Diary

Don't know much about history...

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, “Academics. Is there anything they don’t know?”

Apparently math, logic, and history would fall into that category if the op-ed by Danielle Allen, the UPS Foundation [ed note: huh? wtf?] professor of social science at the improbably named Institute for Advanced Study is any indication.

Allen’s article is a barely regurgitated potpourri of misused of data, conflating anecdote with data, and simple political agenda.

Even more important than these general demographic shifts is the change wrought by the end of the draft in 1973. Until then, military service was distributed pretty evenly across regions. But that is no longer true. The residential patterns for current veterans and the patterns of state-level contributions of new recruits to the all-volunteer military have a distinct geographic tilt. And tellingly, the map of military service since 1973 aligns closely with electoral maps distinguishing red from blue states.

In 1969, the 10 states with the highest percentage of veterans were, in order: Wyoming, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Connecticut and Illinois.

In 2007, the 10 states with the highest percentage of post-Vietnam-era veterans were, in order: Alaska, Virginia, Hawaii, Washington, Wyoming, Maine, South Carolina, Montana, Maryland and Georgia.

For those of you who are confused here, as Hawaii, Washington, Maine, and Maryland are hardly Red States, don’t worry it isn’t you.For some time liberals have been obsessed with the political character of the Armed Forces. One has to assume, based on their record when they run institutions, that there is more than a little transferrence at work here. They simply can’t understand why in excess of a million and a half armed and trained men and women who are by and large hostile to the lefty agenda haven’t simply used the raw power at their disposal to stamp them out. So while it is perfectly okay to have certain areas of public life dominated by the left, such as academia, it is wrong to have areas dominated by conservatives.

Says Ms. Allen:

And we can’t simply treat the uneven pattern of military service as an insignificant reflection of the cultural differences that characterize different regions of this diverse country. Military institutions across nations and throughout time have always been important creators of culture. They strive to develop unbreakable bonds of solidarity among their members based on shared values, experiences and outlooks. In this country, the military’s leadership role in racial integration has been understood in just this way.

The issue now is not racial integration but cultural separation. If young people from different regions and social backgrounds either enter or steer clear of the armed forces, military service will become, over time, an experience that doesn’t ease but exacerbates preexisting cultural differences. Is the all-volunteer military already having this effect?

Being a former airborne infantry officer, and having some grounding in the arcane study of “history”, it is hard to find as single notion expressed in this quote that is simply dunderheaded. Be that as it may, this is another step towards that end the left has been agitating for some years: to create a mandatory system of servitude for young people that 1) hamstrings the ability of the military to recruit and 2) serves as a system of political indoctrination.

Her data, at least when compared to that of the Census Bureau is nothing short of gobblety-gook. Population projections here.  Veterans numbers here.

The states with the largest numbers of veterans are California, Florida, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, and North Carolina. The top ten in percentage of veterans are the District of Columbia, North Dakota, Vermont, Alaska, south Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Maine. You’ll note what the last ten have in common is a small base population which makes it easier to get a large percentage from a small number of veterans.

There is no doubt that the military is a conservative organization by its nature. The military is most successful recruiting in rural and exurban areas. It is less so in suburban and urban areas. I’d be surprised if anyone was surprised at this. The base of recruits is reflects state populations pretty accurately.

I spotted the link between military service and regional partisan divisions when I was researching not military history but Internet political communication. After spending time on political Web sites of the right and left, I noticed that posts on right-leaning sites often employed military lingo — habits of developing monikers and jingles and of using the vocabulary of military tactics and strategy. Left-leaning sites, in contrast, mostly lacked any easily recognizable features of military language.

This is one sign that our public sphere already suffers from a division between military and non-military cultures. The division is not trivial, and without institutional change it is likely to be durable.

At first blush, one hardly knows what to do with the admission that the jargon used in blogs it what brought this alleged phenomenon to light. Moving beyond that bit of weirdness, I’d have to observe that the Armed Forces exist, not to put too fine a point on it, to kill our nation’s enemies. They doesn’t exist to provide socialization for the masses or to accomplish large societal goals. Not to make too much of this but, it was the courageous action of a president, Harry S. Truman, who integrated the Armed Forces by executive order in 1948 but the last segregated units lingered on until 1954. Project 100,000 was hardly a rousing success.

We’ve survived well over 200 years without mandatory service for our youth. One can make a case for saying that the widespread social ills and political polarization which we currently observe only appeared after the institution of the draft. I feel very secure in knowing that this statement has the same intellectual rigor as anything in the op-ed.