majority of her children are at risk. That renewed focus will result in real patriotism that manifests itself by ensuring that the wars we fight are just and truly for our nation’s security.

For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C., private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email


Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

Biggest issue is that modern volunteer armies DO NOT WANT CONSCRIPTS! Modern armies are highly trained professionals and they do not want the general population or people that do not want to be there.

After the follies of Cheney/Rumsfeld whom thought they could fight a new type of war where ground troops do not need to secure occupied territory, we have discovered a new reason to follow the Powell Doctrine, prolonged wars simply cost too much.


rhys jones 4 years, 1 month ago

What a crock. Rob admits he is no veteran. I gave four years of my life to this country. What did you give, Rob? You can't even carry a vet's lunchbox.

How many times since last Memorial Day has the subject of our stupid wars come up in conversation? Hundreds.

Why is Barack Obama following his current course? Because he inherited it, and the Federal Reserve will snuff him if he doesn't. Don't mess with their banks.

As we head into this weekend, let me remind everyone Memorial Day is about those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country (or the Federal Reserve's member banks). NOT about living vets, or active-duty military. They (we) have their (our) own day in November. Two, if you're a Marine. Semper Fi.

I pledge allegiance to the Federal Reserve, and all the money they stand for.


Eric Morris 4 years, 1 month ago

I "served" the masters of the FED and the empire in Kuwait a few years ago--with a few days sightseeing in Iraq. The whole thing is a waste of lives, money, and time. End the Wars and End the FED. Most of us who volunteered to join the imperial forces did it for the money or the thrill--I met very few who it did for country/patriotism/blah blah blah. Honor us non-dead vets by not voting for warmongers like every recent president or major presidential candidate and most members of Congress--save for the few decent ones like the Pauls, Gary Johnson, and Justin Amash.

Honor us by shrinking the military--remember the idiots at the Department of Defense were incapable of defending their own headquarters on 9/11. They were too worried about profiting the Military-Industrial Complex and its enablers at the FED by focusing on offensive operations around the world and not in their own now-dystopian "homeland" of mein fuhrers Alan and Ben.


kathy foos 4 years, 1 month ago

Hire vet's first ,help the returning wounded many, have brain injury and loss of limbs. Keep america free,they risk lives and die for our country,as citizens the least we can do is vote.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

And Rob Douglas considers himself a libertarian? Forced military service is the ultimate form of big government having power over its citizens.

Nor is there any evidence that countries with forced conscription are any less willing to undertake military adventures. Countries with forced conscription are not remarkable for their lack of willingness to use their military.

The one thing that we could do to make politicians in Washington DC more reluctant to use the military would be to force them to PAY FOR any war. No more off budget wars where the war's cost is directly added to the national debt. Make Congress raise taxes and cut spending elsewhere if it is so important to go to war. If the war is important enough to fight then it is important enough to at least make a serious attempt at paying for it!


Eric Morris 4 years, 1 month ago

Kathy, what does blowing up houses in the Middle East or staying 60 years after the wars in Asia and Europe have to do with keeping America free?


Eric J. Bowman 4 years, 1 month ago

Wow, Rob, I thought you were anti-deficit and anti-Big Government; this proposal flies in the face of both. More importantly, I think you're confusing "militarism" with "patriotism" -- the best way to prevent future Vietnams, Iraqs (still a police state), and Afghanistans would be to not have a standing army which is ripe for such abuse, whatever form it takes:

The most patriotic act of George Washington was to disband his army, taking a pass on vesting himself with absolute authority -- an example the last two strutting, braggart, war-criminal fools who fancy themselves "war presidents" have utterly failed to follow, making them Unpatriots-In-Chief, in my book. We now have an army who swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, the liberties enshrined in which we are told we must give up in the name of "supporting the mission," exactly the sort of outcome Brutus warns us about in AFP X, and not by failure to make military service compulsory.

