Debunking the myth of the underprivileged soldier

Tim Kane and James Jay Carafano, research fellows at the Heritage Foundation as well as military veterans, examine the myth that only the poor and underprivileged enlist in the US military:

They all volunteered. The U.S. soldiers pitching in with hurricane relief along the Gulf Coast and those fighting and dying in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere decided, on their own, to serve their nation.

Or was the decision made so freely? Could it be that unscrupulous Pentagon recruiters duped them, taking advantage of their poverty, their lack of education and the bleak futures they share as members of the USA’s urban underclass?

That’s the view of some critics, such as New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, who writes that “very few” of the soldiers fighting in Iraq “are coming from the privileged economic classes,” and that there would likely be no war if rich kids had to fight. According to Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., social equality demands reinstatement of the draft, which he justifies by asserting that “the most privileged Americans are underrepresented or absent.” Herbert concludes that there is “something very, very wrong with this picture.”

What’s “very, very wrong” with the Rangel-Herbert picture is that it has no factual basis.

According to a comprehensive study of all enlistees for the years 1998-99 and 2003 that The Heritage Foundation just released, the typical recruit in the all-volunteer force is wealthier, more educated and more rural than the average 18- to 24-year-old citizen is. Indeed, for every two recruits coming from the poorest neighborhoods, there are three recruits coming from the richest neighborhoods.

Let’s hope Bill “Low Lying Lynndie England Fruit” Maher reads the USAToday. And Representative Charlie Rangel aka he- who-thinks-only-the-poor-serve-so-we-should-start-a-military-draft, too.

Any guesses as to why the media and anti-war types like to keep perpetuating this myth? Read the following – via Austin Bay, who posts the money quotes from Hugh Hewitt’s interview with ABC News’ Terry Moran from May of this year – and I think you’ll have your answer:

HH: Let me ask you something. Major K, a major in the Army who is reporting from Iraq on his blog all the time says, all this being said, it is no small wonder that a gulf has opened between journalists and the general public. I think even the most John Q. Sixpacks know when they are being fed a line of blank blank blank. My brother called me a journalist once during a conversation about this blog. I was offended. That is a general impression among the American military about the media, Terry. Where does that come from?

TM: It comes from, I think, a huge gulf of misunderstanding, for which I lay plenty of blame on the media itself. There is, Hugh, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media. One that begins from the premise that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong. I think that that is a hangover from Vietnam, and I think it’s very dangerous.

There you go.

Hat tip for the USA Today link: Betsy Newmark

(Cross-posted at California Conservative)

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