OxBlog

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

# Posted 1:20 PM by Patrick Porter  

INEQUALITY OF SACRIFICE? Harry's Place, a blogsite which attracts Britons on the pro-war left, worries about a photo of well-groomed American young things at a Polo outing. It sees this image as a display of class privilege:
Is it wrong to look at photos like these (from a Washington Post story on a polo match/party in suburban Virginia) and find it disturbing that other men and women of the same age, and mostly far less privileged, are simultaneously sweating and fighting and risking their lives-- sometimes for the second or third tour-- in Iraq and Afghanistan?
The sentiments and anxieties here are fair enough. But is the premise actually true, that America's military is disproportionately made up by the underprivileged, or that the underprivileged are dying disproportionately? Is it true that America's middling and upper tiers are not pulling their weight?

According to a study in November 2005 by the Heritage Foundation, these are myths:
The household income of recruits generally matches the income distribution of the American population. There are slightly higher proportions of recruits from the middle class and slightly lower proportions from low-income brackets. However, the proportion of high-income recruits rose to a disproportionately high level after the war on ter­rorism began, as did the proportion of highly edu­cated enlistees.'
In March 2005, the American military published its own figures on military recruitment and casualties in Iraq.

Against the allegation that combat deaths are suffered disproportionately by the underprivileged, a higher proportion of those who are killed have high-school diplomas than the rest of the country (95% compared to 85%). Against the charge that ethnic minorities are suffering disproportionate casualties, the Latinos and African-Americans killed were not killed in numbers disproportionate to the rest of the population.

Curt Gilroy, the Director of the Department of Defence's accessions policy in the Pentagon, claims that
the military is strongly middle class... More recruits are drawn from the middle class and fewer are coming from poorer and wealthier families. Recruits from poorer families are actually underrepresented in the military, Gilroy said.
Elsewhere, in a debate with Arianna Huffington last year, Victor Hanson claimed that middle-class white male officers were overrepresented among the dead (70%), the marines suffering 28% of the overall casualties, though I've been unable to confirm this with other sources.

To return to the photo, a display of luxury by glamorous folk in wartime may well seem insensitive. But demographically speaking, recruitment and war is not disproportionately targeting the poor. At least according to the Heritage report, demographically speaking, some of the people there may have served!

If readers have any other figures/insights into recruitment patterns, I'd be interested to hear.

UPDATE: Harry's Place cited this recent book, which argues to the contrary, that America's upper classes are failing to meet the levels of participation of their forbears ('In 1956, 400 of Princeton's 750 graduates served in uniform. By 2004, only nine members of the university's graduating class entered the military. Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia and many other schools do not even allow ROTC on their campuses'). Outside the elite universities, though, it seems there may be a more complicated story - of a widening of the participating strata among richer/well-educated folk. Gotta go now.
(26) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
Such images are a part of some evil propoganda which wants to promote war. We all know who benefits from all this. Weapons makers and the thiefs who steal oil. Also America gets to keep troops to pretend to protect Juwait and Saudi and Dubai from their pupet in Iraq- Saddam.
 
And - we have a winner! For stupidest, most cliche-ridden comment of the year (Muslim ignoramus division)
 
The figures are a neat slight of hand. In 1956, a substantial fraction of the class would have been subject to the draft during Korea, so something like half serving would make sense for that time. There might even be a few residual GI Bill guys from WW II.
Today' nine entering the military could be a reasonable number. How many had already served before college? (Note that anyone who had previously served would not count in the author's statistic. Why not?) We need to know the number of graduates now to calculate the percentage of graduates that now serve. We also need to know the fraction of the total population that serves. Only then can we compare the numbers to see if there is a difference. Since the author doesn't give these numbers (or they weren't quoted in the posting), no conclusions can be drawn.
 
When did "less privileged" become the synonymous with "under privileged?"
 
hi lycurgus,

the post at Harry's Place said "far less privileged", and likened the modern-day image of the polo match elite with another poster, which depicts the frolicking elite being held up (and threatened) by the oppressed working masses.

In other words, it was suggesting that many of the masses are fighting while the rich play.

Patrick
 
Don't you need to look at Ivy enlistments versus total enlistments for the same age cohorts? Or total Ivy grads now serving versus total strength?

The more interesting question would be post-Ivy enlistment/commissioning rates versus post degree rates generally.
 
