Ed Driscoll » ‘Gates Fears Wider Gap Between Country and Military’
Secretary Gates fears that the public feel little connection with the shrinking professional military. Certainly the elites as exemplified by Pinch Sulzburger despise the enlisted members and fear and hate the officer corps.
Edward Luttwak once compared the Israeli method of Officer selection with the Anglo-American and called the later "Burgoyne's Revenge." If all prospective officers had first gone through a period of basic enlisted training then the connection between the leaders and the lead would be strengthened and many of the unqualified could be weeded out.
What are the benefits that all are entitled to? The Inalienable Rights of Jefferson are Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, or Property according to Locke. These are legal rights of access to private action and not a claim upon the public purse. Being a citizen or legally present in the country entitles one to due process in a government legal proceeding. That has been read as ensuring that the government cannot deny a benefit or access to a program on the basis of irrelevant criteria such as race. It does not mean that benefits must be created or made available to all preemptively.
Placement in an officer training program is a valuable benefit that is granted by the government. Access to a commissioning program and any other government benefit should be subsequent to an individual's first demonstrating their loyalty to the community. Right now all benefits are commonly viewed as rights that accrue, depending on the liberality of the observer, on citizenship or residence or simple humanity. For Cass Sunstein the concept of rights may be even more expansive, extending beyond the human.
We would benefit if fewer jackasses received government benefits. There is a clear need to find a way to select future military leaders, and future civilian leaders, and all beneficiaries of government in a manner more in keeping with the founding values of the Republic.
My proposal is based on these eight foundations.
1. There is a clear need to find a method of screening applicants for benefits, and especially scholarships that prepare people for positions of leadership in both military and civil society, that ensures that the recipients will meet some minimum expectation of using the benefit drawn from the public treasury for the common good or who earned the benefit by a demonstrated willingness to shoulder a burden for the community.
2. Any criteria used should not be unduly burdensome. An extended period of National Service would function as a tax or period of involuntary servitude. The cost of lost productivity and the loss of alternative productive work and learning, which is a form of capital accumulation, would impoverish society over time.
3. At this time educational scholarships are given out on the basis of no demonstrated or even expected benefit to the community. Aptitude is judged independent of any social benefit, which is at best assumed to follow if the recipient later becomes a more productive individual.
4. Federally subsidized scholarships and selection to ROTC or military academy programs are now made during the applicants senior year in High School. Otherwise no meaningful work of an academic or socially beneficial nature takes place during that year. For most of America the last year of secondary school is seen as an extended vacation or a dead zone before college or vocational training or employment.
5. The terms of government supported benefits, which are varied and complex, are such that a rational person can often feel they have obtained a superior benefit by selection of a program with no attached requirement for public service. This can lead to the perception that different social groups use different programs to achieve differing levels of benefit. For example otherwise talented minority children may be seen or be portrayed in popular culture as being steered into military enlistment and others going to the officer programs and still others finding help getting into supported civilian programs that lead to a more comfortable civilian career.
6. Government benefits should not serve to decrease social mobility but should instead serve to increase the probability that each individual can have access to the same opportunities to rise as far as their individual abilities allow. This constraint on government action does not deny or impede the natural human desire to accumulate wealth to benefit their offspring or close community in a private capacity.
7. In American popular culture the period of late adolescence during the last year of High School is popularly presented by actors in their 20s, that is 5 to 10 years older than the actual students portrayed, as a time devoted exclusively to socialization and sexual exploration with no productive or expected work involved. This has been extended in popular entertainment to a portrayal of a society where people remain in a frozen adolescence and no meaningful activity takes place in any workplace by people of any age. The only exceptions to that in entertainment are programs centered on medicine and law enforcement or associated legal settings. Even in those the portrayal of the workplace is often inaccurate to the point of being dysfunctional.
8. This glorification of adolescence as a period of extended irresponsibility that can continue for an indefinite time is a recent phenomenon. It is only in the last 50 years that the quality of American secondary education has declined along with the expectations that the students would have to seriously work both academically and prepare themselves for future employment. One hundred years ago half the population did not graduate from High School but most received a decent education and achieved a level of literacy that made them employable. Any who did graduate attained a level that made them qualified for entry into any specialized training program or college or a career in business. The few who did go to college were rigorously prepared to undergo further professional training or serve as a leadership elite. All, except for a tiny number with inherited wealth, expected to work.
