Army Prop. V Recruits Our Kids for War

Proposition V on the San Francisco ballot supports the Army JROTC program, whose most fundamental propose is to recruit our children into the military. With wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, military recruitment is the central issue of this campaign. The war in Iraq alone has cost over 4,000 American dead and 30,000 wounded, plus an estimated 1 million Iraqis, the majority of them civilians. The pro-Army JROTC people admit that the national JROTC program is a recruiting tool for the military, but they claim that the local program is “different,” and is not a recruiting tool. Let’s examine that claim more closely.

According to testimony given to Congress in 2000 by the chiefs of staff of each of the armed services – including General Eric K. Shinseki – 30-50% of JROTC cadets nationally join the military after high school. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen said that JROTC is “one of the best recruitment programs we could have.”

Local pro-JROTC advocates claim that in San Francisco, only “two of almost 1,500 cadets enlisted” in 2007 (AsianWeek editorial, 10/10-16/08), but this claim defies logic. The local Army JROTC program is the same as the national program in its curriculum and its instructors. Cadets learn the same marching drill, wear the same Army uniforms, and study the same Army belief system – blind obedience to authority. Why would the same program produce such different results locally? The truth is that the 2 out of 1,500 statistic is undocumented and is so absurdly low as to be unbelievable. The “No on V” campaign has requested the official figures from the school district and was told that there are no such official figures. This claim has no more proof than George Bush’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in Iraq. Simple logic tells us that the Army would not continue to pour resources into a program that did not produce results for it – the recruitment of our children into war.

Another Army JROTC claim that greatly influences the Asian community is the claim that JROTC teaches “discipline” and “leadership.” Asians value these qualities greatly, so we are especially vulnerable to this particular sales pitch. But consider the type of “discipline” and “leadership” taught by the Army: a leader yells out orders, and marching cadets instantly obey without question. This is the very foundation of all military leadership, and in a combat situation this is in fact exactly what is needed.

But in today’s fast paced, complex, constantly changing work environment, this is exactly the kind of thinking that will get a person quickly left behind, at least in the professional jobs. Today’s modern work environment requires a person to think fast, on their feet, and creatively, out of the box. Spending years of your life in high school – a formative time in a young person’s life – thinking only in the box, paying blind obedience to the box, and believing only and absolutely in the box is exactly the kind of static thinking that will make it extremely different for a young person to adjust to a professional role. Such a person may be excellent working at McDonald’s, but not in today’s high tech, multi-cultural, international world. Consider that fact that upwards of one-third of homeless people are military veterans, yet veterans are only 11% of the general adult population. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are now turning up on San Francisco streets, joining the Viet Nam veterans who came before them. Army JROTC is not the road to success. We Asian activists and community leaders urge all Asians to vote NO on V.

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