Who's in the Military?

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Here's an interesting report from the Heritage Foundation on who is enlisting in the military. It uses census and other data to identify the origins of recruits in addition to statistics the military provides. Here's the conclusion:

Overall, the wartime recruits are more similar than dissimilar to their civilian counterparts. The all-volunteer force displays near proportional representation of income backgrounds. Whites serve in approximate proportion to their population, although representation of minority groups varies. Recruits must meet educational standards, and the military provides resources for furthering education to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend four-year colleges. Although rural representation is disproportional, the military offers the opportunity to gain new skills and enter industries that are not available in rural areas.

With regard to income, education, race, and regional background, the all-volunteer force is representative of our nation and meets standards set by Congress and the Department of Defense. In contrast to the patronizing slanders of antiwar critics, recruit quality is increasing as the war in Iraq continues. Although recent recruiting goals have been difficult to meet, re-enlistment is strong and recruit quality remains high. No evidence supports arguments for reinstating the draft or altering recruiting policies to achieve more equitable representation.

It would be interesting to go back and get comparable numbers from the Vietnam era, when we had a military draft. My own sense is that today's volunteer military is more representative of the country than the draft military of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Heritage report refutes utterly the statement made by John Kerry yesterday at a rally for California Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides. Kerry was talking about education and segued into Iraq: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and do your homework, and make an effort to be smart, uh, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." John McCain has come roaring back with a response:

Senator Kerry owes an apology to the many thousands of Americans serving in Iraq, who answered their country's call because they are patriots and not because of any deficiencies in their education. Americans from all backgrounds, well off and less fortunate, with high school diplomas and graduate degrees, take seriously their duty to our country, and risk their lives today to defend the rest of us in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. They all deserve our respect and deepest gratitude for their service. The suggestion that only the least educated Americans would agree to serve in the military and fight in Iraq, is an insult to every soldier serving in combat, and should deeply offend any American with an ounce of appreciation for what they suffer and risk so that the rest of us can sleep more comfortably at night. Without them, we wouldn't live in a country where people securely possess all their God-given rights, including the right to express insensitive, ill-considered, and uninformed remarks. That pretty much says it all.

Brazil's Election

Brazil held the second round of its presidential election on Sunday; results are available on this website. The incumbent, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva of the left-wing PT, was re-elected with 61 percent of the vote, just a few tenths of a point less than he got four years before. The more conservative candidate, former São Paulo state Gov. Geraldo Alckmin, got 39 percent, 3 points less than in the first round four weeks before, when Lula had 48 percent; I blogged on this at the time. Voting is compulsory in Brazil, and turnout is higher as a percentage of eligibles than in the United States. Lula won 58 million votes, just 1 million less than John Kerry and 3 million less than George W. Bush in 2004.

This was a north vs. south election, with the relatively prosperous south, with its free-market economy, backing Alckmin, but not by wide margins, and with the less prosperous north voting very heavily for Lula. Lula won 87 percent of the vote in Amazonas, the big state in the western Amazon basin. In the northeast he won huge percentages in several states: Maranhão (85), Ceará (82), Pernambuco (78), Bahia (78), Piauí (77), Paraíba (75). Lula also carried Rio de Janeiro with 70 percent. Most of the votes cast for third-party candidates were for left-winger Heloísa Helena, who left the PT in protest of the government's corruption (there have been several yeasty scandals). But the Helena vote evidently came home to Lula in the second round. Helena's highest percentage (17) was in Rio de Janeiro, and so was the biggest gain in Lula's percentage (21).

Alckmin carried six states. One of them, São Paulo, casts about one quarter of the nation's votes, but he won only 52 percent there. In the states to the south he did about the same: Paraná (51), Santa Catarina (55), Rio Grande do Sul (55). Alckmin also won in the interior states with rapidly growing agricultural acreage, the places that are producing Brazil's huge ag exports: Mato Grosso do Sul (55 percent) and Mato Grosso (50). And he carried tiny Roraima, in the Amazon basin up on the Venezuelan border, with 61 percent. An anti-Hugo Chávez vote, perhaps?

Does Lula's victory mean that there is a permanent left-wing majority in Brazil. I don't really know, but I doubt it. His appeal is personal as well as political: He grew up poor, lost a finger in a factory accident, doesn't have the polish of most leading Brazilian politicians but persevered and, after losing three presidential elections, won in 2002 and now in 2006. People don't vote straight-party tickets; many parties are represented in the two-house Congress, and many officeholders change parties, sometimes repeatedly. I doubt that his appeal can be transferred automatically to any other politician, and the lineup of candidates will probably be quite different in 2010.

Lula has governed as a center-left president, basically maintaining the macroeconomic policies of his center-right predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, while expanding Brazil's innovative welfare program. He has not so much rejected as accepted the "Washington consensus" for free-market economics and rule of law. His foreign policy is in the Brazilian tradition: independent of the United States but not hostile. And Brazil has continued its practice of organizing and rationalizing the demands of developing countries in international trade talks–something by no means entirely inconsistent with U.S. objectives. His victory should not be seen as a victory or a defeat for the United States but as the continuation of a stable government that has often taken a constructive role in international affairs.