Monday, November 21, 2005

Poverty...What is it good for?

There's this idea that Americans fight when things need fighting. Taxation without representation? Fight. The preservation of the Union? Fight. The march of the Third Reich? Fight. A solid majority of Americans got behind these fights. And so we fought. And the "good guys," a.k.a. us, won.

But this idea that Americans fight when things need fighting has some pretty gaping holes (ignoring, for the moment if you will, the pacifist argument). Grenada, Vietnam, Mexico -- for reasons such as "protecting American students," "Soviet containment," and (let's not forget) "failing to salute the American flag."

Dusty, I don't think it's safe to assume that "given there is no draft, that most people involved in the war are supporting it." People sign up for the military to fight the WWIIs, not the Vietnams. They trust that their government won't lead them to war based on questionable/discredited intelligence or for failing to salute American flags.

But even that statement, that people sign up to fight the WWIIs, might be a false assumption. Can we assume that everyone in the military, draft or no, is there because they want to fight? No, no and no. People join for lots of reasons -- to help pay for college, travel around the world, gain technical experience, please their parents, have some pictures in uniform for their congressional run, and get out of inner-city gangs, small town life or bone-crushing poverty.

Sure, there were plenty of people who joined post-9/11 to fight terrorism, but not enough to meet the current needs of the American military. Why else do you think Army recruiters roam Black and Hispanic neighborhoods all over the U.S. looking for would-be soldiers? Because minorities hate terror more than white people?

Like always, America fights its wars on the backs of the poor and oppressed. Can't get white college grads like Jonny Rice to join the Marines? Then check out the inner city.

So my solution for supporting the troops? Speak out for the poor and oppressed. The day we get rid of hopeless poverty and make it possible for everyone to get the technical/academic education they desire (without joining the army), the military establishment will "wither on the vine," as it were. If you stop the primary source of recruitment for the military, you'll make it impossible for our country to go to war without a true-blue "all volunteer" army.

That doesn't stop the government from lying to our faces the next time they want to go to war. But it does make it difficult for them to maintain the military manpower necessary for a war that 60% of Americans now believe was a mistake.

And because it makes it difficult for the military to maintain sustained combat-actions based on crap intelligence and post-terror-attack-furor, I think we'd see the chances for combat-actions (anywhere, anytime) drop dramatically.

So then ideally (at least, in my mind), all that we're left with are the wars most Americans feel were really worth it -- the wars against actual terrorists, or colonial oppression, or genocidal, fascist dictators.

That is, if you believe those wars are worth fighting in the first place. But that's another conversation entirely.


At 11/22/2005 9:42 AM, Blogger Dan Baker said...

Nailhead...You hit it...

But, I Wonder, if our m,ilitary were only a volunteer base, would that just make us all the more of a target for homeland offensive action. I know that many americans got freaked out about being hit on our own soil, cause we don't know what teh rest of teh world deals with having these things happen more regularly. But I for one am greatful to our troops because they have kept our armed forces teh super power that they are which probably has kept us from having attacks at home. So while it may be hard to support certain US offensive action, I am sure glad that we have teh forces that we do for protective measures.

At 11/22/2005 10:45 AM, Blogger Dusty said...

Is this a faithless approach to living? Under military might?

But I agree with your thoughts on poverty's affect on the military. It is sad, but true. Education as the answer...that seems slightly presumptious, especially given the trends in education that seem less about educating people and more about credentialing, whether accurate assessment of education or not.


At 11/23/2005 10:25 PM, Blogger jonny said...

Dan, I don't think a reduction in military rolls would make our country any more a target for terrorist action. For three reasons:

1) We already are a target for terrorist action. Period.
2) Such a reduction in the military would force us out of places like Iraq, allowing us to concentrate more on securing our own country’s defenses. Specifically, tax dollars currently spent fighting insurgents in Iraq could be used to fully fund the president's homeland security initiatives.
3) While I have no empirical evidence to back this up, it just seems likely that Americans would be more willing to join the military if they knew that they’d be defending their own country on their own soil. And not being sent half-way around the world to secure non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

Dusty, I disagree that "trends in education….seem less about educating people and more about credentialing." As far as liberal arts BAs go, I see what you mean. But education means more than that to so many people. It can mean degrees in nursing and business management and auto repair and information technology. Degrees like that aren't about credentialing; they're about people getting out of their minimum wage jobs and into professions where they can make a livable wage and support their families.

And lastly, I think it would be great if you put up a post on the main page with your initial questions. "Is this a faithless approach to living? Under military might?" I think I understand what you're saying, but I'd be interested in hearing you expound on it some more. It seems like there's a lot there we could talk about.


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