"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Poor little troops

If there's one thing that gets to me, it's the common characterization of our all-volunteer military as lower class, uneducated victims tricked by rich politicians and oil companies into doing this nation's dirty work while the middle and upper classes stay at home. Two recent summaries of a Heritage Foundation report on the demographics of our armed forces and should, hopefully, put that lie to rest. To be sure, you'd be hard-pressed to find many children of CEOs or Harvard graduates in our ranks (though, to be fair to Harvard students, their school's decision to ban ROTC and recruiters make it difficult to reach those who'd be interested). But honestly, we're doing fine without drafting people into our ranks who don't want to be here. The last thing I'd want to see is some sullen college grad half-heartedly leading grunts into combat, or a draftee who doesn't give a rat's ass about his comrades working on million-dollar jet engine. Demographically, we're all set (especially as the report claims that, if anything, the lower classes are underrepresented).

Still, not having the sons and daughters of the upper upper crust in uniform, while not a recruiting problem, is certainly going to be a cultural problem in the long run. A while back I commented about a book called AWOL that addressed this issue pretty thoroughly. But to sum up: if folks like Charlie Rangel really want to see more children of the elite serve in the military, how about an attitude change at the top? Instead of forcing the children to do something they don't want to do, why not get the parents to teach their kids notions, like, I don't know, civic virtue, duty, love of country, with privilege comes responsibility, things like that? Oh, and how about we encourage our institutions of higher learning to promote these values too? You never know, some kids might step up to the challenge. If they don't, from a recruiting stand-point, it won't matter. Culturally, though, it will. So, Mr. Rangel et al, if you'd really like to see the Bush twins in uniform, don't strongarm our recruiting system. Talk to their parents.

No comments: