Wednesday, June 27, 2007


A new poll says the American public ranks the U. S. Armed Forces first in terms of trust among American institutions. So ironic to me, in light of a couple of things. The institution that is ranked last is Congress who in essence, can send the military to war or at least collude in it.

Gallup polled Americans on 15 government, business, and cultural institutions asking, "Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one." The military scored 69 percent of those answering a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence. It is also amazing to me that the military's high standing with the public comes despite generally negative news media coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I can't help but wonder and call me skeptical, if it isn't pretty easy to have confidence in the military since there is, by in large, no real sacrifice on the part of the vast majority of Americans. Some evidence lies in the fact that in another survey parents said they were less likely to recommend the military to their sons and daughters than if there was no war going on.

As much as I think the government's management of the war in Iraq, in particular, in every aspect, has been dismal, the fact exists that the military exists for one purpose: to fight and win wars. When a youngster joins the military, he or she is not joining a college fraternity or sorority. Consequently, I'm not all that high on the survey. Excellent books like AWOL(absent without leave) which persuasively puts forth the argument and fact that the more privileged Americans simply choose not to be part of the military.

Here's a good indication: recently on a News Hour on PBS, at the end of the program as they usually do, they profiled with a picture young Americans who had lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan: out of the 13, there were 8 Southerners, 4 from California, two others from across the country. This is pretty typical of the lack of national representation.

It is good that Americans are supporting the military but let us not break our arms patting ourselves on the back either.

Monday, June 11, 2007


This is the thought of Carmela Soprano to her son AJ who thinks he might want to go in the Army. Her words were something like, "the military might be good for AJ, some discipline, but there's a war on and so we have to rule it out."

Where did the Sopranos' writers come up with this idea? I'll tell you: it is the prevailing view of Americans. Military recruiting is way down because parents don't encourage their kids to go in the military because of Iraq. And, can they be blamed? A war that is devisive against an enemy that doesn't play by the rules.

And, of course, the writers had AJ, immature, as he has been on the show. He definitely could use a tour in the Marines. He has the unrealistic view of a kid--become a helicopter pilot, learn Arabic, get out and become Donald Trump's personal pilot. Where did he get those views, as we pretend this is the real world. Better still, how do the writers get such ideas? Well, simply, what they have mouthed through AJ are the prevailing views of the public.

Even though Tony is a mobster, in mobster terms, he is upper class. The military is not made up of upper class kids or anywhere close. Here's a slight example; on a recent Newshour on PBS, as they do weekly, they offer up in silence the names and pictures of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. On this particular broadcast, there were fifteen young Americans who had lost their lives over the last several days. 9 of them were from the South, 4 from California and two from other places. An example of how unrepresentative the Volunteer Army is of America. It is shameful as my Mom would say.

The fact that we do not have a plan in place to tap into the enormous youth resources in our country is unbelievable. AJ Soprano is young and willing and although the military might not be the place, there are other opportunities which he might choose if offered. Suppose we had a National Service obligation for American kids. If we had one in place, Tony could have said to AJ, "No way, you can choose something else for your service but not the military." Teach America, Peace Corp, Habitat for Humanity, scores of other nonprofits would be choices. The military would be only one among many.

The fallout from a National Service obligation would work for everybody. The military would benefit themselves. My suspicion is that many Americans would choose the military under almost any circumstances. We don't have enough faith in our kids to believe this but many kids want it tougher, to meet challenges, to be the best. Look at the Marines and the Airborne. They have always been volunteer. In the 82d Airborne Division, there is usually a waiting list. The pool of young Americans is large, between the ages of 18-26, the time is NOW for National Service.