Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 26, 2008
By: Neil Sinhababu

SCHOOL AND WAR....Back in 2003, one of the students in the class I was TAing came to my office to tell me that I wasn't going to see him in class for the rest of the semester. When I asked him why, he explained that was being deployed to Iraq. My attitude did a split-second shift from "kid dropping out of school" to "brave young man risking his life in war" and we sat there and talked for about half an hour.

It didn't occur to me to get his email address then, so over the next few years I'd occasionally Google him to see if any news came up. I had little success, because his name isn't especially unusual and all I could find were thousands of irrelevant hits. I reminded myself that this was a good thing -- most likely, if his name was in the news, it would be because something bad had happened to him.

If you're bracing yourself a little, don't worry -- this isn't that kind of Memorial Day story. I was overjoyed to run into him in a campus restaurant last year and hear that his time in Iraq was over. He's back in Texas, safe and sound.

I tell you this because it brings to mind one of the lesser costs of the Iraq War -- the disruption it imposes on the lives of able and intelligent people who have to put their educational plans and careers on hold for years. While everyone else is advancing, they're away fighting a war.

This is what I think of in relation to Jim Webb's bill to expand educational benefits for veterans. (That's the bill that at the center of the Obama-McCain spat right now -- Obama voted for it while McCain opposed it but didn't show up for the vote.) If we can reduce the bad consequences of risking your life for your country, we should, and that's what Webb's bill tries to do.

Neil Sinhababu 9:49 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (49)

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I'm an Obama supporter and I'm all for using this issue against McCain. But I haven't yet seen anyone in the liberal blogosphere address the putative McCain objection head-on. McCain and others object that these benefits will cause serious problems with retention in the armed forces. Do we (1) deny that this is true? (2) see it as a feature, not a bug? (3) consider it irrelevant given our greater duty to do right by the troops? I would love to see some substantive analysis on this. Any pointers?

Posted by: Christopher M on May 26, 2008 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly! Senator Webb's bill offers full benefits after four years. St. John of the Flip-flop wants our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines to wait for 12 years. Yeah, right. Start college when you are 30! Seems to me that changes in retention rates will be balanced by increases in recruiting success with the Webb GI Bill.

Posted by: redterror on May 26, 2008 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

But I haven't yet seen anyone in the liberal blogosphere address the putative McCain objection head-on.

See this Army Times article. Money quote:

However, that [additional recruiting] cost would be offset by lower recruiting costs, the report predicts. It estimates there would be a 16 percent boost in recruits, which would allow a cut in enlistment bonuses and in other recruiting expenses that would result in $5.6 billion in savings over five years.

If I'm interpreting this correctly, the bill would be a wash with respect to retention. McCain's being pretty dishonest with his half-truth about the bill.

Posted by: RSA on May 26, 2008 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

Oops, my editorial addition in square brackets doesn't make any sense. The additional cost is in reenlistment bonuses.

Posted by: RSA on May 26, 2008 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

Christopher M.: Wes Clark addressed this issue directly -- it is immoral to rig the system so that civilian life is undesirable or not attainable. It is immoral to trap people in the military in any way after they have *volunteered* to serve. The GI Bill is a recruitment tool, not a retention tool.

I had a student this semester hit by the war in an undercover way as well. After 15 months in Iraq, he was scheduled to come back . . . and rescheduled . . . and rescheduled . . . and rescheduled again . . . during final exams. We had to navigate her final exam time through the oscillations of the military's flight schedule, and also make sure there was time to grade it by graduation.

I'm surprised she didn't fall completely apart.

I've got good kids.

Posted by: Paul Camp on May 26, 2008 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

When are you "liberals" going to stop licking "the troops" boots?

Posted by: Migueil on May 26, 2008 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama people are smart, they will counter the latest line of attack from the White House and McCain-- that they only want to give more benefits to those who enlist for a longer time -- by characterizing this bogus argument as a shameless and despicable divisive tactic that puts one class of veterans against the other. Class warfare among the veterans if you will.

