Thursday, April 27, 2006

Vandals Beat a Dead Horse at ROTC Buildings

Vandals attacked two buildings used by ROTC groups at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, scrawling spraypainted messages on doors and throwing buckets of red paint on the steps.

From the Raleigh News and Observer:

Vandals staged attacks early Wednesday on the buildings used by the Reserve Officers' Training Corps at N.C. State University and UNC-Chapel Hill, echoing similar assaults on three Triangle recruiting stations last month.

As before, vandals sprayed anti-war slogans and profanity, splashed red paint and claimed responsibility with a mass e-mail message to area media outlets.

Lt. Col. Carol Ann Redfield of the Army ROTC program at N.C. State was caught off guard. "This is the first time I know of that anything like this has happened here," she said. "I certainly appreciate that people have different opinions, and they should be able to express them, but I have a problem when they damage property."

Lt. Colonel Redfield has a fine point, in that the people involved didn't bother to speak their minds in perfectly legal ways, such as protesting on the campuses or starting a letter writing campaign, but preferred to instead make a mess and act like a bunch of idiots. Really, how much respect will a common person accord to a vandal?

The e-mail, from someone calling himself "celest ialbeing" said, "Stop these recruitment centers that target poor people and people of color to fight to maintain the power structure that (literally and figuratively) imprisons us daily."

Now this is one argument that I'm tired of hearing. The military does not focus exclusively on the poor and non-white communities. While military service is definitely a viable option for many people, poor/non-white or otherwise, the military fairly evenly represents the different racial groups in the US.

Demographic information, fiscal year 2004 (see the links or the Office of Army Demographics for more information):

Population Estimates for 2005, Ages 17-19, by Race (From here, page 6):
White 64.6%
Black 14.7%
Hispanic 15.2%
Other 5.4%

Total Active Duty Army Strength: 494,291
White 60.1%
Black 22.7%
Hispanic 10.3%
Asian 3.8%
Other 3.1%

National Guard Strength: 342,918
White 73.6%
Black 14.3%
Hispanic 7.5%
Other 4.6%

Army Reserve Strength: 204,131
White 59.2%
Black 23.8%
Hispanic 10.9%
Other 6.1%

Total Navy Strength: 450,775
White 61%
Black 18%
Hispanic 9%
Other 12%

Total Marine Strength: 216,665
White 65%
Black 11%
Hispanic 14%
Other 10%

Total Air Force Strength: 554,764
White 73%
Black 14%
Hispanic 6%
Other 7%

Active Duty Coast Guard Strength: 39,006
White 80.2%
Black 5.8%
Hispanic 7.8%
Asian/Other 4.2%
Native American 2%

From what I can see, the vast majority of the military is still white, not black, hispanic or any other race. While blacks on the whole are overrepresented in the Army, Navy and Air Force, they are underrepresented in the Coast Guard and Air Force. Hispanics are underrepresented in almost every service, except for the Marines. How is this a minority war, again?

As to the common assertion that the military finds most recruits in the lowest economic classes, there just hasn't been an actual study to determine whether or not that's even true. The military most definitely recruits at all economic levels, as any college student should be able to attest to. This article from the Washington Post has a bone to pick with one half-baked study published by the National Priorities Project:

The Pentagon statement said the Post article used "anecdotal evidence and . . . data compiled by the NPP that were incomplete. The Department of Defense does not know whether the data are right or wrong, but the data are clearly not representative or even appropriate for part of its analysis."

In particular, the Pentagon said the NPP considered "the Army's top 20 counties for recruiting." Though those counties produced an above-average number of recruits, the counties "account for a minuscule number and proportion of total recruits . . . 275 out of 180,000 recruits (less than 0.2 percent). One would be hard-pressed to conclude much about income levels from such a small sample size."

Until further, expansive research is concluded, I'll have to say the jury is still out on that point.

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