BRAVERY OF YOUTH, WISDOM OF AGE

Former Senator Bob Kerrey, a Medal of Honor recipient, explains why young men must fight our wars:

When I came back from Vietnam, I wrote about my objections to the Selective Service System, arguing that the age of the draft should be increased from 18 to 30 because young men had too little political or social power for their objections to matter. But a friend of mine — one of the finest soldiers I have ever known — told me (correctly) that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

“Give me a group of men between the ages of 18 and 25 or 26,” he said, “and give me the power to control how much they can eat and sleep, and I can get them to do anything I want them to do. Once they get too old, they start asking questions. And once they start asking questions, they are no good anymore.” There is a lot of truth in this observation.

Young people volunteer because they are young. They may be drawn to the excitement of the cause. They may have learned the importance of service from their parents or others they admire. They may hope to acquire the admiration of peers. They may want to see the world, or it may be the least expensive way to earn a college degree. They may also be drawn by the story of a hero myth they have seen, read or heard.

Military service is a young person’s game. In the beginning they are young, naive and vulnerable to the losses that almost always accompany war: loss of innocence, life and health.

He correctly notes that, because of the propensity of the young to take on these burdens, it is the duty of those with more experience and caution to ensure that the decision to send them to war is not taken lightly.

(Hat tip: RealClear Politics)

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Lyle says:

    Better re-check your source of Kerry’s awards. He has a Silver Star, NOT the Medal of Honor.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Every source I’ve seen on the subject, including the linked story, says he has the MOH. Are you thinking of JOHN Kerry, perhaps?

  3. phillip says:

    If you’re talking about the former Senator from Nebraska (he was a Navy SEAL) and yes he wears the Medal of Honor!!! You misspelled his las name though, there is a “e” in there someplace like maybe Kerrey!!!

  4. James Joyner says:

    So he does. It’s “Kerrey.” Fixed now. 😉