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Russell Shaw Headshot

Why are Army enlistments off? Because the swamp is being drained

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I understand that at this time, the U.S. Army says it is only at slightly more than 80 percent of is 2005 recruiting goals. In Seattle,a city with a pronounced liberal bent (it was the site of the anti-WTO riots, after all)published reports indicate the shortfall is proportionately even more dramatic than the national average. Something in the order of one-third of quota for this point in the year. Considering that war-starter George W. Bush won less than 19 percent of the 2004 Presidential election vote in Seattle city precincts, that is not surprising.

That explains the "blue state" latte enclaves, but why are Army sign-ups down nationwide?

Let me first state here that because military service is a viable career option for some folks, I believe that military recruiters should be allowed to come to public schools and give their pitch. I'm also the son of a disabled war vet. I remember the shrapnel screams, 20 years after he received them. So I do understand the sacrifices that were, and are, being made.

Still, I can't help but think that the Army's falling short of recruiting targets is largely due to the fact that the swamp has been drained. The most obvious demographic groups have signed up in ratios out of proportion to their numbers. Even among those groups, support for the Iraq war has been waning.

People become soldiers for lots of reasons, but one key motivator was the outpouring of patriotism after the 9/11 attacks. Some who were motivated to sign up were convinced by fright-wing talk show hosts and evil-obsessed fundamentalist clergy who portrayed this as a fight of good v. evil. This is a crowd that bought into Saddam-WMD, thought that Saddam helped plan 9/11, even suspected Iraq in the anthrax attacks.

Those most energized by those arguments are serving now, and most are serving honorably. That's not my point. My point is the type of persuasion that went, "your country is under attack, so you need to sign up and fight evil," has been blunted by time and developments - no WMD, no repeat terror attacks, forced re-enlistments, National Guard tours lasting far longer than expected.

And, body bags, bringing back our boys for memorial services -sometimes in the same houses of worship where admonitions of evil rang just a few years prior. It does seem that a number of memorial services for these young men and women are being held in the same type of churches where SUVs in the parking lot have lots of "W" and "fish" stickers.

SUVs that are inefficiently running on Saudi oil- extracted from the same ground that 15 of the 19, 9/11 hijackers walked in their formative years.

But this is not about blame. Those who want to serve, should. I hope for the day, though, when those whoare serving can come home with honor.