9. Part of the problem may have been caused by the expansion of post secondary education after WW-II. Talent was drained from secondary school teaching and the high schools became holding pens for students waiting to move to the vast new or expanded colleges that were largely created to provide employment for the hundreds of thousands of new PhDs that were produced. That became the bloated and unproductive system that provided employment to Ward Churchill and Bill Ayers.
Here is my modest proposal, get rid of the senior year of high school and replace it with 6 months of universal basic military service. First let me explain how it would work and then let us look at how this would conform to my eight foundation principles given above.
After their 17th birthday all students would be issued a record of attainment that would indicate whether they had met secondary school standards, a diploma, or where they were deficient. All would enter one of two cohorts based on their birthdays who would be activated for a period of 6 months. All would first be examined to determine if they had any physical impediments to entering the basic program. The 10% suffering some disability would be placed in an alternative that would be at least as arduous as the basic program. That would prevent people opting into a 6 month bedpan washing period of perceived servitude to escape the military. Conscientious Objector status would be either denied or restricted only to the actual handling of firearms, with a functional and demanding substitute. During that period they would be trained in military organization and discipline, basic weapons safety and familiarization, fitness, teamwork and problem solving, safety and survival, national military and civilian legal and political structure and homeland security. Completion of the program would qualify as a confirmation of citizenship and would confer eligibility to vote, serve on a jury, and apply for minimal government benefits or employment. Graduates would be members of the Militia, with 2nd Amendment rights, and placed in the Inactive Reserve. Failure to complete the course would result in examination by an independent review board which could recommend that the person be designated a National without the full benefits of citizenship. Anyone desiring an educational scholarship would be directed to affiliate with their local armory where trained Recruiters could offer them a range of opportunities and associated benefits. Access to government employment and other benefits would also be improved by a record of service, with a sliding scale from the basic through the Guard and Reserves to extended Regular service yielding more points. Any person needing additional education before earning their secondary certificate, which would be needed for access to Regular or Guard/Reserve unit affiliation, would have up to 18 months following their release from the program to do so in a secondary school before receiving their final transcript. Other arrangements would have to be made to deal with immigrants.
The above program would provide a simple uniform screening for examining all applicants and would ensure that the public was aware that all benefits were tied to an acceptance of duty to the nation. All having entered the Militia would be under the constitutional oath.
A period of 6 months should not be seen as unduly burdensome. This is especially true given the recognition that in most cases the time is otherwise being consumed unproductively.
Higher levels of benefit would be tied to higher levels of service. The benefits to the individual would not be seen as being in competition with the benefits to society.
The general gain to society from having all members perform a minimum common experience and emerge with a recognized clear bright line break between childhood and adulthood will have cascading benefits. These should strengthen our democracy and reduce much of the pull to a self indulgent cylture that has afflicted the country.
Any person who attempted to evade this common experience, which will be separate from the actual risk of activation for combat except in the event of a general declared war, would become a social pariah, ineligible for most licenses or employment.
The simplicity and fairness of the system will reduce social frictions. Thirty years later the cab driver could look at the theater critic in his hack and know that they both ran the same obstacle course.
Maturity and work will be respected and the government will be able to offer the same message and opportunities to all. Basic training in Civics, Hygiene, Teamwork and simple practical Engineering will improve the public sense of confidence and efficiency.
We shall again become what Americans have always been. Not regimented servants of the government but self reliant and mature independent adults secure in their own citizenship and respecting their neighbors. The role of local organizations will be strengthened. Work and achievement as evaluated in a strictly merit based setting will be seen as the means of advancing.
The pressures that lead to the unproductive bloat of sterile academics and the denigration of productive work will be attenuated.
The military and its leadership will be firmly rooted in the people and tied to the armories in every community.
Note, this is an elaboration of a theme that I have previously touched on. A search of the blog for key terms will show that. My thoughts on creating a locally based Homeland Security Commissioned Officer Corps are related.