"We always send the poor because the privileged refuse to go."

This seems particularly relevant now that John Kerry has made his "joke" that if you don't study and work hard you may end up fighting in Iraq at a college campaign stop.

Moving from the War to Law School at Yale Commentator Ken Harbaugh spent nine years in the Navy before he started Yale Law School last year. Among his new peers at Yale, he's found very few people who have resumes like his, combining both military service and an Ivy League education.

Because few have military experience or plan to join the military, notes the reporter introducing the piece. Harbaugh notes that:
The elites who shape our national policy are growing dangerously out of touch with the men and women sent to fight in their place. It is an unfortunate truth that some socio-economic groups bear far heavier burdens than others in defending this country. But for all the nuanced explanations out there the real reason we always send the poor is because the privileged refuse to go.

I thought that Mr. Harbaugh's comments were a very accurate and damning critique of how the privileged treat the military. Their snobbish attitudes have begun to bleed through to the rest of us. The sacrifices that members of the US military make for the rest of us deserve more than the distrust and pity offered because some think they are too stupid to avoid the military or not valuable enough to do something else. Just because you don't want to serve doesn't mean that no one else should.

In 2005 Tucker Carlson noted just who is in the US military (hat tip Wizbang).

Don't patronize our troops

You often hear people compare the war in Iraq to the war in Vietnam, but here's one key difference: Nobody's calling veterans of the current war baby killers. Even the most strident opponents of Iraq go out of their way to praise the soldiers who've served there. Everyone is for the troops. It's required.

Why the change in attitude? Two words: pity and guilt. Everyone knows America's wars are fought by America's poor, people with so few career options that serving in combat qualifies as a lucky break. We feel sorry for the troops because we know desperation drove them into the military. We feel guilty because they are doing what we, the more fortunate, don't have to do.

It turns out we're wrong on both counts. A new and comprehensive study of enlistment data by military analysts at the Heritage Foundation has found that the typical volunteer is both more affluent and better educated than the average 18 to 24-year-old American. That's right: The average soldier is more privileged than his civilian counterpart. And the gap is widening. As the study puts it, since September 11th, "more volunteers have emerged from the middle and upper classes and fewer from the lowest-income groups. ... Since 2001, enlistments have increased in the top two-fifths of income levels but have decreased among the lowest fifth."

But wait. Aren't poor minorities "disproportionately" represented in the enlisted ranks and the military? That's the claim Congressman Charlie Rangel and others have made repeatedly on the House floor. It's a total crock. According to a 2003 Pentagon study, "blacks tend to be concentrated in administration and support jobs, not in combat jobs." Infantry, armored and artillery units, whose members suffer the bulk of casualties in Iraq and any war, tend to mirror the racial mix of the country almost exactly.

So if enlistees aren't driven to the military by poverty and hopelessness, why do they join? For the adventure, maybe. Possibly for the experience. Maybe even because they believe in the cause.

Hard as it may be for the average congressman or newspaper columnist to believe, American soldiers aren't losers. They're adults who know exactly what they're doing and are doing it voluntarily. Pity their suffering perhaps, but don't patronize them.

Being a military veteran Kerry should have been aware of what the military has to put up with. He should have known better than to attempt his "joke". Not being in the military myself I don't really know what military life is like but I know better than to intimate that those in the military are lazy and stupid. Perhaps Mr. Kerry should just stop talking and just apologize.


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