They all volunteeredwrite USA Today's Tim Kane and James Jay Carafano (thanks to Jack Wakeland).
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.
… In fact, since the 9/11 attacks, more volunteers have emerged from the middle and upper classes and fewer from the lowest-income groups. In 1999, both the highest fifth of the nation in income and the lowest fifth were slightly underrepresented among military volunteers. Since 2001, enlistments have increased in the top two-fifths of income levels but have decreased among the lowest fifth.
Allegations that recruiters are disproportionately targeting blacks also don't hold water. First, whites make up 77.4% of the nation's population and 75.8% of its military volunteers, according to our analysis of Department of Defense data.
…Maintaining the strength and size of our all-volunteer military isn't always easy. But Americans step up when their country needs them. To suggest the system is failing or exploiting citizens is wrong. And to make claims about the nature of U.S. troops to discredit their mission ought to be politically out of bounds.