Posted by: gregor on May 27, 2008 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Blow it out your ass, Migueil. It's a dumb war, but it's our war, and those are our soldiers, and we should take care of them. The practical way to get out of this mess is to elect a shitpile of Democrats in the next election, and demand some payback for our support once that's done. They've got an insufficient margin, especially in the Senate (where the R's are still solidly backing our war-criminal-in-chief). We need enough of a majority that we can thwart their filibusters, and also enough to weed out the inevitable bad apples that power will attract to the Democratic party.

It's also not just treating soldiers right, it's also a matter of attracting soldiers with some drive and purpose. Anyone ambitious enough to see the military as a ticket to a better life, I think is good to have as a soldier.

Posted by: dr2chase on May 27, 2008 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

Used to be, most of the education-conscious states offered nearly free state-college education to its residents. All its residents.

The government has systematically dismantled most help for college-bound citizens, treating it as an inducement to fill the ranks of its military.

Considering the purpose (not the government-stated justifications) of most of the U.S. military actions since World War II, I'm not particularly predisposed toward generating any angst regarding the various military issues. The people who REALLY deserve our sympathies are the innocent civilians we invade/attack/bomb/plunder.

It is unfortunate that the government has gamed the system such that our young men and women have few educational/employment options other than the military, but even so, the job IS, after all is said and done, a commitment to kill folks. And the employment contract IS with the U.S. government.

If the kids who sign up haven't the wisdom to see what they're committing to, shame on the parents for not educating them.

The shift of our economy toward militarism has left us with nothing, but gee, the delusions are so satisfying.

Posted by: Everyman on May 27, 2008 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

Blow it out your ass, Migueil.


Blow it out your own.

These characters have tortured, brutalized civilians. and certainly do not support the Democrats.

So you can feel proud for pandering to these fellows and I hope you feel swell having so much innocent blood on your hands.

But the rest of the world knows them for what they are and you for the hypocrite you are.

So stop licking their boots.

Posted by: Miguel on May 27, 2008 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

Stop using my name! Idiot Republican troll.

Posted by: the real Miguel on May 27, 2008 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Slow down, Miguel.

Most of the kids who join the military are doing it because they don't have a lot of options in their urban environment or they're bored in their podunk environment and the military has been sold as a way to see the world/get an education/have a job. Be All You Can Be.

The government has spent a lot of money, time and energy to create a pro-war mentality in its populace and has gone to great lengths to disguise the horror of what we are turning our children into so that now, it's common for even "liberals" to buy into false premises like this: "risking your life for your country..."

These kids aren't risking their lives for our country. They're risking their lives for Halliburton, et al. We're so busy arguing the fine points of how to support our troops, we've neglected the important lesson we learned from Vietnam: Question Authority.

Instead, we say (as dr2chase did): "Anyone ambitious enough to see the military as a ticket to a better life, I think is good to have as a soldier."

How have we come to this?

Posted by: Everyman on May 27, 2008 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

Neil S. wrote:

I tell you this because it brings to mind one of the lesser costs of the Iraq War -- the disruption it imposes on the lives of able and intelligent people who have to put their educational plans and careers on hold for years. While everyone else is advancing, they're away fighting a war.

I'm totally sympathetic to danger to people's health and lives, but I'd just like to point out that not everybody who goes to Iraq shares the burden you are talking about-- for some employers, a military stint is a "plus" on a resume, and some of these people weren't even going to try hard and succeed in the school they left, anyway. I totally recognize that for some people, it's probably an interruption and a sacrifice in just the way you describe it as, and I 100% support the legislation to give additional educational benefits to troops.

However I think sometimes people lionize the troops in a way that isn't helpful to the nation, and I think that I don't have to lionize them in that way in order to support them as working-class people, and as working class people who have put themselves in a very vulnerable position relative to our government while under the belief that they might be helping our nation by putting themselves in that vulnerable position.

Again, if circumstances were different, I wouldn't even bother to make the distinction, but in our current atmosphere of jingoism and a "support the troops" attitude that goes to the brink-- where people are probably made to feel uncomfortable about voicing criticism that even might sound like not supporting the troops-- I've started to feel that it's necessary to start dialing it down a notch, and "remembering" through our words that the troops are just regular people like you and me, not white knights in shining armor and not super-men and women.

Posted by: Swan on May 27, 2008 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

...have to put their educational plans and careers on hold for years...

Why the "have to"? Was he drafted or did he probably join the military voluntarily?

