Thursday, July 14, 2005

Katherine Kersten on...Military Recruits

Oh, Katherine Kersten. The Strib's sultry Seductress of Spin. Our Lady of Misinformation. She's definitely had some doozies before, but this one...this one may take the cake.

Kersten has reeled in, fileted, and fried up the biggest red herring I've seen in a long time. It has to be a state record. I hope someone has a picture of her holding it up still wiggling on the line. I'd like an autographed copy of that.

She starts out simply enough: "Has U.S. military recruiting hit a brick wall?" A perfectly valid question in today's world, when one considers the inability of our armed services to meet their recruiting goals, plus the facts that we are engaged on two battlefronts, are exhausting our National Guard and Reserves, and have the distinct possibility of future armed conflicts with more menacing foes like North Korea or Iran.

She even goes so far as to admit that "our armed forces face recruiting challenges." Even I was thinking - hey, she may actually present an argument and attempt to defend it for once. Alas, just like Minnesota Meltdown 2005 Part Deux, it was not to be.

So what did Kersten do? She completed a sharp right turn at breakneck speed in the third paragraph: no transition, no clear reason why. "What motivates our country's newest soldiers?" Huh? I thought we were talking about why the military has hit a brick wall in recruiting?

The rest is completely useless for anyone interested in a serious discussion about military recruiting and the future of the armed services. It serves as great propaganda for the U.S. Army, and I don't doubt several military recruiters are passing it out to those average, patriotic, young people - you know, the poor, the undocumented, and the indistinct who make up the majority of our men and women in duty.

She does ask the recruits what parents think of their choice to enlist. Some say they are backed 100 percent, while others don't have full support from the people who raised them. Kersten sides with the recruits who say that Ma and Pa should "Let kids do what they believe they have to do."

I wonder if Kersten would feel the same way if her home-schooled Precious started hanging around the recruitment center?

Personal note: Three Way News has instituted a campaign to name Katherine Kersten Minnesota's worst writer. Keep it up!


xtrachromosomeconservative said...

Two bones to pick, not so much on the critique of the article. One, disparaging Kersten's son is something of a low blow and is unbecoming of what is normally an elevated tone. Having gone to school with him I know him to be well adjusted, which is remarkable considering his mother. Two, indistinct is a base criticism of the soldiers. It is indeed true that a disproportionate share of our men serving from abroad come from meager circumstances but this amounts to nothing more than a backdoor attack on Bush's policies. That so many young men and women are drawn to the armed services for monetary reasons or just to have some semblance of an oppurtunity is indeed a worthy subject of conversation. But your tone is along the blame the victim lines. These two items should be separate. If you lived in washington where a great deal of enlisted men end up after service basically functioning as desk jockeys, you would be struck by the decency and character of so many of our uniformed men.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

Also, your homeschooling blurb in a previous posting, is pure hackery. Andy, not to scold you, but it is disappointing. I believe you invoke the term "sober-minded pursuit of truth". As an avowed liberal it is incumbent on you to at least feign open-mindedness. I frankly don't know what the metrics for evaluating social intelligence or skills would be, and thus can only go on anecdotal evidence, which is by and large positive. However, I am guessing neither do you, nor probably have you considered it deeply. Frankly, yet again pleading ignorance, but I doubt it is a settled issue within what ever academic sub-niche, on how to evaluate such things. Given the home-schooling is a relatively recent phenomenon I would doubt that there is much worthwhile scholarship on the subject unless you count ideological spin based on intuition and anecdotal evidence. While I do think that bashing Kathy Kersten is a valid exercise, you may find a more elevated manner in doing so. Unless you are content with merely emulating her.

Ilya said...

It's good to know that Kersten fully supports sending other people's kids into harm's way. But then again, we're all narcissistic in that way, hoping that the other guy next to us gets hurt and we don't.