It's time to recognize terrorism for what it is -- a law enforcement problem, not a military one. What are "signature strikes" but an excuse to fire drone-based missiles on any gathering of multiple bearded, berobed, turban-wearing, AK-47-toting Muslims? We've now codified the very policy which has led to blowing away so many wedding and funeral parties as to ensure a steady supply of new terrorists willing to suicide-bomb an airliner out of revenge -- a self-perpetuating state of permanent war where the Liberty our troops are supposedly fighting to uphold keeps trickling away, drip by drip, and habeas corpus no longer applies "because war" (see NDAA -- the lower-court injunction against its indefinite detention clause stands to be overturned by the Supremes this fall)...

A sad and sorry state of affairs for a nation whose founding principles are the opposite of its current reality -- the only noble purpose for a standing army is to defend to the death the liberties enshrined in the Constitution, which we celebrate Memorial Day to remind us are the only thing really worth fighting and dying for -- not to secure energy resources or increased military-derived revenue for our politician-favored corporations.


John St Pierre 4 years, 1 month ago

I love this give and take.... Democracy in action!!!! Could we all agree on thing though.....

IF YOU FLY THE FLAG AT LEAST FLY IT WITH PRIDE........MAKE SURE ITS NOT TORN OR RIPPED some of the flag's flying in our town is are a disgrace!!!!!!!!!


brian ferguson 4 years, 1 month ago

About 4 years ago,I had a 20 something co worker of mine tell me he hated veterans. It was at that moment, I too realized that there was a decline of patriotism in America.


rhys jones 4 years, 1 month ago

Once a Marine always a Marine, and this one can definitely see why the Islamic Jihad perceives us as a bunch of money-worshipping infidels. Go to church on Sunday, screw your neighbor on Monday. We are the pawns of the Federal Reserve, who ARE a bunch of money-grubbing infidels, the Devil if there ever was one, and they are us. So who's the bad guy?


Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

Rhys, What do you think of people whom say they wish they had served?

Personally, I think that is trying to claim credit for having good intentions without actually doing anything. Someone wanting to join the military could have joined any day for most of their adult life. You can join the Colorado National Guard if you are between 18-55 so someone with regrets about not serving could have decided to serve during any of those 37 years of eligibility.

It is not like it was a one time decision which you hope you got right.


mark hartless 4 years, 1 month ago

Patriot: Someone who strongly supports his or her country.

It is important to distinguish between "country" and "government" if one wants to get "Patriotism" right. The problem is that our "government" constantly draws our "country" into quagmires which it has absolutely no business.

The Constitution is the operators manual for this nation. Real "Patriots" instinctively know this and are not easily led into unconstitutional quagmires by what they increasingly see as an unconstitutional "government" which has taken over our "country". If our "country" was not being run by an utterly corrupt and brain-dead "government" we would, no doubt, see more "Patriots" lining up to serve their "country" NOT their "government".

Until then don't expect to see a lot of "Patriots" lining up to get shot for their "government".


rhys jones 4 years, 1 month ago

Scott -- This one-time decision was WRONG. I wanted to be a lawyer. Six months before I enlisted, I turned down West Point, full ride. 1972, military wasn't cool. But my now-spook brother conned me into joining the Suck with him, mainly because I was finally bigger than him and didn't want that to revert, and Carol #1 was causing problems -- kids, what I know now. I didn't join to serve anybody but me, and got dang lucky they taught me computers. Saving me from law. I learned about those whores (not you Bill) in college (on the VA). I like production.

Shoulda done West Point, now I'd be in Congress.

The Fed will kill us.


jerry carlton 4 years, 1 month ago

How about a Constitutional amendment that Congressmen or President have to be veterans? My choice would be enlisted only, no officers. If you allowed officers, you would be getting the same self indulged politicians you are getting now. I was in the Air Force from 1968 to 1970, enlisted not officer.


rhys jones 4 years, 1 month ago

Jerry -- Some call ME a dreamer, but that tops my wildest. No Congress is going to pass legislation effectively firing themselves. The raises, the limos, the swank affairs? And leave it to the riff-raff? Please.


rhys jones 4 years, 1 month ago

Speaking of enlisted and officers, I've got a cute story, if you've got a minute. Pardon me if I've shared this before, but I like it.

