Monday, March 17, 2008

Iraq, 5 years on: City enlistment drops; rural stable

As we noted Sunday, the upcoming fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has reporters reflecting, and noting rural America's disproportionate share of the human cost. The trend appears likely to increase. Douglas Fischer the San Mateo County Times reports that inner-city recruiting has "dried up" but "Rural areas remain stable," with an enlistment rate 43 percent higher than in major cities.

The paper's analysis of enlistment data from 2001, 2003 and 2006 show last year's enlistments in cities of more than 300,000 "dropped, on average, 15 percent from levels from before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." Per-capita enlistment in such cities is now 8.7 per 10,000 people; in small towns, 12.4 per 10,000.

Fischer has a great lede for his story: "Five years into the war in Iraq, not one service member from Oakland has been killed in battle. Sixty miles to the east, the ranching and bedroom community of Tracy, one-fifth Oakland's size, has lost seven soldiers to the war." Tracy has 80,000 people and an enlistment rate of 13.3 per 10,000. (Photo by Gina Halferty of the San Joaquin Herald shows the pertinent part of Tracy's war memorial, due for an update.)

Tim Marema, vice president of the Whitesburg, Ky.-based Center for Rural Strategies, told Fischer the economic opportunities — are lack there of in rural areas — have a clear influence. "For young people who want to choose the military, good for them. Our nation needs them," Marema said. "But it shouldn't be a choice made under duress. It should be a choice, and, in the sense of fairness, we would hope all our young people would have the same opportunities as they look at how they want their lives to unfold." (Read more)

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