Is the Army Just for the Poor and Lower Class?

News at Home

Mr. Tygiel is a Professor of History at San Francisco State University.

The debate over George W. Bush’s military career has largely run its course. Ample evidence now exists for Americans to decide whether the President’s youthful flirtation with the Texas Air National Guard has any bearing on his ability to lead the nation. Another aspect of the controversy, however, has gone unexplored. Tracing the history of the Bush family and its relationship to the military across the generations reveals a great deal about how American ideals of service and responsibility have changed between World War II and the second Iraq war.

During World War II, George Herbert Walker Bush, although the son of wealth and privilege, enlisted in the Navy as soon as he turned eighteen. He became the youngest pilot in the Navy and flew fifty-eight combat missions. The future president was fortunate to survive when his plane was hit Japanese anti-aircraft guns and two of his fellow crewmen perished. Film footage captured Bush’s rescue at by a submarine at sea, an enduring testament to his courage and commitment.

George H. W. Bush personified a generation of upper-class Americans willing to share the burdens of national defense. While many individuals doubtless exercised their influence and evaded combat during World War II, what is far more striking are the numbers of affluent Americans who heeded the call to service. General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. died shortly after D-Day in Normandy, where he is buried next to his brother Quentin, killed in World War I. President Franklin Roosevelt’s sons served in the armed forces. Former Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, one of the nation’s wealthiest men, lost his namesake son over the skies of Europe and nearly lost his second son, John, in the seas of the South Pacific. The horrors of war did not spare the families of the American elites.

By the era of the Vietnam War, this had changed. Many sons of privilege did enlist and experience combat. Charles Robb, Lyndon Johnson’s son-in-law, was a Marine Corps company commander in Vietnam. Al Gore, the son of a Senator, served in Southeast Asia, albeit in a non-combat role. John Kerry went from Yale into the Navy. The experience of George W. Bush, however, far more personified the ethos of the era. American youth who had the influence, means, or know-how to avoid the war in Vietnam found ways to evade the conflict. As immortalized in Phil Ochs’s famous song, “Draft Dodger Rag,” young men sought deferments in a myriad of creative ways. They reasoned, as Ochs sang, “If someone’s got to go over there, That someone isn’t me.”

For those who did not qualify for health, hardship, or student deferments, entry into the National Guard or Army Reserve offered an alternative. It was common knowledge that these units would rarely if ever be called to combat in Vietnam. Occasionally the enlistment rolls for these units opened up and those in the right place and right time could get in. (Personal confession: I joined the Army Reserve at just such a juncture in 1969. For most of my outfit, the primary activity was figuring out how many meetings and summer camps we could skip without being activated.) More often there were long waiting lists and only those with luck or pull could gain access and thereby become inoculated from true military service. Units like the Texas Air National Guard that welcomed George W. Bush became havens for people whose families had the influence to keep them out of the war.

The Vietnam War brought an end to the draft and replaced it with a professional military. National Guard and reserve units are now staffed not by fortunate sons and daughters dodging combat, but by volunteers. These groups have shared the brunt of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq with the regular military.

In the absence of a draft, the concept of service has deteriorated even further. Does anyone even consider asking a member of the nation’s elites to defend their country? Are any of George H.W. Bush’s grandchildren in the armed forces? This scenario extends to the United States Congress, where no more than a handful of senators and congressmen— Democrat or Republican, supporters or foes of the war— have children in the military. Nor do the ranks of current war combatants appear to include the sons and daughters of any prominent business figures or media pundits who promote the current administration’s policies.

This progression from participation to evasion to near total absence bodes poorly for the future defense of America in the age of terror. When leaders of the past evoked the concept of shared sacrifice, few could doubt their sincerity. Sacrifice today is shared by a dwindling pool of citizens, most of them drawn from less affluent ranks of society. How long will soldiers follow where their leaders dare not go?

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Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

There's a grain of truth to the supposition.

On the other hand, my C.O., a Lieutenant Colonel commanding the Armored Cavalry squadron, a West Pointer,is a guy on good authority who has a net worth well in excess of $100. million. And Geo. S. Patton, Jr. was a multimillionaire & so was his son, who also served as a soldier.

According to an article in "VFW Magazine of March, 1993
1) 76% of the men sent to Viet-Nam were from lowermiddle/working class backgrounds
2)3'4s had family incomes above the poverty level; 50% were from middle income backgrounds
3) Some 23% of Viet-Nam vets had fathers with professional, managerial or technical occupations.
4) 79% of the men who served in Viet-Nam had a high school education or better when they entered the military. This compares with 63% of Korean War vets & only 45% of WWII had completed high school upon separation (i.e., some WWII vets completed h.s. while in the service).

Not to be forgotten is that Joe Krnnedy, Jr. was KIA during WWII while flying bombers in Europe & of course, Jack served in the Pacific. Nonetheless, most rich kids, if they wished to do so, had no difficulties in doging military service. For instance, neither an attorney acquaintance nor any one of his seven brothers, sons of a rancher in the Dakotas, ever served in the armed forces.

In contrast, serving in the armed forces provides adventure for a lot of American boys. Adventure in the armed forces is just fine, except when a shooting war comes along. I've rarely been so shocked as I was in late 1968 with a unit forming up at Ft. Hood, Texas to go
to Viet-Nam when a Captain of Infantry refused to go to 'Nam.

I don't know if he was permitted to resign his commission or if he was sent to the slammer. In any event, I on my way for my 2nd tour in 'Nam was pleased have the guy chicken out, if he was going to, long before we rached a battlefield. We were better off without him. That which generated most of my disdain for him was not his apparent cowardice, but rather his having coasted along in the Army living a decent life with promotions to 1st Lieutent & thence to Captain, was his unwillingness to live up to his side of the bargain, to fail to do his proer part, when the bugle blew.

But then, of course because I'd already pulled one tour in 'Nam i knew while it wasn't a fun place to be I knew the odds were I'd make it through again O.K. again. :) The irony is the coward remained here in the States but I was seriously clobbered during a firefight in the 11th month of that 2nd twele-month tour.

Do I wish I'd played the coward's part & remained safely at home that second time around? Heck no! It's largely a matter of where one's values lie. For all some folks may find it difficult to comprehend, money isn't everyone's god.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

So, the poor and lower class are primarily drawn to military service. What's wrong with this?


It's a good opportunity. I've met an awful lot of these folks after they've left the service with a good job skill, often in the computer or medical technical fields.

Much ado about nothing.

In my hometown, during my youth, it was common to give men who were constantly in minor trouble with the law the opportunity to enlist or go to jail. This is an excellent solution.

Life is not fair. The poor don't get the same opportunities or face the same hardships as the rich. Changing this is about as easy as convincing the moon to stop orbiting the sun.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/24/2004

Mr. Heuisler,
What are YOUR reactions to Major General Smedley "the fighting Quaker" Butler?

"Qui scribit bis legit."

Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/24/2004

Mr. Heuisler,
What are you reactions to Major General Smedley "the fighting Quaker" Butler?

