The Center for American Progress hosted an event today to discuss Kathy Roth-Douquet’s and Frank Schaeffer’s new book, AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service—and How It Hurts Our Country. The event, “The Growing Gap between the Military and America’s Upper Classes,” also featured Lawrence Korb and P.J. Crowley, Senior Fellows at the Center for American Progress and Phillip Carter, a former attorney and Iraq war veteran.
Most of America’s elite decision makers have never served in the military. They are alienated from the realities that soldiers face in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan for which they are creating strategy.
Korb decried the increasing lack of educated and upper-class individuals in today’s all-volunteer army. He, along with other panelists, argued that greater civic participation in the military would make citizens and their leaders stakeholders in the outcome of war.
Korb and Carter also urged Americans to support political candidates who had served in the military. Roth-Douquet and Schaeffer argued that younger Americans should join the military in the spirit of civic responsibility and “shared sacrifice.” Korb and Carter encouraged America’s youth to do the same.
The military has so far failed to meet its youth recruitment goals. Korb attributed this problem to an unpopular war, while Douquet and Schaeffer blamed greater individualism and selfishness in America.
Schaeffer called for a “cultural sea change” in America based on “a new civic ethic” integrating all classes of society into military service. He compared the selfish avarice of corporate criminals to the refusal of many wealthy individuals to fight for their country.
The panel failed to reach a consensus on how to bridge the gap between, in the words of Roth-Douquet, “the deciders and the doers,” but they shared the view that the current status quo is woefully unacceptable.