A story on a newspaper's website caught my attention this morning, and made me catch my breath. The context for the story is the difficulty of the military's recruiting battle in the midst of the war on terror and facing a shrinking demographic pool from which to recruit. The not-so-subtle subtext in the story is the contention that the US military's standards are too high--non-high school grads, ritalin-takers, tattoo canvasses, drug-users, and criminals need not apply. Maybe I am way too sensitive on this subject, but I can almost smell the reporter's belief that the aforementioned disqualifications would actually make for good cannon-fodder in our long-war against islamo-fascism. To which I would reply for our nation and its military: "Been there, done that, didn't work so well."
At the height of the Vietnam campaign in the War with the Soviet Union, a Defense Secretary, whose qualification for the job was that he had presided over the building of planned-obsolescent automobiles in Detroit, decided it would be just a great idea to lower minimum mental requirements, and other standards, to fill the ranks of the military; under the guise of giving a "hand up" to those less fortunate in our society. The plan failed miserably. The quality and capability of the US military plummeted--a nose dive from which it took nearly two decades to pull out.
There was nothing wrong with the patriotism of those who served at the time--they just weren't smart enough to be soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines. If you laughed out loud at that point, you obviously have never served in the military and never been required to plan and execute even the smallest scale military mission, the normal technological complexity and human resource management requirements for which would daunt any production floor manager at any auto plant. Being a soldier, and leading other soldiers, is not only physically demanding; it is one of the most mentally demanding activities in which man engages.
I always believed, much to the dismay of the recruiters who worked for me, and to the chagrin of my superiors, that our recruiting standards were way too low. I believe that the smarter a man or women is, the better soldier he or she makes--no matter whether that soldier's finger rests on the launch controls of a Patriot missile or a 5.56 round. So, I say, "Raise the standards!"
Don't tell me that the highest quality people in our society won't join the military--that insults my intelligence and their patriotism.