Sunday, December 05, 2004

What's the Point, Exactly?

Here are a couple different takes on military recruitment, which has suddenly become quite the issue with many liberals.

First, John Leo of U.S. News talks about the movement to ban military recruitment on college campuses: The Wisdom of Solomon

Second, Rekha Basu of the Des Moines Register seemingly wants to ban military recuirtment in high schools: Schools wrong to help recruit

I'll state upfront that I have no problem with recruiters in college or in high schools. But I suppose the desire to ban that which you don't like is pretty strong. One might hope that a liberal society would be wary of such impulses. Such a one would be quite disappointed with our own society. As Leo points out:

Law schools that respected students would allow military recruiters to speak. They would encourage those who disagree with armed forces policy to picket, boycott, or argue for an end to "don't ask, don't tell." Instead, the schools are teaching future lawyers that if you disagree with anyone, it's best to ban or censor. Unfortunately, the campuses are fond of imposing their own version of contested cultural norms, instead of encouraging free argument over what those norms should be.

Sometimes you will see it argued that the law schools and colleges are really just fighting for their free speech rights, to not be told by outsiders like the government what they should do. But as Leo further points out, such a claim doesn't comport too well to reality. isn't clear as to who is compelling whom. The law schools say they are being compelled by government, but they are compelled also by the Association of American Law Schools, which directs them not to allow military recruitment. Imposed policy is wrong, except when you agree with it.

The schools offer a free-speech defense, but in reality they are suppressing free speech themselves by silencing others and preventing freedom of association by banning contact between students and recruiters. It is the rough equivalent of a bookstore's refusing to sell books with which it disagrees. The store may have the right to do so, but it's a tacky tactic that shows little respect for allowing people to make their own choices.

In the second piece, Basu's argument seems to be that 17 and 18-year olds are hapless dolts too easily swayed by shiny baubles to be left to the mercy of military recuiters. For example, her evidence that schools actively help military recruiters but not college recruiters is a statement by a teacher that:

"The college recruiters don't set up a big display in the student center," she said. "They're in the guidance office and they wait for walk-ins."

The horror!

No evidence is given that colleges are kept from bringing in their own advertising materials. No evidence is given that colleges have been denied space to set up their own "big display." Why? Its because college recruiters don't bother with such things, and they haven't spent the money to produce a "big display."

Basu next introduces a student that, A) invalidates her opinion that students can't evaluate military recruitment efforts, and B) attempts to reinforce the "shiny bauble" argument:

Some students know they're not interested in enlisting. Sean Shatto, a junior at the University of Iowa, graduated with Davis. He got called at home by a recruiter when he was 17. "They asked, 'Are you interested in machine guns? Would you like to try a tank?' I was like, 'No, I wouldn't like to do any of those things.' "

But others are lured by the glossy images. "Their advertising technique is so much bright lights and happiness," says Shatto. "They don't tell you you get spat at and yelled at by drill instructors, or you might have to go into combat."

Shatto, presumably an expert on exactly what its like in the military because he hasn't been there, is the only student voice given in the piece. So its impossible to guage just how many 17-year-olds don't know that going into the Army might lead to combat. It's like going to law school to learn how to be a civil litigator and then being shocked to learn that you might have to go to court. I'm thinking there aren't too many 17-year-olds that clueless. Basu hasn't shown me one.

In the end the piece is more indicative of Basu's hostility to the military than to any real concern for young men and women. Basu, instead of having any real regard for young people, seems to think that they are, well, imbeciles. Basu's argument could really support a call for stripping young people's right to vote! 18-year-olds are supposed to be able to wade through all the campaign advertising out there to cast legitimate ballots in presidential elections, when they cannot overcome the sheer advertising power of a "big display" in a student center? I think not!

Actually it's hard to decide who Basu has less regard for, the military or young people.

1 comment:

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