22 July 2007

All Jokes Aside

Liberal bloggers once again have hit where it hurts.

Last week, Max Blumental’s “documentary” embarrassing College Republicans who support the mission in Iraq but won’t enlist in the military became the babble of the blogosphere.

Resisting pop shots against our liberal friends, I wish to address the argument that if you support the mission in Iraq, but don’t enlist in the military, you’re a hypocrite.

A hypocrite claims to follow the high standards by which he judges other people, but fails to live up to them. I don't claim to be as good of a person as someone who enlists in the military. Nor do I claim that I’m “playing my part” by getting a job and helping the economy. The people who serve in the military are the greatest citizens of our country; and I will never compare to them. For me to say I, or anyone else who supports the mission in Iraq, but doesn’t enlist, was making as large a sacrifice as an American soldier, that would be hypocritical.

At the same time, I can support the mission in Iraq and not commit hypocrisy. As I believe people who serve in the military are greater than I, I also believe that their mission - to build a secure democracy in Iraq - is a noble goal. Certainly, the administration has stumbled in its execution of this war - deBaathification, failure to secure Iraq’s borders, underestimating the sectarian tensions, etc. But these are legitimate war strategies the country should be discussing, instead of screaming that either you're a hypocrite if you support the war, or a coward if you don’t.

Liberals counter that pudgy, well-off politicians choose these people’s futures for them by forcing them to die in an unwinnable war.

But we have an all-volunteer army, and recruitment numbers from last month show that many soldiers are still willing to risk their lives for this cause:

* Active duty recruiting. Three of the four services met or exceeded recruiting goals for June. The Army recruited 7,031 soldiers, which is 84 percent of its goal of 8,400. The Navy finished with 3,999 recruits for 102 percent. Their goal was 3,924. The Marine Corps recruited 4,113 new Marines reaching 110 percent of its goal of 3,742, and the Air Force met its goal of 2,233 recruits.

* Active duty retention. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force met or exceeded overall retention missions.

Liberals respond that these people joining the military are not truly volunteers, but plebeians desperate for the financial rewards the military offers its recruits. But demographic studies have shown that American soldiers come from financially stable, well-educated backgrounds:

That's mainly because the military won't accept the lowest academic achievers. The Army limits recruits without high school degrees to 3 1/2 % of the pool, for instance, while the Marines won't accept recruits without high school degrees. Poverty correlates strongly with high school dropout rates, so these rules significantly limit the access of the very poor to military service.

At the same time, they ensure that enlisted members of the military are more likely than members of the general population to have high school degrees. The same pattern holds for commissioned officers. In 2004, for instance, only 4.2% of officers lacked college degrees, and a whopping 37% held an advanced degree of some sort, compared to only 10% of adults nationwide.

Most soldiers are financially secure, well-educated individuals making a clear choice to serve their country. While war supporters should not pat themselves on the back for merely associating with soldiers, war opponents should not relegate soldiers to kids being sent off to war by political fat-cats.

This question that “if you support the war, then why don’t you enlist?” also was mysteriously absent when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban. Of course, the country was nearly unanimous in its support of the mission, so there was no need for such a question. This discrepancy shows that liberals charge conservatives with hypocrisy for political expediency. They ask this question to shut off debate, rather than wage it. You can't support a military mission if you don’t enlist in the military; so that leaves only pacifists to decide which military policies (if any) the country can pursue.

And on a purely statistical note, soldiers tend to be Republicans, as opposed to civilians who tend to be Democrats:

Compared to civilians, members of the military are significantly more religious, and they're also far more likely to be Republicans. A 2005 Military Times poll found that 56% of military personnel described themselves as Republicans, and only 13% described themselves as Democrats. Nationwide, most polls suggest that people who define themselves as Democrats outnumber those defining themselves as Republicans.

Should I then argue that only Republicans should discuss the mission in Iraq, since they more likely represent soldiers' views? Such an argument, like the "why don't you enlist?" argument, uses soldiers as pawns in the debate. Republicans and Democrats merely compete to see how many soldiers they can get on their side - or use to their advantage. This contest is wrong.

Liberals make a fair point that people would be more cautious if their relatives were in the military, and some conservatives who haven’t served can be overly zealous, but this charge of hypocrisy doesn't stand.

Challenge me on the right strategy for success in Iraq or whether continued military action offers any chance of success at all; but don't try to shut me up with charges of hypocrisy.

And on this Sunday, let's remember the men and women of our military; and pray for their safety, and eventual return home.


Judy Aron said...

I'd actually be interested to find out what the party affiliation breakdown is of our enlisted troops.