Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Military Myths

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Military Myths

Article excerpt

A School for the Nation?" by Ronald R. Krebs, in International Security (Spring 2004), Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Univ., 79 John K. Kennedy St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138.

The idea that the armed forces can serve as a "school for the nation" was born in 19th-century Europe and has since been embraced everywhere from tsarist Russia to the contemporary developing world. In the United States, a small group of intellectuals on both the left and the right tout a revived draft or mandatory national service as a way to forge a stronger sense of national community and overcome the divisions of race, class, and culture.

It may work in those old World War II movies, in which groups of wisecracking guys from all over America are transformed by a tour of duty, but real life offers more chastening evidence, says Krebs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Military service may stiffen an individual's spine and instill more self-discipline and a greater sense of purpose, but hopes of social transformation are exaggerated. …

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