Leadership: May 28, 2002

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The recent dispute between civilian defense advisors in the White House and the generals and admirals in the Pentagon brings up the fact that fewer politicians are veterans. Ten years ago, two thirds of the people in Congress were veterans. Today, it is one third, and most of those are the older members. While a country like Britain still attaches value to members of the upper crust sending their kids off to spend some time in the military, just the opposite is happening in the United States. A lot of this has to do with the end of conscription three decades ago. Until then, the majority of men in the best colleges spent at least two years in the military. That was enough to give them an understanding of how the military worked (and what it could and could not do.) Today, only one or two percent of these people serve at all. Even during the Vietnam war, only about 12 percent of the military age sons of members of Congress served in Vietnam, and only one was wounded in combat. While the military today is 45 percent non-white, the combat units tend to be largely white. This is because the non-white enlistees tend to seek technical training and, often, a career. Many of the white kids are after the tuition assistance for college given to veterans, and thus favor seeking some adventure and excitement by serving in the combat units. All enlistees are a cut above the average person in their age group, as anyone with mental, physical or legal (an arrest record) problems are kept out and high educational standards are maintained. In the future, there will be a lot of veterans in the working and middle class (where most volunteers come from) who will have a clearer view of military capabilities than the politicians that are making decisions on what to do with the military.

 


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