America’s “Ongoing Wars” and the “Military Class”

Soldier Saluting Flag

It hasn’t gotten a lot of attention lately, but in case you haven’t noticed, America’s ongoing wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, you name it, if it’s in the Middle East they’ll invade it!) are fought by a “military class” with very little representation on the part of the upper class—the children of the top 10%, let alone the top 1%. Our soldiers, both men and women, serve multiple tours of duty during which they’re put in harm’s way multiple times. Their pay is low, while the stress on their families is high. We no longer pay much attention to the never ending slow drip of casualties. There’s so much talk about gays in the military and the increasing role of women (both of which this 19 th Century dude is still adjusting to, but determined to embrace wholeheartedly!), that I worry we’re losing sight of the fact that we’ve got a lop-sided number of working class people in the military. Good Lord—the defense of the most powerful nation in the world is all falling on their increasingly wobbly shoulders! It sounds all too reminiscent of the ill-fated Roman Empire, if you ask me.

Taking advantage of people in our country who don’t have a lot of alternatives open to them is plain wrong. It’s creating one more divide in our already divided nation, one more fracture in a society that’s increasingly being torn apart. And It’s one more thing that just about everybody knows, but for some reason everyone is willing to accept. Having served as an officer (don’t forget I went to West Point) in an army in which the saying “A rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” was commonplace, I’m especially sensitive to this issue.

There’s an overwhelming pattern throughout history that wars are fought by the lower classes for the betterment and advantage of the upper classes, but I firmly believe the Confederacy—with poor dirt farmers fighting and dying on behalf of the economic interests of the Cotton Kingdom—was an extreme example. And with the top 1%, and the top 1/10 th of 1%, growing further away from the rest of us every day, I fear that what’s happening in this country is beginning to resemble the antebellum South, a sad state of affairs that makes me want to vomit. Combine all this with a good deal of evidence that those who have experienced war for themselves, and thus know the horror of war, are less likely to initiate war, I fear that our nation now has a greater inclination to go to war and stay in war. The unavoidable question this raisesis whether we should reinstate the draft, thereby forcing the children of the top 10% to serve—an action that would go a long way to solving a lot of problems, including helping to alleviate our country’s ever-widening social divide.

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