Sunday, January 30, 2005


In a very interesting article, Military service can open the eyes of country's ‘elite', Kathryn Roth-Douquet, an attorney, had some really idealistic thoughts. The article was inspired by a dinner party she attended and the subject of the draft surfaced: “Without one,” a woman asserted, “they'll never get my educated and talented boys.” I'm sure she's right. Rich people simply don't "do" the military. Ms. Roth-Douquet went on to say that until a generation ago, the children of presidents, oilmen and bankers regularly saw service. Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Kennedy, Prescott Bush — all titans — had sons who served. Ms. Roth-Douquet laments that the real losers are the young and privileged adults themselves.

Ms. Roth-Douquet married a Marine Corps officer and obviously her attitude changed. She says, "If I could address the country's fortunate young who imagine themselves one day making a difference, this is what I would say: 'You expect to do well in life. No one you know is in the military. There's a war going on that you think was a mistake or, perhaps, a good idea gone wrong. You think military service is for people without money or skills—not someone like you.' "

RIGHT ON! In the movie, Fahrenheit 9-11 (I must confess that I'm not big on Michael Moore), however, there's a telling point where he confronts several congressmen, Democrats and Republics, about whether they would have their kids serve in the military. To me, it is the best part of the movie, handing them paperwork to give to their kids to join up. Talk about stammering and stuttering! What I would suggest to Ms. Ross-Duquet is to get involved in a movement to start a military draft or something on that order.

Kids are not going to join the military overall, not in the environment we're in. What we have in the Volunteer Army, especially with the Marines and those organizations that have always been volunteer, are a patriotic subculture. The rest of the kids in the military are there mainly because they had few options: they didn't want to go to college or couldn't. Minorities, for instance. We're in a situation where the poor, relatively speaking, fight our wars and the affluent stay home. Advocates of the Volunteer Army claim it's middle class; we really don't have a clue who the middle class is. It's all definition. I'm more inclined to think that many of those in military come from more the "working poor." This is all speculation but what we absolutely know is that there are few sons and daughters of bankers and lawyers and doctors in the military.

The bottom line to me is that we need the draft for other than manpower. We need it as a nation to have a unifying experience for all young Americans. Ms. Roth-Douquet, like any of us who see the big picture of what a draft or some sort of universal AllServe would mean, are facing a tall order. She's abosolutely right though: Joining the military may make you a better person and profoundly inform your entire life. Military service nurtures belief, without irony, in the tenets that founded this country, and a love of country distinct from jingoism. Its every action expresses awe for the noble experiment of liberal democracy. True, oh so true.

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