November 27, 2006
POLITICS/WAR: So You Say John Kerry Was Only Joking?
Charlie Rangel's not:
I want to make it abundantly clear: if there's anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.
Sure, some people join the military because the best way of advancement available to them, and maybe that's particularly true in Rangel's Harlem district - it was true of Rangel himself, by his own account (though I somehow doubt that that is the only motivator even for soldiers from Harlem, either). But the incoming Chairman of one of the House's most powerful committees has been in Congress for 36 years, and has no excuse for his ignorance about the nature of the all-volunteer military.
UPDATE: A commenter at RedState linked to this November 2005 Heritage Foundation study of the economic background of military enlistees (it also quotes Rangel making the same point four years ago):
Put simply, the current makeup of the all-voluntary military looks like America. Where they are different, the data show that the average soldier is slightly better educated and comes from a slightly wealthier, more rural area. We found that the military (and Army specifically) included a higher proportion of blacks and lower proportions of other minorities but a proportionate number of whites. More important, we found that recruiting was not drawing disproportionately from racially concentrated areas.
Notably, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the data shows a distinct shift away from lower-income, less-educated recruits after September 11 - which is unsurprising. People who join the Army mainly to get job training and education, after all, are the ones who are less likely to enlist during a war.
I think the COngressman has a great idea, he just doesn't know it yet. I believe that two years of manditory service in a variety of sectors including the military would be good for our youth. Not to build our military, it is better from top to bottom than it has ever been, but to provide life experience and an opportunity to mature.
So Rangel at least has the courage to say what is on his mind, and he's probably right. The all volunteer army has been a wonderful success, but the simple truth is that they always have, and always will, draw more from the lower economic spectra.
Since Rangel is a veteran himself, I can see why he would be bothered by Rummy and Cheney having so much input when they not only never served, but really were weasels about it. How about all that flack from the Generals when Clinton was CIC?
As a father of a 17 year old, I am mixed about the draft. My own draft number was 64, but had very poor eyesight. However, there are obligations to one's country that seem to be lost on this generation. My dad enlisted in WWII, my father in law was drafted. Both came out the better for it (while as many say it, the real heroes never came back). It's a complex issue, and it always reminds me of Captain Queeg in the Caine Mutiny Court Martial (the title was shortened for the movie). Many of the "college boys" who served under him were contemptuous of him, but Maryk's lawyer pointed out how the military was thought so poorly of in the 1930's, but it was the Queegs who kept us free.
Geez, how many times do I have to say it? Rumsfeld was a Navy pilot. From his official bio:
Mr. Rumsfeld attended Princeton University on academic and NROTC scholarships (A.B., 1954) and served in the U.S. Navy (1954-57) as an aviator and flight instructor. In 1957, he transferred to the Ready Reserve and continued his Naval service in flying and administrative assignments as a drilling reservist until 1975. He transferred to the Standby Reserve when he became Secretary of Defense in 1975 and to the Retired Reserve with the rank of Captain in 1989.
If Rangel said that there were some people in the military who were there because they lacked other economic opportunities, fine. That's true. But these broad-brush generalizations are untrue and demeaning to the people who enlisted for other reasons.
...but the simple truth is that they always have, and always will, draw more from the lower economic spectra...
That seems to be common knowledge, its what I kind of intuitively knew to be true, but it may not be factual. Well unless you consider middle class to be lower economic spectra, which I do not.
According to some stuff I read recently the military is heavily middle class with poor folks and rich folks underrepresented. It is also apparently more educated than the population at large.
That makes sense to me because of my experience in the USMC in the 80's wherein I spent 2 1/2 years in school in order to learn to work on F4 missile conntrol systems. At that time you had to score pretty high on the ASVAB to even get recruited, meaning undereducated folks simply didn't qualify.
I wouldn't mind seeing some kind of national service too, with the military as one option, maybe in exchange for college tuition assistance? People that don't want to serve in the military could do their service in some other way, I dunno painting poor folks houses or working in soup lines, helping homeless...cleaning schools? Whatever.
The military isn't like it used to be though, its not just run 'em hard for 4 weeks and give them a rifle. A 2 year commitment probably isn't enough to work for todays military services.
Rangel is half right, our military does draw fairly heavily from folks who aren't rich. No kidding. So, in true Dem style he wants to make sure they stay in the lower economic range. In the 60's when we had a draft a junior member of our military made less than $100 a month. With the all-volunteer military we need to pay a competitive wage to attract and retain top quality people. Folks like to say they support the military. Well, being in favor of a draft is not supporting the military.
Where Rangel is wrong is asserting people are joining because they have no choice. No, there are other opportunities in most of the country (can't speak for Harlem). The thing is for some folks the military is a better choice. If you are ambitious and hard working then you can advance into mid-management fairly quickly in the military.
