"If we can send a 17-year-old to war, why not a 16-year-old? 15? 12? 10? (Kids are brutal enough in the school yard, they make terrific soldiers.)"
In the last report I took a fairly serious stance about the cause and effect of war. That it preys upon notions imbued to the individual through the media is one example I mentioned. Simply put, that war is fun, or war is a respectable enterprise. In the past few classes we've even seen how intrinsically linked the military and commercial industries are, and that has to reflect outwardly to some degree doesn't it? It can be viewed as a mixed bag and resembles the struggles environmentalists have between commercial industry and animal exploitation for example, or as a sign of the times...something to solidify that beyond our self-praise, we're just more advanced animals that like to club each other over the head with bigger and better tools. It's depressing to know how our prosperity and frugal enjoyments are so deeply sown with the military. Far more depressing is the idealized view people have towards the military and how it pervades our culture, that when watching a sitcom or awards show, it's commonplace to have somebody ask the audience to clap and support the troops or even have interviews with plucky soldiers on late-night talkshows. My favourite online shooter happens to be Call of Duty 4, before that it was Counter Strike - I can't figure out why I find war and war mongering so disgusting and yet can't help but enjoy the first person action games that take their cue from military counterparts. Perhaps I'm overthinking it and a cigar is just a cigar - the games are fun.
But it would be a mistake to assume that young men and women flock in droves to the military to see what a first person shooter would be like in person. I think that a fair amount of arm-chair marines would be too bothered to even try paintball or airsoft in real life, let alone the front lines. So the other force at work is the government, and it has the power to force people to war whether it appeals to them or not. A draft.
I've heard stories of solider faking their age to get into the army sooner than later during the Second World War, but a draft is something different. It takes a generation of people just coming out of childhood and puts a gun in their collective hands for better or worse. The justification for 18 or 17 year olds may simply be that it's a nice convienent number, co-inciding with the age of majority. That they can't legally drink but they can murder people is an oddity, but perhaps the product of bureaucracy and nothing more. Aside from the legality of it, it's infuriating to the person who has a family of their own and has to lose someone they want to keep because of a number. Too often it feels like shouting at the sun for going down at the end of the day, and that it's simply an inevitable thing. Wars of the past were fought with younger people than 18, relagating the very young to be powder monkeys running around re-stocking guns with ammo belts for what it was worth.
Summarily I cannot think of a explanation for using younger and younger people without coming across as selfish. I would rather war be a thing of the ancient past and that we've embraced a more enlightened philosophy of co-habituation. That I could be drafted tomorrow should the country go to war terrifies me, and that I have no say in it nor does any other family member who's taken charge of me from my birth reminds me the most of using slaves to get the dirty work done. In the past slaves were used to cement foundations for empires and the building and maintaining work that was exceedingly dangerous at times. Like slaves, soldiers from Vietnam were treated with apathy if anything, and like slaves they had to hump and carry and march on day and night with their friends dying all around them. That the politicians who declare wars do not themselves join the front line ranks is just another resemblance to slave labour. The only difference is the propaganda that drums up the desire to become a slave and all the benefits it grants you. It worries me that should the government enter total war once more, that the women will join the men as an inadvertant side-effect of the feminist rights movements of earlier times. We'll cast our populace upon the rocks and lift out the survivours with the unsullied hands of those who sent the orders. So it goes.