Clearly, this is not the first time we have heard this line of 'reasoning.' John Kerry earned the harshest criticism for his comments in October 2006, which suggested that not doing your homework and doing poorly in school would leave you no option but to become "stuck in Iraq." Kerry, of course, is a highly decorated veteran when it comes to casting aspersions on the US military, even when it is the truth which earns a Purple Heart in the process. This, coming from a man who was once a hair's breadth away from becoming Commander In Chief of the very folk whom he has held in such low regard (and it appears that the feeling was mutual).
It is not at all surprising that the "anti-war" movement should cleave to this narrative. Vintage Viet Nam protesters still have a hard time reconciling themselves to the collective shame of having spat on returning soldiers, and shouted "baby-killer" at physically and emotionally wounded citizens returning from horrific battles for which a great many of them did not voluntarily enlist. Any proper post-modern peacenicks are likely to have a hard time feeling righteous and sensitive with that kind of joo-joo clinging to them.
So much better, then, to shift gears and portray our military as being composed of poor, undereducated, deluded innocents, malevolently manipulated into the prosecution of an unjust war by unscrupulous power brokers for the sake of their shadowy Corporate overlords. Why revile when you can condescend? You can see how this approach kills multiple birds with one stone: you get to protest the projection of American power abroad, attack globalized capitalism, bash Bush, and still feel good about protecting the rights of the oppressed.
The trouble is that it simply doesn't hold any water. In order for this narrative to sustain any scrutiny, it is necessary to posit that our all-volunteer military is substantially composed of people whose educational and intellectual and demographic characteristics would render them more amenable to manipulation and deception than the general population. At the very least, it must be shown that enlistees have few options besides a stint in the military, for want of the opportunities which a more elevated station in society would afford them. Alas, there does not appear to be any there there, as this study by the Heritage Foundation shows quite clearly. To wit:
In summary, the additional years of recruit data (2004–2005) support the previous finding that U.S. military recruits are more similar than dissimilar to the American youth population. The slight differences are that wartime U.S. military enlistees are better educated, wealthier, and more rural on average than their civilian peers.
Recruits have a higher percentage of high school graduates and representation from Southern and rural areas. No evidence indicates exploitation of racial minorities (either by race or by race-weighted ZIP code areas). Finally, the distribution of household income of recruits is noticeably higher than that of the entire youth population.
And what are these relatively affluent, well-educated people doing in the face of an allegedly unjust and irrational foreign policy? It appears that they are enlisting and re-enlisting in droves. Such data make it rather difficult to sustain the argument that anyone with an ounce of intelligence would see through the pack of lies being fed to them by some Machiavellian cabal of Corporate-kowtowing Neocons. Instead, we see (if we care to look) a dedicated group of rational actors, freely choosing to put their skills and blood on the line in the service of a cause which they are eminently qualified to discern and defend.
Of course, one of the primary characteristics of Liberals and "Progressives" is the quality of looking at the world not as it is, but as they feel it should be. When one is in the habit of subordinating the observable reality to a set of idealistic abstractions, it is only a matter of time before one or the other has to give. In the battle between the Is and the Ought, though, the smart money will predict that it is the former which will make the Stand.