Monday, December 26, 2005

SERVE For Citizenship

Robert Heinlein, a prolific and provocative science fiction writer, pounded out his novel, “Starship Troopers,” in the 1950’s, quicker than most of his other many works; but regardless of the speed with which he wrote it, as soon as I read it, some 40 years after it was published, it replaced “Stranger in a Strange Land” as my favorite Heinlein creation.

Hollywood made “Troopers” into a movie in the late 90’s, which for me was a little disappointing. What I did like about it though, is that the primary theme of the book was kept intact as a sidebar. The point Heinlein made in the book is that citizenship should NOT be simply “given” to someone based strictly on birth, or even by passing a written naturalization test. He asserted that FULL citizenship, he defined as the right to vote and run for office, should only be “earned” by successfully completing a tour in the armed forces, or if physically unable, through some other form of service to country.

Let’s examine WHY I love Heinlein’s requirements for FULL citizenship, based on concepts currently in place and their inherent flaws:
· Currently, any citizen can vote as long as they aren’t imprisoned, and if they meet prerequisites established by Federal and State law.
· At this time, any citizen can run for office as long as they meet similar voting requirements, although, a notable exception is that no one born outside the U.S. can run for president—so that excludes me and Arnold Schwarzenneger—Damn it!
· Presently, the armed forces are “manned” by men and women, some of whom are NOT even American citizens, and EVERY ONE in uniform is a volunteer.

So, why do I believe that our existing systems (U.S. military manning & citizenship requirements) are imperfect? After all, the ranks of all the service branches are fully staffed; although some recruiters are hard-pressed to meet their monthly recruitment goals, especially considering the present shooting war; and even worse, as far as the recruiters are concerned, that our economy is doing pretty well.

The primary problem I have with the current system is the same problem that New York Congressman, Charlie Rangel, has with it—that only a certain segment of American society is CHOOSING to serve. Where I part ways philosophically with old “race card” Charlie is that he claims that the brunt of the fighting and dying is being done by mostly the very poor or jobless. The problem with his argument is that he cannot find any statistics to bear him out. Basically, he’s “full” of it. The very poor do NOT generally sign up, especially for combat arms, and neither does any particular ethnic group, at least not in numbers out of proportion to their percentage of the population.

So, here’s where I think there IS a problem—that rich and upper-middle class people do NOT feel compelled to suffer the hardships of a tour in the military whatsoever. Primarily, the country is being defended by the sons and daughters of our Middle and Lower Middle Classes; and not by the poor, and even LESS so, by the rich.

The first question is this: Is it REALLY a problem—that certain classes of our society, namely the Upper Middle Class and the Rich, do NOT feel compelled to risk life and limb for their country? Are they less patriotic and more selfish than Middle Class youth, OR are they just unmindful? To the question: Is it a problem? —Rep. Rangel and I both say, “YES!” Mr. Rangel even says that, as a solution, we should bring back the draft.

Of course Rangel is being disingenuous—He doesn’t REALLY want that at all; he just believes that if a bunch of rich Republican’s had sons forced into uniform for impending shipment to Afghanistan and Iraq, or to the next “hotspot,” that they would be a lot less enthusiastic to rush us off to war. And he’s got a point—that’s why the French maintains a foreign legion—who is going to complain back home, when there are no moms and dads worried about their kids?

It seems to me, that a big reason there is a lack of interest in rich folks volunteering to serve, can be attributed to the fact, that so far, our military, police, and special agents have been GREATLY SUCCESSFUL in the current war against the terrorists. According to a poster pushing the importance of flu shots that I just read at the Manila Veterans Clinic, we lose 36,000 people per year to the flu. Compare that huge number to the less than 3,000 troops that have died fighting our enemies in the current Terror War since we invaded Afghanistan in late 2001. While terrorists have successfully hit on a grand scale places like Spain, Bali, Jordan, and England, they have NOT been able to do any real harm again on U.S. soil. That’s a pretty good interim measurement of “success,” as far as I’m concerned. But IF instead, we were STRUGGLING against the terror mongers, would there then be such an apparent lack of interest in WHO among our society become casualties of war?

