Tuesday, March 08, 2005

"Counter-Recruiters" Are Now Trying To Prevent Young Americans From Enlisting In The Military

Earlier this month, we reported how many American high schools are now barring military recruiters from visiting their campuses so that the recruiters could give soon-to-graduate students the military's aptitude assessment. In many areas of the country, most public school students have taken this test during their junior or senior year. This assessment, which is called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, (ASVAB) takes about two hours to administer, and has been considered by many students as a "rite of passage" on the road to their graduation.

USA Today
is now telling us that a group of people known as "counter recruiters" are actually trying to dissuade young Americans from serving in their country's armed forces:

The Marines didn't have to recruit Greg McCullough. He signed a promise to enlist last year, while he was still in high school. But now McCullough has had second thoughts, and he's talking to a different kind of recruiter.

Jim Murphy is a "counter-recruiter," one of a small but growing number of opponents of the Iraq war who say they want to compete with military recruiters for the hearts and minds of young people.

"I don't tell kids not to join the military," says Murphy, 59, a member of Veterans for Peace. "I tell them: "Have a plan for your future. Because if you don't, the military has a plan for you.' "Murphy says high school graduates don't need to join the military to learn a skill, pay for college, see the world or learn discipline.

Counter-recruiters formed a national network at meetings in Philadelphia in the summers of 2003 and 2004. They range from Vietnam War veterans, such as Murphy, to high school students trained to talk to their peers about enlistment.

We here at the 'Wonks would be the last people to say that these counter-recruiters don't have a right to talk young people out of enlisting. Having said that, couldn't they find a better way than this?

In the San Francisco area, members of a group called the Raging Grannies dress up in flamboyant old-lady attire (big hats, long, flowered dresses) and visit high schools. They offer a selection of political buttons and make their pitch while students are choosing. Sometimes the Grannies sing peace songs and dance.

"When you kick up your heels, it gets their attention," says Ruth Robertson, a 52-year-old Granny.

If the all-volunteer military is to have any long-term viability, the country needs young people to serve their country. If the number of recruits continues to decline, then the cherished ideal of an all-volunteer military may go the way of the penny postcard and the two-bit haircut as once again Americans fear getting a letter from Uncle Sam that begins with, "Greetings from the President Of The United States...."
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