Wednesday, June 29, 2005

them's fightin' words

military recruitment is way down. rumsfeld recently admitted that the "last throes" of the iraqi insurrection could last as long as 12 years. and while pres. bush said in his fort braggadocio speech last night that the generals tell him we have a sufficient number of troops on the ground now, he also said that if the generals tell him they need more, he'll send more.

it seems self-evident that if we're going to be there up to 12 years, we're going to need to send more troops sooner or later. and if we're having recruiting troubles, there won't be enough new troops to send. nobody will admit to wanting to restart the draft. so something needs to be done to drastically improve military recruitment.

what the military needs is for thousands of 18-to-20something-year-olds who are in favor of the war to enlist. bush even said so in his speech last night:

I thank those of you who have re-enlisted in an hour when your country needs you. And to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our Armed Forces. We live in freedom because every generation has produced patriots willing to serve a cause greater than themselves. Those who serve today are taking their rightful place among the greatest generations that have worn our nation's uniform. When the history of this period is written, the liberation of Afghanistan and the liberation of Iraq will be remembered as great turning points in the story of freedom.

so the question is where the military could find a few ten-thousand strong youngin's who support the war, considering that war support has totally tanked recently? i can't think of a better place to start than the college republicans (operation yellow elephant and others have already been looking into this).

oddly, when you ask college republicans about enlisting, not only do they seem unwilling to join up and fight in the war they love so much, some of them even get angry!

I chatted for a while with Collin Kelley, a senior at Washington State with a vague resemblance to the studly actor Orlando Bloom. Kelley told me he's "sick and tired of people saying our troops are dying in vain" and added, "This isn't an invasion of Iraq, it's a liberation--as David Horowitz said." When I asked him why he was staying on campus rather than fighting the good fight, he rubbed his shoulder and described a nagging football injury from high school. Plus, his parents didn't want him to go. "They're old hippies," Kelley said.

Munching on a chicken quesadilla at a table nearby was Edward Hauser, a senior at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas--a liberal school in a liberal town in the ultimate red state of Texas. "Austin is ninety square miles insulated from reality," Hauser said. When I broached the issue of Iraq, he replied, "I support our country. I support our troops." So why isn't he there?

"I know that I'm going to be better staying here and working to convince people why we're there [in Iraq]," Hauser explained, pausing in thought. "I'm a fighter, but with words."

At a table by the buffet was Justin Palmer, vice chairman of the Georgia Association of College Republicans, America's largest chapter of College Republicans. In 1984 the group gained prominence in conservative circles when its chairman, Ralph Reed, formed a political action committee credited with helping to re-elect Senator Jesse Helms. Palmer's future as a right-wing operative looked bright; he batted away my question about his decision to avoid fighting the war he supported with the closest thing I heard to a talking point all afternoon. "The country is like a body," Palmer explained, "and each part of the body has a different function. Certain people do certain things better than others." He said his "function" was planning a "Support Our Troops" day on campus this year in which students honored military recruiters from all four branches of the service.

Standing by Palmer's side and sipping a glass of rose wine, University of Georgia Republican member Kiera Ranke said she played her part as well. She and her sorority sisters sent care packages to troops in Iraq along with letters and pictures of themselves. "They wrote back and told us we boosted their morale," she said.

By the time I encountered Cory Bray, a towering senior from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, the beer was flowing freely. "The people opposed to the war aren't putting their asses on the line," Bray boomed from beside the bar. Then why isn't he putting his ass on the line? "I'm not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country," he declared, his voice rising in defensive anger, "and I wasn't going to pass that up."

And besides, being a College Republican is so much more fun than counterinsurgency warfare. Bray recounted the pride he and his buddies had felt walking through the center of campus last fall waving a giant American flag, wearing cowboy boots and hats with the letters B-U-S-H painted on their bare chests. "We're the big guys," he said. "We're the ones who stand up for what we believe in. The College Democrats just sit around talking about how much they hate Bush. We actually do shit."

way to get shit done, boys. you really tought osama a lesson with your brilliant display of football stadium-style nationalism.

conventioneer at campus progress infiltrated a recent college repub conference (wherein they elected their new leader) and has loads of on-the-spot reporting.

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