Who will fight?

November 12, 1990

Now that President Bush has begun to use the words "offensive forces" to describe our troops in Saudi Arabia, the odds that war will occur have dramatically increased. This raises a question which has been either sublimated or ignored altogether for 20 years: Is an all-volunteer Army the right thing when soldiers do what soldiers are supposed to do, which is to fight and die in wars?

It is a fact that young black men and women now constitute more than 30 percent of our army -- three times their proportion of the general population. In addition, many of the remaining soldiers come from the hollows of Apalachia or rustbelt cities where industries have collapsed. In other words, an all-volunteer army is bound to become an employer of last resort.

That comes pretty close to the definition of a mercernary army. So the hard, clean question now becomes: Is the average American prepared to risk the lives of their sons and daughters to achieve President Bush's stated objective of driving Saddam Hussein out of Iraq? Or are they only prepared to risk the lives of the sons and daughters of their poorer neighbors?

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