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Re 'Unequal Sacrifice'

Gender gap

Re "when America goes to war, it is the poorer and less educated in society who are more likely to die in combat." Wrong. The correct statement: "when America goes to war, it is males who are more likely to die in combat." If women can qualify to be cops in cities such as Detroit, they can serve in direct-ground combat; if they can have equal rights, they must have equal responsibilities. See "Should 'Men Are Stronger' Bar Women From Military Combat Roles?"

Jerry Boggs

Livonia, MI

Sep 24 2010 - 1:19pm

Re 'Unequal Sacrifice'

The draft is only fair

If as the authors argue a major cause of the inequality of casualties is that the poor enlist and the middle classes don't, there is only one answer short of peace. Abolish volunteers and make the draft compulsory and fair. Clearly, those without a civilian career path enlist and those with alternatives consider them and choose otherwise. This is entirely reasonable and not a cynical manipulation of anything.

Howard Hilton


Sep 20 2010 - 11:50pm

Why do the poor enlist?

A typical problem that dogs leftist publications like your own is the inability to integrate facts into coherent larger contexts that are not dogmatically ideological.

Why do poor people enlist? Because they have no options. Why do they have no options? Because Democrats pursue economically ruinous policies that hamstring job creation in exactly the neighborhoods where it is most needed. If the policies of the Democrats worked, then Detroit and South Chicago would be seas of tranquil employment and economic well-being. The opposite has occurred.

I will add, though, that at least with regard to the Vietnam War, the only American social group that was overrepresented was Catholics. African-Americans were enlisted and killed in proportion to their relative numbers in the United States, as were persons of all economic strata. Wealthier, more educated people tend to be officers, and officers do less of the fighting. Except in the Marine Corps, where Second Lieutenants, who followed their point man, were killed in very large numbers.

I would agree that Pay-Go would be desirable as far as both wars, and social spending. I'll grant you wars, if you grant me social spending.

Both enrich the money trust, so they could care less if we are pursuing economically ruinous wars on Communists or on the poor.

It is interesting, though, that we came far, far closer to winning in Vietnam, than we have the War on Poverty. Forty years and $16 trillion later, the problems are just as bad.

That's because leftist ideas of redistribution fail on the most basic psychological level to reward socially desirable behaviors, and punish socially undesirable behaviors. On the contrary, they villainize entrepreneurs, and lionize the chronically underemployed and over-reproductive.

If your aim is actually to help people, you have to take responsibility for not just your supposed intention but the results you actually facilitate.

If your aim is condescending moral hauteur, and the cultivation of a social tribe that is supportive of that aim, by all means carry on.

Barry Cooper

Louisville., KY

Sep 20 2010 - 1:28pm

Bacevich hits a home run again

Andrew Bacevich is quickly becoming my favorite political critic since the passing of Howard Zinn. His military career adds tremendous credibility to his commentary, which is just as you'd expect from a career officer; to the point, with fully supported facts and clear analysis. He is a great asset to the progressive punditry, especially since he morphed out of the neocon school of thought as his critical thinking caused him to "see the light." Welcome aboard the progressive boat, Mr. Bacevich; glad to have you on our side, just hope you aren't joining a sinking ship. Because it looks to me like what's left of the true progressives are filling their time rearranging chairs on deck while the ship is sinking.

Cindy White

Spokane, WA

Sep 10 2010 - 8:37pm

Conscription as a tool of Darwinian evolution

Mr. Bacevich, I salute you. This subject has been on my mind for forty years. This quote from your story makes part of my point: "The result was to institute mechanisms called deferments, which the talented and upwardly mobile proved adept at exploiting to dodge the draft." During my standard Army tour in Vietnam, I began to think that the various deferments, especially the college deferment, effectively constituted a Darwinian evolutionary mechanism. That mechanism could rid the gene pool of significant numbers of individuals who didn't have the mental or physical wherewithal to avoid the fight by going to college. Those who survived would breed a smarter, more affluent generation of worker bees. I was very cynical in those days.

Because of the draft during Vietnam, a very large swath of society was affected by the war because so many families had fathers, sons, brothers, uncles and friends caught up in the war. Even so, the "brake" you spoke of did not manage to stop the war before a decade had passed. When President GWB elected to invade Iraq, he was able to commit an all-volunteer force with virtually no "brake" at all. And it has continued to this day, the "end of combat operations" notwithstanding.

Another letter writer said what I have also thought, that if a president commits us to an elective war, and a (mostly) spineless Congress goes along with it, we should all stop what we are doing and share in the sacrifice. If the war were necessary, none of us would mind sharing the burden. If the war were a personal vendetta, we would all step on the brake.

But alas, between the War Powers Act, and the majority of Congress being afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes, we will all remain at the mercy the single human being elected president. War should be our last resort. But if we choose to fight, then "business as usual" should come to a halt, and we should all feel the pain.

David Hewitt

Racine, WI

Sep 9 2010 - 4:47pm

Another method of spreading the pain

In his first book, For Us, the Living, Robert Heinlein suggested a means of spreading the pain quite effectively. In the twenty-first-century America he imagined, a declaration of war was voted on not by Congress but by the people themselves. The ballot would not be secret, as anyone voting in favor of the war would be required to immediately report for active military service; should they be tapped out by the war, those who could have voted but didn't would then be recruited. His idea would probably need expansion and adjustment to work, and pacifists would likely be disappointed by the results (we'd probably have still gone to war with Afghanistan after 9/11), but the chickenhawk phenomenon would be dead and gone.

Michael Griffin

Pueblo, CO

Sep 8 2010 - 6:16pm

Winning requires sacrifice

"Pay as you go" isn't enough. The draft isn't enough. If the cause is worth killing and dying for, it is worth the sacrifices we all made in WWII. Compulsory recycling, gas and commodity rationing, wage and price controls, criminal prosecutions for war profiteering, drafting business and scientific leaders to work for the war effort for $1 a year until "victory"; and especially a ban on all frivolous uses of oil, which is being paid for with the blood of our children and the innocents among the enemy. Shut down NASCAR for the duration. No professional sports that require transporting teams and spectators gas-consuming distances. If people can't walk or bike or take a bus to it, it won't happen—not if the rationing is strict enough.

G.L. Horton

Newton, MA

Sep 7 2010 - 5:25pm