Posted by: Oscar on May 27, 2008 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

"I've started to feel that it's necessary to start dialing it down a notch, and "remembering" through our words that the troops are just regular people like you and me..."

Ahh, Swan, spoken like someone who has never been in the military. Though it is clear that soldiers aren't "knights in shining armor," there is a special kind of suffering that can only be understood through experience. Once you yourself have volunteered to shrivel in the desert eating freeze-dried salisbury steak and watching your friends die, then you can talk.

Honestly, what are you getting at?

Posted by: appleseed on May 27, 2008 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

The basis for the quotation from the Army Times above (by commenter RSA) is this CBO report, which estimates a wash between retention and new recruitments.

Posted by: Linkmeister on May 27, 2008 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

Stop licking "the troops" ass?

Posted by: on May 27, 2008 at 2:51 AM | PERMALINK

The Iraq war doesn't seem to have disrupted Jenna Bush's personal life or plans one iota...

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 27, 2008 at 5:45 AM | PERMALINK

It's for this reason--to compensate for time lost climbing the job ladder--that vets are given extra points on civil service exams.

Of course, one of the main pitches they use in recruiting is that being in the armed forces will improve your employment prospects.

Posted by: Jay Ackroyd on May 27, 2008 at 6:15 AM | PERMALINK

I can't believe I am reading some of the comments in this thread. People go into the military all the time because they lack the resources to go to college and there are no other entry level jobs available providing a clear path to the future.

They "volunteer" because they are not rich like Jenna Bush or some of you. They serve and serve and serve their country. They are asked to fight in far off places where they shouldn't be found. And they do their jobs very well. They deserve the Webb/Hagel Bill and more.

Yes retention is a problem, but young officers (already college educated) and young NCOs (many with degrees) aren't leaving because they want better educational benefits. They are leaving because they are being asked to spend 4-5 years in Iraq in an occupation that a competent administration would have ended years ago. They want to start their lives. They want to raise kids. If the military wants to retain it best young people then its leaders should do more to court the best and keep them in. Getting out of Iraq is a good place to start.

The real problem is that the Republican elite in this country has declared class war on the middle class. One of the things that the elite has done to advance their class war is to systematically dismantle educational opportunities for all. After all in the new world order American peons, just like Mexican, Chinese or Indian peons, don't need no stinking education. With an education some of them might actually compete with and defeat their social promotion babies and that could just ruin the elite's class vision of the future.

If you want to fight a war you might want to start by nominating and following people willing to fight the Republican class warriors. The Republicans get up every morning trying to think of new ways to make life harder for hard working middle class Americans. We need people who are dedicated to giving every American an genuine opportunity to enjoy a bright future.

This argument that the kids who go into the military don't deserve an education is total crap. Advancing that frame is just another example of Republican divide and conquer bullshit.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 27, 2008 at 7:58 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting dynamic. As the son and grandson of Admirals, McCain grew up with enlisted men as family retainers, servants, and his branch of the Navy was largely cut off from enlisted men as brothers in arms. Webb's experience as an infantry platoon c.o. would have given him a much closer relationship with his men; as well, the Marine rifleman is regarded as the reason for being of that service.
Should be interesting hearing the two of them debate it.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on May 27, 2008 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

You like most lefties are missing McCain's point. Retention as well as new enlistment is required to maintain a strong military. The troops that re-enlist go on to become the experienced NCO's that are the backbone of the military.

Are you saying that going to college under the GI Bill is far too strong an incentive to leave the military than the other options that would be available if the soldiers stayed in the military over the long term?

McCain is blinded by his experience of seeing all military service in terms of making it your career. For lots of people (included members of our own families), the military should just be a period of service used as a springboard for other things. We shouldn't be use the military as a place where people with limited opportunities go and then "trap" them there by not providing significant benefits after their stint is over.

Giving modest tuition benefits only to those who are pushing 30 by the time they get out of the military is pretty much pointless. In fact, it seems to me like nothing more than a cynical move to claim that one is giving tuition benefits while ensuring that they're the sort that few people would take advantage of.