Maarja Krusten - 10/17/2004

Aha, interesting. I have, of course, seen "Full Metal Jacket." I'll look for the Dye book. Thanks again!

Bill Heuisler - 10/17/2004

Right. General Simmons is a member of the "Chosin Few", earned a Silver Star, two Bronze and a PH. He's written two other books about the Marine Corps, both histories I think. Ask him about Swofford. Ask him about Marine riflemen in general and what makes them so special.

Dale Dye has Hollywood credits. Part of his "Run Between The Raindrops" was fictionalized and bastardized in the movie "Full Metal Jacket", but the book takes you right into the mind of a Marine in Hotel Co, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines during the storming of the citadel (30 foot thick, 30 foot high walls) of Hue City. No aircraft or artillery prep or support was allowed because the citadel was an Annamese historical site. The 5th Marines took it with frontal assaults.
Nobody but Marines would/could do that.
Bill Heuisler

Maarja Krusten - 10/17/2004

Thanks! Ed Simmons, is that General Simmons, who during the 1990s was at the U.S. Marine Corps History Center at the Navy Yard in DC? I know Ed, he was an advisor to my agency's History Program during the 1990s. Always had a very useful perspective. Good man.

If I get through all the books you've mentioned, I'll let you know what I think. (Darn, I wish I had more time to read, can't wait until I retire, LOL) I already have Flags of Our Fathers, that was on my Christmas request list last year.

Bill Heuisler - 10/17/2004

Ms. Krusten,
You are correct, my reaction was to the heading of the story you directed us to. It said CNN, but was in fact an AP wire story about the survey. However, my comments are still relevant in this case because CNN chose (and used)the story with the AP headline and summary.

Notice how misleading the headline is. Notice also how it's called an election survey and how the Democrat talking points are carefully repeated in spite of the fact that families couldn't possibly know the adequacy of troop strength or the reliability (or lack thereof) of Guard units.

[Poll: Troops, families question Iraq strategy
Most surveyed say Bush sent too few troops; relied too much on Guard
Saturday, October 16, 2004 Posted: 1:49 PM EDT (1749 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Members of the military and their families say the Bush administration underestimated the number of troops needed in Iraq and put too much pressure on inadequately trained National Guard and reserve forces, according to a poll released Saturday.

The National Annenberg Election Survey questioned active duty troops in the regular military and the National Guard and Reserves, as well as family members of active duty members. Family members were more critical of the administration's Iraq policy than those on active duty.]

"Administration's Iraq policy"? Was that in the poll also?
See my point?

As to books on the Corps, read "Flags of Our Fathers" by James Bradley - Bantam; "Dog Company Six" by Edwin Simmons; "Run between the Raindrops" by Dale Dye - Avon; "The March Up" by Bing West and Ray Smith - Bantam; "Generation Kill" by Evan Wright - Putnam.
The first three are WWII, Korea and Vietnam. The last two are Iraq. Save Generation Kill for last, it's a good counter to Swofford - troubling in how boys next store can effortlessly revert to killers when necessary.

Marine Boot Camp saves lives by making stress and brutality seem commonplace. The recruits are carefully vetted before and during training to sort out the weak and the psychos. I haven't read "Jarhead", but that red mist passage you mentioned makes Swofford sound like he had a problem before he ever went to Parris Island.

Enjoy. I'd be interested in your reaction to any of the above books.
Bill Heuisler

Maarja Krusten - 10/17/2004

"Not that I am posting on HNN" should read "Now that I am posting on HNN" sorry sometimes I type just as well as Dave Livingston, LOL (that's said with respect Dave)

Maarja Krusten - 10/17/2004

I remember seeing reviews of Anthony Sofford's memoir, _Jarhead_, last year. After seeing vets post on HNN, and noting that they sometimes call civilians names, such as "sissies," I've concluded that there is a lot that we civilians do not know abut life in the armed forces.

USA Today referred to Swofford's book as "a morally questioning soldier's story from the 1991 Gulf War." It noted on April 17, 2003, that Swofford, a former Marine sniper, "wanted to 'open a window on a closed, tight society. . . . The distance between the military and civilians can make both happy and comfortable, but that's not always a good thing.'"

USA Today noted, "In Jarhead, Swofford expresses despair about war, past and future. He believes 'men who go to war and live are spared for the single purpose of spreading bad news when they return, the bad news about the way war is fought and why, and by whom for whom.'
Others spread 'what they call good news, the good news about war and warriors.' Some have never fought, he adds, 'so what could they have to say about the purity of war and warriors?'"

Has anyone here read it? The book sounds pretty raw. One review at Salon (March 10, 2003) noted, "Initially, "Jarhead" delivers some jolts. Marine barracks are not known for their decorum, but Swofford describes his mates and himself as brutal, petulant, thoughtless, wretched, sadistic, wrathful and sometimes borderline sociopathic. He remembers being beaten mercilessly by a sergeant, holding a gun to the head of a fellow Marine until the other man wept uncontrollably, fantasizing for hours about the 'pink mist' resulting from a properly-aimed shot to an enemy's head, contemplating suicide, auctioning off seminude photos of his unfaithful girlfriend, looting the corpses of Iraqi soldiers for trophies and consuming impressive amounts of cheap booze and porn.

From 'Jarhead,' you will learn that Marines pump themselves up by watching war movies on video: 'We yell Semper fi and we head-butt and beat the crap out of each other and we get off on the various visions of carnage and violence and deceit, the raping and killing and pillaging. We concentrate on the Vietnam films because it's the most recent war.' The fact that these films are meant to be antiwar doesn't faze them. 'Actually, Vietnam war films are all pro-war,' Swofford writes, 'no matter what the supposed message.' Marines love them because 'the magic brutality of the films celebrates the terrible and despicable beauty of our fighting skills.'"

The review notes, "It's not its timeliness that makes 'Jarhead' an object of fascination, but its exoticism. Americans haven't fought a major war in generations. For our average male citizen, military service -- a universal experience for most men throughout human history -- is an alien notion. Yet we haven't shaken our age-old sense that war is a crucible of masculinity, and now those who strenuously resisted the draft when they were eligible can afford to be swayed by the romance of war. Swofford had the misfortune of succumbing to that romance, and to his own 'intense need for acceptance into the family clan of manhood,' when he was still young enough to sign up.

He began regretting that decision almost as soon as he'd acted on it, and 'Jarhead' thrums with a ceaseless litany of curses and self-flagellation. The lot of the jarhead, Swofford explains again and again, is wretched, and the jarheads themselves base. They travel miles to escape their own kind."

The review concludes, "But Swofford is smart, and, like most of his fellow Marines, he knows he suffers and may die to secure America's access to oil fields he'll never profit from. 'None of the rewards of victory will come my way, because there are no rewards, not on the field of battle, not for the man who fights the battle -- the rewards accrue in places like Washington, D.C., and Riyadh and Houston and Manhattan, south of 125th Street.' This is how it works now; a nation's rulers no longer lead their people into battle as Charlemagne once did. Even the middle class mostly manages to keep itself out of the fray. The soldiers come from a social strata that's not 'us,' which makes it that much easier for those who watch from the sidelines to wax hawkish -- and turns the lives of fighting men into an object of marveling curiosity.

