Sunday, November 11, 2007


It's a fact that the burden of the Iraq and Afghan wars has not been borne equally, here in the United States or Great Britain. This is partly because that both nations have all-volunteer forces. But there is another factor at work here: almost no one with a privileged background in either country has chosen to join "the long war," the "generational struggle," or even be in the service. Geoffrey Wheatcraft underscores the contrast with the Great War in today's Independent by crunching some numbers, as follows:

Of the men who went up to Oxford in l9l3, 31% died in the Great War. These guys invariably came from wealthy backgrounds.
Number of Oxford grads KIA in Iraq: none

3 British Prime Ministers lost sons in the Great War.
Number of British PMs who lost sons or daughters in Iraq or Afghanistan: none

85 MPs lost sons in World War I; at least 22 MPs fought and died themselves in that conflict.
Number of MPs who lost children in iraq or Afghanistan, or fought themselves: none

All four British Prime Ministers between l940 and l963 served either in the Great War or World War II
Number of British Prime Ministers who have seen combat recently, or even been in the service: none.

Here in the US, there are a few veterans of World War II in the Congress, but there is only one(1) Congressman with a son serving in Iraq or Afghanistan: Senator Jim Webb. There is a small handful of Iraq vets, but their numbers are negligible.

Someone once said that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. But I don't think it's a stretch to review these numbers and wonder whether if this generation of leaders and/or their children had choseen to serve in the armed forces alongside their less-well-connected peers, they would have been so quick to choose war in 2001 and 2003.


Blogger LaPopessa said...

And not just a UK story. This makes me think of TR's son Quentin who died flying a mission during WWI. Look at a famous US institution - Harvard. About 200 Harvard students died in the Civil War; almost 700 in World War II. How many are even IN Iraq or Afghanistan, let alone paid the ultimate price there?

8:02 AM  
Blogger buckarooskidoo said...

I know Doris Kearns Goodwin's son--a Harvard grad--enlisted in the army after 9-11, so it's a good bet he served in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

In that same article, Wheatcraft notes that a grand total of l2 Harvard graduates died in Vietnam. So the decline of interest in, and at that time respect for, military service was already well underway at that point.

In any case, not exactly a storming of the recruiting offices...I think the only solution is a national-service draft, requiring service either in the military OR a civilian enterprise for 2 years. No exceptions. In that case, Americans might start paying a lot more attention to the foreign policy decisions being made in their name, and also the social problems in their midst.

11:47 AM  

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