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June 30, 2005

No Higher Calling

So, Tigerhawk, when are you enlisting? Care to back up your bluster about bolstering recruitment by joining the army? Or sending your kids?

TigerHawk emailed me yesterday - he was all fired up about one line in the President's speech. That's what I like about him: he typifies the kind of rational, objective patriotism that doesn't hesitate to question or criticize the administration but generally does it in a constructive, responsible way:

The speech did, however, contain at least one critical line that caused me to bounce in my seat and point at the radio:
And to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our armed forces.
President Bush needs to get out in front of this effort, and then every Congressman and Senator should follow. His speech yesterday was a great start. He now needs to repeat this effort in every stump speech he makes, at every breakfast he addresses, and at every press conference he hosts... And he needs to demand that members of his cabinet and the Congress do as well.

Oh dear. Is he questioning their patriotism again? /snark

I know I've been doing a lot of warblogging lately - it's been on my mind. I heard from JHD last night. Da Grunt will be heading back over to Iraq with the rest of the Warlords in just a few short weeks. I knew this was coming, but all the same it's hard to hear.

This will be his third pump. I sent regards and thanks for his service from the VC crowd, but you might want to add yours in the comments section. This young man has gone above and beyond the call of duty. He truly exemplifies the best and brightest this nation has to offer, and I am humbled that we are able to call upon young men of his caliber.

Victor Davis Hanson, in an NRO piece that is unfortunately subscription-only, has some interesting analysis of our current recruitment situation:

We might ask how accurate is the current picture of military disarray.

First, the Marines have suffered disproportionate fatalities in the war in Iraq. They are about 30 percent of all combat deaths, yet make up only 11 percent of current American forces. But in May the Marines slightly exceeded their recruitment goal. The Air Force and Navy likewise met 100 percent of their requirements. The Army traditionally has had the hardest time meeting its targets, given the reputation — warranted or not — that the other branches offer more specialized training and skills that will better enhance civilian careers without the same level of risk as ground combat.

Again, we see the value of the historical view. It is not necessarily combat deaths that cause the recruitment problem, and short-term, Krugman-style analysis is inherently flawed:

Second, the year is only half over. The Army may well rebound and meet its full 2005 quota, as nearly all branches of the active services (the Army and Air National Guard were exceptions) did in 2004. Much depends on whether the economy continues to improve and thus competes for high-school graduates, and whether the Iraqi military can take over its envisioned preponderant military role, keeping the insurgency out of the daily headlines. [Note: this month the Army exceeded its goal]

As to persistent rumors spread that the burden of war is disproportionately borne by the poor and minorities, they are simply not supported by the facts:

Data on combat deaths in Iraq as of March 2005 surprised critics of the war. Contrary to the perception that citizen soldiers are bearing an inordinate portion of the overall burden, National Guardsmen constitute about 24 percent of all military personnel but accounted for 16 percent of those lost in Iraq. Some 95 percent of the fatalities had high-school diplomas, though only 85 percent of all Americans have finished high school. Blacks and Latinos made up 10.9 and 11.5 percent of the dead, respectively — about their same percentages in the general population, but in the case of blacks less than the 18.6 percent currently serving in the military. Twenty-nine percent of those who died attended high schools in poverty-stricken areas, versus about a 30 percent poverty rate for all high-school graduates. Seventy percent of those lost were white men, although they currently make up only about a third of the U.S. population.

Those who argue that 1700 dead is an intolerable number fail to consider history:

Between five and six thousand Americans were killed on September 17, 1862, at Antietam. D-Day cost around 3,000 Allied dead, and another 6,000 were wounded. During the Battle of the Bulge, some 19,000 Americans died and another 60,000 were wounded, missing, or captured. In the first few minutes of Pearl Harbor, about 2,400 Americans perished. And so far the 1,700 killed in action in Iraq make up about 60 percent of those lost on the first day of this war in the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

James Pinkerton suggests there may be an underlying demographic reason behind our intolerance for war casualties - smaller families. Pinkerton contrasted acceptance of war casualties in the Civil War, Vietnam, and Iraq:

In 1860, more than half the population of the U.S. was under 19. It's a cold fact that if there are a lot of kids around the household, it's easier to give some over to war. But the long-term trend toward smaller families has undercut this demographic "surplus."

By 1965, the share of under-19-year-olds had fallen sharply, to 37 percent. So in 'Nam, each combat fatality - magnified, of course, by the media - was felt more strongly. Today, the under-19 percentage is down to 27. Families that once had five or six kids now have a couple at most. Poll numbers on Iraq - and plummeting enlistment rates - show the impact of demography on the polity.

These long-term trends, and their political implications, were evident to one farsighted thinker more than a decade ago. In 1994, Edward Luttwak, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., surveyed the U.S. experience in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia and concluded, in a Foreign Affairs article, that America had entered its "post-heroic" era, in which the public would have a permanently low tolerance for casualties.

It's an interesting theory, and one that may well explain why recruiters do so well among recent immigrants, who have more children on average than second and third-generation families.

