Mercenaries?

MERCENARIES?….Max Boot writes today about a way that the public outcry over immigration provides an opportunity for improving both the quality and quantity of our military recruitment:

Lost in the uproar has been an idea so meritorious that it should win universal assent: Create a fast track toward citizenship for those willing to serve a stint in the United States armed forces.

….This would address two critical shortcomings. First, it would make it easier for the U.S. armed forces to fill their ranks with high-quality volunteers. Second, it would increase the armed forces’ knowledge of foreign languages and customs.

….Our current conflicts also require intimate knowledge of the areas where our soldiers operate, because their tasks are often as much diplomatic as military. Recruiting foreigners could go a long way toward filling this critical knowledge deficit.

This is an idea that’s been floating around for a long time, and I’ve never quite been able to make up my mind what I think about it. On the one hand, as Boot acknowledges, it reeks of hiring mercenaries to fight our wars for us. On the other hand, it’s all too easy to let a scary word define a debate, and a desire for U.S. citizenship is a far cry from just accepting a paycheck in return for carrying a gun. Besides, my grandfather joined the Navy because he wanted to become an electrician and they were the only ones willing to train him at a price he could afford (i.e., nothing). Plenty of others have signed up in order to take advantage of the GI Bill to get an education. Does that make them mercenaries? Of course not.

But I’m still not sure what I think. It’s worth a discussion, though.