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Sec. Gates' real worry about who serves

Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered a speech at Duke University last week on the all-volunteer military that shouldn't be overlooked. He's worried there's a widening gap between the armed forces and the nation they are called upon to defend. When there was a draft, those conscripted into service came from all walks of life, every socioeconomic stratum and every region of the country. Today, not so much. And that presents an unsettling reality: most Americans have the unsettling luxury of having no personal connection to the nation's longstanding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many have complained about this. Every year since the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) has introduced a bill to reinstitute the draft because the Korean War vet with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart believes "[t]hose who support the United States going into war would feel more readily the pain that's involved, the sacrifice that's involved, if they thought that the fighting force would include the affluent and those who historically have avoided this great responsibility." MSNBC's Joe Scarborough talks about the disconnect and bemoans the absence of shared sacrifice all the time. And it was Gates' turn to voice his concern at Duke.

"[F]or most Americans the wars remain an abstraction. A distant and unpleasant series of news items that does not affect them personally," he said. "Even after 9/11, in the absence of a draft, for a growing number of Americans, service in the military, no matter how laudable, has become something for other people to do." Gates noted that studies had shown one of the biggest factors in getting people to join the military was growing up near those who have or are serving. He said this has been most pronounced in the South and Mountain West and in small and rural towns across the country. Compounding the problem is the Pentagon's own basing decisions. Gates pointed out that "a significant percentage of the Army" is now posted "in just five states: Texas, Washington, Georgia, Kentucky, and here in North Carolina."

The Pentagon chief isn't calling for a draft. Gates knows it would be politically impossible (see, Rangel). He also said compulsory service would be "highly impractical given the kinds of technical skills, experience, and attributes needed to be successful on the battlefield in the 21st century." But later he cautioned, "there is a risk over time of developing a cadre of military leaders that politically, culturally, and geographically have less and less in common with the people they have sworn to defend."

To mitigate that risk Gates urged more elite universities such as Duke to allow ROTC programs on their campuses and for those students to actually choose service. Many colleges and universities bar the ROTC because of the military's shameful and discriminatory ban on gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces. The wheels are in motion to get rid of "don't ask don't tell." All that's needed is for the Senate to pass the bill that would repeal it. Once that happens, gay people who love this country will finally be able to serve openly and honestly. And Gates will finally get access to more elite institutions and their students so that military service is no longer "something for other people to do."

By Jonathan Capehart  | October 5, 2010; 6:59 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Comments

Jonathan, you can keep repeating your faith-based mantra that the "wheels are in motion" on repealing DADT all you want, but you might open your eyes and realize that you're being had. The administration has no strategy or plan for repealing DADT and that oaf Robert Gibbs continues to bob and weave about it: http://gay.americablog.com/2010/10/white-house-still-has-no-strategy-or.html

Stop worshiping at the altar of Barack Obama. He neither a "fierce advocate" nor even a true ally. The man genuinely believes that gays and lesbians are constitutional outcasts who deserve only whatever semblance of equality the political branches choose to dispense.

Wake up, already!

Posted by: uh_huhh | October 5, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Robert Gates and Charles Rangel are making an assumption that we don't care as much about the sacrifices of our fighting men and women if we don't have a close family member on the front lines. That assumption is false, in many cases. In my own case, I do care deeply about the sacrifices made by those in the military, even though I don't have any brothers or sisters in the military.

Mr. Gates and Rep. Rangel should remember that the people who have brought the U.S. into the last several wars were veterans - not those of us who are assumed to lack empathy for the people doing the fighting.

By the way, ending the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy would open up recruiting to many major universities where it is now absent and infuse the military with bright and dedicated young people they desperately need.

Posted by: mightysparrow | October 5, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing how many people can deny the obvious. If you're not putting your backside on the line you have less motivation to stop the war -- protestations of "caring" to the contrary. That said, I served, got out before Viet Nam really heated up and wasn't much into protest until some of my classmates started to die and I realized how stupid it was to put them at risk for a corrupt country. Gates is absolutely right. However, not only do the elites have no sons or daughters in the game, with few exceptions, they have no money in the game since they're dropping the bill on my kids and grand-kids. It must make one proud to be a hawk.