Not surprisingly, his tour of duty makes Swofford feel like a chump, and in the portions of 'Jarhead' that describe his life after he gets out of the Marines, he wants nothing more than to shake off his former identity. "

Not that I am posting on HNN, I'm looking for books to read that go beyond the Hollywood haze and gloss. I have to say, I starting thinking about whether I should read this book, after re-reading the comments about women in the military at
To the vets among you, if you've read _Jarhead_, would you recommend that I read it or not? What was your reaction to Swofford's story? I don't think it's going to be made into a Hollywood movie. . . .

Respectfully seeking your reactions, any and all,

Maarja Krusten - 10/17/2004

Thanks for the reply but now I am even more puzzled. You write, "But somebody (CNN) paid for the poll and had reasons for the odd sampling of families, rear echelon and infantry. The reasons became clear in the slant of the article that was supposed to be "news". The news was really propaganda."

A Lexis-Nexis search of the “National Annenberg Election Survey” as mentioned on October 16 and 17 produces 17 hits. Only one is for CNN. News organizations reporting on the NAES include the Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cox News Service, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, etc. The 10-page press release for the survey is available at http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/naes/2004_03_2military-data_10-16_pr.pdf . I searched the 10 pages of that release and found no mention of CNN. The news conference held by the Annenberg survey’s director also does not mention CNN. I can find nothing to suggest that CNN, of all the news organizations listed above, paid for or had anything to do with the poll, other than reporting its results, the same as AP, Chi Trib, etc.

You keep mentioning CNN. What is the source of your contention that CNN paid for the poll? Everything I can find says this is an academic poll, associated with the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s website is at http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/ . This states, "Established in 1994, the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania conducts and disseminates research, hosts lectures and conferences, and convenes roundtable discussions that highlight important questions about the intersection of media, communication, and public policy.

The Policy Center, which has offices in Philadelphia and Washington DC, conducts ongoing research in the areas of political communication, information and society, media and the developing child, health communication and adolescent risk. Its research helps to bring difficult problems into focus.”

I gotta tell you, I’m stumped as to how you read CNN in this. All the CNN polls I have seen are labeled as such, up front, as are Newsweek, Gallup, etc. CNN seems to be a distracting red flag here. Should I not post stories from CNN in the future, to avoid such confusion? What would be a “better” source? I can Yahoo and pick up AP feeds, I suppose.

As to polling, I have no great faith in it in general, there's no way to tell how well educated or how knowledgeable the respondents are. I merely posted the link to the CNN story as people such as Dave Livingston and Jerry West and you have cited conflicting _anecdotal_ evidence about the views of members of our active duty and reserve forces. I gather there is a law which prohibits polling active duty servicemen about whom they will vote for. Indirect poll data of the type reported by NAES, while soft, is somewhat more solid than anecdotal evidence. Since that was my reason for posting it, to backfill to some extent what you guys have been speculating on, you cannot tell from the fact of my posting what I myself feel about any of the poll issues. You imply I agree with something in the poll. In fact, I don't have strong feelings on most of the issues listed in the CNN story. The focus of all my postings has been my field of expertise, presidential leadership and decision making. You may conclude that I am disappointed in how George W. Bush has handled some of these areas, and wish he had had better advisers and shown better judgment, but that is all you may conclude from any of my posts. Certainly, if you prefer, I can discount the poll and discount the anecdotes I see posted here on HNN and just withold judgment on how members of the armed forces feel.

Speaking of the poll, you ask "how could a wife in Biloxi assess troop strength and its efficacy?" A chatboard is different than I poll, no methodology here, as posters self select. Nevertheless, I could reply, how could someone whose experience has been in the infantry and in the private sector, such as Dave Livingston, assess governmental decision making if he has never worked as a mid- or senior level Fed? But I don't, in fact, I staunchly defend Dave's right to post anything he wants on HNN. Although I have been challenged on my forbearance in tolerating incivility, I am perfectly capable of screening out rhetoric and considering a voter's heartfelt feelings, whether they match my particular experiences or not.

Carried to the extreme, the wife in Biloxi analogy would lead one to conclude that a veteran who served in combat in Vietnam is better positioned to assess defense issues than one who served in the Texas National Guard. Funny, but I don't hear many of the vets posting here make that argument.

Bill Heuisler - 10/17/2004

Ms. Krusten,
My experience with polling, boiler rooms, push-polls, tracking polls, polling samples and exit polls goes back thirty years. Most polls are suspect; this more than most.
My response to your post was not aimed at you, but at CNN and at the word, "shows", in your final comment, "He is entitled to his opinion but this poll shows that many of the troops currently on active duty have different views."

My point is: this poll shows nothing at all but bias.
Take only the troop strength question - a Dem talking point mentioned by Kerry in each debate and on every stump. The poll, by definition and structure, sampled few "troops" and fewer troops who were in a position to assess troop strength and its effect on the day-to-day military effort in Iraq. Polling families, for instance: how could a wife in Biloxi assess troop strength and its efficacy? To assess combat efficiency, wouldn't it make sense to poll combat troops only - with a few pro and con generals commenting on results? What did CNN do? Used an irrelevant sample to make a political point - one you apparently agreed with.

As to who actually did the poll, I'm sure the pollsters did little extrapolation and drew few conclusions. But somebody (CNN) paid for the poll and had reasons for the odd sampling of families, rear echelon and infantry. The reasons became clear in the slant of the article that was supposed to be "news". The news was really propaganda.

My deep objection to this type of poll by a "news" organization is that the size and shape of the sample can literally mold the answers. In this case it did. My concern is that sophisticated people like you take this sort of thing seriously enough to quote.
Bill Heuisler

Maarja Krusten - 10/17/2004

Mr. Scherban,

Thank you for your interesting observations. I have conflicted feelings about Iraq. Actually, I have serious concerns about why we went to war at the time we did, and how we did it. Some of my concerns reflect how I handled similar issues during the Vietnam war, when I loyally supported the policies of JFK, LBJ and Nixon only to learn later that government officials had serious misgivings about the conflict. (See Robert McNamara's restrospective comments, the LBJ tapes, Daniel Ellsberg's memoirs, etc.) I do however "support the troops." As you have time, please see my earlier posts at
and at

Maarja Krusten

Arnold Shcherban - 10/17/2004


What would you call some correspondents who wholeheartedly support the US agression and occupation of Iraq, in the direct result of which more than 1000 thousands of Americans died already (and undoubtedly many more will die in the years to come) expressing their care for the feelings of soldiers' family members being polled by media (see:"cruel and self-serving")?
I would call it as it is: disgusting hypocrites.
All they care about is their point of view, their socio-ideological position, for which they are ready to sacrifice dozens of thousands of American lives, unless
those are their own lives.

Maarja Krusten - 10/17/2004

Lovely answer, many thanks!

