Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Connecting Dots Take II

Three responses, one quite long from an irate recruiter, are too few from which to draw conclusions, but it’s a start.

Recruiting can be one of the most difficult – “challenging” imparts a positive cast – specialties in the military, possibly even, after combat itself, among the most stressful of all military activities. But because society willingly entrusts those recruited into the institution with the means to kill people and destroy things, it is critical that those in the institution meet qualitative criteria that enable them to carry out missions assigned by competent authority as well as internalize and practice professional standards of conduct.

Having been a company grade officer in the last decade of the conscript army in Germany and Vietnam, I saw the effects of statistically lowered standards across the whole force – racial animosities that flared into small riots, lower morale, different rules for officers and enlisted serving in the more risky parts of combat zones, “fragging,” etc. It was also the era in which sheriffs offered youthful offenders arrest and jail time or enlistment and judges offered felony conviction or military service.

I am concerned when mental standards are relaxed, especially when the civilian leadership has been at pains to point out the increased complexity of weapons systems that presumably require higher intellectual capability to understand and operate equipment.

Of course, what many point to as lower standards in public school education inevitably affects the quality of the pool of potential recruits. That argues for increased funding for teacher education and salaries. Yet with record deficits, something has to give if this generation is to avoid passing on to future generations an ever-increasing weight of debt. But few politicians, and even fewer presidents, are willing to consider cutting back defense programs or increasing multi-national cooperation that would permit cutting (rather than increasing) personnel end strength

One final point. War is all one is left with when one side (or both) in a dispute stops looking for answers. This allows categorizing “defensive” war (including preemptive but excluding preventive war) undertaken to preserve the continued existence of the nation-state as a “necessary” war – as was World War II. That position, nonetheless, does not change the judgment that all wars exacerbate abandonment of intellectual and pragmatic-ethical principles normally guiding human relationships.

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