If money talks, military personnel have made their preferences on war clear. Ron Paul received the most in campaign contributions from military personnel until March 2012, when Obama began taking in more. By election time the president had received nearly twice as much as Mitt Romney. Given the military’s historical tendency to lean Republican, that’s a pretty striking number. It’s been widely reported that the officer corps has deep reservations about an attack on Iran, and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said one by either Israel or the United States would be “catastrophic.”
The remarkable shift away from Republicans could be due to many things. But given the similarities between both 2012 candidates on most things besides war, and the fact that the military is the subset of the population most affected by it, it stands to reason that that foreign policy is the main issue military personnel part ways with the GOP.
It’s news to nobody that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both of Cuban descent, hold some views that are out of the mainstream of the Hispanic community. Yet, as they transform from Tea Party small-government conservatives to full-blown imperialists–witness Ted Cruz’s bizarre fixation on Chas Freeman yesterday and Marco Rubio’s catechesis in fraudulent American Exceptionalism—it’s interesting that the military itself has become more skeptical of intervention. Moreover, if the military’s shift in opinion is also evident in the subset for which these senators are touted as the GOP’s ethnic ambassadors, that would be quite something, especially since Hispanics enlisted at higher rates than the general population in 2004 and 2005. It would hint that they’re out of touch with Latinos in a group that’s ordinarily more sympathetic to Republicans. It would also be another reminder that the GOP’s problem is deeper than immigration.
The trouble is it’s a bit difficult to get solid information on Hispanics and Latinos in the armed services because in 2008 the Office of Management and Budget directed the military to stop accounting for them as a separate racial category. Note the massive drop-off in minorities on active duty between 2008 and 2009.
Let me be clear. Those who instructed the OMB to change the military’s racial accounting probably had perfectly good reasons for doing so–Hispanics are an ethnicity, not a race, etc. That’s both an important conversation and one I’m completely uninterested in.
Hispanics are still counted, but as a subset of all the other racial categories. Maybe there are some good reasons for that, but it’s worth pointing out that omitting Hispanics makes the military look like it has much more of a “diversity problem” than it actually has.
Though Hispanics are not considered a race, in this country they generally are considered minorities. Yet this chart of minority officer-to-enlisted ratios doesn’t include them.
This goes beyond the point I’m trying to make here, but whether or not you believe diversity ought to be a criterion promotion boards select for, it is. Therefore the military’s understanding of diversity (or lack thereof) ought to be based on sound data. If the data is telling you that minorities are far more underrepresented than they actually are, that raises questions about just how aggressively the military is selecting for minority officers. There’s nothing in the military’s 2010 demographic report about the enlisted-to-officer ratio of Hispanics, for example. We simply don’t know.
So that’s a confounding variable, since officers tend to the right of the enlisted ranks. Nonetheless, it’s safe to assume that the views of Hispanic military personnel on intervention more or less track with the military on the whole. They certainly haven’t gotten more hawkish, as the key Republican senators have.