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August 23, 2005
WaPo Trots Out The Chickenhawk Smear (Update)

The Left has tried for months now to smear supporters of the war as "chickenhawks", people who encourage the war but do not want to fight it themselves. On its face, this rejects the entire notion of civilian control over the military and foreign policy. It also assumes a callousness on the part of those who advocate for military action when needed, that men and women somehow hold no value to us as Americans unless they happen to be us. Such personal attacks completely avoid having to argue the merits and disadvantages of military action as opposed to other strategies, reducing the intellectual level of the anti-war advocates to mindless namecalling.

Unfortunately, the Washington Post joins that crowd with a laughable look at recruitment by Terry Neal. Neal deduces that middle-class and wealthy parents, all of whom he assumes vote Republican, go out of their way to keep military recruiters from talking to their kids, which has led to a crisis in recruiting. How does Neal come to that conclusion? By a single data point:

The writer of the Post-Gazette article, Jack Kelly, explored this question in his story that ran on Aug. 11. Kelly wrote of a Marine recruiter, Staff Sgt. Jason Rivera, who went to an affluent suburb outside of Pittsburgh to follow up with a young man who had expressed interest in enlisting. He pulled up to a house with American flags displayed in the yard. The mother came to the door in an American flag T-shirt and openly declared her support for the troops.

But she made it clear that her support only went so far.

"Military service isn't for our son," she told Rivera. "It isn't for our kind of people."

This misrepresents Jack Kelly's original article, which noted a general resistance from parents to recruitment, not one based on class, income, or political stances. Not only does it misrepresent its source, but the article provides no data to support its conclusions. Instead, Neal wrote the article with an agenda already in mind:

Actually, I did have a premise, but it wasn't unshakable because neither the Army nor the Defense Department keeps detailed information about the household incomes of the people who join.

Neal then goes through a convoluted effort to demonstrate that because Kerry held a ten point advantage over Bush in households making less than $50K and Bush reverses that with households above that threshold, it points out that rich people don't let recruiters near their children. He manages to make this connection without any data on (a) the household incomes of those who join up, (b) the household incomes of those who refuse to join up, (c) the party affiliation of either data set, and (d) their support for the war in Iraq in any of the data sets, including the potential recruits themselves.

Yes, I'd have to say that Neal decided what he wanted to write well before he went out looking for support for his hypothesis. Unfortunately for the Post, he wrote it anyway despite having absolutely nothing to support it except for one family -- a family that he didn't even find for himself during his investigation, but one borrowed from Jack Kelly instead.

His underlying claims of a recruiting crisis appear to also be little more than a case of the vapors as well. Ralph Peters reports in this morning's New York Post that the military has kept up with its needs on recruitment this year:

* Every one of the Army's 10 divisions its key combat organizations has exceeded its re-enlistment goal for the year to date. Those with the most intense experience in Iraq have the best rates. The 1st Cavalry Division is at 136 percent of its target, the 3rd Infantry Division at 117 percent.

Among separate combat brigades, the figures are even more startling, with the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division at 178 percent of its goal and the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Mech right behind at 174 percent of its re-enlistment target.

This is unprecedented in wartime. Even in World War II, we needed the draft. Where are the headlines?

* What about first-time enlistment rates, since that was the issue last spring? The Army is running at 108 percent of its needs. Guess not every young American despises his or her country and our president.

* The Army Reserve is a tougher sell, given that it takes men and women away from their families and careers on short notice. Well, Reserve recruitment stands at 102 percent of requirements.

* And then there's the Army National Guard. We've been told for two years that the Guard was in free-fall. Really? Guard recruitment and retention comes out to 106 percent of its requirements as of June 30.

Neal and the Washington Post apparently don't like objective data for their news reporting on recruitment. They'd much rather stretch anecdotal evidence into an implied indictment of people who argue for a strong defense.

UPDATE: As the Confederate Yankee says, Ralph Peters has some 'splainin' to do. He mixed up the reinlistment rates with the enlistment rates. Truck has the link in the comments to the news that the Army will fall short of its recruiting goals, although it will meet its needs.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 23, 2005 7:10 AM

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