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AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service -- and How It Hurts Our Country Hardcover – May 9, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this impassioned, convincing manifesto, Schaffer (Keeping Faith) and Roth-Douquet, a former Clinton White House and Department of Defense staffer, call for class integration of the military. Their arguments are personal: Roth-Douquet is a military wife and Schaffer's son is a marine, and the authors fall within the demographic they critique. Alternately narrating, they relate their experiences with the military and detail the liabilities of the present all-volunteer "corporate" force: the hindered policy-making ability of a civilian leadership without significant ties to the military, the weakening of the armed forces themselves, and "the sense of lost community and the threat to democracy that results when a society accepts a situation that is inherently unfair." While Schaffer proposes a lottery draft and Roth-Douquet suggests the military "convince" people to sign up, they both call for all young people to submit to some form of national civilian service. Though the authors occasionally exaggerate ("we are fast approaching the day when no one in Congress and no president will have served or have any children serving"), they make a clarion call in the face of increasingly controversial foreign policy and a military stretched thin. (May 9)
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“As America looks for balance in a dangerous and complex world, AWOL is a great place to start.” (General Tommy Franks (retired))

“AWOL drives home...the need to address the evaporating sense of duty and service to our nation.” (General Les Palm (retired), President and CEO Marine Corps Association)

“AWOL is unique in its scope, intent and implications. [It] is clearly written and meticulously researched.” (Leatherneck Magazine)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 241 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (May 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060888598
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060888596
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,069,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
These two authors, one a Republican and one a Democrat, have written a provocative and very timely book about the large portion of society that doesn't see military service as fit for "their" kind of people.

The book starts with an astonishing anecdote. The draft was initiated for World War I because Congress thought too many of the country's elites would rush to fight (and maybe die) for the country!

That concept simply could not even be comprehended today, where the children of our current elected leaders in Washington, DC, with a few noticeable exceptions, would rather avoid serving the country in the military.

The authors identify several symptoms of the problem: Recruiters who are discouraged from even bothering to look for potential troops at elite private universities, and instead recruit from state and small Christian schools in the south; the hostility of some parents to recruiters even talking to their children; and the rise of the "me" culture and the attendant devolution of the call to service (We certainly never heard that call after 9/11).

This is an important book. While the authors sometimes get bogged down or distracted--for example in their attempt to give a brief history of four different schools of thought of US foreign policy (leave that to Walter Russell Meade please)--their thesis is powerful and important. Besides, some of their most moving sections are from testimonials from current and former servicemembers on what duty and service means.

I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Frank Schaeffer, a terrifc writer whether in the world of military, religion, or fiction brings his considerable skills with Kathy Roth-Douquet to bear on this seminal work on this nations upperclass' failures to support the military in deed, but often provide support with pale words.(I must admit to finding Frank one of the most skilled populist writers around today, and whether in agreement or not, he is a great communicator)

The book provides observations and yes, research, and although I have very minor quibbles, (Kathy, gives Clinton too much credit, although she is at times critical as well and while the military did a fine job, the stopping of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo has in reality, just caused other problems in reverse; and Frank supports a lottery draft, potentially problematic, albiet historically, it works more often than not - I prefer Kathy's option) these two authors provide great analysis and insight.

The strengths of this book are many: one, on how the military recruits on college campus and spends its money on ROTC programs faults our leaders for not engaging the upperclass. While this is understandable due to ivy league hostilities, it still needs to be pursued; two, the lack of moral clarity among our upperclasses ("me" and my "choice") is staggering and since these are the people generally with money, they are ripe for politcal leadrership, therefore, possibly using military men and women for their gains in foreign worlds, while not always properly equiping this same military to do the job; thirdly, the "not for people like us" is insightful and speaks to a snobbish group, again, lacking any moral clarity, especially when sacrafices are needed from them.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of those books where you hope more Americans will read it but sadly realize those who should wont. Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer do an excellent job writing about how their thinking evolved as far as the military is concerned, both with her husband being in the military (Marines) and then Franks son joining (Marines).

Especially interesting is how she shares growing up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, attending Bryn Mawr College and basically living a wonderful life, lacking in nothing. Being an active Democrat, working in the Clinton White House where on page 14 she writes 'The military people we knew were so impressive - tall and direct, knowledgeable about their jobs, dedicated'. Not what some of us were led to believe by some 'conservatives' who suggested the Clinton White House detested the military.

Frank writes of 1970 and getting married to Genie whom he raves about and how they to led a life surrounded by the right people and then 1999 arrived and his youngest son, John, was about to ship off to boot camp on Parris Island. The way he writes of what an eye opening experience this was is excellent. Bearing in mind these are families where military service wasn't the norm.

Unlike my family where my Dad was a POW during WW2, my husband was in the California National Guard and foster sons now serve in the guard with one due to ship to Iraq this month. My ancestors have fought in every war going back to the before we were a government. Some traveled west with Captain Fremont on his trek to California who over saw the first California Volunteer Militia. I also note that we all attended college.
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