In an age when our population is expanding and the proportion of the young declining, encouraging military service becomes even more important. And current conditions make the stance of schools like Columbia University (who refuse to allow military recruiters on campus) even more indefensible. What do these professors say to themselves, perched in their ivory towers, when confronted with a young man like Da Grunt, on his way back to Iraq for the third time?

As they look out on classrooms full of privileged Ivy League students, are they thinking, "better him"?

Do they think, "This nation should only be defended by those too stupid to see through the administration's lies?"

Or even better, "The military are all a bunch of idiots anyway...so let's put guns in their hands."

Do they feel that young men like him don't deserve the best leaders they can possibly get? Do America's law professors believe those who risk their lives to defend our civil liberties don't deserve the best legal representation available?

If they don't believe these things, why do they want to keep students from talking to military recruiters? If they believe in free speech, why on earth would they prevent intelligent debate on a subject like Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Don't they trust their own students' critical thinking skills? Or is free speech something they support in principle, but not in practice?

Back in May, I wrote of the bitter irony of men dying on one side of the world while Columbia University voted to keep ROTC off campus on the other. It is time for Americans to stand up and be counted.

As TigerHawk said:

You either believe in the volunteer army, or you don't. You either support the troops, or you don't.

The military is not for everyone. But there is, truly, no higher calling for those willing to give their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor to defending this nation and the freedoms we hold dear. It's easy to forget what we came so perilously close to losing on September 11th, and far too easy to mock those who would remind us of it.

But that day was a wake-up call. And we owe a tremendous debt to those who have had our backs ever since.

It's time to start repaying that debt. I know that warblogging isn't everbody's thing. But I'm tired of hearing how we haven't been asked to sacrifice, or we're not doing enough, or a thousand other complaints. Because I have been getting up at 4 am for over a year and a half and writing my heart out, trying to make the case for what we're doing and why we're over there.

I can't pick up a gun and fight. I'm a woman and I'm too old. But I can try to marshall facts and I can try to persuade and to counter some of the obvious falsehoods I see and hear every day. And I get discouraged when I see that the media are starting to win over the American public because they are not presenting the facts: just a lot of emotion-based arguments and misstatements of the historical record, along with only half the truth (the bad side) of what is currently going on over in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don't have an enormous audience, but I'm asking every blogger reading this to support the military, support recruitment, and vocally oppose attempts to resist enforcement of the Solomon Amendment: in other words, the law as passed by our Congress.

This is important. It's not much to ask. We each can help in our own way. I know this stuff is sometimes boring, I know it's long and detailed, but it's also important to get the facts right.

Please help.

Posted by Cassandra at June 30, 2005 08:34 AM

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Comments

Come home safely to be emraced by those you love and who love you. You are in our prayers and thoughts.
No greater love...it is because of you and your band of brothers I sleep at night and raise my family in safety and peace.

It is your example I would want my sons to follow; to stand up for what is right.

Posted by: cricket at June 30, 2005 12:11 PM

To be perfectly honest, I joined the Army for vocational training. As an inner city youth who started with nothing, it was a way off of the minimum wage treadmill...and now I'm a well paid aircraft mechanic, working in the "military-industrial complex"...with a 2005 top-o'-the-line Harley, and a home in an upscale suburb, etc. This is the American Dream...

Posted by: camojack at June 30, 2005 03:21 PM

Camo, I've heard an interesting story from a lot of friends of our ours who happen to be black.

Some of them didn't join for patriotic reasons, but economic ones. Yet along the way, they came to appreciate the values the military gave them, and the weird kind of egalitarianism (strangely) practiced by an organization that thrives on rules and regulations.

Many of them ended up trying to get nieces and nephews from back home into the military as a way out and faced a lot of suspicion because their standard of living was so much higher and their families were so much better educated than the folks back home. Sadly, some of them no longer 'fit in'.

The military is a good deal. That's what I told my oldest son when he got out of school - if you can't find something you love to do, the military will always make something of you. And it's true. As it turned out, he really felt called to be a cop and I think that was the right job for him. He truly loves it and he's good at what he does, and I'm proud that he is serving his community. That's all I've ever wanted.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 30, 2005 03:33 PM

Heh. One disadvantage about being popular mostly only among bloggers is I *never* get those hardball questions... I would *love* it if some asshat were to challenge my warblogging like that.

And after I was done, I could sic Dusty and Bill on 'em.

Sigh. Some people have *all* the fun.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at June 30, 2005 04:31 PM

I taught in inner-city schools, and I can honestly say that, for young men, it's less dangerous to be in the Armed Services, and it leads to brighter futures, as well. Most of the enlistees had better vocational prospects, marriage possibilities, and educational opportunities. Their characters were supported in their development by a structure that demanded their best.

Too many people don't see the reality that the Services offer much that young people lack. It's particularly lacking in too many one-parent homes. I am the mother of two former Servicepersons, and my son-in-law also served. I was naturally nervous about their safety personally, yet I had overall confidence that their safe return was also very important to their commanders. I trusted my most precious children to a Commander-in-Chief whose mission was not to score points at home politically, but to ensure our nation's security and freedom.