Posted by: Tyro on May 27, 2008 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

You like most lefties are missing McCain's point. Retention as well as new enlistment is required to maintain a strong military. The troops that re-enlist go on to become the experienced NCO's that are the backbone of the military. If you create an environment that encourages people to get out after one tour it will weaken the military due to lack of experienced NCO's.

This is a plausible-sounding argument; is McCain making it? (If you could point to a speech or something, I'd be grateful. I haven't come across such a thing.)

But I also think it's wrong. Granted that NCOs are the backbone of the military. But what percentage of military personnel do they make up? And does it make sense to have a policy that limits everyone's options when leaving the military, rather than focusing on retention of those who are most likely to go on to become NCOs? Instead of saying, "We're going to boost reenlistment packages for specific people we need" (which the military already does, I think), McCain seems to be saying, "The longer you stay in the military, the greater your educational benefits are if you decide to leave." How does that make sense?

Posted by: RSA on May 27, 2008 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

This retention argument is phony at best.

Why is McCain and his cronies suggesting that volunteers will not stay in the army give the choice of a better life or schooling opportunities?

Does it mean that they agree these people are not patriotic and won't seve their country no matter what? Is that not the GOP has been telling us for year!

There is a retention problem already, why use that as excuse not to better the lives of our military men and women? Rather than focusing on the real reasons for the horrible retention rates, we are left with this BS.

BTW, I thought the initial reason McCain opposed this bill was cos of the cost. Good to know he realized that's a losing argument. Maverick my ass!

Posted by: GOD on May 27, 2008 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

You like most lefties are missing McCain's point. Retention as well as new enlistment is required to maintain a strong military. The troops that re-enlist go on to become the experienced NCO's that are the backbone of the military. If you create an environment that encourages people to get out after one tour it will weaken the military due to lack of experienced NCO's. McCain has proposed a bill that that provides increased benefites with time served. It will also provide for transfering those benifits to spouses or children thus benifiting the whole military family.

Bullshit. McCain's bill is, essentially, what we used to call bootstraps, with a little bit extra, letting the family participate in the bennies (and less than 1% did so under a provision in the MGIB when it was available).

The military was never meant to retain everyone. The vast majority of people who join up do one hitch. McCain's bill screws those people entirely - and what about the vets who are forced from service because of injuries sustained in aWol's Pet War? McCain's bill would screw those vets over too.

The CBO called bullshit on the lies McSame is peddling.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on May 27, 2008 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

If it's true, as Kevin documented recently, that the average college-graduate worker makes almost twice as much as the average high-school-graduate one, from a purely economic standpoint it would seem to make sense to give *everyone* (or at least everyone who can't easily afford it) free tuition and rake in the additional tax revenue. It totally makes sense for the military. Hate the war, love the troops. (Hmm... how did Bush/McCain get that backwards?)

Posted by: Lucia on May 27, 2008 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I finally went out and read the bill that Webb is proposing. Holy moly that's a good deal! Free tuition and a $1000/month stipend for four years, after having served for three! I can't imagine that not fueling a huge rush to join up in the military.

It should also fuel a huge rush to get out and take advantage of the benefit. BGRS, your argument only speaks to dollars saved on recruitment, and completely overlooks the health of the leadership core of the military. You *have* to retain skilled leaders, you can't have all of your military be E5 and below, which is what you get if the entire military only stays in for 4 year tours.

I used the GI Bill to go to grad school, great deal. It nowhere covered all my costs. This new one will. Seems almost too lucrative for someone who spent their 3 years hanging out stateside doing an admin job.

Posted by: SJRSM on May 27, 2008 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Lucia,

The Bush family doesn't need to pay college graduates to water their flowers or trim their trees. Nor do the wait staff members of John and Cindy McCain's favorite eatery in Arizona need a college education. Basic elementary reading and service skills are all that is required to serve the Republican elite. College is for their children, not the riff raff.

If America is going to put up a fight for economic survival we are going to need all the engineers, scientists, mathematicians and technicians we can produce. We should be doing everything we can to make college an affordable right for all. The pity is we are going the opposite direction.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 27, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

America's youth and the nation would be better served by offering college educations to as many who want them before they join the military, rather than after. The current system of using the military as a means to a better life is little better than an indenture to war making that sefs were required to perform.

The solution of retaining quality members of the armed forces has already been discovered by the current ruling administration. Not starting stupid foreign wars of acquisition and occupation is the best way to retain soldiers with integrity.