While I agree that military service is good for a young persons development, I would much prefer that instead of a draft, we continue to provide incentives for people to serve. It would require a constitutional amendment but it wouldn't be such a bad idea to tie military service to certain benefits of citizenship.
Dwilkers kind of touched on this, but I'm going to take it a step further.
"and always will, draw more from the lower economic spectra"
It depends on where you draw the line at "lower economic spectra". Sure, not too many grandchildren of Forture 500 CEOs are currently serving, but is that the standard to which we're going to hold the volunteer military?
Is a household income of $50,000-$60,000 considered "lower economic spectra"? The median income for the US in 2000 was a shade under $42,000. The median income of enlistees in 2005 was about $43,200. Sure, inflation will account for some of the difference, but even then the people serving seem to be coming from solidly middle income backgrounds.
At the extreme ends though there is a marked difference that runs counter to the "poor and disadvantaged" meme. In 2005 the number of enlistees in the top 20% of household income represented 22% of the enlistees. In contrast the bottom 20% of household incomes represented only 13.5% of enlistees, and had been trending downward since 2003.
Prior to 9-11, way back in 1999 the top and bottom 20% of household incomes each represented 18% of enlistees. In the interceeding 6 years of data the top 20% increased by 4% while the bottom 20% decreased by 5%. I'm too much an amateur to understand what this fully means, but it would seem to me that while we've been at war the "rich" are volunteering to serve at rates far greater than the "poor".
I could take up more of Crank's bandwidth but I won't.
Crank, Rangel DID say "MOST ALL..."
Not much of a clarifier, but it is in there.
I don't have anything to back it up but I would say the number of people enlisting now not under some kind of duress has fallen dramatically over the last few years.
You sign up now, you know you are going to be in Iraq as quickly as they can get you over there. And the situation over there is clearly dangerous. That should give even the most patriotic enlistee some pause.
A couple of things.
I enlisted in the Air Force at 17. They wouldn't take me today because I was expelled from high school at 16. (How did I do? I made Staff Sergeant at 20.) So the entry requirements are tougher today.
Secondly, we are in a very serious war right now. Down the road, we are going to need a much larger army than we have now. Some bipartisan thought has to go into that.
Though it seems contrary to my point above, Crank's update actually bolsters my point. And, in a twist on me, takes away from Rangel's...
It indeed makes sense that if you are joining the armed services for personal (gain) reasons (ie: training, money for college, etc.) you ARE more likely to sit this one out and flip burgers for a couple more years. To boil it down to Rangel-like generalizations, to join now you are either really desperate and looking to escape a terrible situation, or you are actually motivated to fight in the War on Terror.
The next question should be, how sincere is that effort (on the part of the Administration, not the enlistee) and is it worth the lives of young Americans.
Young Americans have died for the cause of freedom for many generations. Ask the people of the Phillipines, Japan, Europe (twice) and South Korea if it was worth the lives of the young Americans that made them free. The real injustice to our serve men and women, especially the ones that had dies or been wounded, would be to pull out and not finish the job they have executed so bravely. It will also be bordering on a crime if they do not get their just due for the things they ahve accomplished for the Iraqi and Afgan people. The roads, schools and hospitals, jsut to name a few, that have been secured or built by our troops are a standing testiment to our service members. That is a story that is not being told, except by retuening vets. The media needs to get on that bandwagon and tell the stories.
Irish, one point you make that is actually mind boggling, and nobody ever gives it thought. Name another country that is asked to both fight and rebuild. We have our young men and women put themselves in harms way, then have the "destroyers" become nation builders. Maybe it doesn't always work out; I think our soldiers in Iraq were betrayed by their leaders, who put them their for no really good reason, and no plan once they were there, but they are doing their best to build a nation that is more torn apart than the Union and Confederacy were--and that disunion gave us Antietam.
So this time around, how about an administration that doesn't eviscerate the VA, that doesn't dare say we can't afford to give veterans total benefits. The heroes we have there now being wounded don't even know yet how their benefits won't be covered.
To say nothing of tax cuts during wartime. the idea of shared sacrifice goes beyond who is serving.
"Ask the people of the Phillipines, Japan, Europe (twice) and South Korea if it was worth the lives of the young Americans that made them free."
The only people who still thank America for what it did are elderly. I doubt very many people in those countries care anymore.
"To say nothing of tax cuts during wartime. the idea of shared sacrifice goes beyond who is serving."
The only sacrifice that is being asked of the country, outside the military community, is that we spend about 1-2% of our GDP per year to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. That and a little bit more inconvenience at the airport and also to give up your "right" to receive an international phone call from a member of al-Qaeda. Based on the last election and the current hysterical political climate even that much sacrifice is too much to ask.