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Are Those Opposed To GI Bill In Favor Of Stealth Conscription?

May 24th, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

The passage of Senator Jim Webb’s expansion of the GI Bill to provide expanded educational benefits highlights a topic most don’t want to discuss. Since abolishing the draft and making service in the military voluntary, critics have argued that an inordinate number of the ranks are filled by those who lack other opportunities…including the ability to afford a college education. In other words, they contend that the election to join the military can often be a de facto economic decision.

When critics, like New York Representative Charlie Rangel, raise concerns that an inordinate number of new enlistments come from lower income families, those opposed to reinstating the draft accuse them of insulting our service people. Essentially, they contend the criticism impugns the patriotism of those who have volunteered to serve their country. If that deflection fails, they have also argued that the criticism insults the intelligence of military personnel by suggesting that those who serve in the military are uneducated.

That brings us back to the Senate’s passage of the Webb bill. One of the redeeming benefits of the passage of time is that is frequently shines a bright light on hyperbole and hypocrisy. In what can only be seen as a reversal of logic, some of those who rejected the assertions of men like Charlie Rangel are now opposed to expanding the benefits provided by the GI Bill. Yes, they are now arguing that those expanded benefits might entice some service members to exit the military in order to take advantage of the educational benefits. In other words, given other and better opportunities, some members of the military might not want to continue serving.

Let me be clear. The patriotism of those who enlist has never been the issue and it wasn’t for those who criticized the all volunteer army. Those who contended that it attracted individuals who lacked other opportunities always believed in the patriotism of those who enlisted…just as they will continue to believe in it should some service members elect to leave the military in order to utilize their expanded educational benefits.

Those who aligned with George Bush and John McCain in opposing this bill have simply exposed their inclination to make military service a matter of necessity. Voting to deny service members the same level of educational benefits that existed when the GI Bill was first passed is evidence that they recognize the differences between conscripted service and volunteer service. Why else would they not support a bill that would give volunteer service members the same benefits that were afforded to conscripted ones?

Truth be told, those opposed to this bill don’t want to provide a plausible alternative to military service because they know that the decision to enlist is, in fact, often a decision of economic necessity because there is a lack of other opportunities for those whose families lack the means to send them to college.

Look, I don’t object to the government using carrots to entice enlistment. The military can be the means to advance one’s education that might not otherwise be possible. Regardless, choosing to deny former service members access to benefits that will reward their patriotism and service is a far more egregious act than to question the inequity of an all volunteer military.

So what is the message given by those who would deny these benefits? Well it clearly states that they favor a system that facilitates the enlistment of the economically disadvantaged and they certainly don’t want to do anything that might take away the leverage that it provides. In other words, it tells our enlisted persons that we’re happy to have them defend their country’s commitment to freedom but we’re opposed to providing them the opportunities that would grant them the opportunity to exercise that freedom.

While I’m not in favor of a draft, I am in favor of an honest discussion on the shortcomings of the existing all volunteer system. It seems entirely hypocritical for those who have attempted to ignore the contention that economic motivations may lead to the population of our military to now be speaking out against providing the very opportunities and alternatives that their adversaries have long suggested were lacking.

When Charlie Rangel suggests that a draft would make members of Congress think twice about sending American soldiers into harms way if they knew their own sons and daughters might have to serve, he’s simply pointing out the same hypocrisy. In the end, if our volunteer military results from the fact that some individual’s lack or are denied reasonable alternatives, then it is, in essence, a form of conscription.

If I didn’t know better, I might conclude that those opposed to the expansion of the GI Bill are not only in favor of stealth conscription; they may actually be endorsing de facto enslavement…with pay…of course.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

  1. 3 Responses to “Are Those Opposed To GI Bill In Favor Of Stealth Conscription?”

  2. By Tom Harper on May 24, 2008 | Reply

    This is great news about the GI Bill. And it sure is poetic to hear all that shrieking from the “Support Our Troops!” clowns who don’t give a flying F$#%&! about our soldiers after they’ve come home.

  3. By grascarp on May 24, 2008 | Reply

    Conscription is involuntary servitude. Enlistment is voluntary military service based upon a contract. There is a world of difference between these two types of service and those citizens for a possible draft and their families should appreciate that it is in their interest to keep the volunteers satisfied during and after their time of service.

    It’s time for a new and improved GI Bill for a thousand reasons.

    Let’s try to go a few decades without national conscription. The world will be a better place for it. Besides the volunteers seem to get a kick out of thinking of themselves as professionals. A long list of further improved benefits for those who serve our country during actual wartime is only fair dinkum.

  4. By Badtux on May 25, 2008 | Reply

    When I walked into the recruiting station in 1982 it was about a lot of things. Money for college was one of the biggies. The chance to see the world, meet interesting people, and kill them (well, hopefully not the last, but I had no delusions about the job of a soldier) was another, like most poor kids I’d lived a very insular life. But certainly like most kids in my area I also had in mind the notion of defending my country in case it was attacked by the very real enemies we had in those days — and there wasn’t much realer than the Soviet Union having 40,000 nukes pointed at us. Saddam’s invisible WMD these weren’t — they were very real, very scary, and so were the thousands of tanks and thousands of jet fighters that the Soviets could deploy against our allies and maybe, if they managed to take out our European allies and therefore obtain a warm water port and the ability to build a large Navy easily deployable across the Atlantic, those tanks and fighters could even have been deployed against us.

    So yeah, I walked into that recruiting station for economic reasons. But you can’t rule out patriotism either, which is why it irritates me when the Repugnicans seem to think you can’t have one AND the other.

    - Badtux the Once-poor Penguin

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