Maarja Krusten - 10/17/2004

Mr. Hueisler, you write, "Asking families about a war their members are waging is cruel and self-serving for CNN." The news story, widely reported in multiple outlets, makes it clear the poll was a National Annenberg Election Survey rather than a CNN poll. Cox News service noted yesterday,

"Despite their overwhelming support for President Bush as commander-in-chief, a survey found that U.S. troops and their families were critical of some of the key decisions he made in the Iraq war.

A National Annenberg Election Survey of 655 members of the military and adult family members found that while 63 percent approved of the president's handling of the war in Iraq, 59 percent said they thought too great a burden had been placed on the National Guard and Reserves. . . .

Peter Feaver, a Duke University political science professor who studies the military, said the poll results showed that while the service men and women strongly favor Bush over his Democratic rival, John Kerry, they were not afraid to give their opinions on different issues.

"There's plenty of 'off-message' responses from the military," Feaver said.

. . . . The poll was conducted by phone Sept. 22-Oct. 5 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Those surveyed were 172 active duty military, 199 members of the National Guard or Reserves, 200 family members of active duty service members, 79 family members of those in the Guard or Reserve and five unspecified military family members, according to Annenberg."

I am very grateful that I live in a country where one can be off-message, LOL. For anyone who is interested, here is the direct link to the Annenberg center:

For comments on the death of Walter Annenberg, see the bipartisan comments at
President George W. Bush is quoted as saying, "“Walter Annenberg’s life serves as a shining example of generosity, patriotism, and dedication to serving others.”
--President George W. Bush

Michael Harrington Weems - 10/17/2004

Human nature causes us to seek out news/data that supports our already held positions. To truly be open to new ideas and information we must be willing to continually adjust our life viewpoint, and people are historicaly resistant to change.

Education is part of the answer, that and a process of continued enlargement of the American conciousness. It is easier as individuals to keep our heads in the sand, but as the components of the body politic we must step up and claim our birthright, the ability to influence the future through the vote.

As far as the pols being straight, they (and we) have developed a 'sound bite' mentality. You cannot explain any aspect of modern life in 30 seconds or less, and national attention span has shrunk dramatically (or so the media keeps telling us). When the pols do try to convey their position, two seconds after they stop talking the media begins to tell us what we should think or feel about what they said. Trust in the media is definitely on a downturn, and only a strong sense of personal integrity, and a move away from the 'if it bleeds, it leads' system will change this reality.

Sioux indian leaders, when making a big decision, did so on the basis of what it's effect would be on the 7th generation to come. Until we develop a better sense of providing for our posterity, we will fall short of our greatest goals.

God bless. MHW

Maarja Krusten - 10/17/2004

Very interesting post, sir, thanks for speaking up. I respect your service and thank you for it. I live in the the DC suburbs and work as an official of the federal government in Washington (see my exchanges with Bill Heuisler in the CNN poll posting, below). I laughed knowingly when you used the excellent mushroom quote. Any theories as to why it is so hard for pols to be straight with voters?

Your comment that "we Americans expect to solve problems quickly, because we expect the rest of the world to agree with us" is interesting. Reflects the complex reasoning of someone with your wealth of experience. It certainly seemed to me, listening to the debates, that both candidates offered pat solutions and simplified sound bite answers. I guess that is not the forum to really educate people about tough choices and challenges, but if not, what is? Studies show that people, especially young people, read fewer and fewer newspapers. Many seem to turn to Internet "news" sources that validate their existing views. So, how to break through and challenge simplistic notions?

Again, thanks for posting.

Maarja Krusten - 10/17/2004

Here is the link for the comments that I cited in my original post. Please scroll through the comments at

BTW, I've mentioned that my sister's best friends at the office were vets, that they were with me at the hospital when she died, etc. I read a lot of history, have read a lot about WWII and Vietnam, and as an historian and as an individual, am interested in issues such as the "unit cohesion" and "male bonding." Those factors are cited by one of the posters in the link at the beginning of this post. (Every work unit, whether military or civilian, actually struggles with unit cohesion, the stakes just differ, being especially high in combat situations.)

I've been making a point of picking out the Vietnam veterans' posts on HNN, just in general, but also as I consider the Iraq issues. Mr. Heuisler says that I just do not understand the military mindset. Am I wrong to be interested it that mindset, is the metamessage here, "it's a guy thing, you wouldn't get it?" Maybe people mostly post on HNN to those who relate to their existing views (are the others deemed too ___________(fill in the blank) to "get it?") Perhaps my approach to HNN is flawed. Certainly, living in an echo chamber would be more comfortable than the path I've chosen. I have a natural tendency to try to figure out what makes people tick, whether they agree with me or not, but that in itself can annoy people, I understand that.

Well, as I've said, I'm a relative newcomer to HNN, still trying to figure out how the rest of you view the boards. Obviously, there is no single approach, I'll just have to decide which one I will follow.

Maarja Krusten - 10/17/2004

My goodness, guess I'm catching some backlash based on something else, not what I posted. Re-read my post and you will see that nowhere do I express my own view on any of the issues in question so do leave me out of it, ok? I merely copied the results of the CNN poll. Pick it apart if you will, but do re-consider if it is fair to criticize me. Note how carefully I say "many of the troops on active duty have different views," which really only says that SOME poll respondents MAY hold views different from the the single "for example" I noted. (Some of those expressing those views in the poll may be women, in fact, we have no breakdowns in the CNN item.)

The poll did not address women in infantry units, an issue on which I have my own views. But I challenge you to derive from any of the above post what my own views might be on any of this. No point in shooting the messenger, LOL.

BTW, since you mention not mindsets, I'll note that you said in another post that there is a lot of "anger (and fear)" out West after 9/11, where I believe you live. Remember that I wrote in one of my posts that “We who commute to work by subway in Washington react with stoicism these days to the repeated loudspeaker announcements to be “be on the lookout” for unattended bags and packages and “suspicious activity” as we ride to work. But let’s face, nobody’s issued us civilians any light sabers, personal “escape hoods” or protective devices (what was that they had on Star Trek, force fields and phasers – sci-fi sounds pretty good to me these days, LOL)"

Although at times I may envy you Westerners your relative sense of safety, you may be interested to learn that I rarely hear comments expressing fear or anger here in DC. Of course, people felt angry when 9/11 happened, as in NYC, it hit us at home here in the Washington area. We in government are accustomed to applying a risk management approach to problems, to weighing evidence carefully, and focusing on root causes in considering how to combat problems, and working out the best solutions. We can’t let emotion get in the way of that. So, for the most part, we just go on about our work and screen out anger or fear.

It certainly is interesting to occasionally see how an HNN poster rails against Washington, however. (Not you in this post, I'm speaking generally). I'll be eligible to retire in just over a year, so I often think back on my years of public service these days.

So, mindsets? Obviously, posts on HNN reflect differing mindsets, depending on numerous factors (work experience, gender, education, geographic location, values). The way we refer to 9/11 shows that, for example. HNN posters are not a monolithic group nor are we required to be. But, let's face it, whether we choose to our not, we all could work a "you don't understand the mindset" comment somewhere, in responding to somebody.