More to the point, I think that pointing out that more often than not those persons who (a) support either a draft or the unchosen economic reasons for joining the army and (b) have army-aged or soon-to-be-army-aged children of their own -- and yet do not have children in the army, and would not wish their children to be in the army, are in no moral or otherwise credible position to comment on the matter. I take Piper's analysis to be more about the situation from which Kersten speaks (which makes the comment about her daughter germane) and less about enlisted men and women, and therefore I find xtra's comments here besides the point.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

draft or unchosen economic means. I am afraid these two things are not equivalent. One is a form of coercion the other is not.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

I agree with Ilya's basic point which is a polite way of saying put up or shut up. However, you insist on essentially conflating the draft and unchosen enconomic reasons. Would you stipulate that if a low-income person(I am sure that is an impolitic manner of stating it) were to enlist, that he has been coerced. Also on a broader level, there is this notion that constantly surfaces that it is only the poor that enlist, and they only do so for lack of other opportunities. I suspect this assertion is testable and while not completely false, is largely so.

Hammer said...

Thanks for the link. Keep up the great work!

PiedPiper said...

Xtra - the bones you picked deserved to be picked. I agree wholeheartedly with your statements on my home-schooling riff; please know that it was earlier in the life of the blog and Ilya and I were still trying to find our style. I think what we have now has been pretty good, and we're still trying to improve the discourse.

As for the merits of my classification of armed services members, I will comment a little bit later as I've just spent the morning in Minnesota's ridiculous heat wave and need to cool down a bit.

Also, would you mind sending me an e-mail letting me know who you are? I'm just wondering if you're someone we know or not. If you are, you've certainly stumped us. If not, we welcome you as a friend (albeit a conservative one). If you don't feel comfortable doing that, no big deal.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

I'll give you an obvious hint, we are friends through our girlfriends. Oh, and do you recognize where the name comes from.

PiedPiper said...

On to my classification of our enlisted men and women...the words I chose to describe were very intentional as I had full knowledge that they would be scrutinized more than any other in this particular post.

I'm not playing a blame the victim game, nor am I stating that individuals in the armed services are coerced simply for economic opportunities. I'm stating a fact. The poor, the undocumented, and the indistinct, do make a majority share of the military population.

What do I mean by indistinct? Well, I mean individuals who struggle with their individuality. Individuals who are susceptible to a groupthink mentality.

And that doesn't even include the people who just like to shoot stuff and blow crap up. Because there's plenty of those in the military too. I apologize for being crass, but I've met people who describe themselves as I just have.

This is not a backdoor attack on Bush's policies. The all-volunteer army works wonders for impoverished individuals looking for a hand up, whether that be a decent job or a college education. It can have the effect of instilling order and discipline in those who may have grown up in a very unordered, undiscipline environment. The problem, however, comes when we have a large engagement (well, two large engagements to be honest). Now the armed services is not just about job training and money for college. Now it's about life and death, or more likely, loss of a limb.

Of course, the bottom line is, these individuals signed up for it. They knew (or ought to have known) what they were getting themselves into in the first place and that this was a possibility. But, then again, five years ago no one really thought 9/11, Afghanistan, or an invasion of Iraq were real possibilities either.

Because I'm losing my handle on this (too many topics out there), I'll boil it down. Our political environment is one that simultaneously discredits poor people, thinks poverty is an issue of moral character, underfunds successful and well-established social services, AND expects those same poor people to "defend our country."

I don't doubt the decency and character our uniformed men and women. I do doubt the real support they receive when I see them limping around on prosthetics in my rural Minnesota hometown.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

Well, by and large I agree with that.

PiedPiper said...

And I definitely question the use of certain recruiting tactics during this time of falling enlistment numbers and missed recruitment goals. I do believe that recruiters are under a high amount of pressure to raise their numbers (missed monthly goals and the write-ups in the press that follow can't be good for anyone in the military leadership). Some of their ways of persuasion, which have never been subtle, have become tantamount to coercion, and not just with impoverished individuals but with those from military families as well. I don't always particularly like his writing, but the NYTimes' Bob Herbert has recorded several cases that are representative of a greater trend in which military recruiters are influencing impressionable young people to join without thinking through the consequences. This should not happen in an all-volunteer army, because then one must question the definition of all-volunteer.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

Everything but the groupthink bit. I have to sit on that one.