"It's a decision that seems almost incongruous for a bright athlete from the Ivy League," wrote Andrea Chaknis, a PR gal for Harvard, of track star Sean Barrett's determination to become a Marine officer after graduation.
I don't doubt that Mr. Barrett's job choice is incongruous in the social circles in which Ivy League students and their parents move. This speaks volumes about what's wrong with our country today.
For many years, the privileged in America had a sense of noblesse oblige. (Much is expected from those to whom much has been given.) George H. W. Bush, who became a Navy bomber pilot at age 18, is an example.
But for all but a handful of the privileged today, defending the country that has made their comfort possible is entirely the responsibility of lesser folk.
Lesser folk who should shut up and be grateful for the benefits their betters have showered upon them, thinks William Arkin, who the Washington Post has hired to blog on national security.
Mr. Arkin was annoyed by the cheekiness of soldiers such as Specialist Tyler Johnson, 21, who when asked by an NBC reporter how he felt about criticism of the war in Iraq, responded:
"You may say you support the troops, but, so you're not supporting what they do, what they're sweating for, what we bleed for, what we die for. It just don't make sense to me."
Ingrate, Mr. Arkin said.
"So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that in addition we should roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war," he wrote.
The NBC report in which the ingrates were quoted "is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary oops, sorry, volunteer force that thinks it is doing the dirty work," Mr. Arkin said.
Perhaps because he is a Harvard man, Sean Barrett was not attracted to the Marines by the munificent $29,631.60 second lieutenants are paid annually. (The Cadillac Escalade Mr. Arkin drives retails for half again that much.)
"Fighting for the freedom of others is a uniquely American value," he told Ms. Chaknis. "Protecting my family, my country, our values and way of life is of the utmost importance to me."
The hundreds of soldiers and former soldiers who sent angry emails to the Washington Post indicate that those who join the military without the benefit of a Harvard education do so mostly for reasons quite similar to those of Mr. Barrett.
Mr. Arkin was expressing his own opinion. But that the Washington Post should choose to hire him as an "expert" on national security is instructive. He is a man of the hard left (he used to work for the Marxist Institute for Policy Studies) whose sole military experience was four years as a junior enlisted man in the Army in the 1970s.
Mr. Arkin expressed the hope that "military commanders took the soldiers aside after the story and explained to them why it wasn't for them to disapprove of the American people."
Many liberals maintain that supporters of the war who have never served in the military have no right to speak out because they are "chickenhawks." Now Mr. Arkin says that supporters of the war who are in the military shouldn't speak out, either. Apparently, the liberal view of free speech is that only liberals should speak freely.
The primary reason those opposed to the war in Iraq give for their opposition is that more than 3,000 American servicemen and women have died there. But liberals don't think much of those who are in harm's way. For Mr. Arkin, these "mercenaries" are "young and naive." For Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, they're people who are too stupid to go to college.
It would never occur to the typical liberal to pay heed to how our soldiers think the war in Iraq is going, or whether it is worth the sacrifice, even though it is they who are on the scene, making the sacrifices.
A draft would force some of the privileged to perform the most important duty of citizenship, and could have a halcyon effect on elite attitudes. But that's not a good enough reason to screw up the All Volunteer Force.
If there were one change I could make to safeguard the republic, it would be to add to the requirements for holding federal office the stipulation that the candidate have an honorable discharge from the U.S. armed forces. Then the politically ambitious among the privileged would have to serve before they could "serve."