Once in Iwakuni, they started making everybody run PT in the afternoon, even us on computer mid-crew, effectively ruining our days -- this was otherwise our off time, and we'd much rather be at our swimming hole. So I went in to Major Slate, the Supply OIC, and fed him a line filled with computerese and jargon, something like "Sir, the change notice from FAGPAC [Fleet Assistance Group, Pacific] we just applied to our MIT [Master Instruction Tape] seems to have been inadvertently post-dated 60 days on the Julian calendar, affecting all FIN [financial] records. Botton line is, we can't run another update for two months, until the calendar catches up." He immediately freaked out, and set to returning to the old manual system, getting everybody dragging out the old boxes of 5x8 cards, doing this all day long. Finally in the afternoon, I went back into the warehouse and said "Sir -- remember what I said about the MIT and updates? I was just kidding." I could see that he wanted to both kiss and punch me. I am amazed to this day that he took me at my word, never calling another unit to see how they were handling it. And we quit running PT with them, immediately.

I was effectively the NCOIC (in charge) of every installation I was assigned to, the go-to guy, for the last two years of my service. They called the shots, but I ran the show.

That was a microcosm of America, where you've got the worker bees, and the queen bees, and the line is sharply drawn. Like oil and water, they just don't mix.

It was just nice to get one for the little guys, for a change.


mark hartless 4 years, 1 month ago

Stop holding elections altogether and take the first 200 names out of the phone book. Switch them with the next 200 names every 2 years, and so on. Never have to see another campaign commercial as long as we live.

Why do so many think the battlefield is the only way one can "serve" their country? Did the scientists who built Fat Man and Little Boy "serve" our nation? Yes. Did they save many lives? Absolutely. Did they risk their lives on the battlefield? Nope. Could others such as enlisted men or officers have accomplished what those guys did for their nation and humanity? No Way! Not with all the bullets and rifles on Earth.


Marie Matta 4 years ago

I find it very frustrating that Rob's argument and the ensuing discussion largely define patriotism only in terms of military service or civilian service for military ends. While I agree that we should recognise the sacrifices made by our troops and their families, and that it is important to honour them for their courageous service, I believe that we can all demonstrate our patriotism every day in non-militaristic ways by being honest, law-abiding, conscientious and civic-minded members of our community. In the post-9/11 era, peace activists in this country have been vilified and their patriotism questioned, yet how is it unpatriotic to want to prevent or end war and to bring the troops home? Is it not patriotic to be a volunteer in one's community? Is it not patriotic to be a teacher who educates future leaders, or a health professional who cares for the sick, or a research scientist who is seeking a cure for disease? What about farmers or factory workers or truck drivers who contribute to the country's economy and prosperity? or a member of the clergy who ministers to their congregation and tends to their spiritual needs? or an aid worker who represents their country by sharing their knowledge from the developed world with a needy community in a developing country? Are all of these professions/occupations/vocations not also a form of service to this country? These are only a few examples. I think it's time to broaden the conversation about what constitutes patriotism and to find more peaceful, positive and compassionate solutions to America's problems.


Fred Duckels 4 years ago

After the sixties I doubt that a draft could be enacted regardless of the situation. We have become a nation that pursues the path of least resistance, examples: our massive debt , our rampant drug use, our tendency to go on government assistance rather than pulling our own weight, electing opportunists that promise to spend tax money to benefit our interests, the list goes on.

I was born near the end of the great depression and the attitude of that day compared to the present is sickening. Todays attitudes would be well served by mandatory time in the service, this could be the pill that we need to restore some resemblance of pride. The need to go to war can be debated but our degradation as a society is a no brainer.


jerry carlton 4 years ago

Marie Ever read The Old Testament? Mankind's nature is not "peaceful, positive, and compassionate" unfortunately.

Rhys I agree. Nothing to improve our government will be done until it collapses. Politicians self interest rules! There were a few good officers, very few. The NCO's ran the Airforce when I was in.


rhys jones 4 years ago

Jerry -- Right on. Nothing short of a full collapse will displace the Federal Reserve; they are untouchable. It just tans my hide that their owners will escape scot-free to the Azores, while we are converting our currency to yuans.


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