Posted by: Brojo on May 27, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo: Not starting stupid foreign wars of acquisition and occupation is the best way to retain soldiers with integrity.

I don't often agree with Brojo 100% but here's an instance when I do.

Posted by: thersites on May 27, 2008 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

I would propose mandatory 2-year national service for every, repeat, every citizen. Individuals who choose to opt out of the military branch for reasons of conscience will be able to do so wihtout having to go through the hoops that COs did in my time.
GI-bill type benefits would serve as an incentive for people to voluntarily serve 2 or more additional years. In the event of war the same benefits would be applied to any combat veteran, regardless of the duration of their service.

Having a large number of middle and upper-middle young people in the service would tend to deflate popular support for unnecessary wars like the current Excellent Cakewalk Adventure.

Posted by: thersites on May 27, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl: The military was never meant to retain everyone.

I don't think we were ever supposed to have a massive standing army either. (I favor the Swiss model: an assault rifle in every home.)

thersites: I would propose mandatory 2-year national service for every, repeat, every citizen.

The government serves the people in this country, not the other way around. And I'd like to point out that McCain, unlike all of the other candidates, is both a veteran (with a uniquely terrifying perspective on the effects of war on soldiers) and father of a soldier in Iraq, and he's *still* promoting a more militaristic foreign policy. Besides, with modern military technology we can fuck shit up all we want without losing a single troop, so our warmongering problems go far beyond issues of a volunteer military vs. a draft.

Posted by: Nat on May 27, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

You *have* to retain skilled leaders, you can't have all of your military be E5 and below, which is what you get if the entire military only stays in for 4 year tours.

That didn't happen when we had it before and it won't happen now, and we all know it.

Everyone who went in after WWII through 1976 got the same deal that Webb is proposing and the wheels didn;t come off the bus over it.

Besides that, no one is guaranteed that desk job stateside going in.

We need recruitment tools and S 22 would be a potent one. Not only that, it would draw high-q recruits. God knows we need those when we have almost 20% entering on waivers.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on May 27, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

The government serves the people in this country

Americans are not serfs who owe fealty for the privilage of living in America. There are no positive governmental services going undone because of a lack of labor to perform them, but there is a lack of desire from most Americans to serve in aggressive foreign military adventures that have nothing to do with protecting our national independence and liberty. A mandatory 2-year national service for every citizen would put those young people under the obligation of people like W. Bush or W. Clinton, both of whom rejected similar service themselves. Americans have proven countless times since the end of WW II that they are incapable of selecting leaders to oversee a mandatory national service that would not only benefit the nation but those serving as well. A national service would become a servant to the same capitalist forces that have made servants of our elected legislators and exectutives, nor would a national service create enough democratic pressure to prevents its exploitation.

Our limited democracy does not provide enough popular power to either prevent or change policies that a president has decided to pursue. Before a national service should be created, greater constitutional checks should be made to the executive branch of our government in order to both prevent it from enacting unpopular policies or end them once they did become unpopular. Despite the overwhelming desire of the electorate to end the US occupation of Iraq in the Congressional elections of 2006, that popular desire has had little or no effect. Unless changes are made to the power the executive wields, an unpopular use of a national service would be extremely difficult to prevent or end regardless of the amount of opposition to it.

Posted by: Brojo on May 27, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Huge rush?"

Perhaps, but only if the enlistment forms include yes/no check boxes for the question:

"I am interested in serving in Iraq and/or Afghanistan."

I can see the lines forming from here.

It's going to take a decade or longer to rehabilitate the military from our current adventures, and a steady stream of new recruits who all meet rigorous screening criteria sounds like a good place to begin.

Posted by: trollhattan on May 27, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Recommended reading:

War Immemorial Day
Tuesday 27 May 2008
By Bill Quigley
www.truthout.org

Excerpt:

Memorial Day is not actually a day to pray for US troops who died in action, but rather a day set aside by Congress to pray for peace. The 1950 Joint Resolution of Congress, which created Memorial Day, says, "Requesting the President to issue a proclamation designating May 30, Memorial Day, as a day for a Nation-wide prayer for peace." (64 Stat.158).

