Just as the U.S. military was finally making its recruitment quotas for the first time in years (with the unwelcome help of a downwardly spiraling economy and smartly targeted viral video games), an unprecedented obstacle to military service, mostly among youths, has presented itself.
“When over a quarter of young adults are too fat to fight, we need to take notice,” says retired Navy Admiral James Barnett Jr. He belongs to a vanguard group of retired U.S. military officers, Mission: Readiness, which reports that weight problems are the number one medical reason why potential young recruits are rejected.
Supersizing that value meal has become a threat to national security, in a negative light, and a bold anti-war act in a positive light (tongue-in-cheek tone intended). French fries and nuclear waste-laced car bombs being said in the same sentence — who would have thought. Seriously though, Barnett stressed that national security in the year 2030 is “absolutely dependent” on reversing child obesity rates. So who are America’s enemies when it comes to fit or fatness?
Providers of school lunches, says the group and many anti-obesity activists, who stuff American children with fried and sugared foods like they were going out of style, which they very well may be if the Senate passes a major $4.5 billion bill to make school lunches healthier. No mention was made of the video games with which the U.S. military is trying to lure new recruits clearly shooting themselves in the foot (no pun intended), with lack of exercise going hand-in-hand with poor diets.
Weirdly enough, during World War II, school lunches were also a national security issue. However, they were then blamed for under-feeding children and youth, making them unfit for battle as young adults. The current national school lunch program being criticized was actually a response to this under-nutrition, instituted in 1946. The initial problem has obviously been more than overcompensated for over the past half-century.
Ironically, then, the draft-dodging for which many Baby Boomers, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton (who had a self-admitted McDonalds fetish), were demonized can now be blamed on the government itself. Mission: Readiness’ slogan is “Military Leaders for Kids,” which sounds too much like an attempt to raise a child army, or a camouflage-wearing pedophile support group for me.
This disturbing trend for more than one reason puts an eerie twist on Michelle Obama’s newly embarked (and sorely needed) quest to rid America of its youth obesity epidemic. While the First Lady certainly has the health and well-being of her husband’s nationwide constituents at heart, the military leaders’ comments reframe the country’s overweight predicament in ways that point to a much-needed rethinking of healthcare and military recruitment generally — and separately.
by Antony Adolf
Antony Adolf is the author of Peace: A World History, and a teacher, public speaker and independent scholar. He is the publisher of One World, Many Peaces: Current Events Creating the Future.