After almost one full decade of continuous war, the gap between America’s veterans and our cultural elites is wider than ever. With ROTC (until recently) removed from our top-tier campuses, lingering anti-military biases that date from the Vietnam war, and an understandable reticence to risk promising futures on foreign battlefields, our culture-makers have shunned military service – at great cost to our country.
Take a look at the editorial pages of five of America’s largest-circulation and most influential publications, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. How many columnist-veterans do you see? How many veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan? By my count, I don’t see a single veteran of our current wars.
It’s not because these venerable publications shun younger writers (Iraq and Afghan war vets are largely from the younger generations). From the New York Times’ excellent Ross Douthat to wonk extraordinaire, Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, newspapers make room for the best and brightest young writers.
Nor do I think these publications consciously (or even unconsciously) discriminate. In fact, any one of them would be eager to hire a bright, wise, and articulate man or woman who knows what it’s like to walk the streets of Kandahar or battle al Qaeda in the deserts of Diyala.
Instead, they don’t hire veterans because they largely don’t know veterans. Walled off in cultural enclaves that are free from military influence – except as interview subjects or embed opportunities – our opinion-makers are on the outside looking in, largely ignorant of the reality faced by the roughly one million Americans deployed “downrange” since September 11.