This past Sunday Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) appeared on Chris Matthews Sunday Morning Fox show. Mr. Matthews queried Rep. Rangel on his intention to once more bring forth legislation to institute a draft. Rep. Rangel first proposed this idea in the 2003 Congress and it was never discussed in committee. Even so, it provided a great deal of misinformation fodder for the 2004 election cycle with a number of e-mails and even Mainstream Media stories on the White House’s push to reinstate a draft. Of course, all of that ignored that the only people that were sponsors of the bill were Democrats.
So, when Representative Rangel once again stated that he was going to introduce legislation to institute a draft, Mr. Wallace decided to ask him about it. One of Rep. Rangel’s reasons is that he wants the draft to bring more equality into the Armed Forces. It is his contention that the poor and minorities are disproportionately represented in the military. This is not an uncommon feeling, Senator Kerry’s botched joke aside, it is a common belief that joining the military is a ticket out of economic privation, and the assumption that follows is that if you work hard in school and/or come from a richer/privileged background, that you will not join the military.
The odd part is that a comprehensive study of the recruiting practices of the military and the demographics of its recruits was produced by the Heritage Foundation in early November. Who Are the Recruits? The Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Military Enlistment, 2003â€“2005 was released on October 27th and goes into extreme detail in looking at military recruiting pre and post Iraq. The findings of this study are very interesting. For one, the study shows that the percentage of recruits that are high school graduates is much higher then the national average. It also shows that the percentage of the poor that join the military is decreasing (by 25% from 1999 to 2005). In short it debunks almost every statement that Representative Rangel made.
So, Chris Matthews brings this up to Rep. Rangel directly and in his now famous response, Rep. Rangel stated:
If thereâ€™s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fellow has an option of having a decent career or joining the Army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.
There has been a fair amount of criticism from various groups (such as the VFW) saying that Rep. Rangel was wrong in his statement. I actually disagree. Today I was reading an article on National Review that summed up my view fairly well.
Rangel is flat wrong when he suggests that service in the military is not â€œa decent career.â€ He may however be right about one thing: Most people donâ€™t want to fight for a bonus or an education opportunity, because a desire to fight for oneâ€™s country goes much deeper than that.
In thinking back to the time when I joined the military (Army Reserve and National Guard), the $2000 bonus that I got was nice (though I only ever got $1500 of it), but it had little to do with my desire to join. While I was looking for an ROTC scholarship, my goal was combat arms. I felt then that like my Father before me that the US is a country that is worth fighting for. Its hard to put into words the feelings that motivate a person to give up their personal freedom to be a part of the military. Reasons differ, and while economics certainly plays a part, there are better ways to make a buck then joining the armed forces. What motivates most enlistees is a desire to be a part of the military and to serve their country. Representative Rangel was right in that he said that its not just because of a bonus or educational benefits…its much more basic and important. A love of the United States and a desire to serve. That kind of dedication you cannot put a price tag on…and the insult is Representative Rangel’s disdain for those who truly want to serve. One would think a decorated veteran would know better.