The Republicans have another debate tomorrow night. Accordingly, (especially now that Rand is gone) I expect much talk of carpet bombing ISIS, and putting American combat troops on the ground here, there, and everywhere, and, generally speaking, each candidate making a spectacle of himself trying to be the toughest bully in the playground. Given that hawkish mindset, it’s surprising to me that none of the Republicans serving for President have served in the military.
I don’t think serving in the military should be a prerequisite for serving as President. But I do think that if you’re going to call yourself a hawk, and argue for intervention and American troops fighting all over the world at the slightest provocation, then you should serve or have served in the military. If you talk the talk, you walk the walk. It’s not complicated.
America’s been at war for the past 15 years. But because our army is an all-volunteer army, and is made up almost entirely of poor people, the majority of Americans are completely unaffected by these wars. Only .4% of the American population is active-duty military, even though we’re fighting (as of September 2015) in 135 countries. That is a travesty.
And it’s an even bigger travesty to see a debate stage full of men trying to out-boast each other, ruffling their macho-man feathers when it’s almost certain (granted, I’m speculating here) that because of their wealth and educational background they gave little thought–and probably would have been horrified at the suggestion–that they join the military. I don’t know many graduates of Princeton and Harvard Law serving in the military who also attended Princeton and Harvard Law.
People like the nominees, and people like me, and probably most of our blog readers, aren’t planning to join the military anytime soon. That’s totally fine, of course, as long as you come out against American intervention–and vote for similarly-minded candidates. But it’s wrong to simultaneously shelter yourself from the military and argue in favor of excessive American troop involvement overseas–or, at the very least, refuse to acknowledge that constant intervention and war inevitably leads to tragic consequences for our troops (and not to mention for citizens of the countries we operate in who suffer the brunt of the carnage of war). It’s not OK if you want to send somebody else’s daughter and somebody else’s sister overseas to get killed.
Back in December, Harvard released a confounding study which concluded that 60% of American millennials support combat troops on the ground to defeat ISIS. At the same time, 62% of those exact same millennials concluded that they would definitely never join the military, and 23% said they would probably not join. Does that make sense to you? Most of these millennials are happy to declare that we should fight ISIS to the bitter end…as long as someone else bears the burden. That is simply wrong. But it is not, sadly, out of touch with the Republican nominees.
Here’s any idea for the moderators of tomorrow’s debate: Any time a candidate expresses a desire to involve American troops in any type of conflict, force that candidate to give the names of the family members he would pick to go serve in support of the war he just advocated for. It’s only fair.
(This isn’t just for Republicans. The Democrats should have to do that, too–I’m looking at you, Hillary.)