Last evening, the Rockefeller Center commemorated Veterans' Day with a presentation by Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer of their book, AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service--and How It Hurts Our Country.
I thought it was a fascinating presentation, and I'm persuaded that the military will not be used as responsibly as it should be as an instrument of diplomacy if it does not include more participation by the upper classes, whom I would define as those with many choices about whether and where to work beyond military service.
I thought they summarized quite well why this situation won't change of its own accord. It is the convenient bargain struck by three institutions--the government, the military establishment, and the upper classes themselves. For the first two institutions, they realize when it's the children and spouses of those in the upper classes risking everything on the battlefield, they are likely to be more vocal in their displeasure with the military and civilian leadership when things go wrong. Who wants that kind of oversight if you can get by without it? And for the upper classes, the narrow benefits are obvious--why risk your neck if someone else will do it for you?
You can read more about the authors project here. It's the beginning of a very important national conversation.
UPDATE: Here's the story in Monday's issue of The Dartmouth.