Bill Heuisler - 10/16/2004

Ms. Krusten,
When you refer to disparging terms by an HNN poster about women in the armed forces you seem to draw conclusions not in evidence. First, the poll was to all military on duty and not simply to combat troops. Were only combat soldiers and Marines polled, the differences from the CNN poll would startle you. Women in infantry combat? No. And for very good reasons I'm sure you can surmise.

Asking families about a war their members are waging is cruel and self-serving for CNN. Gays in barracks? Of course not, says a wife or a husband 4 thousand miles away. Mixing the questions/answers about enough troops among troops and families is another push-poll that seeks agenda-answers from a group with neither the knowledge or experience to answer correctly. The mix includes families who can only give opinions based on obviously biased US news reports that repeat Zinni and ignore Franks - news reports that dwell on Abu Ghreib and ignore the mass graves and Hussein torture rooms. Agenda driven like CNN.

Increase respect? How the hell could they know about the anonymous millions who view the coffins? They - the families and the troops - were merely projecting their reactions and balancing the revulsion with the respect when it came to viewing their own dead on display.

Neither CNN nor you (apparently) understand the military mind-set, the difference between regular and Guard units, between elite combat and rear echelon troops and the unique agony of mothers, wives and children who not only have to suffer seperation, but the intrusive predatory questions that seek to politicize the pain and confusion.
The CNN poll is a disgrace in its function and its feeble attempt to extrapolate truth from disparate opinions of dissimilar people, most of whom have no real experience.

The vets who post here on HNN are mostly 0311 Marines with days of combat and years of training. Some of the others are evidently Army officers who also saw combat.
Why don't they poll us? They wouldn't like the answers.
Bill Heuisler

Michael Harrington Weems - 10/16/2004

First off, I agree with Ben for the most part. Second, as Bill suggests, 9/11 changed America instantly, and that change continues with the war in Iraq.

I support the war and the idea of a free Iraqi state, just not sure we (or anybody) really knows the best path to take. I will vote for Bush as the lesser of the two 'evils', and I don't trust Mr. Kerry at all (not that I trust any long-time Washingtonian that much). I don't think Pres. Bush has been totally up front about the committment required to produce a stable, non-aggressive Iraq. I do think if he would just lay it out the American people would understand and support the process. People are not dumb, but our government often uses the mushroom theory: they keep us in the dark and feed us bulls**t.

I am a retired USAF Major, worked within the Beltway for two years, and have been all over Southwest Asia. I was wounded at Khobar Towers when the barracks was bombed, and I lost friends in the Pentagon on 911. So, yeah, the war has affected me.

We Americans expect to solve problems quickly, because we expect the rest of the world to agree with us. But until the world has bread in it's stomach, freedom to live as thay want (without infringing others), adequate medical care, and educational and economic opportunity, we will continue to have strife both here and abroad.

As the world's only superpower (and greatest democracy), we will have to take a leadership role in bringing these things to all people. The cost, both in treasure and blood, will be high, and the way will be murky: but we must remain committed to the ultimate prize . . . Peace.

Peace, out. MHW

Maarja Krusten - 10/16/2004

See http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/10/16/military.poll2.ap/index.html
for the results of a poll among active duty service members and their families. Of note are these results:

--"Members of the military and their families [62% of those polled] say the Bush administration underestimated the number of troops needed in Iraq and put too much pressure on inadequately trained National Guard and reserve forces, according to a poll released Saturday."
--"Only four in 10 of the Guard members and reservists questioned said they were properly trained and equipped."
--"A slight majority of the military and families, 51 percent, said showing photos of flag-draped coffins being returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware would increase respect for the troops."
--"Four in 10 respondents -- 42 percent -- said gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military and 50 percent said no.
Family members narrowly supported the idea by a 51 to 41 percent margin, while 57 percent of those in the active military opposed it."
--"The military sample overwhelmingly approved of the work of women in the armed forces. Three-fourths said they performed as well as the men they work with."

Interesting to compare the results of this sample with the comments from the vets who post here on HNN. For example, I've seen one HNN poster who is a Vietnam vet use disparging terms to discuss the presence of women in the armed forces. He is entitled to his opinion but this poll shows that many of the troops currently on active duty have different views.

Arnold Shcherban - 10/15/2004


Thanks for your latest response to me. Yours was a real clarification in difference with the "clarification"
presented by the author of the mostly good and timely article.

I think that the situation with the socio-economic
make-up of the US military forces is not much different than the situation with many other social and political institutions in this country, like justice system, legislative system (Congress and Senate), financial system, for example.
They all have a sharp slant in favor of upper socio-economic groups (since a word 'classes' apparently has
the same effect on some historians here, as a red rag
on a bull).
In fact, since the economics and finances play dominant role in this society, the social make-up of the military
is just the reflection of that dominance.
For the most esteemed professors who might read these lines, I have to make kind of a stipulation: yes, the reflection I mentioned is not what a phycisist would
call a perfect mirror reflection, it is, naturally enough, much more complicated than the latter, since we are talking about the very complex, multi-dimensional historical processes occuring in the course of, at the least, a century here. However, this stipulation, hardly negates the basic conclusion made above.

Now, the examples of some participants of this discussion
to show the contribution to the military from the elitarian group are irrelevant and definitely don't prove a thing on several reasons.
First one: neither the article's author, nor any participant stated that the US elite contributed next to nothing to the military service, in general.
Even in the ancient times of absolute power of Tsars and Emperors, they themselves, not mentioning their elitarian vassals, led their armies to battles. (Moreover, those times the military leaders risk their lives to incomparably greater degree than today (practically, not risking them at all). They did not serve as common soldiers at all.
I guess, something has to change since then...

Second one: even when the elite does serve in miltary
the comprise good part of high-ranking officers, Generals, Admirals, etc., with again realtively very low representation among low-ranking officers, and practically
zero one - among privates and corporals.
Everyone knows that the latter "soldiers" are the ones
whom the greatest amount of sacrifice, wounds and deaths falls upon.

Maarja Krusten - 10/14/2004

see http://www.sss.gov/lotter1.htm

posted by Smartphone

tom plotts - 10/14/2004

Apologies Arnold for appearing to tar you with that brush. Your point is more than fair. By the way, I agree with you that Tygiel really had no reason to apologize for the title, even though it wasn't his (editors...can't live with 'em...).

I share Prof. Tygiel's concern about the apparent shifting of sacrifice downward (and in my view, this concern extends to virtually all facets of American life), and the last thing I want to do is argue the factual basis of whether or not the military is staffed in an egalitarian manner.

I think the central discussion here is whether or not we should have a more egalitarian representation in our military in times of mortal danger to troops. Is there, in other words, a civic responsibility that extends through classes that applies to everyone and, if so, how should that obligation be manifested fairly. That's what I was hoping to jump in on...:)

Val, I'm pretty certain that the draft was in effect from '48-'73, so I'm not sure what your question is. It seems to me that you might be hinting at the period when it was largely "advisory" forces in Vietnam prior to the decision to escalate in '65. In any event, that era was nothing like the American bloodbath after escalation, so it seems as though there would not have been much of a reason to sound a national call for shared service until a bit later. Sorry if I misunderstood what you were driving at here.

