There's one more option that might make a difference, particularly among middle and upper-income Americans: Strong and sustained calls to service from the nation's political leaders, up to and including the commander-in-chief.Yes, Mr. President, your help as a leader is going to need more than one line in a tepid speech delivered before a host of green-clad soldiers.
Last fall, Charles Moskos of Northwestern University, a prominent expert on military manpower, asked a group of recruiters what would most help them: tripling bonuses or enlisting presidential daughter Jenna Bush.
The recruiters' choice was unanimous: Jenna Bush.
Noted USA Today,
Today's all-volunteer Army is better described as an all-recruited Army. That Army is being tested as never before by an increasingly unpopular conflict, one that was based on false premises but has morphed into part of the war on terror.Ouch. We're still not over the false premises issue, are we?
Back to recruiting... Leadership is at the root of the issue. When America's elite -- and I count President Bush in that category -- put their actions where their mouth is, well, the rest of the country will follow. That's what leadership is: stepping out so that others can follow behind.
We've only had one of America's elite enlist -- at least that I can think of -- since 9/11, and he was killed by friendly fire. And he wasn't even elite by birth, but rather elite by talent and work ethic. Army Ranger Pat Tillman, a former professional football player, I guess doesn't fall into the same court as Jenna Bush. Jenna is elite by birthright, born with a silver spoon in her mouth; Pat Tillman earned his way, with sweat and, sadly, blood.
Let's see the children of America's Senators and Representatives and President, the children of Departmental Secretaries and Under-Secretaries, the children of Fortune 500 CEO's... let's see them enlist in the Army. Perhaps then when one of America's elite stands up and says, "To those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our Armed Forces," perhaps we'll actually believe it.