I received the following email from a reader that triggers a random thought.
First the email:
VC post on separation between elites and warriors.
I often had the same thought on reflecting on the lists of names of those Northwestern Law graduates who died in the World Wars, etched in stone on the walls of Levy Mayer Hall. I wondered if my classmates and I could make such a sacrifice for our country on the field of battle. I don't think so. We're a softer nation now.
Incidentally, you can see those plaques here: http://www.law.northwestern.edu/mainpages/virtualtour/img4.html They are to the right of the two doorways.
More on the central proposition in a moment, but first, I recall being told that there is an old rule of the Georgia Bar that admittance into the Bar also automatically grants you the title of "Colonel" in the Georgia militia and the privilege/obligation to muster a regiment in the event of war. It is sort of funny to think that bar admission today would imply something about one's fitness to serve as military leader in time of war. In fact, I vividly recall this one old partner at my firm who quite plainly could never remember my name, so he simply referred to me as "Colonel" every time he saw me. Although it would have been nice to have him remember my name, I always thought it was kind of cool to be called "Colonel" so I didn't really mind (much better than something like "dude").
Anyway, I've never been able to confirm whether it is true that becoming a member of the Georgia automatically awarded the title of Colonel in the state militia, or was true at one time. So if anyone knows for sure and could point me to a confirming source, I would appreciate it.
As for the central proposition of the email--that we are a softer nation now--is an interesting one, that I don't have any strong opinion on. I recently read Michael Barone's book "Hard America, Soft America," which I mentioned previously in a different context. Barone argues that we are in some sense two Americas, hard and soft. Barone argues, interestingly enough, that the military itself has become much harder than previously, at least as compared to the 1960s and 1970s. But, in general, I think he might agree with the suggestion that overall we are softer, at least in terms of the physcial and other characteristics that would be necessary to fight something like a World War. But I don't know, although it is an interesting thing to think about.
In a Comment to my earlier post, a reader raises questions as to whether the quote is really to Thucydides and links to this Google Groups search result. A number of Commenters observed that they do not recall having read that particular quote in Thucydides.