An even bigger question is why do young Americans from thousands of miles away have to bear so much of the burden than similar young people who are a lot closer to the more savage parts of the world. People can hypocritically talk about American "imperialism" all they want, but the freeloading off of the back of America is an even bigger concern. What about all the drunk Europeans at the World Cup without a care in the world while Ameericans from the South and Midwest are engaged in a life and death struggle with mass-murdering fascists? How long will this sitaution last?
 
Funny no that a polo match to raise money for charity is decried by marxists. Yet every week there is an art openning in DC or NYC where lefties gather to complain about the BusHitlerHaliburton tyranny they must endure. You lefties stay in your "reality based communes" and let the rest of us laugh at you.
 
I'm not sure that message is going to reach it's target audience on the left via OxBlog, especially if we get a reputation for being so dismissive.
 
There are more than enough warriors and would-be warriors among us, fortunately, imbued with more than the average share of patriotism, to fill the slots. The increase in firepower per soldier has been significant in recent years, and demand has not kept up with the supply of soldiers. Put another way, there is a plethora of manpower. When there are temporary shortages in one branch or another an increase in recruiting advertisements (and bounties) will quickly make up the shortage. The composition of the force will then partly reflect where the ads were placed, i.e., at whom directed. If they were rollng in prime time television sitcom hours, for example, they will not pull so many Ivy Leaguers. Since there is no divergence between the armed forces makeup today and that of the general population, the Pentagon should place those ads in the most cost-effective spots for drawing recruits, without regard to income level or education level.
 
Exguru's right that, as to the entire population, any lack of Ivy grads would be a rounding error. However, as much as many people would like to think otherwise, people with Ivy and similar backgrounds have a grossly disproportionate voice in decisions affecting the nation generally, as well as the military. The military gets along fine without serving Ivy grads, maybe better than it would with them. The right question, though, is what policy and planning mistakes get made because decision makers and opinion leaders never wore a uniform.
 
My intuition tells me that the U.S. military is disproportionately lower middle class. The men that join the enlisted ranks of the Army and Marine Corps are not choosing between college and service. College is simply not an option for them. The choice is either joining the military or competing for a job with an illegal immigrant. I've found that most college-educated people in the U.S. don't know ANYONE in the military.
 
anonymous,
Why is the fact that few of the college grads, you know, know no one in the military; a commentary on the military? As opposed to a commentary on the insular nature of some college grad's lives?
With few exceptions the entire officer corps of the US military are college grads. Didn't they have any room mates in college? Any friends or acquaintences? And using the Ivy Leagues schools - which are an aberration even among universities - as an example, distorts the "big picture".
 
The thing that matters more- and the thing that the Left should be sweating about- is the politicization and polarization of the military. In '04, over 70% of serving soldiers voted Republican- more than 75%, in the combat specialties- and between the deification of Murtha and Sheehan and the increasing shift of the Democrats to the antiAmerican Left, this is only going to get worse.
The political neutrality of the military has always been one of America's great strengths. Now, it's long gone and won't be coming back.
 
I was upper-lower class to lower-middle class; then I served in the military, got out, went to college, and now am firmly in middle-middle class on an upward path towards upper-middle class. Oh, BTW, I ARE a college graduate and I know plenty of people in both the military and the national security part of the federal government.
 
Anon (12:09) - beware the anecdote. As it happens, I spent the weekend with the only two guys I know who have been in the military in the past 5 years (one just back from Baghdad this month). Both are Ivy League graduates.
 
When will the American people be allowed access to the secret demographic? That is the religious breakdown of the population that is willing to sacrifice for America. The stats are kept. The public should be allowed to see if some are carrying a disproportion of the burden and if some are not serving. It would be good to compare those who fight with those who call for fighting. War is man's worst infection. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.
 
Heck, I grew up comfortably upper-middle class. I have been in for 21 years now.
I know plenty of middle class and up types in the Service. What do you think the Medical Corps and JAG are made up of? Aviators? Navy nucs? Cripes...
[We even had a Pritzker in the ILARNG (he retired a short time ago as an LTC)].
 
Gee, my son has a degree in physics and math, and he enlisted. I would consider us upper middle class. Another anecdote, but the military isn't what most people seem to think. I will have to read the book, but I predict that those of this generation who have the option to attend the top tier colleges and choose not to serve may find their future influence diminished by this choice. An Ivy League education is great for making contacts, but not necessarily a guarantee of an excellent education or character.
 
