Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, November 02, 2006

"Who Bears the Burden?"

A Heritage Foundation study conducted last year of the demographic makeup of U.S. military recruits is especially pertinent in light of John Kerry's recent insult to our troops.

The study can be found here.

Some notable quotes:
"A few Members of Congress, motivated by American combat in the Middle East, have called for the reinstatement of a compulsory military draft. The case for coercing young citizens to join the military is supposedly based on social jus­tice—that all should serve—and seems to be buttressed by reports of shortfalls in voluntary enlistment. In a New York Times op-ed on December 31, 2002, Representative Charles Rangel (D– NY) claimed, 'A disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority groups make up the enlisted ranks of the military, while most privileged Americans are underrepresented or absent.' This claim is frequently repeated by critics of the war in Iraq. Aside from the logical fallacy that a draft is less offensive to justice than a voluntary policy, Rangel's assertions about the demographic makeup of the enlisted military are not grounded in fact."

"The caricature of conscription—a harsh reality of European militaries in the 18th and 19th centuries—lives on in the popular imagination, but it does not accurately represent the all-volunteer U.S. military. Indeed, the U.S. military's qualitative superiority is what makes it the most efficient and lethal combat force in history. In economic terms, high-skill human capital among troops makes the military more productive overall. There may be legitimate equity concerns that outweigh national security, but they will undoubtedly come at a cost or trade-off in productivity."

"This paper also reviews other evidence that is at odds with the image, painted by some supporters of the draft, that the military exploits poor, ignorant, young Americans by using slick advertising that promises technical careers in the military to dupe them into trading their feeble opportunities in the private sector for a meager role as cannon fodder"

"However, our research shows that the volunteer force is already equitable. That is, it is highly likely that reinstating the draft would erode military effectiveness, increase American fatalities, destroy personal freedom, and even produce a less socio­economically "privileged" military in the process."

"In summary, we found that, on average, 1999 recruits were more highly educated than the equivalent general population, more rural and less urban in origin, and of similar income status. We did not find evidence of minority racial exploitation (by race or by race-weighted ZIP code areas). We did find evidence of a "Southern military tradition" in that some states, notably in the South and West, provide a much higher proportion of enlisted troops by population."

"The household income of recruits generally matches the income distribution of the American population."

"We found that recruits tend to come from mid­dle-class areas, with disproportionately fewer from low-income areas. Overall, the income distribution of military enlistees is more similar to than different from the income distribution of the general population."

"The plain fact is that the income distribution of recruits is nearly identical to the income distribution of the general population ages 18–24."

"This evidence directly contradicts Representative Rangel's claim that under­privileged Americans are the source of military manpower and that the privileged are underrepresented."

"We find that, on average, recruits tend to be much more highly educated than the general public and that this education disparity increased after the war on terrorism began."

"If one single statistic could settle this issue, it is this: 98 percent of all enlisted recruits who enter the military have an education level of high school graduate or higher, compared to the national aver­age of 75 percent."

"Regardless of ZIP code area, we also find that enlistees are almost universally better educated than the general population."

"We found that whites are one of the most pro­portionally represented groups—making up 77.4 percent of the population and 75.8 percent of all recruits"

"The demographic data on race reveal that military enlistees are not, in fact, more heavily recruited from black neighborhoods. The data also reveal that minorities serve in different proportions, but not because fewer whites are serving. In other words, there is no "disproportionate share of minorities" serving in the military, as claimed by editorials around the nation in 2003. Some minorities participate more heavily than other minorities."

"In April 2005, the Chicago Tribune cited a statistic that 35 percent of those who died in Iraq and Afghanistan were from small, rural towns, in contrast to 25 percent of the population. This point runs counter to the picture, painted by Rangel and others, of heavy enlistment reliance on poor, black urban neighborhoods. Indeed, recruits are disproportionately rural, not urban"

"The constant increase in the recruit/population ratio contradicts the assertion that military recruiting targets youth in inner cities. In fact, entirely urban areas are the area most underrepresented among recruits. Both suburban and rural areas are overrepresented."

"Put simply, the current makeup of the all-voluntary military looks like America. Where they are different, the data show that the average soldier is slightly better educated and comes from a slightly wealthier, more rural area."
To all you liberals who base your knowledge of the military on having seen Oliver Stone's Platoon, go out and get to know an American serviceman or servicewoman. You'll find that outside of Fremont and Ballard, patriotism is not considered stupid and that "duty, honor and country" are words that still mean something.


April E. Coggins said...

I heard from different perspective today and it was not one that I had considered. Not everyone goes to college. Many, if not most, Americans do not go to college. Kerry's remarks also insulted the working class of America. That may be the large backlash.

The Red Knight said...

Thanks for posting this article, Tom. It was very informative and very interesting. As one who has trained alongside enlistedmen, cadets, and officers I can personally attest to the fact that our servicemen and women are hardworking, dedicated, and intelligent people. By and large, they are serving not because they want to escape poverty or get out of their neighborhoods. They want to serve their country.

Paul E. Zimmerman said...

I love it when empiricism deflates leftist mythology.