As a college professor, I have the opportunity to observe the pervasive impact of military advertising upon inexperienced youths and desperate parents. Over the past decade the government virtually eliminated student grants, replacing them with the heavy burden of loans.
At the same time -- with recruitment in mind -- vast amounts were poured into military scholarships. No automobile company ever spent more on print and TV, or designed slogans as seductive.
It was a smashingly successful campaign because higher education has become an economic necessity, now that few blue-collar jobs provide a living wage.
But students were not the only ones taken in. When ROTC was reinstituted on campus, its proponents argued that anyone who opposed awarding a large chunk of college credits for vocational training in soldiering was selfish. Why should we deny only our students free tuition, room, board, books, and the little extras?
People who write stern letters to the press exhorting kids to put their lives on the line because they signed contracts have little idea how thoroughly young people were suckered by the propaganda. Families with high school seniors know, however, that recruiteres call all the time, dangling financial lures. I'm all for patriotism if we are attacked, but flag and country aren't mentioned by fast-talking pitchmen since the fiasco in Vietnam.
There is an old saying that you can do anything with a bayonet but sit on it. Maintaining an expensive regular force and an even bigger paid reserve, despite the lack of an immediate enemy, tempts leaders to muster troops for their Cause of the Month. After the current manufactured "crisis" is resolved would be the time to eliminate military scholarships, scale back forces, and discover how many volunteers join for love of country.
Faust gave his precious soul to Mephistopheles to regain his lost youth. America's children have been enticed into making a proper devil's bargain -- exchanging their lives for a fist full of dollars.
Professor of history
State College at Fredonia