I say that, despite the fact that it truly was my children's own decision. They were adults when they joined, and they took responsibility for their actions. At the time they enlisted, I was unsure, but I came to see that their choice was right for them.

And, of course, enormously important for their country.

Posted by: Linda F at July 1, 2005 04:45 AM

Cass and Linda...valid points, all. I learnt more than job skills; things like discipline, integrity, self-reliance, teamwork and a good work ethic somehow "came along for the ride" as well...

Posted by: camojack at July 1, 2005 07:14 AM

Linda, it's funny.

When my son said he wanted to be a policeman, we got a very funny reaction from most of our friends. He's a college graduate, a very smart young man who scored very highly on his aptitude tests. And he could have done anything he wanted to in life.

And many of our friends looked at this as a step down in life. And the other thing people said was, "aren't you afraid for him?".

And honestly, I'm not, most of the time. Oh, every now and then I hear something that scares me to death. He detains a lot of crazy folks. One day he arrested a lady who had cut herself all up - she was screaming (for 7 hours she screamed in his squad car) and was covered in blood from head to toe. When he subdued her, he found a knife tucked into her clothes and almost cut himself on it - it was razor sharp.

Now you worry about your son getting shot or stabbed or run into by a car. But AIDS is something I hadn't even thought of. And now that's another worry. Yikes...

But that's what he's chosen to do with his life and I'm proud of him. And he's always had a cool head in an emergency, and a good way with people and a kind heart, and I can't think of better qualities in a cop.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 1, 2005 09:37 AM

Hey Cass, thanks for the kind words. It really does seem like just yesterday the Warlords were coming home doesn't it? I've been MIA for awhile due to work and that natural withdrawal thing I go through pre-deployment. But anyhoo, it's been a grand leave for Da Grunt. Lots and lots of family time and one of my cousins and his lovely wife made the trip over from back home in Louisiana to say farewell. Bigtime cookout for Monday and he and his older brother are headed to the lake Sunday although he doesn't even fish much! heh! Just something the two want to do together.

He's ready. Mentally strong and definitely fit (even if the Corps chart refuses to show his proper ship weight but we won't go there!). He and his little sis have been doing road work every morning at 0530 and then he hits the gym (which does not charge him a red cent btw) every evening. I got a whole day home this week and we managed to hit the range and go through the small armory we keep around. Amazing how much that little 5.56 round is like a 22-.250 but I digress.

Once more into the breech? If we ever get the pics developed I'll send some along. He has a lot of questions concerning certain politicians patriotism and still refuses to watch the news. Locally the support has been awesome. There are three boys from his Plt from here and they make quite a sight around town. The local businesses look after them and their money is no good in some places. It's only at the national level that we need to reinstate the duelling laws! ;-)

The boys are good to go. So far he's asked for nothing that we don't usually send but if he finds something they need I'll pass that along as well. Rumor has it that *gasp* the SAWs will even have Para stocks this go round. Heh! That didn't take but about 3 1/2 years huh? ;-)

Semper Fi!

Posted by: JarheadDad at July 1, 2005 11:27 PM

Ed Note: JHD- try not using TypeKey - also I think Moveable type is having server problems today

Hey Cass, thanks for the kind words. It really does seem like just yesterday the Warlords were coming home doesn't it? I've been MIA for awhile due to work and that natural withdrawal thing I go through pre-deployment. But anyhoo, it's been a grand leave for Da Grunt. Lots and lots of family time and one of my cousins and his lovely wife made the trip over from back home in Louisiana to say farewell. Bigtime cookout for Monday and he and his older brother are headed to the lake Sunday although he doesn't even fish much! heh! Just something the two want to do together.

He's ready. Mentally strong and definitely fit (even if the Corps chart refuses to show his proper ship weight but we won't go there!). He and his little sis have been doing road work every morning at 0530 and then he hits the gym (which does not charge him a red cent btw) every evening. I got a whole day home this week and we managed to hit the range and go through the small armory we keep around. Amazing how much that little 5.56 round is like a 22.250 but I digress.

Once more into the breech? If we ever get the pics developed I'll send some along. He has a lot of questions concerning certain politicians' patriotism and still refuses to watch the news. Locally the support has been awesome. There are three boys from his Plt from here and they make quite a sight around town. The local businesses look after them and their money is no good in some places. It's only at the national level that we need to reinstate the duelling laws! ;-)

The boys are good to go. So far he's asked for nothing that we don't usually send but if he finds something they need I'll pass that along as well. Rumor has it that *gasp* the SAWs will even have Para stocks this go round. Heh! That didn't take but about 3 1/2 years huh? ;-)

Semper Fi!

Posted by: Cassandra at July 2, 2005 07:09 PM

test

Posted by: Cassandra at July 2, 2005 07:11 PM

God I hate MT.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 2, 2005 07:11 PM

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