Who Joins the Army? A: They Can’t Afford College

US Politics
on 8 Comments

My friend Michael Massing has a wonderful piece of reporting in the latest New York Review of Books on who is the volunteer army. It is not a statistical hodgepodge, no, he went to Fort Drum in Watertown, N.Y., to talk to people. The essential lesson he came back with is that people are going into the army because they cannot afford college, and the army will provide them with the job security/education that they would get from college.

In Canada and much of Europe, higher education is heavily subsidized
by the state, and the tuition at most institutions is nominal if not
free. As a result, practically anyone who wants to attend college and
is able to meet the admissions standards and pay for room and board can
do so. In America, we’ve elected to put our money elsewhere…

In the struggle of many young men and women to pay for a college
education, however, the military sees an opportunity. As a recent
Defense Department report observed:

The most dramatic social force affecting military
enlistment is the interest in college attendance. Youth are focused on education and work, with the Military
as an afterthought. The percentage of minorities completing high school
is increasing, and college is becoming a reality for a greater
proportion of the minority population. This increase in college
aspirations and college attendance should be expected to continue.
Already, the military, under the Montgomery GI Bill, offers soldiers
up to $73,836 in tuition credits; it will also repay up to $65,000 in
college loans.

Egad. So the military exploits ambitious kids who cannot get in to college or afford it. More reason to bring back the draft!


8 Responses

  1. Chuck
    March 16, 2008, 1:08 pm

    One of my 3 sons, outstanding in every regard, scholastics, athletics and character, was recruited by West Point. He was also accepted at Columbia and probably could have gone anywhere. He chose West Point out of a sense of patriotism, even though our entire family has opposed the War in Iraq.

    Many of his classmates at West Point likewise chose to serve out of a sense of American patriotism. Now, I understand that Jewish Americans tend not to share their patriotic fervor. But why, Phil, must you continue to diminish the honest patriotism that exists in America by continuing to harp on YOUR stereotype that gentiles can't be exceptional and that military service is imposed because we are economically destitute?

    Neither, do we buy the Alan Derschowitz's arrogant assertion that America was a backwards swampland prior to the Jewish immigration of the late 19th Century. The Declaration of Independence, American Constitution, and the Federalist Papers were created by gentile Americans, not New York Jewish pundits.

    Maybe it's time for some American gentile someplace to write a new book, "American Jews are from Mars, Gentiles are from Venus." Having had numerous Jewish classmates years ago at a certain wannabe Ivy school years ago, I have always had the feeling that Jews are in many respects quite alien to grasping the American character of those in the Heartland. Hopefully, Phil, you can apply some of your open mindedness toward getting a better grip as to the fact that there is a vast country out here beyond the west side of the Hudson.

  2. Michael Blaine
    March 16, 2008, 2:25 pm

    "More reason to bring back the draft!"

    I disagree: more reason to divert society's scarce resources away from the military and toward more productive ends.

    Michael Blaine

  3. Jim Haygood
    March 16, 2008, 5:18 pm


    "In America, we've elected to put our money elsewhere [than free college tuition]."

    Well, yes and no. Colleges receive huge federal subsidies via research funding, and student loan guarantees. The extent of governmental subsidies is what has produced the unseemly revolving door between academia and politics. College presidents are essentially politicians. Some are actually retired politicians.

    Student loan subsidies are costly, yet they also saddle graduates with tens of thousands in debt. Only in America do graduates start their careers under a crushing burden of debt slavery.

    Treasury bonds, the assets which "back" the unredeemable U.S. dollar, amount to a claim on the labor of the next generation. Although chattel slavery has been repealed, the indentured servitude of a monetary system based on government debt is a very effective replacement. Private ownership of the serfs has been replaced by the kinder, gentler hand of public ownership.

    Too bad innocent young minds are not going to be taught these cold, hard facts of life at any college I know of. After all, there's a pedagogical conflict of interest: those colleges only exist because of debt slavery. Hillsdale College is one of the few to explicitly articulate the conflict, and reject the poisoned chalice of governmental funding.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    After the most prestigious university in the land granted an MBA to George W. Bush, I'm inclined to think that higher education is somewhat of a joke. One of William Faulkner's fictional characters was frank enough to admit that he attended the University of Virginia to learn how to drink like a gentleman and hold his liquor. Whereas it took George W. twenty years of flunking his drinking lessons before he gave up entirely.

    If George Freaking Bush had a horse, he could make the cavalier Caesarian gesture of nominating it president of Harvard. Meet the new horse's ass, same as the old horse's ass.

  4. the Sword of Gideon
    March 16, 2008, 6:22 pm

    Hey Chuck, I'll relay your kind words to my first cousins son when I attend his graduation from the Air Force Academy this spring. You really are an asshole btw.

  5. LTC Bamitz
    March 16, 2008, 8:30 pm

    Hey Chuckles:

    A big hu-ah to your son there . . .ask him for me, isn't Rabbi Carlos Huerta now senior chaplain at USMA?

  6. Richard Witty
    March 16, 2008, 9:19 pm

    "I disagree: more reason to divert society's scarce resources away from the military and toward more productive ends."

    !!!! (Thats, yes, yes, hear, hear.)

  7. Michael Blaine
    March 16, 2008, 11:12 pm

    "After the most prestigious university in the land granted an MBA to George W. Bush, I'm inclined to think that higher education is somewhat of a joke."

    Thank you, Jim Haygood, for saying it. In order to salvage what's left of Harvard's reputation, I think the president's degree should be revoked.

  8. Jim Haygood
    March 17, 2008, 11:11 am


    Well, Michael, that's one approach. But George W. can't afford to forfeit one of his few certifications of advanced intellectual attainment.

    I was thinking more along the lines of Harvard offering "lifetime achievement" degrees in return for a modest contribution of say, $495.00.

    We're all Ivy Leaguers now. Out goes my valued "Whatsamatta U." sweatshirt. "He's gone crimson, lookit them boots …"

Leave a Reply