Memorial Day Miscellany, 5/27/24

Memorial Day Miscellany, 5/27/24 May 27, 2024

On this memorial day, we consider:  competing to get into the military; indignation at the pro-family kicker; and Milei’s free market reforms in Argentina are working.

Competing to Get into the Military

Happy Memorial Day, a time not just to jumpstart the summer but to remember and honor our military veterans and those currently in service.

There are many reasons why civilians sign up for military service.  A patriotic desire to serve their country and what it stands for.  The zeal to defend the homeland in times of national danger.  The sense of obligation and duty.  Family tradition.  Ambition to better oneself.  Maybe not particularly wanting to, but getting drafted and obeying the law.

There is honor in the service whatever the reason. But today the U.S. military can’t get enough recruits to fill its ranks.  Part of that is understandable, with widespread disillusionment over the perception of poor leadership and woke priorities.  Part of it is because so many potential recruits don’t meet the military’s physical and mental requirements, to the point that the Pentagon is lowering its standards.  (The Navy, for example, no longer requires a high school diploma.)

But something different is happening in  Sweden.  The Wall Street Journal has published a story by Sune Engel Rasmussen entitled Many Armies Struggle for Recruits. In Sweden They Turn Them Away, with the deck “U.S. and European militaries are straining to reinforce their ranks to deter Russia. Sweden’s answer is to conscript only the brightest.”  The article is behind a paywall, but here is a sampling:

As the newest member of NATO, Sweden is betting that the best way to bolster its defenses against Russian aggression is to stack its military with the country’s top performers. Conscription under the Swedish model now functions as a filter, not a dragnet.

All young men and women in Sweden must enlist, but rigorous testing sorts the best from the rest. That has created a virtuous recruitment circle where military service, lasting up to 15 months depending on the role, is regarded as prestigious and conscripts compete for spots. Afterward, they join the country’s reservists for 10 years, or until they turn 47.

The system has proved so successful at nurturing talent that former conscripts are headhunted by the civil service and prized by tech companies. It could provide a model for the U.S., which in 2022 had its toughest recruitment year in almost five decades, dragging on America’s military might. As a proportion of its population, Sweden’s annual armed-forces recruitment rate now tops that in the U.S.

Potential recruits are selected using tests of physical, mental, and intellectual fitness, plus demonstration of motivation to serve.  Out of 100,000 young Swedes trying to get in this year, only 6,200 made the cut.

Sweden has had a formidable military history. (Think King Gustavus Adolphus, the devoutly Lutheran “father of modern warfare,” whose innovations included how to use firearms effectively in battle and who saved Protestantism in the Thirty Year’s War.) But that martial spirit had faded since the 19th century with Sweden’s policy of neutrality, including in World War II.  But now Scandinavians are seriously spooked by the Russian attack on Ukraine.  Despite sitting out the Cold War, Sweden has now joined NATO and is taking that obligation seriously.

As are its young people.  The article on the subject shows their motivations go beyond just the prestige from winning the competition to be selected.  “If someone says they’re in the military, you look up to them,” said one successful recruit.  But military service is more than that. “It’s a privilege.”

Indignation at the Pro-Family Kicker

You have no doubt heard of the commencement speech that Harrison Butker, kicker for the world-champion Kansas City Chiefs, made at Benedictine College in Atkinson, Kansas.

In the course of lauding Christianity and Christian sexual morality, he said this:

“How many of you are sitting here now, about to cross this stage, and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career? Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world. But I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.”

“It cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife, and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.”

For this the students gave him a standing ovation.  As Benedictine graduate Samantha Lehman points out, he was a Catholic giving a talk to a Catholic college to Catholic students on Catholic teachings.  But the media and the online mobs have reacted  with outrage.  But a petition at entitled Demand the Kansas City Chiefs to Dismiss Harrison Butker for Discriminatory Remarks has, at this moment, 224,000 signer.  Disagreeing with the spirit of the age will not only get you canceled, but possibly prevented from earning a living.
So far, his teammates and the team owners are supporting him, which is getting them in trouble. But the corporate NFL has condemned Butker and his beliefs.  Here  is how John Daniel Davidson addressed that in his article for the Federalist entitled  The NFL’s Condemnation Of Harrison Butker Exemplifies The Left’s Anti-Christian Bigotry:

“Things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values and media all stem from the pervasiveness of disorder,” he said. Butker also heaped heartfelt praise on his wife, Isabelle, and told female graduates that whatever career success they might achieve, their most important title will be “homemaker.”

“Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world,” he said, eliciting spontaneous cheers from his audience.

This was too much for the NFL — an organization that, as my Federalist colleague Sean Davis noted on X, “was quicker to condemn Butker for being a Christian than it was to condemn Ray Rice for caving in his fiancée’s head on camera and then dragging her lifeless body through the hall.”

The NFL of course has a long and rich tradition of defending degenerate and even criminal behavior by prominent players, like when Rice was arrested and charged with double homicide in 2000 after a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta. Good thing Rice didn’t come out and say he was pro-life.

Milei’s Free Market Reforms in Argentina Are Working

When Javier Milei was elected president of Argentina, he was mocked and vilified in the Western media, accused–sometimes in the same condemnation–of being both an “authoritarian” and a “libertarian.”  (Stephen Green notes the contradiction in that.)

But Milei vowed to “take a chainsaw” to the bloated government that had made the Argentinian economy a basket case on a par with that of the Weimar Republic and to rebuild the economy based on free market principles.  And, contrary to expectations, he has been doing exactly that.  And it’s working!

As Matthew Lynn of The UK Telegraph reports:

Whole government departments have been closed down overnight, regardless of the immediate consequences. The Ministry of Culture was axed, so was the anti-discrimination agency, and the state-owned news service. Only last month, he unveiled plans to fire another 70,000 state employees.

Milei hasn’t attempted to cut gradually, to control budgets, or to ease people out with early retirement, or hiring freezes. Instead, he has, as promised, taken a ‘chainsaw’ to the machinery of the state, yielding huge savings in the process.

Next, he has been bold. The president massively devalued the peso on day one, taking the financial hit upfront, and then tore up rent controls, price restrictions and state subsidies. . . .

Finally, Milei has never stopped making the argument. He promotes freedom, liberalisation and a smaller state with a messianic zeal.

Many of the measures he has taken might be rough, but the president has never attempted to dismiss that, instead explaining patiently and persistently why the reforms are justified, and how they will create greater prosperity for everyone in the long run.

As a result, inflation has dropped from 300% to 11%.  After the government has run a deficit for 113 of the last 123 years, the budget is in surplus.  Interest rates have been cut three times in three weeks.  Rents are down, since by abolishing government price controls, landlords are putting more properties on the market.  And the Argentinian peso has become the best-performing currency in the world.



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