[LMB] Military & Society

Bart Kemper bkemper at bigdogz.com
Thu, 31 Jan 2002 23:54:58 -0600


> From: David Snyder <oil.historian at verizon.net>
> To: <lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk>
> Subject: [LMB] Military & Society (was OT Men's responsibilities)
> Reply-To: lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk
> 
> POUNCER wrote:
> 
> 
>> The thing about the current setup that
>> worries me, (and I say this from a perspective
>> many would characterize as a white male
>> Christian conservative pro-business pragmatist
>> with little tolerance for many human weaknesses)
>> is that the all-volunteer force self-selects
>> for far too many people like, well,   me.  Or
>> Bart, or Steve.  And very very VERY rarely
>> indeed for Robert or Kiri or even, (counter-example)
>> Danielle.  It's becoming a force guided by a
>> peculiarly monocular vision. That's not wholly
>> a bad thing, and it's still likely for an
>> outsider to (obBujold) make Duv Galeni-like
>> accomodations to the military service, and
>> demand _minor_ reciprocal accomodations in return.
>> (Wiccan chaplains, frex) But then, Galeni's goal
>> is to become an "honorary Vor".  To become one of
>> the ruling caste of power-holders.    I prefer
>> to hope of a society where there is NO SUCH CASTE.
> 
> 
> Charlie Moskos (at Northwestern) regularly conducts surveys of the
> attitudes, politics, and values espoused by serving members of the US armed
> forces.  Since the demise of the draft, Moskos notes that the officer corps
> has grown increasingly conservative compared to American society as a whole.
> Indeed, today's officer corps is almost uniformly Republican and
> overwhelmingly conservative.  In contrast, Eisenhower never registered to
> vote until he retired from the service.  BTW, Moskos, a draftee himself,
> supports restoring the draft so as to bring the military more in line with
> the society it defends.  The emergence and origins of the "gap" (the
> increasing disconnect between the American military and American society) is
> the hot topic among military sociologists today.  After all, I doubt many of
> today's officers know what the Newburgh Conspiracy was, let alone recognize
> the significance of it.
> 


Please make the bet.  Pretty please.  In fact, bet some dumb grunt 
officer, because only idiots want assault enemy as infantry or play 
in minefields as combat engineers.  The Newburgh Conspiracy was 
discussed at West Point, at my Basic Course, and has come up in my 
CAS3 course.

*sigh*  There was once a time where not only did the draft bring in 
a cross section of US society, there was a larger sense of service 
across the board.  My dad was commissioned in 61. (Mom was 
commissioned in 55)  He started as an engineer, became Military 
Intel when it became a branch.  In his course at Ft. Holabird there 
were 3 independently wealthy officers, one of whom going into the 
'new' Speckled Forces assignment (was not a branch until very late 
'80s.)  It was *this* army that showed men and women can work 
together, that blacks and whites could work together, etc.  The 
draft also brought a great deal of literacy to the US--the US Army 
in WWII was something like 40% functionally illitarate.  An official 
duty of company clerks was to read and write letters for troops as 
well as read the paper aloud.  There was a *REASON* manuals were 
written at a low level and had lots of pictures--it reflected 
society, not the "mind of a grunt."  Part of Army training became 
basic literacy and math, since there was a greater need for it in 
the military than where they came from.

Yes, now the Army is no longer a cross section.  Just as social 
workers, clergy, police, and other professionals tend to be 
like-minded individuals with beliefs congruent with the profession 
of selection, the military is now a self-selecting population that 
is willing to serve the nation in the armed services, passing on 
potentially greater pay in the civilian sector (until they become 
disillusioned or passed over) in order to serve in a potential 
lethal occupation with much hardship.  It is very much out of step 
with society at large in so many ways.  We can't cuss at each other, 
but TV now has cussing on broadcast.  Society as a whole are couch 
pototoes, whereas the military is constantly raising the bar in PT 
and other physical requirements, such as lowering allowable body fat 
percentages.  To become a lieutenant colonel you must have a 
masters.  To be a general you must have a PhD.  You have to be able 
to write persuasive papers, crunch math, and other skills that are 
falling by the wayside in the civilian world.   Child care and child 
supprot *will* occur or else.  I could go on longer, but where once 
the military were barely controlled draftees they are now 
competitive professionals.  There has been enough discussion about 
education, families, etc. on other threads to track trends off of that.

I'm not saying its all sunshine and light.  A concern my father has, 
and I share, is that in this "all professional" atmosphere it is 
more likely someone will do something to advance their career that 
is unprofessional or flat WRONG--not enough people to call b.s. on 
it, since they're in the same boat.  You don't even hear the word 
"lifer" anymore (ref. to someone going career instead of just one 
hitch), since everyone is potentially a lifer.  Being a "careerist" 
was once a bad thing--it was a "service", not a "career"....now its 
being taught as how to just stay in.

The issue of Ike not registering to vote until he retired from the 
military is a distractor.  The US military is allowed ONLY to vote 
when it comes to politics.  You can't run, you can't have 
party-related activities on post, you can't attend party functions 
in uniform, you cannot have party jobs, you can't try to influence 
people at work, etc. etc.  The military does NOT have the freedom of 
speech or freedom of association, to name two rights we give up to 
avoid the politic activism preceding and following the Civil War. 
Very un-Vor like, but that's one of the reason our system works 
better than most.

The military's duty is to "defend the Constitution from all enemies, 
foreign and domestic, and to obey the lawful orders of the President 
and the officers appointed above me."  I don't see the military 
being power-brokers, esp. with all of the checks and balances in 
place. As a group we don't play sides....but as a self-selecting 
group there *is* that set of values that motivates a person to join 
that seems to be common to a US conservative.  I disagree with the 
"white Christian" characterization somone made since the military 
has a dispropriately high amount of minorities, racial and 
religiously, compared to the national population.  I would like to 
point out the Guard and Reserves have a mix closer to the national 
norm...but geez, why would a professional force want to be 
artificially "like everyone else", anyway?

Bringing back the draft to allieviate fears of "elitism" is silly, 
though.  If that is valid, then we should also have a college draft 
for divvying up people into the media, Hollywood, politics, etc. to 
ensure the best needs of the nation are met.  This will get the 
right balance of race, gender, politics, religions in the key areas 
as well as make sure people with wrong views are kept out of the 
flow of influential activity.

Wait--wasn't that already tried?  hmmmmmmm

The profession of arms no longer is fashionable, despite recent 
public opinions...at least, not when it comes to a personal 
involvement.  I'll stay off the Vietnam debates if y'all will, but 
the premise of the 20th Century draft was there as a big honkin' 
enemy (first the Nazis, then the Russians) that we need a lot of 
bodies in uniform to counter.  The *only* reason to bring the draft 
back would be if there was a dire situation requiring many more 
bodies than volunteers can provide.   Our society would be better 
served if only those who want to be military do so, and the others 
theoretically will do things like drive the economy through 
innovation, hard work, and/or blatant consumerism.  Something for 
everyone.  The military is not for everyone, even with a draft.

bart