Forged in War
In Michael Barone’s piece in the latest edition of the Claremont Review of Books, he reviews Thomas Bruscino’s A Nation Forged in War: How World War II Taught Americans How to Get Along. Some of the figures Barone relays are interesting. While Hollywood’s habit of putting a colorful Brooklyn loudmouth in every war movie may seem unbelievable, in fact, nearly 3 of every 50 Americans in the 1940s was from one of New York’s five boroughs. For all their atrocities, the 20th century’s wars united America’s disparate and bickering races and religions in a common story and purpose. America’s various peoples were put into a common uniform and given standard issue weapons and supplies, and made to rely on each other in the worst of all possible conditions. Barone describes the profound impact of Bruscino’s story of four chaplains of different faiths, including Jewish, sacrificing their life jackets to their troops and praying together as their torpedoed ship sank in the North Atlantic. As a result of the shared experiences of America’s formerly disparate peoples, America was a more united and harmonious nation after 1945.
Certainly, war is not the only sort of experience that can bring Americans together. But it is hard to imagine a more powerful and fast-acting one. I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that there are few war stories that involve Muslims as our American brothers-in-arms. Quite the opposite, in fact, in this age of the War on Terror. I also wondered about the tendency of Muslims to enlist in the U.S. military. According to the NY Sun in 2006:
Out of the 1.4 million service men and women serving actively in the American military, an estimated 3,700 are Muslim, according to the Department of Defense.
The Wall Street Journal puts the number at 3,409 as of April 2008, according to Pentagon statistics. This comes to about a quarter of a percent. Since many Muslims choose not to indicate their religion upon enlistment, the actual number is estimated to be up to three times higher, approximately 10,000, or just under three-fourths of a percent.
Compare this with the percentage of Muslims in the U.S. population at large. Pew Research Center puts the number of U.S. Muslims at 2.5 million in 2009, putting Muslims at about 0.8% of the total U.S. population. Thus, it would appear that Muslims are actually enrolling in the military at a higher rate than their proportion of the general population. This is commendable, I think.