Arnold Shcherban - 10/14/2004


I honestly tried to touch upon *why* the inequality exists, at the least, implicitly suggesting some causes
of it; just look at my previous comments:
"The Issue is Irrelevant... It's a Good Opportunity"
and my first "Clarification" comment.
But as I also mentioned some historians writing to this forum don't even acknowledge the facts, let alone discussing them. They prefer substituting the facts with the ideological labeling, since they have little to say on substance.
Personally, I'm always ready to continue the discussion
with reasonable and unbiased correspondents.

Val Jobson - 10/14/2004

"My point is that whereas it was once expected that people from all walks of society would rush to the defense of their country, service is no longer expected for a broad swath of Americans, not even those who would send other people's sons and daughters off to war."

Would that also have applied to the US Army in Vietnam before the draft was instituted?

tom plotts - 10/14/2004

And what we should be talking about on this thread is *why* such socio-economic selection takes place, not whether poster A is a nazi or poster b a pinko. My own earlier contribution was to just chuck out some confirming data from a demonstrably non-pinko source that this bias exists. Sadly, we haven't moved on from there.

Arnold Shcherban - 10/14/2004

Mr. Heisler,

Tom Plotts presented quantitative proof of the deep socio-economic inequality in military service, but I know that facts, regardless of how undeniable they are, don't matter
to the ideological demagogues like you are.

You know by now from our previous and current encounter that you can't defeat my arguments in content, in their
essense (which you never even tried to do), so you resorted to desperate, although miserable attempt of ideological labeling.

I never looked for anyone's affirmation, as far as my
ideological or political positions were concerned; what
I have always done and still do in order to come to any
more or less serious socio-economic conclusions was/is to look straight into the face of FACTS OF LIFE, without skipping the ones that might contradict my initial perception of the phenomena in question and dominating, at the time, public opinion.
When you were sitting in a comfortable chair of the American mainstream conformacy, never risking anything for voicing your opinions, I was persecuted by KGB for dissident to the Soviet regime views.
I don't care a bit whether anyone call me Marxist or
Nazi, as long as I know that the quantitative and qualitative facts overwhelmingly support my point of view, and defeat his.

Bill Heuisler - 10/14/2004

Mr. Scherban,
Thank you for making my points mirror-image.

Your apparently unconscious self caricature must be an acute embarrassment for other posters who objected to my pointing out how Marxists and Leftists in general depend on artificial class warfare for affirmation.
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 10/13/2004

Mr. Tygiel,

Your apology for the title on the basis it uses words
"poor" and lower class takes a whole lot of social charge
from the its contents. In what way the title is "misleading"? Would a title "Is the Army more for Poor and Lower Class than it is for Rich and Influential (read the contents)" be more appropriate and less "unfortunate"?
Since when is discussing the social make-up of the army became the "denigration" of this country's servicemen? What prompted you to yeild to a couple of clearly ideological remarks made by a couple of proponents of social injustice?
Why? Do you live in totalitarian state?
Did you really want to inform us that actually there is no "poor" or "lower class" people in this country?
That there is no financial and political "elite" in this country? Since when do one have to apologize for telling the actual truth?
If the US society is classless, everyone lives well,
and money (to be exact - its quantity) does not create
an elitarian group, then K. Marks congratulates you from
his grave and hello, communism!
You are right saying that the noted in your article inequality "is a sad commentary on our society".
However, don't you think, that your own apology is a sad commentary on the intelelectual determination of the author?

Maarja Krusten - 10/13/2004

Thanks for the clarification, that is useful to know. Your article was interesting and thought provoking. As for the title, yes, changes occur without the author knowing it. For example, I wrote an article for the History News Service which I intended to be posted with my original title, which was "Aggressive Advocacy Haunts the Nixon Foundation." When the op ed was posted at http://www.h-net.org/~hns/articles/2004/020504a.html, I was surprised to see the title, "Will There Be a Last Nixon Cover-up?" I think the editors mean well--they look for punchy and eye catching titles and I suspect many articles carry different headlines than the authors intended. But I did not like the change in my Nixon article as I asked no such question in my article, the issues were far more complex and my presentation more nuanced than the title implied. So, I can understand why you wanted to let us know that you found the title "unfortunate and misleading." Thanks for the post.

Jules Tygiel - 10/13/2004

I did not choose the headline for this article and I think that it is unfortunate and misleading. At no point do I use the words "poor" or "lower class" in my essay. There is nothing in the article that denigrates our servicemen or questions the quality of their service. They are extraordinarily brave and committed individuals who are doing the best possible job under difficult circumstances. My point is that whereas it was once expected that people from all walks of society would rush to the defense of their country, service is no longer expected for a broad swath of Americans, not even those who would send other people's sons and daughters off to war. This type of inequity is a sad commentary on our society.

Bill Heuisler - 10/13/2004

Mr. Severance,
Two points:
Kerry's augmentation of the Army will be done how? Since there's a "comfort level" at which our enlistee-age youth seem to join, - and if it has stabilized - how will Kerry increase enlistments? Also, aggravating the problem for Kerry (according to scuttlebutt widespread in military conversation) a good many of the senior enlisted and officers will either resign their commissions or not reenlist if Kerry becomes Commander in Chief - due to his backstabbing in 1971 and his vote against equipping the troops he voted to send to Iraq. So, will Kerry introduce the draft? He's said he wants to introduce compulsory service of Peace Corps type, but a Kerry draft's doubtful.

Second, you say the war in Iraq, "has not charged the American people the way other wars have." Wrong. Perhaps this is true in your rarified circles, but the anger (and fear) among average folks since 9/11 is unprecedented since Pearl Harbor. While I'm walking precincts in a local race the anger is overwhelming among Dems, Repubs and Independents. Some question Iraq, but these amount to no more than 20% and most of them stress they want to get the terrorists responsible for 9/11. We're charged all right, but the anti-Bush crowd has managed to diffuse faith only in direction, not mission.

In both instances I believe you've underestimated anger. If that's true, I'm curious why you think your perceived anger seems directed at W rather than at Islamofacism?
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 10/13/2004

Oh, how do you like that twist?!

The poor and lower classes are primarily "drawn" (thanks for at least admitting this obvious to any half-brained fact) to military service.
Drawn , ah? Fact of life, ah? What's wrong with this?
Just to knock out any speck of socio-economic charge from the issue! Just to drop the issue once and for all!
Wait a minite, but doesn't that exactly what this country's financially-political elite say and wants you to think?
And don't you think that this is a historical forum (not the housewives' club) that doesn't just express the obvious truths of life, but is to find their underlying causes and mechanisms?

