Saturday, December 30, 2006

You've got to be kidding, right?

OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today:

"Responding to Rangel--IX
We were left with so many unpublished letters about the U.S. military that we thought we'd take the opportunity of the holiday-shortened Christmas week to publish some more of them. We begin with one from Robert Eleazer, who tells us about a bit of recent history of which we'd been unaware:

I spent 25 years in the U.S. Air Force from 1974 to 1999 (not counting 4 years of ROTC from 1970-74). Although my family could not afford to send me to college without financial aid, and although I did not get a military scholarship, I joined because I wanted to serve my country--and the urgency to do so seemed greater to me at a time when the military was unpopular in some circles.

We need to recall that we would know about the attitudes of some leaders towards the quality of people who serve in the military even if the Vietnam War had never occurred, and if we did not have Kerrys and Rangles to remind us.

Robert Strange McNamara's attitude toward the U.S. military was well illustrated by an experiment he imposed on the armed services in the 1960s. Project 100,000 was a plan to place 100,000 retarded people and other mental cases in the military. Presumably, McNamara thought that these people had mental abilities compatible with military service.

Some of the senior officers I served under had the misfortune of having to deal with McNamara's experiment. A decade later they still shook their heads in dismay.

This sounded too crazy to be true, but sure enough, we found a February op-ed piece by Kelly Greenhill of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government that describes the program:

Four decades ago, during the Vietnam War, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara created Project 100,000, a program intended to help the approximately 300,000 men who annually failed the Armed Forces Qualification Test for reasons of aptitude. The idea behind Mr. McNamara's scheme was that the military would annually absorb 100,000 of the country's "subterranean poor"--people who would otherwise be rejected.

Using a variety of "educational and medical techniques," the Pentagon would "salvage" these Category IV recruits first for military careers and later for more productive roles in society. Project 100,000 recruits--known as New Standards Men--would then return to civilian life with new skills and aptitudes that would allow them to "reverse the downward spiral of human decay."

Mr. McNamara further concluded that the best way to demonstrate that the induction of New Standards Men would prove beneficial was to keep their status hidden from their commanders. In other words, Project 100,000 was a blind experiment run on the military amid the escalation of hostilities in Southeast Asia.

Some 150,000 NSM were inducted by 1968. The experiment proved not just foolish but deadly:

A Project 100,000 recruit who entered the Marine Corps in 1968 was two and a half times more likely to die in combat than his higher-aptitude compatriots. After all, they tended to be the ones in the line of fire.

But Project 100,000 recruits fared poorly outside combat as well. . . . Research conducted in the late 1980's revealed that across the services Project 100,000 recruits were reassigned at rates up to 11 times greater than their peers. Likewise, 9 percent to 22 percent of these men required remedial training, as compared to only one to three percent of their higher-category counterparts in the Army, Air Force and Navy.

So the false Rangel-Kerry description of the current volunteer military as a provider of dead-end jobs to losers was, at least in part, an accurate description of the draft-era military--and by design. It's particularly perverse that Rangel calls for instituting the draft (albeit he votes against it) as a way of "solving" this problem, which in fact has not existed for 35 years."

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