Also, the fact that our way of life has barely hiccupped, even as we fight this war, that alone makes it quite easy for our affluent citizens, who are apparently self-centered anyway, and with better things to do with their “more important lives,” to simply ignore the whole thing. These people carry on with going to expensive schools, and increasing their fortunes, while doing so at the expense of those relatively few who have submitted themselves to the hardships, dangers, and low pay of military life.

All three of us—Charlie Rangel, Robert Heinlein, and I—we all say that a situation where only a FEW preserve the liberties of the many, is wrong, wrong, wrong! This is especially unfair when these few come from only a single part of society—financially speaking, the lower middle class to middle class.

But, reinstating the draft is NOT the answer to correcting this wrong. I hate the draft. Forcing people to serve is the LEAST effective way to “attract” motivated people into the military. “Drafting” is the antithesis of “attracting;” and the best troops, those most receptive to training, and those most willing to “close with and destroy the enemy,” are naturally going to be those that willingly volunteer.

Drafting people is just plain counter-productive, because for the most part, you end up with a bunch of individuals who DON’T want to be there. The draft causes morale problems, and the “unwilling” it puts into uniform just won’t work as hard to accomplish mission goals when their hearts aren’t in it. Today's professional military is perhaps the most highly motivated, and best trained, of any we’ve ever fielded; and it’s success has proven that it is the ONLY way to go, especially when it comes to fighting a war heavy on high-tech.

So the draft is OUT, but how do we answer the cultural problem that exists—of getting the pampered sons of rich men—to VOLUNTEER? Heinlein has the perfect answer—change the Constitution to state that ONLY those that have served in some capacity have the right to vote and to run for office.

Think of it. There would be no more “chicken hawks,” as the dems like to label people like Vice President Cheney, and even Senator Hillary Clinton, whom have never served in the military in uniform, while supporting the use of arms to protect the country’s interests.

And the best reason of all—if RICH people want to run for office, they MUST serve in the military, FIRST! It’s perfect, as it addresses the societal question: is the country really best served when ONLY mostly privileged people serve in office that have NEVER had to exert themselves elbow-to-elbow with the rest of us? What better way for these pampered few to get a dose of “real life,” than by “serving in the trenches” for their country? Let's face it, nowadays only people with money can AFFORD the costs of running for office, and that's NOT going to change. So, it's important that we get more of them with some military experience under their belt.

Academics and cultural elite HATE this particular Heinlein concept. They have called him everything from a militarist to a fascist. Of course, they are idiots. What is their solution? They have none. They are ALSO against the draft. Remember the 60’s—“Hell no, we won’t go!” Those are the same people who came up with that silly saying. Thank goodness that the existence of the All Volunteer Force precludes them from being able to parade around, while yelling that ridiculous inanity. For the most part, these people despise the military, and deny we even need it. This makes it easy to discount most anything they have to say about it. Their absurd belief that America is the “jack of all problems,” that we are inherently evil, and that we DESERVE to be attacked and destroyed, ALL THAT makes them irrelevant in the discussion. So, enjoy your latte and continue to look down your haughty noses at the very people who give you the right and ability to yammer and think up clever catch phrases. Most of us who have operated in the REAL world realize how truly inconsequential you are when it comes to actually solving real world dilemmas. In other words--you pontificate, while we get things done!

Problem is, most of those in the mainstream media, and educators at virtually all levels, have already been brainwashed and tainted by the "military haters" in academia. And worse, the people who pursue careers as educators are the philosophical clones of the professors who trained them. Liberals breed liberalism. It follows: who has first access to the youth of America, our future soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen?--so-called "progressive" anti-military educators, that's who! It's a wonder that ANYONE enlists. So how are we going to get rich young people in the process of acquiring an eduation to WANT to enlist, when their minds are being poisoned against joining up in the first place? The young and impressionable are the easiest to influence, and they certainly are; therein is the problem.

So, the ranks of the military will continue to be filled, by and large, by young patriots from small towns and suburbs. College professors will continue to poison their students against military service, especially students who are very rich, and very liberal. Sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it’s not when you look at who DOESN’T serve in uniform—it’s NOT the very rich, and there certainly aren’t many dyed-in-the-wool liberals lining up in front of recruitment sergeants either! It's sad to say, but UNTIL there is some kind of incentive for them to do so, rich men's sons will rarely consider serving even a second in the armed forces. As far as RICH young liberals serving, THEY are a lost cause!


Doug said...

Rummy was a Marine Aviator, I believe.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Good catch Doug.

