Saturday, November 11, 2006

Happy Veterans Day

Last evening, the Rockefeller Center commemorated Veterans' Day with a presentation by Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer of their book, AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service--and How It Hurts Our Country.

I thought it was a fascinating presentation, and I'm persuaded that the military will not be used as responsibly as it should be as an instrument of diplomacy if it does not include more participation by the upper classes, whom I would define as those with many choices about whether and where to work beyond military service.

I thought they summarized quite well why this situation won't change of its own accord. It is the convenient bargain struck by three institutions--the government, the military establishment, and the upper classes themselves. For the first two institutions, they realize when it's the children and spouses of those in the upper classes risking everything on the battlefield, they are likely to be more vocal in their displeasure with the military and civilian leadership when things go wrong. Who wants that kind of oversight if you can get by without it? And for the upper classes, the narrow benefits are obvious--why risk your neck if someone else will do it for you?

You can read more about the authors project here. It's the beginning of a very important national conversation.

UPDATE: Here's the story in Monday's issue of The Dartmouth.


Anonymous said...

The other day I was looking at the data on military spending as a share of gdp to compare the cost of Iraq to Korea and Vietnam.

But I realized the comparisons are significantly biased because in the earlier wars we had the draft and the soldiers were paid much less then the current military

Roland Patrick said...

The people actually in the military are significantly more Republican and more likely to support the Iraq mission than the voters in the last election.

Charles Ponzi said...

To be fair -- I have not read this book -- but I have the read the title. I was born in 1955 -- what military conflict has taken place within my lifetime where our participation was essential and defending the United States and its people was integral to the effort? Panama? What did our military might do on 9/11? And what will it do when someone decides to sabotage a noo-kee-ler reactor? I tell the young lads here in Hooverville Falls VT that if you join the military you have a good chance of dying so that so some politician can "save face". Lovely.

Anonymous said...

How would you make sure that the elite's kids face the same risk as the kids of the poor? Maybe they could all be in the airforce. In WW2 aircrews suffered quite a high casualty rate. Not sure that the same risks would be faced going forward.
GHWB was shot down and some of his crew lost. JFK got run down by a Japanese destroyer and his brother was lost on a bombing mission. As JFK said life is not fair.