Military service, in general is and never has been something 'good' or 'bad', it is (at the least has to be) something of a neccesity for the state and the majority of its population. People are killed and people kill in military service; at the minimum, it creates big personal inconviences. At the maximum, the most precious human right of all - human life - is at stake there.
Therefore, military service, by definition,
should not be a socio-economic bone thrown by the elite
to the needy in exchange for the risk to their lifes and
those inconviniences.
(There is much to say here about the military-industrial
US elite's acheivements in transforming the military service from the neccesity into profitable business, but
that would go beyond the immediate topic of discussion, though not beyond its socio-ideological thrust.)
It is not like the elite wants to give away something for nothing, they realized long time ago: they MUST give something to avoid much greater socio-economic troubles
for themselves and keep their young alive and well; that is the real "fact of life".
Of course, you will see some good, not only bad and fatal, outcome of that - it was created for this demonstrative purpose, it was designed to get the
approval of the masses. What's even more important it is yet another fact of life: that bone along with all positive consequences it might have, does not change
much either the actual distribution of wealth in this country, or the actual financial and political power.

Life, by itself, is a change, a motion. I bet you do try to better your personal socio-economic situation and status.
However, regardless of whether you do or don't, your pessimistic, though easy understandable (as its reasons are concerned) advice to leave everything as it is, just because the power of the elite in this country seems so overwhelming (and it really is) is a bad advice, I would say - unnatural for the mankind, whose entire history was a perpertual struggle for a change, in the search for a better life, and social justice.
It is for these latter, most noble causes of all, we have to strive, because the elite does not just passively seat
there, it does actively try to gain more and more real advantages for itself, and it can only do this by limiting your rights and social opportunities, giving
you illusionary satisfaction with the minimum.

Lisa Kazmier - 10/13/2004

I didn't have to watch to have this one figured out. My own high school serves as a good case in point. The military always was the place for the less-than-average student who graduated and/or the "burnout." It was an assumption; it surprised no one. And, of course, these were working class white boys.

Oscar Chamberlain - 10/13/2004

I disagree to some extent about equalizing hardships. As an example, most states now are choosing to push up tuition rates as a way of avoiding tax increases or sepnding cuts in other programs. This is making it harder for lower middle class and poor people to got to college. (Yes, they can get loans, but many are concerned about the long-term debt load).

Those increases are a policy choice. Reversing it is not the same as talking to the moon and hoping for a response.

However, you are right about the military providing an island of better opportunities. It's a chance, and people grab it. I would not want to cut that off without making sure that new chances were opening up.

Ben H. Severance - 10/13/2004

And thank you, Oscar.

Maarja Krusten - 10/13/2004


Maarja Krusten - 10/13/2004

Thanks, Derek, for arguing against the use of labels such as Marxist. Many posters here on HNN undermine what otherwise are interesting postings by using overheated rhetoric. For example, in a posting on September 21, 2003, Dave Livingston wrote:

"Our paper masde the point that if D.C. & all its parasites were wiped out in a single blow, so what? The states independently governed could simply call a Constitutional convention to re-establih the federal gov't. Not so?

Of course, the paper didn't say if D.C. were wiped out the result just as probably would be a birth of several nations in lieu of the U.S. of A., especially us Westerners not too fond of the urban near city-states on the two coasts."

I thought of Dave's comment as I prepare to go to work this morning after reading that "A Democratic senator said Tuesday he has closed his Washington office because a . . . report made him fear for his staff's safety. Federal law enforcement officials insisted there is no new intelligence indicating the Capitol complex isa target." http://www.wtopnews.com/index.php?sid=298323&;nid=116

Although it is discouraging to read that someone such as Dave seems to shrug at the thought of Washington being hit, I wouldn't dream of hurling labels or epithets at Dave. Rather, I consider how geographic location may influence one's views of government. David Brooks offered some thoughts on this in a column in yesterday's New York Times, "Not Just a Personality Clash, It's a Conflict of Visions."

Brooks noted, "Politicians from the more sparsely populated South and West are more likely, at least in the political and economic realms, to champion the Goldwateresque virtues: freedom, self-sufficiency, individualism. Politicians from the cities are likely to champion the Ted Kennedyesque virtues: social justice, tolerance, interdependence.

Politicians from sparsely populated areas are more likely to say they want government off people's backs so they can run their own lives. Politicians from denser areas are more likely to want government to play at least a refereeing role, to keep people from bumping into one another too abusively."

I always read what Dave Livingston has to say, but sometimes have to stop and screen out some of his rhetoric, as in the comment about Washington parasites. So too am I unpersuaded by Bill Heuisler's question above, "Must you pursue the maudlin Marxist dogma of class warfare in spite of all the evidence it doesn't hold in Twentieth Century US?" On the othr hand, I am equally unpersuaded when Chris Pettit argues with Dave Livinston at http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=44157#44157
that "The ignorant souls such as yourself, Mr. Heuisler, and several others who post on this website are perfect examples of the paucity inherent in American society today and why our nation is so hated worldwide."

Just as in the Presidential debates, hurling labels strikes me as lazy argument. In fact, to the extent anyone on HNN cares whether they have persuaded me of anything (ummmm, why should any of you care, LOL), I tend to consider points made in thoughtful arguments much more than I do ones which use epithets and stereotypes.

Arnold Shcherban - 10/12/2004

Hi, Bill

You say that Mr. Tygiel's "premise" is "ignorant bias against the military and contempt for soldiers in general".
If I'm not mistaken you have been always proud of your brilliancy in English language and logic, so how on Earth you lowered yourself to Bushisms this time?
Since when is to say that soldiers (not high-ranking officers) are under-represented among the upper classes
of the American society has become the "contempt" to soldiers?
It is definitely the contempt for upper classes, but not for soldiers. As it is absolutely clear from Mr. Tygiel's
comments his "complaint" was about the relatively low percentage of the elite being soldiers, not about the ones among the elite who are soldiers, and even less so about soldiers, in general. Obviously, your contempt for any democratic representation in the US military has taken better of you, here, that consequently caused you to loose the way completely.
Too cheap-shot even for you.

Further your contempt for the American elite nowadays
makes you just a dishonest clown, but forty-fifty years go could make you dead. They would have not forgiven you to equal them with "dirty majority".
Trump is not an elite?
Soros is not an elite?
Moore is not an elite?
What is "elite" in your ideologically twisted perception?
According to the American Oxford dictionary definition
'elite' is "a group of people regarded as superior in some way and therefore favored."
Just the fact that you Bill took them as the examples of the opposite interpretation, by itself, defeats the thrust of your argument that they don't represent the elite! Somehow you don't took any poor or even middle class man to misrepresent or present the elite; you chose them. You are definitely don't belong there and neither am I.
Therefore, logically speaking, Q.E.D, but let me elaborate a bit further on that.
Do Trump and Soros and Moore regarded as superior in "some way"?
Well, any half-brained can name for you, at the very least, one "way" they are regarded superior in: they have much more money, i.e., immesurably more financially superior, than the majority of Americans. I'm not already mentioning a dozen other ways they are regarded as superior in by Americans themselves, and by foreigners:
like being smarter, if not intellectually, then socio-economically, than the majority of Americans, being more creative in the respective spheres of their professional activity than the majority of Americans with corresponding occupations, being more famous, and so on, and so forth.
Are they favored in this country and abroad as the result
of them being superior (the latter has been undeniably
proven above)?
Well, let's see again: are being chosen as the TV and radio shows hosts and owners, the celebrity guests and the news on all kind and numerous media outlets: TV, radio, newspapers, Internet, etc. can be qualified as "favors"?
How many times an average, non-elite American are being
given those opportunities (for many of which the big money being paid, as well.)
How many times can average small businessmen afford to advertise their products on the major TV channels, especially prime time, which for those businessmen is just entertainment (as it is for the Trump and Soros and Moore, and other similar "non-elite" by your definition), but the means of suporting their families?