What you might ssee from statistics is the creation of a "Warrior Class", where a disproportionate number of enlistees and officers are from families of veterans. Many brothers, sisters and cousins from a few families and none from a majority of families. This could become more a problem in the future if/when we have a high casualty conflict hitting a few families extra hard.
 
Anonymous, do you even know what it is you are talking about? I served in the military for over 15 years (until I got out to raise my family and help my husband in his career - and yes, I have a solid DOD contracting job, so no dismissing me as a "mere housewife") I met so many types of people when I was in the military - people from all over the world (many trying to earn their citizenship the honest way, rather than sneaking over the border to steal it), people from very rich families (who made us wonder WHAT in the world made them join?), social misfits (who could never have made it anywhere else), athletes (some of whom even turned pro), one guy who was like Rain Man, only with maps, poor people, middle class people, rebellious children of leftie parents, rebellious children of hardcore Christian parents, Genuine Leaders (real Audie Murphy types) - you name it, they're there (and, big surprise: many of them are damn smart! And college-educated.) They often join to get money for college, or to pay back student loans, or to finish a degree while on active duty, or to get active duty experience working in one's degree field to get a leg up on someone who just has the degree (especially in the medical field). They join because they're bored, because they want to serve their country (yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as Patriotism, and it doesn't just happen to other people), because they want to travel. Joining is not just a choice between jail and the military, or an itinerant worker's job and the military. And while you do find pretty much all points along the political spectrum represented, I would have to say they generally do form a larger conservative and/or Republican base, if simply because they get much more support from those administrations, and not necessarily just in materiel; it's okay to be in the military, to be proud to be American, to admit to it. It's also because of the left's consistent and ever-growing anti-Americanism, and demonisation of our troops and their actions (which are largely very honourable and helpful - don't suppose you got to hear about how the Army Corps of Engineers has helped clean out the marshes Sadaam had poisoned and which were predicted to possibly never be inhabitable ever again? didn't think so). People get tired of hearing how awful they are, how evil they are, how unwanted they are, how wrong they are. They are sick of the litany, and having seen what a horror Iraq is (and it is - I've been there), they know why they are there. Instead of just reading all the claptrap in your rag of choice, find a military base, or better yet, some returning soldiers and buy them a meal, and really talk to them about what it means, having been in the Army (or Marines, or such). Get it straight from the horse's mouth, rather than the other end.
 
I am retired reserve, 9 years active duty, 23 years total service. I used to suggest a term in the military to young people, I no longer do, in fact I dissuade people I care about from joining.

Why? Rumsfeld's failure to expand the number of troops to distribute the burden of deployments. The resulting stop-loss and multiple deployments in a short period of time.

The stories about poor medical and mental health care.

The scapegoating prosecutions of lower-ranking people for things they were pretty clearly ordered to do (defense lawyers were not even allowed to call superior officers as witnesses for most of the Abu Ghraib).

Talk about attacking Iran, which would result in debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The administration's fight to cut military personnel funds and VA budgets.

Lack of troop protective equipment.

Policy chaos and incompetence re: Iraq and Afghanistan.

Profiteering and abuses by favored contractors.
 
The military has become very technical. The overall military will continue to become more intelegent and educated than the average population simply because that is what the job demands. There are fewer low tech jobs in the military and they will continue to disapear. This does create a divide between the military and the "general population", but I don't see how thats a bad thing.
 
It is proper to demand more from the man with exceptional advantages than from the man without them. A heavy moral obligation rests upon the man of means and upon the man of education to do their full duty by their country. On no class does this obligation rest more heavily than upon the men with a collegiate education, the men who are graduates of our universities. Their education gives them no right to feel the least superiority over any of their fellow-citizens… - Teddy Roosevelt
 
I haven't seen any mention of the idea that Ivy League hostility towards recruiters is perhaps a significant factor in keeping the upper classes out of the military. And keeping the military overhelmingly Republican.
 
I joined the Navy because I had no chance for a good job in the area I lived in and my parents couldn't afford to send me to college, not that it would have mattered because my high school didn't adequately prepare me anyway. In short, I joined the military because I was young, ambitious, and had few economic opportunities. Many others I knew in the service joined for the same reasons.

Oh, and by the way, because its not immediately obvious to some people (for reasons unbeknownst to me) the Heritage Foundation is a conservative think-tank. Rich, white, educated, and oh yeah, still very much in power. Gee, anyone think of any reasons why they might come-up with results that suggest there is no economic disparity? (note the heavy sarcasm) One last comment, when I see the bush daughters enlisting then I'll believe that report.
 
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