Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rangel's very bad, no good idea

I see that the Democratic leaders have nixed Charlie Rangel's idea about reinstating the draft. I'm sure that they weren't thrilled about his making that the story of the day for a couple of days. He did achieve one end, however: scaring kids. I had several students come up to me yesterday and ask if I thought that there was going to be a draft. I assured them that there was no political will to do so and that the military didn't want a draft anyway.

So much of this discussion is colored by Vietnam-era perceptions of who volunteers for the military. Hot Air has the video of Charlie Rangel on CNN explaining that we shouldn't be advertising for people to join the military based on getting a scholarship because that is an appeal to the poor. I wish someone would send Rangel the Heritage Foundation report on who actually joins the military. Their study found that the average recruit was actually better educated and came from a wealthier background than average young people of that age.
Indeed, in many criteria, each year shows advancement, not decline, in measurable qualities of new enlistees. For example, it is commonly claimed that the military relies on recruits from poorer neighborhoods because the wealthy will not risk death in war. This claim has been advanced without any rigorous evidence. Our review of Pen­tagon enlistee data shows that the only group that is lowering its participation in the military is the poor. The percentage of recruits from the poorest American neighborhoods (with one-fifth of the U.S. population) declined from 18 percent in 1999 to 14.6 percent in 2003, 14.1 percent in 2004, and 13.7 percent in 2005.
Read the rest of the report. I'd like to see those results coupled with every report of a politician who implies that it is only the poor and uneducated who are going into the military. These stereotypes began in Vietnam and some people just never let go of them.
With regard to income, education, race, and regional background, the all-volunteer force is repre­sentative of our nation and meets standards set by Congress and the Department of Defense. In con­trast to the patronizing slanders of antiwar critics, recruit quality is increasing as the war in Iraq contin­ues. Although recent recruiting goals have been dif­ficult to meet, reenlistment is strong and recruit quality remains high. No evidence supports argu­ments for reinstating the draft or altering recruiting policies to achieve more equitable representation.
In fact, the one group that is overrepresented are rural populations, particularly the South. I doubt if that is the group that Charlie "Who the Hell wants to live in Mississippi" Rangel is so worried about.