By making the "arguments" you made, Bill, you are in real contempt for millions and millions (the great majority) of lower and middle class Americans, not mentioning the
undeniable miriad of facts of life.

P.S Mr. Tygiel provided the statistics that, I bet, you won't accept on some trumped-up reason(s) or will try to
twist to the "right".

Oscar Chamberlain - 10/12/2004

Ben. Excellent comment. Thanks.

Derek Charles Catsam - 10/12/2004

Bill and Tom --
One question I have to this argument is "so what"? The numbers seem fairly clear that there is overrepresentation among the lower economic classes in the military. Does that make it a less noble endeavor? A more noble one? Given that ours is a volunteer military, I am not certain I see the problem, especially if the military provides opportunities for people that they might not otherwise get.
Now with a draft, this is problematic. I certainly do not advocate reinstating the draft, but as I have said elsewhere, if we do, there should be virtually no deferments, and certainly none for college, grad school, etc. I also think the age ought to be boosted upward to include guys my age and a bit older say into the mid-30s or beyond.
By the way -- can we get beyond this silly trope that only Marxists care about class? One can argue about what class is, whether it exists, even whether classes are pitted against one another without caring a whit about Marx, Marxism and all of the concomitant ideological name-calling that inevitably ensues. Jules Tygiel is not a Marxist as far as I know. He certainly is a well-respected historian. (Who gets huge bonus points for writing hands down the best biography of Jackie Robinson.)

Ben H. Severance - 10/12/2004

Whether the U.S. Army is a "lower-class" military force depends, in part, on the cause for which it is asked to fight. During the Civil War and World War Two, the rank-and-file of American armies reflected the full socioeconomic gamut. Because Americans in those wars generally believed the cause was just--preserve the Union/abolish slavery or defeat totalitarianism--citizens from all classes willingly participated. Admittedly, the commitment in the Civil War fluctuated with every casualty list, but national resolve remained basically strong to the end.

When the war's legitimacy is less clear and convincing, as in the case of Vietnam or Iraq, then the more privileged and educated members of American society tend to avoid participation, if possible. There was a time when a martial spirit ran deep, when volunteering for a war was not only a rite of manhood, but was a mark of citizenship. Proof of this assertion is the overwhelming response Polk, Lincoln, and McKinley received to their call to arms against Mexico, the Confederacy, and Spain.

Today, war is seen as immoral and as a last resort. Those Americans who volunteer today do so as much for economic reasons as patriotic ones. And on this point I agree with Mr. Heuisler's comment about the military being a stepping stone into the middle-class. To be sure, those in the U.S. army are patriotic (though I would argue that professionalization has had a greater affect on a soldier's sense of duty), but where is the increase in enlistments? Where is the volunteer spirit demanding that Congress authorize new division? Kerry has made an augmentation in the size of the regular army a platform promise. Why has Bush not already pursued this? Could it be that the recruits would not be forthcoming short of huge financial incentives that mock the notion of patriotism?

The war in Iraq has not charged the American people the way other wars have. Thus, while half the nation evidently supports the Bush Doctrine, army recruitment remains static and future service in the badly abused reserve system is in jeopardy. Furthermore, rumors of conscription reinforce the current war's unpopularity. I often think that deep down, many Bush supporters have serious misgivings about sacrificing their lives for a what that they know is dubious military policy. They like the idea of fighting evil terrorists, but are subconsciously unconvinced that Saddam's Iraq (or even Bin Laden) really poses the same kind of threat to the nation that secession did in 1861 or the Fascist states did in 1941. Thus, the sons and daughters of politicians, corporate leaders, and academic intellectuals evade service, leaving the combat to the less socially "elite" Grunts and Jarheads whose bravery is being badly exploited.

tom plotts - 10/12/2004

Per my personal policy, I don't directly address flacks and Freepers. However, the subject is near and dear to my heart, and this is one of those moments where statistics serve a useful purpose (providng you know how to read them).

Data demonstrating a lower class bias for military enlistments (and a middle class bias for commissions) is overwhelming and relatively old. I am attaching a summary of research done by military folks to hopefully avoid the exhausting charge that everything's a left-wing plot.

If your stats are rusty, then ask someone to help. Just don't ask me.


The idea that there is a representative cross-class selection for military service is purely self-serving fantasy (or class denial, for some). The article attached has aditional references in the notes section.

To dispute the argument that miltary sacrifice is nowhere near evenly shared across class boundaries requires a whole lot more thought and evidence then so far has been presented (which is to say, more than none).


Bill Heuisler - 10/11/2004

Mr. Tygiel,
Your premise carries a big load of ignorant bias and contempt - ignorant bias against the military and contempt for soldiers in general. Must you pursue the maudlin Marxist dogma of class warfare in spite of all the evidence it doesn't hold in Twentieth Century US?
Elite? What's that? JFK's grandfather, Honey Fitz, was a rum runner and gangster. What makes him elite in your world, his money? Is Soros elite? Trump? Michael Moore?
Face it: elite is meaningless in the US, particularly apposed to the words "lower class". Did you mean rich and poor? If so, admit the armed services are a damned fine ticket to the middle class for a poor young man.

Your Bush cheap-shot? Five years (two of which were in active pilot training in one of the most dangerous fighter planes the US has ever produced, the 102) is not youthful flirtation. Can you fly a fighter plane?

Contempt? What the hell is "lower class" in your lexicon? My parents were blue collar and we lived in a first-generation immigrant neighborhood. I went to Villanova University by working nights and later on the GI Bill.
Am I lower class? Poor?
To further complicate, I enlisted in the USMC because I wanted the challenge as did most of my fellow enlisted Marines. Our officers were usually college grads, but almost always from middle income families from the mid-west and the South. Poor? What's poor? Most really poor kids weren't drafted and couldn't enlist because they couldn't pass the mental or physical tests.

Bias? Where do you get your stats? Produce one or two. Have you ever had a "flirtation" with the military? Next time try factual data or experience before smearing your hateful reverse prejudice on HNN's boards.
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 10/11/2004


You will see: he's none, or, at the least, none you can verify through the other sources.

Michael Di Tore - 10/11/2004

Michael Moore is irrevelvant here. History and historical pieces on this subject were written long before Moore showed up on the scene. Having lived through that era as a Vietnam veteran I know he speaks the truth. And I'd be interested in knowing where you found those percentages so I can check it out for myself.

John H. Lederer - 10/11/2004

The percentage of Congressmen with children in the military is slightly higher than the verage for the country as a whole.