An unexcused absence ...

By Tom Morgan

People offer many reasons for not serving in our armed forces. They offer many reasons for their kids not serving. They offer many reasons for not wanting military recruiters or ROTC to be on campuses. Or to be allowed to talk with high school kids. Even though they welcome recruiters from companies and other prospective employers.

Among the reasons:

1. I hate war at any time, any place.

2. I am afraid I will die in combat. Or that my son or daughter will.

3. Using the military is no way to solve problems.

4. This country is not worth defending.

5. It is wrong to train people to kill.

6. I feel shame whenever I see men or women in military uniforms.

They offer many more reasons.

Two authors explore how millions of Americans shun military service. Especially our upper classes. Their book: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service - and How It Hurts Our Country.

Each of the authors harbored anti-military feelings. Until one married a Marine pilot. And the other watched, in dismay, his son enlist in the Marines.



They both noticed that nobody else in their circles of friends had connections with our military. For good reason. Our upper classes turn their backs on military service.

They point out that most of our prestigious universities see few of their graduates go into the military. The opposite was once true. In 1956, for instance, 400 members of Princeton’s graduating class joined the military. And there was no war at the time. In recent years as few as 9 joined.

Many major universities refuse to allow ROTC on their campuses. ROTC pays some of a student’s education. In return for the student becoming a military officer at graduation.

In 1971 over 70% of members of Congress had served in the military. Today only a third have. And most of them are pretty old.

The authors tell us this is not a good situation. They feel our political leaders are handicapped. When they don’t gave any military experience, and don’t know anyone who has, they may well shape military policies in ignorance.

We have witnessed such ignorance the last few years. Some pols tell us we should do this or that with our troops. And they express dismay that the military did not achieve this or that. When even a lowly corporal would tell them they don’t know what they talk about.

For instance, critics of the National Guard could not understand why it took so long to move troops into New Orleans during Katrina. They were ignorant of the complexities of moving thousands of men and women and their equipment a thousand miles. It they had ever been in the military, they would have known.

The authors argue that when there is a gap between the military and the rest of us, our country is weakened. That makes sense.

They suggest that the gap makes a few things more likely. The military will be overused and under-led. And that politicians will want to cut and run whenever a war becomes unpopular. Raise your hand if you feel we have experienced either.

They write “When those who benefit most from living in a country contribute the least to its defense...something happens to the soul of that country.”

I don’t know if that is the cause and effect. Or whether the opposite is. When the soul of a country weakens, those who benefit the most will say “Thanks”. But that is all they will say or do.

Would such folks discourage their kids from joining police forces? They might die. They would have to carry weapons. Would they refuse to let fire dept. recruiters come to their school? Would they keep CIA and FBI recruiters off their campuses?

Some would.

Remember the story of the little red hen? All her barnyard friends refused to help her plant, weed and harvest a garden. But they came around, mouths open, when it was time to eat.

All of us want to feast off the benefits America’s armed forces offer. Too few of us are willing to give up anything in return.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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