WashPost Anti-War Bias on Parade

In tomorrow’s (Friday) Washington Post is a front page article entitled “Youths in Rural U.S. are Drawn to Military.” The title is correct. The lede, however, is a single sentence that displays for all to see the bias of the Post against the war and against its volunteer military. It reads: “As sustained combat in Iraq makes it harder than ever to fill the ranks of the all-volunteer force, newly released Pentagon demographic data show that the military is leaning heavily for recruits on economically depressed, rural areas where youths' need for jobs may outweigh the risks of going to war.” The second paragraph reads: “More than 44 percent of U.S. military recruits come from rural areas, Pentagon figures show. In contrast, 14 percent come from major cities. Youths living in the most sparsely populated Zip codes are 22 percent more likely to join the Army, with an opposite trend in cities. Regionally, most enlistees come from the South (40 percent) and West (24 percent).”The article goes on to demonstrate that the counties with the highest volunteer rates are rural and lower income, than average counties. But from there, the writer and her editors jump to the grossly unwarranted conclusion that these young men (mostly) are volunteering out of economic desperation. Here are some facts about demographics and civic participation which any competent researcher can easily find. They suggest that the Post’s conclusions about why these soldiers have volunteered is dead wrong, and a product of the bias of the writer and her editors. Rural counties generally have lower average incomes than urban and suburban ones, but the cost of living is also lower in rural counties and there is more non-cash “income” in the rural counties. Young men in rural counties are more likely to have finished high school and to have learned to read. They are less likely to have criminal or drug problems which would prevent them from joining the military. The level of civic involvement, pound for pound, is higher in small towns and rural areas – not just the unique opportunities of Future Farmers of America, but general opportunities which rural residents are more likely to follow – Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Jaycees, Kiwanis, Rotary, the whole gamut. For instance, in every area of achievement in the United States from astronauts to Members of Congress, the participants are much more likely to be Eagle Scouts than the proportion of scouts in the population. And rural boys are more likely to become Eagle Scouts than boys in other counties. In short, an honest look at the demographics of the volunteers in the military shows that rural youths are more likely to have competent basic educations, more likely to have worked hard and kept their noses clean, more likely to have a sound knowledge of what America is all about, and more likely to respect this nation and its purposes. This pattern of where the youths are most likely to volunteer for the military has been true for every war for which records of volunteers have been kept. But this truth which is apparent if all the facts are on the table, directly contradicts the Post’s editorial stand which leaks over into its news stories, that the war is a mistake, and that only people who are fools or driven by circumstance would support it – especially the ultimate support of putting their lives on the line. John_Armor@aya.yale.edu