Peace today is a nearly impossible challenge for the United States. The US is far and away the most militarized country in the world and the most aggressive. Unless the US dramatically reduces its emphasis on global military action, there will be many, many more families grieving on future Memorial Days.

I am not in favor of making military service a de facto prerequisite for non-rich people to attend college.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 27, 2008 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Nat: The government serves the people in this country, not the other way around

I take your point. But the non-military option would provide people the opportunity to participate in VISTA/Peace Corps type programs. I know quite a few upper-middle-class types who would benefit from a first-hand look at the world outside their McMansion subdivisions.

Posted by: thersites on May 27, 2008 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

While I'm fully in favor of any political tricks we can use to unseat Republicans and prevent McCain from entering the White House, I do think there is far too much of a tendency to hero worship "the troops" in this country and this is a tendency with some very negative consequences.

For one thing, turning every "troop" into a hero makes it far easier to misuse the troops in general. The right has become masterful at this. Support the troops! Don't let their sacrifice be in vain! Let us thank our great heroes for all that they've done for give us our freedoms.

In the past fifty years, it's hard to argue that when our military has been used in combat that it has actually been used to protect the freedom of Americans in any way whatsoever. You may agree or disagree with any individual military operation, but it would be disingenuous to say that that any combat action has actually protected the freedom or safety of any American not actively participating in that action since the end of the Second World War.

The men and women in our military do provide a valuable service and, on occasion, that service can be very dangerous. (There was little sustained combat between 1973 and 2003 and even now most who serve in the military do not see combat.) We should not elevate their service and sacrifice above what it is and we should not forget that there are millions of men and women who serve the public in non-military roles. I would say that each of the following deserves arguably more praise for their service than members of the combat military: teachers, police officers, fire fighters, nurses, doctors, prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, members of the coast guard, and workers in the non-profit sector (including the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, and environmental advocacy). On a good day I might even add journalists to that list.

Posted by: Rob Mac on May 27, 2008 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

It looks like the Webb and McCain positions are very far apart and this bill looks ripe for a 'centrist' compromise.

Yeah, I know Webb is already supposed to be quite 'centrist', but on this issue I think he's acting quite Liberal.

How about a few distinctions:

Serve 3 years and get college tuition.
Serve 6 years and get tuition and stipend.
Serve any time in a war zone under fire and get tuition, books, stipend and a gallon of gasoline.

Compromise anybody?

Posted by: MarkH on May 27, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone who went in after WWII through 1976 got the same deal that Webb is proposing and the wheels didn;t come off the bus over it.

Not sure about the "through 1976" part, but post-WWII was massive demobilization so no real comparison. In the 60s and 70s we had a draft. Did the GI Bill cover tuition, room and board, and an equivalent to a $1000/month stipend too?

We need recruitment tools and S 22 would be a potent one. Not only that, it would draw high-q recruits. God knows we need those when we have almost 20% entering on waivers.
Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State

I am in general all for good deals for the troops. Couple of thoughts to that regard...

1. I like MarkH's idea of graduated benefits. More you do = more you get.
2. College isn't for everyone, but what I read made it sound college-specific. Can you use it for trade schools too (flight school, etc.)?
3. The cost of a college education has outpaced inflation by so much for so long that a 4 year ride with room and board and stipend is worth relatively far more (and costs relatively far more) now than post-WWII. Someone who stays in is walking away from a *serious* good deal and will probably feel like he is getting penalized.
4. The military will have to create huge bonuses for retention to offset the GI Bill windfall.
5. It will be great to flood our universities with folks who have a sense of service to their country and also who otherwise would not get a shot at these schools.
6. There are other ways to serve beyond the military that could warrant similar support.

Posted by: SJRSM on May 27, 2008 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

You like most lefties are missing McCain's point. Retention as well as new enlistment is required to maintain a strong military. The troops that re-enlist go on to become the experienced NCO's that are the backbone of the military. If you create an environment that encourages people to get out after one tour it will weaken the military due to lack of experienced NCO's.

A large minority of the troops serving in our two wars are Active Reserve or National Guard. These men and women have jobs or are in school and will probably benefit more from the Webb Bill than those on Active Duty. NG and AR troops serve for six years and are at the beck and call of the administration. Active Duty troops can leave after three years if they are not stopped from doing so (which they are due to the incompetent policies of the present administration) and go into the inactive reserves.) The McCain bill will handicap the Reserves/NG much more than the Active duty forces.

