The fight over new recruitsShould Army recruiters be left alone by antiwar protesters, who fervently believe the effort to sign up young men and women for military service is the worst kind of bait-and-switch there is?
Or do picketers have every right to focus their opposition to U.S. policies in Iraq by waving signs and protesting the war outside a recruiting office, actions designed to manufacture free anti-war publicity?
Head-butting over this issue took place here last Friday, with anti-war protests led by the Raging Grannies, a group that obviously enjoys stealing the limelight through gags like singing, playing instruments and wearing funny costumes.
The Grannies have been busy lately. We saw them only the week before outside Google headquarters, demonstrating in support of workers who want assurances from the company, which plans to build a new hotel there, that it will consider a contract with hotel workers.
The Grannies' posturing, and that of similar groups, often works — after all, what media outlet can resist such a spectacle? (See page 5.) What is not clear is whether the demonstrations change anyone's feelings about the U.S. government and how it is conducting itself around the world.
But whatever you think of the publicity stunts that accompany these events, local anti-war protesters made one good point on Friday: Recruiters should not have carte blanche access to high school students, who can be naive about what it means to join the military today.
At the heart of that issue is a little-discussed "opt-out" form, which is included in the orientation packets of all incoming students at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools. Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, who represents Mountain View, says the opt-out notice — which guardians can sign to deny recruiters access to their children's personal information — is often buried in orientation packets handed out at the beginning of the school year. Lieber is reintroducing a bill, vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2006, to change that, placing the forms at the top of the packet.
This is a fair bill that legislators and the governor should pass this session. Recruiters are right to focus on anyone they think might benefit from a career in the military. But at that age, parents are still in charge, and the opt-out form is a legitimate way for them to keep the military out of their household if they so desire.
We can understand the pressure on recruiters, who are tasked with bringing in troops to fight an increasingly unpopular war. But when it comes to high school students, recruiters should tread lightly, making sure that families of potential recruits agree that their son or daughter can be tapped for a military career that will possibly — or even likely — put them in harm's way.