Saturday, November 04, 2006

Rosa Brooks: Was Kerry right? - Los Angeles Times

David Seaton's News Links
I often think that if the Confederacy had won their independence it wouldn't have been such a bad thing. Today the CSA would probably be a lot like Brazil or Venezuela and the USA, made up of the Northeast and the "New England diaspora" plus the European immigrants, plus California, would, today, be a modern and progressive place like Sweden or Canada, but much bigger and more powerful. The evangelicals would be down there, the racial tension would be down there, the industry would be up North and the good universities too. Dream on! DS

Abstract: Since John Kerry "botched" a joke and implied that those without education "get stuck in Iraq," political leaders from both parties have been piously describing U.S. troops as valiant young Einsteins in desert camouflage. But deep down, a lot of them probably think Kerry is right. If those grunts were half as smart as members of Congress, they'd be on Capitol Hill getting sucked up to by lobbyists instead of sucking up dust in Baghdad's bloody alleys — right? Most of our current political leaders didn't waste any time serving in the military. Like Vice President Dick Cheney, they had "other priorities." As recently as 1994, 44% of members of Congress were veterans. Today, it's only 26%. And despite the mandatory "I adore our heroic troops" rhetoric, most on Capitol Hill aren't steering their own children toward military service. Only about 1% of U.S. representatives and senators have a son or daughter in uniform. For many in Congress, serving in the military is a fine thing to do — for all those poor schmoes who don't have any better options, that is. During the Vietnam War, the controversial student deferments helped keep most affluent and educated young men out of the military, (...) Today, the military continues to attract many young men and women from less-affluent families by offering job training and scholarships. But recent studies of military demographics suggest that today's military is neither uneducated nor poor. (...) That's mainly because the military won't accept the lowest academic achievers. The Army limits recruits without high school degrees to 3 1/2 % of the pool, for instance, while the Marines won't accept recruits without high school degrees. Poverty correlates strongly with high school dropout rates, so these rules significantly limit the access of the very poor to military service.(...) Demographically, the military is profoundly different from civilian society. It's drawn disproportionately from households in rural areas, for one thing. For another, the South and Southwest are substantially overrepresented within the military, while the Northeast is dramatically underrepresented. Compared to civilians, members of the military are significantly more religious, and they're also far more likely to be Republicans. A 2005 Military Times poll found that 56% of military personnel described themselves as Republicans, and only 13% described themselves as Democrats. Nationwide, most polls suggest that people who define themselves as Democrats outnumber those defining themselves as Republicans. And though the average member of the military is neither poor nor uneducated, social and economic elites are dramatically underrepresented in the military. Frank Schaeffer (...) notes that the percentage of enlisted military personnel from households with more than $60,000 in annual income is close to zero. Military recruiters don't even both to recruit in affluent neighborhoods: They know no one's going to sign up. At elite universities — Harvard, Stanford and Yale, for instance — the percentage of graduates who enter the military is minuscule.(...) If political elites don't like the thought of getting stuck in Iraq themselves, they should consider the results of a recent study. Duke University researchers Peter Feaver and Christopher Gelpi analyzed data from the period between 1816 and 1992 and found that "as the percentage of veterans serving in the executive branch and the legislature increases, the probability that the United States will initiate militarized disputes declines by nearly 90%." Want to make sure that the U.S. never again gets stuck in a pointless and aggressive war? Draft Congress! READ MORE

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