Donald H. Rumsfeld. Born on 9 July 1932 in Chicago, Rumsfeld graduated from Princeton University in 1954 and then spent three years in the U.S. Navy as an aviator and flight instructor.

Cutler said...

There is an irony with Heinlein and Starship Troopers. He's a well known libertarian writer, yet he borrowed many of the basic concepts of his society from Plato's authoritarian and communistic Republic. Specifically, a the leadership Guardian class that rules a materialistic consumer and producer class. Where Plato went with this, a paternalistic and totalitarian state ruled by the betters, shows the potential pitfalls of creating a specific brotherhood of rulers apart from the rest of society.

Still, the problems we have are real.I agreed with Rangel's basic premise, though I despised his treatment of our national defense with demagoguery. Like you, I feel there's a significant problem, whereby our military recruits come from a smaller and smaller section of America. I'm also entirely aware of the pervasive and harmful influence of selfish and prejudiced leftist educators and believe it is going to cause us even more problems in the future.

Still, what do you think the goal of this program should be?

A. Is the goal of this is to put into charge a leadership class that has proven it can put the whole above themselves? This was Heinlein's reasoning, and although I can see it has some attractive logic [and it would also make US National Security and military debates much more rational and substantial], Plato's Republic should serve as something to keep in mind as a warning.

B. Is the main purpose the more limited goal of a broader range and larger amount of recruits?

C. A combination of these two and others?

Addressing B, I wonder if, even taking into account the obvious advantages of a more motivated volunteer force, perhaps it is ultimately a dream to believe you can attract enough people from such a pampered societies as ours to put themselves under fire. Perhaps, I am overly cynical, but I remember that even World War II required draftees for the vast majority of the army, inefficiencies that it caused be damned.

Now, of course, this was also due to the scale of the effort, and we do not seem on the verge of a major transnational conflict. But in decades, that is not guarenteed, and in the present a non-nuclear war with relatively small North Korea would force us to reinstall the draft, inefficiencies be damned. The military is large enough for our current half-efforts [Iraq/Afghanistan are not big wars, even with our large goals], though barely, but not for a bigger and more manpower intensive conflict.

My point is, that there is a line upon which the volunteer military, for all its benefits, is a liability. If the Army is struggling to attract manpower, even though it is relatively small considering the extent of its responsibilities, perhaps we are reaching that line?

This is setting aside all the societal and political problems with "the Draft," which though significant, do not necessarily reflect the actual reality on the ground or our real needs [Congress did after all, continue Selective Service in 1940 by one mere vote].

"While terrorists have successfully hit on a grand scale places like Spain, Bali, Jordan, and England, they have NOT been able to do any real harm again on U.S. soil. That’s a pretty good interim measurement of “success,” as far as I’m concerned. But IF instead, we were STRUGGLING against the terror mongers, would there then be such an apparent lack of interest in WHO among our society become casualties of war?"

I believe this is real key. People do not realize the urgency, if indeed there is one. It also represents what I think is an important quality of humanity. Humans will fight for their defense, but if they do not believe their ultimate existence is at stake, very rare is the one who will remove himself from a sheltered existence in order to put their lives on the line. This selfishness seems obvious, but is often lost in the volunteer army debate.

It is hard to convince people, especially in our pampered society [some would say soft?], to voluntarily go to war. Espirit de corps, adventure all contribute, but that's still a big sacrifice to overcome. New York City? Or a guarded complex outside Baghdad? Professional armies are not the norm in human history.

This is sorta a rushed job as I got to head somewhere, sorry if it is too long for your comments.

Ed Abbey said...

I'm guessing you would still be eligible for president based upon citizenship rules. It varies depending on what year you were born but generally if one or both your parents were citizens and had lived in the United States before your birth, you are considered a citizen and eligible to run for president. Sen. John McCain is in your situation as well.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Yup, you're right Ed. A fellow veteran here in Angeles City that also attends the same college as I do, emailed me with a web reference that states that, indeed, I AM able to be president! Consequently, I'm thinking about running in '08!

Anonymous said...

When you said fellow veteran in Angeles city, what do you mean by that?

PhilippinesPhil said...

This "fellow vet" is exactly that, a comrade in arms, a chum, a schoolmate friend who also once served in the US military; in his case, the US Coast Guard.