After Viet Nam the Armed Forces underwent a Reduction In Force (spawning one of the many jargon words in the military, the RIF. Riffing was invented by REMFs, by the way.) Many of these trooops went into the Guard and Active Reserve and served in Desert Storm. In the mean time they often took advantage of the existing GI bill that so resembles the Webb-Hagel Bill. Military service is not an obligation, but it is a public service that many of us were and are proud to bear. The McCain Bill denigrates that service in my opinion.

I also ask, "If the bill was so important, why didn't Senator McCain stick around to vote on it?"

Posted by: mikeyes on May 27, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised this topic isn't getting more discussion here beyond just a chance to bash McCain. This is a big, expensive, society influencing project. It will be a huge path for upward mobility that will channel many of our best and brightest but not so fortunate in circumstances through the military and into college. Full tuition PLUS room and board PLUS a stipend...huge.

Posted by: SJRSM on May 28, 2008 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Yes it is huge, but we could fully fund it and the VA for a week of aWol's excellent adventure.

I don't care what it costs. You do it because it is the right thing to do. The services are going to face three decades of rebuilding after Bush has decimated the services.

There is going to be large-scale cashiering of senior officers by this time next year. The fact that these guys are facing a tougher rebuilding phase than my cohorts and I did. (For the record, BG is right about the time frame for the original GI Bill) I went in in 1976, did a hitch, used my full-ride GI bill along with bootstraps, and then went back.

I am of the opinion that we need to do whatever we can to draw high-quality recruits. I was there for the last round of reconstituting the force, and this mess is far worse. We are rogered roundly.

Posted by: Double Shot on May 28, 2008 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

that will channel many of our best and brightest

The best and brightest do not join the military. They know joining the military makes them dog meat for pig fuckers like W. Bush and McCain.

Posted by: Brojo on May 28, 2008 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

I went in in 1976, did a hitch, used my full-ride GI bill along with bootstraps, and then went back.
Posted by: Double Shot

So what was the benefit for you? Did the GI Bill cover all tuition, money left over for room and board and some spending cash?

Posted by: SJRSM on May 28, 2008 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Hi Mike...first things first...

The best and brightest do not join the military. They know joining the military makes them dog meat for pig fuckers like W. Bush and McCain

Glad to know that my advanced science degrees and Mensa membership are for naught because I chose to stand up for your right to hate me unconditionally and call me stupid. Thanks.

That education I got on your dime in my agreement to serve saved a few lives in your neck of the woods. Where do you think most of the pilots and crew on those life-flights that haul morons out of the mountains come from? When I was on the Pima County payroll, it was well over 70%.

So if you ever need emergency services, you make sure to refuse them on moral grounds if the training that could save your sorry ass was obtained in the military. Do we have a deal?

Now...back to Mike. That is my hubby, Mike, and he got his tuition paid by the USAF and his GI bill check as a stipend. I believe that is refered to as "double dipping." But to answer your question, he got an education and the USAF got a damned fine officer for another 18 years.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on May 28, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Deal?

Only if I can withold my income taxes that go to the war dept.

Not being the best and brightest is not synonymous with stupidity.

Posted by: Brojo on May 28, 2008 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

I get a personal sense of umbrage from some of your comments. And you are always free to defer income or take other steps to reduce or eliminate your federal tax burden. I did just that. It is a lifestyle adjustment - much more involved to it than goes into bitching on a blog or showing up for a rally, but I am content with the decision to do so.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on May 28, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Bitching's all I got. Voting does nothing. Acting out like a neocon is not only antithetical to my beliefs, but counterproductive. I am not ready for public self-immolation, nor would it do any good anyway.

I refused to work for two years after the invasion of March 2003 in order to not contribute monetarily to America's invasion of Iraq. That was the best I could do. BFD, I know. I was not clever enough to use the invasion to become a war profiteer.

I think I am like most Americans, and have no income to defer. But if you have deferred income to limit the amount of taxes you pay to the war dept, well done.

Posted by: Brojo on May 28, 2008 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK
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