John Kerry’s Views on Volunteer Military: Then and Now
AP’s John Soloman finds an interesting parallel between John Kerry’s recent statements and his views as a Congressional candidate in 1972.
During a Vietnam-era run for Congress three decades ago, John Kerry said he opposed a volunteer Army because it would be dominated by the underprivileged, be less accountable and be more prone to “the perpetuation of war crimes.” Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran who turned against the war, made the observations in answers to a 1972 candidate questionnaire from a Massachusetts peace group.
After Kerry caused a firestorm this week with what he termed a botched campaign joke that Republicans said insulted current soldiers, The Associated Press was alerted to the historical comments by a former law enforcement official who monitored 1970s anti-war activities. Kerry apologized Wednesday for the 2006 campaign trail gaffe that some took as suggesting U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq were undereducated. He contended the remark was aimed at Bush, not the soldiers.
In 1972, as he ran for the House, he was less apologetic in his comments about the merits of a volunteer army. He declared in the questionnaire that he opposed the draft but considered a volunteer army “a greater anathema.” “I am convinced a volunteer army would be an army of the poor and the black and the brown,” Kerry wrote. “We must not repeat the travesty of the inequities present during Vietnam. I also fear having a professional army that views the perpetuation of war crimes as simply ‘doing its job.’
I would be interested to see how Kerry’s views on this issue have evolved over time.
Aside from the war crimes bit, Kerry was actually right about the short-term impact of an all-volunteer force. It was indeed disproportionately comprised of the poor, the undereducated, minorities, and petty criminals. As the stigma of Vietnam evaporated and pay increased along with standards, though, the average enlisted soldier became smarter and more educated than his civilian counterpart. Minorities are still over-represented in the enlisted ranks compared to the general population, for a variety of reasons.