Posted by: Fergie303 | October 5, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

"..the people who brought us into the last several wars were veterans"...say what oh mightysparrow? Cheney? Bush? Neither served, altho GW probably enjoyed his draft dodging experience...learning to fly jets in a NG unit populated by the sons of the Texas elites. Eventually, of course, he was so hungover and coked up he couldn't even show up to do that!
The problem is not only who serves, but who doesn't and then rises to leadership. The % of congress that have served is at its lowest since before WW2 and probably below those levels...the mantra "support the troops" doesn't mean anything if leaders don't understand what that means.
As for DADT, it will be repealed with problems. There is going to be a culture clash as there was when the armed forces were integrated in 1947. The military has the power of the direct order...those presently serving can follow orders, resign, or deal with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If not now, when?

Posted by: mfkpadrefan | October 5, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

July 26, 1948: President Truman signs Executive Order 9981, which states, "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." The order also establishes the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services.

Now if we had a president with the moral fiber of a chipmunk he could and should do the same for gay men and lesbians.

Posted by: greg19 | October 5, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

We need a draft for a variety of reasons.

If colleges don't allow ROTC and recruiters on campus, they don't need to accept student loans and grants or any other federal money. They need to put their money where their mouth is.

Posted by: edismae | October 5, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

"[F]or most Americans the wars remain an abstraction. A distant and unpleasant series of news items that does not affect them personally,"

That is the way neo-cons planned it ... out of sight out of mind ... but keep paying the bills.
Now that Obama has put war costs back on the books some Americans woke up and are now outraged at Obama for telling them something they really did not want to hear.

Posted by: greg19 | October 5, 2010 1:14 PM

"July 26, 1948: President Truman signs Executive Order 9981, which states, "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." The order also establishes the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services.
Now if we had a president with the moral fiber of a chipmunk he could and should do the same for gay men and lesbians."

The chipmunk left office January 20, 2009.

You don't mention if congress had past a law prior to July 1948 preventing "equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." as congress did with DADT.

Posted by: knjincvc | October 5, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

knjincvc, you don't mention that the President...
(1) Has statutory authority, notwithstanding DADT, to issue a stop-loss order and end the discharges in time of war,
(2) Has the option of accepting the federal district court's determination that DADT is unconstitutional rather than appeal,
(3) Has had his team working aggressively behind the scenes in Congress to sabotage all attempts at passing repeal legislation this year, including pressuring committees to dispense with proceedings and remove repeal language from bills as well as giving cover to wavering members of Congress,
(4) Sat in the Oval Office yucking it up with the WNBA Champs while doing absolutely nothing to persuade wavering Senators as the repeal measure went down to defeat several weeks ago (beacuse he knew it was set up to fail), and
(5) Has vigorously defended the constitutionality of DADT even to the point of arguing to courts that gays and lesbians have no meaningful constitutional right to equal protection of the laws.

The President's behavior on this topic--as on every other major gay-rights issue--has been inexcusable. It reflects a deliberate political decision to toss the gay community under the bus, and now they have the unmitigated gall to come around begging for money and support.

Posted by: uh_huhh | October 5, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

to all,

the TRUTH is that hardly ANYBODY in the armed forces wants homosexuals to openly serve.
further, our LIAR-in-Chief knows that & as he is so UNpopular (and soon will be the LAMEST of DUCKS) he won't stick his neck out to be made even more UNpopular. - FACT!
(BHO will SAY/AGREE TO/CLAIM/DO anything that he believes will help him "get ahead"; otoh, he will do NOTHING that does not, in his addled mind, have an "immediate upside" for him, personally, as he is the purest form of "SELFISH & SELF-centered". = do NOT expect him to be either HONEST or HONORABLE, as he is NEITHER.)

thus, changing "don't ask, don't tell" is NOT going to happen under BHO's watch, as it is NOT in his informed SELF-interest. = Obama is NOT fit morally to tie Harry Truman's shoes.
IF, imVho, BHO had been POTUS in 1950, he wouldn't have desegregated the armed forces!

face it folks, he's LESS competent than Jimmy Carter, MORE dishonest than Richard M Nixon & more ARROGANT/SELF-impressed than BOTH combined.
(IF you were UNwise enough to vote for BHO in 2008, you "got played for a fool".)

yours, TN46
USA, Retired

Posted by: texasnative46 | October 7, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

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