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Military families finally stop supporting Bush

December 8, 2007

Military familyJoining the military is the last thing that I would ever do. I think that I would join to avoid being killed – maybe. Naturally, I have a hard time connecting with people who willingly enlist in the military these days. I understand the issue of rural families needing income and not having many viable economic choices – and that for many people joining the military is a forced choice. The irony is that the income carrot that the U.S. Army hangs in front of young potential soldiers turns out to be rotten – people’s lives are all to frequently devastated by their military service, especially if they are deployed into war zones.

The tide is turning at last, it would seem, and the hearts of military families have cooled to Bush’s misuse of the military. A recent Bloomberg study shows the change:

Among active-duty military, veterans and their families, only 36 percent say it was worth going to war in Iraq. This compares with an Annenberg survey taken in 2004, one year after the invasion, which showed that 64 percent of service members and their families supported the war.

The views of veterans and their families are now closer in line with overall public sentiment. The poll shows that 32 percent of the general population supports the war.

I watched the TV documentary series “Off to War” last year, and the military families were portrayed as people making a willing sacrifice. They were putting their faith in the president, and even if they didn’t support the interventions in Iraq, they felt that their duty was to support the leader. Now it seems like military families are changing their tune and leaning toward Democrats:

When it comes to candidates in next year’s presidential election, military families are less reliably Republican than in earlier campaigns. Two Democrats, Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois run slightly ahead of former Republican Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney among those voters, and both Democrats trail only slightly former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The survey of 1,467 adults nationwide includes 631 military family members, active-duty personnel and veterans. The margin of sampling error for all adults is plus or minus 3 percentage points; for the military families it is plus or minus 4 points.

This gives me hope that military families feel more empowered to do things they believe in, and that the tradition of simply following orders doesn’t work out as a guiding principle of being a good American.

“Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive.” –Henry Steele Commanger

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2007 6:37 am

    Thank you for a clear, well thought out, and intelligently stated opinion on our military and our current situation in Iraq. Most of the anti-war and/or anti-Bush articles I read are nothing more than mindless emotional ranting and raving; you have succeeded in stating your case without sounding like a spoiled child who didn’t get her way.

    I have to tell you that I disagree with those who are against the war; I believe that the US has a responsibility to the Iraqi people to see their country stabilized under their new government before we cut and run. The beauty of living under such a government, as you and I do, is that we can disagree openly on an issue and neither of us have to worry about being arrested, or tortured, or executed for our views. My daughter is in Iraq right now, helping the Iraqi people secure those same rights.

    I also have to disagree with your statement that “rural families” don’t have any other choices. We’re from rural North Carolina. Jean decided on Sept. 11, 2001 that she would join the military when she finished high school. She had other options, college among them. She felt very strongly about giving back to the country that she’s called home for her entire life.

    Some of us just believe in the United States and in the way of life that it offers.

  2. December 9, 2007 3:06 pm

    Hi Morning Glory, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I understand where you are coming from, and I sincerely hope that Jean and everyone else in Iraq comes home safely. I know that it’s easy for me to stand at a distance and criticize the government and also to feel critical toward people who decided to join the military. My mom was a military brat, and several members of my family were in the military.

    It’s great that Jean chose to enter the military without it being an economic pressure, but I still think that most kids who join the military do so because they don’t have a great deal of other options. Why don’t highly privileged kids join the military? Why do most of our politicians and leaders encourage their kids to join the military? I think these are questions worth answering. But I ask them with no desire whatsoever to disrespect people and their choices. I just think we need, as Americans, to really support our troops and understand why people join the military. Which is why I think the best way to do that is to support a draft. Then we’d see how Americans really feel about these wars on oil-rich lands. Do you support an intervention in Iran, given the information we have?

  3. December 10, 2007 9:44 pm

    Many people join the military because they want to. How well defended is a country where everybody gives into their selfish whims? If everyone sought to save themselves, no one would be safe…

    I have overwhelming respect for those who willingly join the military. They do not do it for monetary gain, they do it to serve their Country, and they are able to sacrifice part of their lives to contribute to something greater…

  4. December 11, 2007 1:15 pm

    PS, I have to admit that I haven’t followed the situation in Iran closely enough to give you an intelligent response. I hear different things from different quarters: the intelligence is faulty; the Iranians stopped trying to produce nuclear weapons 3 years ago; the Iranians are still trying to produce nuclear weapons; yada-yada. I don’t know who/what to believe.

    IF Iran is harboring terrorists and/or trying to produce nuclear weapons, then I think we have a responsibility to ourselves and others in the region to intervene and put a stop to it. But more information is needed before any course of action is decided.

    Sorry for the cop-out, but I just don’t know.

  5. December 12, 2007 12:06 am

    It is said that people who are uneducated and economically poor are the ones who are generally subject to military enlistment.

  6. December 12, 2007 12:30 pm

    I know of many people who are well-off economically, and they enlist, or go through an ROTC program just the same…

  7. March 20, 2008 5:13 pm

    As a former Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, I can attest to the fact that there are many young enlistees who serve because they’re out of options. To their credit, they picked a profession that affords them opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have at home. That being said, I believe there’s a disconnect with our generation and the baby boomers. I was an ROTC cadet during my undergraduate education because it offset the costs of a private university. However, that reason was secondary to the fact that I felt an obligation to serve my country in some capacity. I don’t mean to be overly critical of your stance on the military, but it troubles someone like me to hear that you’d never consider the same sacrifice that I’m willing to make for our nation. I willingly served in Afghanistan and Iraq not because I was blindly led into war, but because I understand that freedom isn’t solely an American right or privilege. I think I’d rather you just appreciated our Armed Forces by just saying ‘thanks’ or nothing at all. John Stuart Mill said it best: “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

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