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Jack Ehn: Hiring Hessians Print

Military is better off axing age limits than recruiting foreigners

By Jack Ehn - Januar 4, 2007How embarrassing.

The Pentagon is finding it hard enough to keep up with recruiting goals that it may ask foreigners to muster in, according to news reports. Mercenaries. Hessians!

Yes, our beleaguered military leaders should consider lots of options for luring fresh recruits into a frustrating, increasingly deadly and unpopular war in Iraq. But they've taken any talk of a draft off the table. They ought to take the foreign-soldier scheme off the table, too.

The ploy is especially galling to us out here waving - pathetically, some might say, but sensibly, we say - to draw attention to a class of potential volunteers against whom the military repeatedly discriminates: folks who are fit and willing but over the age limit - now up to 42 at best.

The military is contorting itself yogically to bring in recruits, especially now that there's talk of increasing troop levels. Besides hiring foreigners, leaders also are looking at enticing more immigrants here to join, by offering them a faster track to U.S. citizenship. They're talking about extending more tours in Iraq, especially for Marines, to keep numbers up. They're lowering standards for enlistees and are pushing recruiters so hard that some have been caught lying to prospects. There's still the issue of recruiters' presenting the military as a ticket to college and a job, rather than as a genuine sacrifice.

They wouldn't need to do this with us older farts.

We recognize that it's Americans' obligation to fight our nation's fights, for better or for worse. Immigrants and foreigners should be welcome to America. But they shouldn't have to bleed to get here. It's not about lusting for war, liking President Bush or admiring the current quagmire. It's about taking responsibility.

We see our children, students and their friends under stress in military units, with multiple deployments, extended stays and such. My oldest daughter just finished eight years in Army Airborne, including a tour to Kuwait and another to Baghdad, after having her service obligation extended to the max. For whatever reason, she joined a Guard unit after discharge - and now could be called up again. My youngest may enter a U.S. military academy - then face years of service under unnecessary stress.

Why? Why should we impose so much on our young people while the rest of us are advised to shop and pretend everything is normal? It's so wrong.

If the Pentagon is willing to consider something so extreme as recruiting foreigners, it ought to consider a simpler, more-honorable approach. Ax the age limit for volunteering. Accept Americans who can meet the physical, mental and other requirements - which a lot of us can do.

No need for a draft. No need to lower standards or hire Hessians. No need for sweet-talk. Spread the burden of warfare more equitably among the generations. Add more maturity to the mix.

What's not to like? 

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