Election 2012: Candidates Lack Of Military Credentials A Sign Of The Times
Such super-human accounts of heroism on the battlefield have accompanied the cults of personalities of those who have held the American presidency. But this year there will be no war stories; for the first time since 1932, neither major candidate in the running has served in the armed forces.
The choice between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama follows a recent trend of candidates with little-to-no military experience winning the Oval Office. Bill Clinton -- who avoided serving in Vietnam -- fended off World War II veterans Bush Sr. and Bob Dole. Years later, former Texas Air National Guardsman George W. Bush similarly triumphed over two candidates that had actually served in Vietnam. Most recently, President Barack Obama ended up getting the upper hand in 2008 over Vietnam POW survivor John McCain.
This coming election cycle, voters will choose between a candidate who opted out of the Vietnam draft to serve as a Mormon missionary, and an incumbent who chose academia over military service.
John Nagl, a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, questions whether coincidence can account for the successes of presidential candidates with little-to-no military experience. Nagl wrote last May that a variety of events -- from Johnson's decision not to send national guardsman to Vietnam to the military's eventual switch from a drafted army to a volunteer one -- have unplugged the public from a direct line to the armed forces. Sacrifices that most citizens used to shoulder have increasingly fallen on a select few, leaving the rest of the population disconnected from the costs and implications of war. The Washington Post carried his remarks:
The disconnect between those who give the orders and those who have no choice but to follow them has never been wider; all Americans salute the same flag, but only a few carry it forward against enemy fire. The military has become a caste apart from the nation it protects, with many of its fighters the sons and daughters of military leaders — a family business that asks much of a few.
Now, nearly 30 years into this experiment with an all-volunteer force, and more than a decade into America’s longest war, the nation will elect a president who has not known the tender courtesies of a drill sergeant at oh-dark-thirty in the morning.
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