Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Be All That You Can Be

One of the questions I often ask myself is whether I should have joined the army. Ultimately, I always come up with the same answer: that no matter how much my sense of duty pulls me to sign up for military service, my heart and mind cannot answer that call.

I first gave some thought to the military when I explored joining the Army Reserves out of high school as a way to help pay for my college education. Instead however, I opted to spend a year in Israel before matriculating into college. My decision was based partly on the fact that a year in Israel sounded a whole lot more fun than going through military training and partly on the fact that my hearing loss in one ear meant I was destined for a desk job.

Nevertheless, every so often I revisit my decision and contemplate the idea of joining the army. I thought about it, for example, when I read a column in the Wall Street Journal by a WSJ correspondent who had decided to put his journalism career on hold at the age of 32 in order to join the U.S. Marines. And I thought about it again a little more than a week ago as I was traveling down to DC when I overheard a woman saying to her neighbor that she only dates military men (active or former, I believe) because she has so much respect for the military. (Mind you, and with all due respect, I wouldn't join the military just so I could get myself on this woman's eligible dating list).

I strongly believe in the value of military service. I believe in it because of the loyalty to one's country and to one's fellow soldiers that military service encourages; because it would be a means of expressing thanks to this country for providing a freedom and wealth of opportunity that my famiy saw taken away from them in World War II Europe; and because of the sense of adventure that, at least conceptually, the military offers. Besides the positive aspects of joining the military, another part of me is motivated to sign up becuase of a guilt complex: How can I stand by while an army composed primarily of lower income individuals, many of whom see the army primarily as an opportunity for upward mobility, protect the democratic values of our country which directly benefit me; while individuals from higher socio-economic classes (myself included in this category), offer no individual sacrifices yet make the actual decisions to go to war.

Ultimately, my career path is not the main obstacle in the way of joining the army. (Though I'm sure my mother wouldn't be too happy if I left law school to enlist.) I can't join for two reasons: The first is that I seriously object to the war we are presently fighting in Iraq. Had I been in the military when the war first started I would have gone, at least on a first tour, without dissent. However, I cannot now, in good conscience, join a force that is fighting a war we entered on false pretenses and which has led to the unnecessary sacrifice of too many lives on both sides of the rifle barrel. Nor can I ignore the fact that I have the luxury to decide whether or not to join a war, when so many people of my parents' generation were forced to fight against their wishes.

The second reason I can't join the military is because of its "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. I thought about applying for the JAG corps (the legal arm of the army), when they came to my law school to recruit; however, could not bring myself to cross the protest line that our school held to challenge the policy. Even though the policy wouldn't affect me, the DADT mantra that the military abides by wrongly discriminates against an entire class of individuals. I'm not naive enough to think that no other profession perpetuates discrimination against certain individuals, however, the army's discrimination is unique in how blatant and widespread it is and in the fact that it is endorsed by the government.

Even without the army, I believe it's possible to "Be All That I Can Be" (though no commercials will advertise to tell me that). This is especially true because since I'm not in the army I can decide what I stand for and who I want to be on my own terms.

3 Comments:

At 3/13/2007 5:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the Israeli army? Any Jewish guilt over not volunteering? How do you reconcile it? Do your American values and Jewish values conflict when you think about army service?
Please respond in an 8-10 page double-spaced personal essay due... Just kidding.

But really, what are your thoughts?

 
At 3/15/2007 4:24 AM, Blogger Ariel Glasner said...

I'm not sure about writing an 8-10 page essay on this question, despite the fact that I'm the first to admit that some of my other posts might certainly qualify for that assignment. Not that I don't think the question doesn't deserve a well thought out answer, but I've just been writing a 35 page paper and the last thing I want to do right now is to write anything that resembles an introduction with thesis statement, 3 body paragraphs and conclusion. I did indeed look into joining the Israeli army during my year there before college, but joining the Israeli army is also an entirely different consideration than thinking about signing up for the American military because it involves not just signing up for military service but also moving to a new country (albeit one that I feel very close to.) If I was already living in Israel, I'd have no qualms about joining the army there. But, army service in Israel is also different because it's compulsory instead of voluntary.

As for conflicts when I think about army service, fortunately, Israel and America's close friendship means that American military goals and Israeli military goals are usually in sync, and I could certainly never imagine the two countries going to war against each other, God forbid. (Though I was once asked what I would do if that happened...I responded that I'd move to China. Needless to say, the guys who were interviwing me for my security clearance to the US State Department and who had asked that question didn't appreciate my response.)

 
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