The New York Times has an excellent piece today about military demographics:
A survey of the American military’s endlessly compiled and analyzed demographics paints a picture of a fighting force that is anything but a cross section of America. With minorities overrepresented and the wealthy and the underclass essentially absent, with political conservatism ascendant in the officer corps and Northeasterners fading from the ranks, America’s 1.4 million-strong military seems to resemble the makeup of a two-year commuter or trade school outside Birmingham or Biloxi far more than that of a ghetto or barrio or four-year university in Boston.
Confronted by images of the hardships of overseas deployment and by the stark reality of casualties in Iraq, some have raised questions about the composition of the fighting force and about requiring what is, in essence, a working-class military to fight and die for an affluent America.
“It’s just not fair that the people that we ask to fight our wars are people who join the military because of economic conditions, because they have fewer options,” said Representative Charles B. Rangel, a Democrat from Manhattan and a Korean War veteran who is calling for restorating the draft.
Charles C. Moskos, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University who has written extensively in support of a national draft for the armed services, domestic security and civilian service, argues that the military must represent every stratum of society.
“In World Wars I and II, the British nobility had a higher killed-in-action rate than the working class,” he said. “Our enlisted ranks resemble the British: they’re lower- to middle-class, working-class, intelligent people, who are joining for both the adventure and economic opportunity. But the officer corps today does not represent American nobility. These are not people who are going to be future congressmen or senators. The number of veterans in the Senate and the House is dropping every year. It shows you that our upper class no longer serves.”
Dr. Moskos said the pitfalls of having leaders who do not share in the casualties of war were common knowledge in Homeric times: “Agamemnon was willing to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia,” he said. Today’s military recruiters, he said, grasp what the ancient Greeks understood — “that nobody’ll accept casualties unless the elite are willing to put their own children’s lives on the line.”
“I once addressed a group of recruiters and asked them, would you prefer to have your advertising budget tripled or see Chelsea Clinton joining the Army — and they all said Chelsea Clinton joining the Army,” he said. “That would be the signal that America was serious about joining the military. Imagine Jenna Bush joining the military — that would be the signal thing saying, this is a cause worth dying for.”
Dr. Moskos says support for the Vietnam War ended when it became possible for the elite to win draft deferments. Other experts on military demographics dispute this.
James Burk, a professor of sociology at Texas A&M University, acknowledged that few wealthy citizens today choose military service. “But if you say, is the all-volunteer force not representative of the country as a whole, I’d say it’s more representative than the upper class,” he said.
It’s a good in-depth article, but I recall hearing about this some time ago.