Fred Kaplan, also in Slate today, does a good job of debunking
another trope about our military (which incidentally Moore apparently uses in his new film), namely the idea that the military is some exploitative trap for minorities, the undereducated, and the poor:
In 2002 (the most recent year for which official data have been compiled), 182,000 people enlisted in the U.S. military. Of these recruits, 16 percent were African-American. By comparison, blacks constituted 14 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. population overall. In other words, black young men and women are only slightly over-represented among new enlistees. Hispanics, for their part, are under-represented, comprising just 11 percent of recruits, compared with 16 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds.
Looking at the military as a whole, not just at those who signed up in a single year, blacks do represent a disproportionate share—22 percent of all U.S. armed forces. By comparison, they make up 13 percent of 18-to-44-year-old civilians. The difference is that blacks re-enlist at a higher rate than whites. (Hispanics remain under-represented: 10 percent of all armed forces, as opposed to 14 percent of 18-to-44-year-old civilians.)
That's race. How about education? On military aptitude tests:
Here's how the scores break down, for recent recruits and for civilians:
Category I & II
(65th to 99th percentiles)
Recruits: 41 percent
Civilians: 36 percent
(31st to 64th percentiles)
Recruits: 58 percent
Civilians: 34 percent
(10th to 30th percentiles)
Recruits: 1 percent
Civilians: 21 percent
(bottom 10th percentile)
Recruits: 0 percent
Civilians: 9 percent
On balance, by this measure, those who volunteer for the military are smarter than those who don't.
Other indicators confirm this impression. The average recruit has an 11th-grade reading level; the average civilian can read at a 10th-grade level. Nearly all recruits—97 percent of female, 94 percent of male—graduated from high school; 79 percent of civilians have high-school diplomas. Officers are better-educated still: All are now required to have college degrees.
In short, today's armed forces are not the downtrodden, ethnically lopsided social rejects that they tended to be after the Vietnam War, when the all-volunteer military came into being.
The alternative, forced conscription, is just a dumb idea. Like so many of humanity's worst institutions, it's been the mainstay for countries and kingdoms for thousands of years. People are always going to have higher morale and be better motivated when they want
to do something.
Hey, if you're going to bring back the draft, why not have conscripted police and firefighters?