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by Peter Moskos

October 25, 2010

National Service

Mark Shields has a good column about a speech by Robert Gates, "the one memorable speech of the 2010 campaign":
Gates spoke directly of an avoided undemocratic reality — that most Americans have grown detached from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the great civilian majority has come to view military service as "something for other people to do."

Those "other people," as Gates reminded us, come overwhelmingly from a "tiny sliver of America" concentrated in the South and the Rocky Mountain West, in rural areas and small towns.

There is the distinct possibility that eventually the U.S. military and its leaders will be estranged — culturally and geographically — from the civilian population it is defending.
Then Shields quotes my father:
Nobody understood this as well as the late military scholar and ex-GI, Charles Moskos, who told me that the U.S. "national interest is determined not so much by the cause, itself, but instead by who is willing to die for that cause."

Moskos continued: "Only when the privileged do military service, only when the elite youth are under fire does the nation define the cause as worth the blood of our young people." He added that, in both World Wars, the British nobility had higher casualty rates than did the British working class.

1 comment:

IrishPirate said...

As a veteran I would like to see a resumption of "national service".

If only because we'd be one hell of a lot less likely to get involved in wars if it existed.

You couldn't sustain public amnesia regarding Iraq and Afghanistan if college students were worried about being drafted.

"Hell No We Won't Go"!

Woulda been nice in the runup to Iraq.