We’re in a budget crisis all right, and the affects are hard to bear. The Pentagon is trying to cut corners anywhere it can with its meager hundred-billion (or trillion, I can’t remember) dollar budget. Due to the setbacks, the military can only afford advertising space for recruiting commercials late at night and only on very obscure channels. Being the night owl that I am, I saw the latest one, which apparently everyone else has missed. Though it’s hard to find, it is the most truthful commercial you will ever see on television. To spare you from having to drink coffee at three in the morning to catch it on the Animal Channel, I’ll just rely it in the space below:

Jason Pesick

Camera shot of children filing through a dilapidated, inner-city school building.

Voiceover of infantryman: Because I grew up poor, and the government doesn’t fund education, I never had a chance to learn job skills.

Voiceover of Recruiter: But now, the United States will fund that training for the underprivileged, for the small price of risking your life and waiving certain constitutional rights.

Camera shot of Infantryman marching into Iraq.

Infantryman: This war is going to give me everything I need to succeed in the world of white, upper-class privilege.

Recruiter: In the War on Iraq, recruits will learn valuable skills like childcare …

Camera shot of a mass of parentless and homeless Iraq children being rounded up by American troops.

Infantryman: Thousands of others like me who have been denied opportunities are getting the chance our families and we have been hoping for, as long as we follow Washington’s orders, no matter how ridiculous.

Recruiter: In today’s military you can become one of the 77,000 who will fill the body bags the Pentagon ordered this month, or some of the thousands of others that will sustain permanent physical injury, lose limbs and suffer shell shock.

Infantryman: And though I may die by gun shot, grenade blast, chemical weapons or the intense heat of the Iraqi sun, and I’m still not quite sure why we’re going there, at least I’ll know that I did something good for somebody back home.

Camera shot of Dick Cheney shaking hands with Chevron executives.

Recruiter: Join the military. Fight the War in Iraq. Be the only thing we’ll let you be.

I do not want to be mistaken. I do not have a sweeping disrespect for people in the military. I have friends from high school who decided to join the military and I have friends in ROTC and I do not question their intelligence or their integrity involving their profession. However, there is a serious problem with military recruiting, and this war is going to make it so much worse.

It used to perplex me why conservatives were so intent on installing policies that ensure a large fraction of the population live in poverty, denied of any prospect of upward mobility. What is so wrong with people getting an equal education? What is so wrong everyone having the financial freedom to determine one’s own destiny?

Well, it would be a big inconvenience for the war makers. An affirmative action activist once pointed out that in most minority Detroit public schools, “you may not have enough text books, but you can be assured that your Junior ROTC uniform will be cleaned and ironed.” If everyone did have access to education, then the military would not be as popular an option for those of enlistment age. Denying education to a vast sector of the population while seducing them with decent pay and job skills is a sure fire way to guarantee that there will be enough fresh blood to oil the war machine. That is why the controlling party of Congress fears as much as a dime going to public education, while it has no problem sending billions (or trillions, again my memory is bad) to the military.

This is why the fight for fair education is so hard, because fair education robs the government of its ability to dominate the rest of the world. But let’s say we do win. What if we defeat the voucher system and under-funded schools get the money they need? What if we win the affirmative action case? What if we integrate the education system?

If this victory happens, then the government will have to do one of two things. One, it will get used to the idea that it can’t go around bullying the rest of the world, acting as the late comedian and philosopher Bill Hicks put it, “like Jack Palance in the movie Shane, throwing the pistol at the sheepherder’s feet”). Not likely. So maybe there will be universal conscription to maintain a large military. But then the president and all the other politicians will be less willing to go to war when its their kids that go off to die and not those of some lowly factory worker.

Education reform will stop war.


– Ari Paul can be reached at aspaul@umich.edu.

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