Saturday, February 02, 2008

Here's the cover of a book I've just come across. I've been concerned about the relative absence of the affluent from the military for some time. Here's a blurb:

Military service was once taken for granted as a natural part of good citizenship, and Americans of all classes served during wartime. Not anymore. As Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer assert in this groundbreaking work, there is a glaring disconnect between the "all volunteer military" and the rest of us. And as that gap between the cultural "elite" and military rank-and-file widens, our country faces a dangerous lack of understanding between those in power and those who defend our way of life.

And here's something I didn't know:

In World War I, the United States imposed a military draft for a reason that seems strange today: to prevent too many of the nation's most privileged citizens from rushing toward the sound of the guns. A draft would spread sacrifice beyond the elite, went the argument, and ensure that the country didn't lose too many future leaders. Contrast this with the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003, when the New York Civil Liberties Union challenged a federal law allowing military recruiters to contact graduating seniors at public high schools. "Students," the organization's executive director said, "have a right to not be bothered by aggressive military recruiters."
In 1956, 400 of Princeton's 750 graduates served in uniform. By 2004, only nine members of the university's graduating class entered the military.
"When those who benefit most from living in a country contribute the least to its defense and those who benefit least are asked to pay the ultimate price, something happens to the soul of that country," write the authors.

I agree. I've long believed in universal service. Those who are truly consciencious objectors can do some kind of humanitarian work. But all our young people need to be brought up with the idea that life is not just about getting ahead but is also about giving back.


  1. Anonymous8:05 AM

    I will read this book. My next door neighbor - a 28 year old teacher who taught in Guatemala during the 9/11 event - was struck with the same realization several years ago. When he came back to the U.S., he joined the national guard because he felt that a white male of privilege should be serving beside his brothers. And now he is at Ft. Bragg preparing to be shipped off to Afghanistan for a year. He won't say, but he is as heartbroken as the rest of us. He is a gentle, sweet, intelligent, kindergarten teacher - who now, with head shaved and wearing fatigues- will be part of an infantry unit to train the Afghani army. This is not the service he had so ideally signed up for. He leaves his very young wife of less than 2 years at a time when they wanted to conceive a child. I wish he could make love, not war.

  2. Anonymous8:14 AM

    and I have to add that this young man is not "upper class," but solidly "middle class." He has remarked that others in his platoon are so happy to get the tour (for some it is a second) because of the money they will earn for themselves and their families. It is SO clearly a financial lever. People put the idea of death or irreparable psychological harm out of their minds because Maslow's heirarchy of needs calls for basic human needs first. It is a disgusting prospect.


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