Incoming Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Charles Rangel has been making the rounds talking up the idea of re-instating the military draft. I cannot think of worse idea with our troops between a Sunni Rock and Shiite Hard Place today.
On FOX News Sunday, Chairman Rangel gave Chris Wallace the real basis for his out-dated notion:
I want to make it abundantly clear: if there’s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.
I like Charlie and enjoy his willingness to debate the issues and hear his eloquent defense of those issues with his signature gravelly New York accent. He’s a very likable guy, he just happens to be entirely wrong this time.
The Marines I met in Fallujah, Iraq are as dedicated and motivated as they are educated and successful. I met computer programmers, TSA officials, millionaire business owners and a guy currently getting his masters in “spatial math.” (I don’t even know what spatial math is myself?!)
The 1st Battalion, 24th Marines are Marine reserves which means that after one deployment (already to Djibouti, Africa in 2004) that they did NOT have to deploy a second time. Everyone that I met that had been in Africa a few years earlier, had volunteered to be there today. Some were actually on their third – volunteer deployments.
According to a piece in the Washington Post this past Saturday by Russell Beland, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower analysis, and Curtis Gilroy, director of accession policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense – Rangel’s argument is factually wrong by the numbers too.
Beland and Gilroy assert that the data shows an educational and economic trend quite different in today’s recruiting. “More than 90% of recruits have high school diplomas, compared with 80% of American youth overall. About two thirds of today’s recruits score in the upper half of standardized aptitude tests… By 2005 high-income areas were producing five recruits for every three from low-income areas.”
So there is a silver lining to the War in Iraq and perhaps Charlie Rangel helps illustrate the point – even in the worst of times, our great American spirit of volunteerism is alive and well and we’re a better nation because of them.
PS – Thanks for your service too, Mr. Chairman.
I can be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.