22 May 2008

Supporting veterans

An interesting debate is going on between Senators Obama and McCain about the Webb-Hagel GI Bill. Senator Obama criticised McCain for not supporting the bill (it passed, 75-22, with McCain as one of three abstentions). Obama portrayed McCain as unsympathetic to veterans, prompting him to respond that he knows whereof he speaks, and that he supports a different, less generous benefit.

I think the true debate is more subtle than either side paints it, but McCain's central premise, while logical, is extremely distasteful:
Our bill has a sliding scale that offers generous benefits to all
veterans, but increases those benefits according to the veteran’s
length of service...otherwise, we will encourage more people to leave the military after they have completed one enlistment.
Essentially he wants to use the GI bill to bribe soldiers and marines into re-upping multiple times. While I can see why this is useful to the armed forces, it seems contrary to the idea of a voluntary force. We don't conscript our citizens, and so those who choose to serve — for any amount of time — should get the fullest extent of our gratitude. If McCain wants to encourage reenlistment he should sponsor a bill that goes above and beyond the current one, not shortchanging GIs who serve only one or two tours out of choice.

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