Skip to comments.War doesn't cost the moneyed - Cynthia Tucker alert
Posted on 01/24/2004 2:22:04 PM PST by where's_the_Outrage?
In his State of the Union address, President Bush declared the nation still at war; but that's not quite true.
A part of the nation is at war -- a slice of America where patriotism runs deeper than pockets, where parents don't belong to country clubs and children don't attend exclusive private schools. The duty of defending the nation has largely fallen to the less affluent; the all-volunteer military is disproportionately drawn from blue-collar homes.
If the war on terror were as important as the president claims -- and the threat of Islamist fanatics a danger that will confront us for at least a generation -- you'd think that military service would have taken on more urgency among Americans of all income brackets. But it hasn't. There has been no marked upturn in military recruitment since the terrorist atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001.
Without a draft, affluent Americans have felt free to turn their attention to other matters -- the stock market, the tax-deductible Range Rover, the children's chances for admission to an exclusive college. The deaths of more than 500 American soldiers in Iraq have stirred little comment among the chattering classes, whose children are not at risk.
"People are forgetting," said Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University. "We're not losing the sons and daughters of America's leaders, but basically minorities and working-class whites."
The all-volunteer military, unlike the Vietnam-era draft, doesn't draw from the poorest of the poor, either. High-tech weaponry demands recruits who are literate and disciplined. White recruits tend to come from families with a median income of $33,500 a year, while black recruits tend to hail from families with a median income of about $32,000 annually.
"Affluenza" and the loosening of civic ties have dampened the sense of duty that might otherwise compel children of the middle class to join the military. You rarely see graduates of Harvard, Yale or Emory signing up for the Marines. They're headed for Wall Street or law school. Nor is it typical for children of the affluent to dream of attending a military academy.
(There are, of course, exceptions. Midshipman 3rd Class Mitchell Clement is at the Naval Academy after graduating from one of Atlanta's trendy private schools. His father, an architect, is a Vietnam-era veteran. Midshipman 2nd Class Christina Hayes is the daughter of former Atlantan Dennis Hayes, who invented the PC modem.)
Americans have abandoned the "ancient republican tradition that citizenship entailed a duty to contribute to the nation's defense," writes Boston University professor Andrew J. Bacevich, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, in his analysis of U.S. power, "American Empire."
"Increasingly, the high regard that middle-class Americans accorded to those volunteering for military service was akin to that which American Catholics felt for fellow believers who embraced the celibacy of religious life: a choice worthy of the highest respect, it was also peculiar to the point of being unfathomable. For most people, that choice was one that they preferred to see someone else's son or daughter make," Bacevich writes.
Perhaps because other people's sons and daughters were going off to war, Congress voted overwhelmingly to authorize President Bush to invade Iraq. Perhaps for the same reason, Congress now seems unconcerned about the increasingly clear evidence that the president made false claims in promoting this war.
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, a critic of the Iraq war strategy, has noted the lack of combat experience in the White House and among the Defense Department's top hands.
"They were my contemporaries. They should have been there [Vietnam], and they found a way not to serve," Zinni has said. "And where are their kids? Are their kids serving? My son is in the Marines."
So far, patriotism among the affluent classes has amounted to sticking an American flag decal on the tax-deductible Hummer. But a continuing war on terror -- if, indeed, the threat is as grave as the president says -- will require greater sacrifices from all Americans. There simply are not enough blue-collar soldiers to do all the fighting and dying for the rest of us.
And she misses an important group, the media. The media is not really advocating military service.
I personally think all abled bodied males should spend 2 years in the military. And it should be a prerequisite for congress.
I favor mandatory universal military training. Actual callup for service should be restricted to times of actual need (when volunteers fall below the number of active personell needed). Who, when, and how someone is called to duty could be a subject of great debate, though.
So what does the country do when there aren't enough volunteers in time of war? Surrender? Maybe we should have surrendered in WWII rather than draft anyone?
The Consitiution recognized the need to raise armies in time of need, the draft is constitutional when it is needed (USSC ruled on it already several times), it is an insult to no one. Honorable service in the military is just as honorable whether you are drafted or you volunteer.
D@mn I hope so! It sure wasn't when I came back from VietNam; quite the opposite.
Some warriors are born; others made: One seeks the battle, the other has it thrust upon him. Both serve with honor when heeding the call.
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