Feature

The Military

Does it look like America?

Even for John Kerry, it was a gaffe to remember, said Robert VerBruggen in The Weekly Standard. Last week, the liberal Massachusetts senator joked to a college audience that if 'œyou do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.' Maybe Kerry didn't mean to imply that the military is 'œa last resort for the slackers and Forrest Gumps of the world.' But that's how outraged Republican leaders, veterans' groups, and families of those fighting and dying in Iraq interpreted his remark. At the very least, Kerry should have checked his facts: 98 percent of U.S. military personnel have a high school education, as opposed to the national average of 85 percent. Results of the Armed Forces Qualifying Test, a standard intelligence exam, also show that 'œabove-average IQs are more common in soldiers than in everyday Americans.'

Granted, it's a myth that the armed forces are drawn from the ranks 'œof the poor and uneducated,' said Rosa Brooks in the Los Angeles Times. But that doesn't mean our soldiers represent a broad cross section of the population. The nation's 'œsocial and economic elites' don't enlist; the percentage of recruits from families with incomes of more than $60,000 is 'œclose to zero.' Most recruits come from the rural South and Southwest, and most are religious and Republican. And while blacks constitute only 13 percent of our population, they make up 25 percent of the Army. These demographics are no accident, said Uwe Reinhardt in The Washington Post. The premise behind the all-volunteer military is that 'œif a nation must use human bodies to stop bullets and shrapnel,' it ought to use bodies that aren't likely to become doctors, inventors, business leaders, or other valued members of society. This reality'”which economists, but not politicians, discuss openly'”is conveniently ignored by those who grew 'œhysterical' over Kerry's supposed slander of our fighting men and women. Has anyone noticed how few of these outraged patriots, such as Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh, have served?

Christopher Hitchens

The Wall Street Journal

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