Memorial Day

Chris Matthew Sciabarra tells of his "Uncle Sam", a survivor of WWII who kept his human side intact even in the savagery of war.

While he wouldn't have thought twice about shooting another human being in order to survive? "quite frankly," he'd say, "it was either them or us"?he never accepted the notion that he should hate his enemy. "We had been taught to hate the enemy for their bombardment of Pearl Harbor, for their cruel and inhumane treatment of our men." But when prisoners were caught, "you'd look at these men, 'our enemy,' and see a reflection of yourself. I felt sorry for them."

Myria writes about what sufficient voluntary defense implies about a nation.

Think about it for a second?

A country without enough citizens willing to volunteer to defend it doesn?t deserve to be defended.

On this Memorial Day of 2004 it?s comforting to realize that for all the myriad problems we have in this country, many of our fellow citizens are willing to volunteer, to put their lives on the line, to even die in the defense of this country. Whatever our problems and disagreements, our all-volunteer military speaks volumes about us and where we stand today.

This is still a country that deserves to be defended.

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I'm probably being

I'm probably being overanalytical about a post meant to be emotionally appealing, but...I think this claim about the implications of an all-volunteer military is wrong.

Members of the military get paid. This salary can be adjusted. People's happiness is some function of their patriotism (joy at volunteering) and their salary. So surely for any level of patriotism, there is some level of salary which will supply the desired number of soldiers.

Given this, you can't deduce willingness to volunteer from existence of a large force of volunteers. They might be doing it for the money. Not necessarily because its a lot of money, but perhaps because its the best career available to them. They volunteer, but they volunteer for a paying job! Myria's deduction is like praising someone for volunteering to get paid to go search for a missing person. If they got paid a dollar, they deserve a pat on the back. If they got paid a million dollars, we haven't learned much about their desire to help others.

Now, I don't know how much people in the military get paid (including pensions and benefits). Perhaps its not much compared to their alternative careers and we really do have patriotic citizens. But without knowing how much the career helps them, we can't know how much they want to help their country.

[cross-posted to Myria's blog]