I work in a store to pay my bills. One of the things we sell are cigarettes. Recently, the age to buy them was raised from 18 to 21. This has upset a few people. Oddly, the people upset seem to all be in the thirties who proudly announce that they are non-smokers.
The common argument seems to be “If they’re old enough to fight in a war, they should be old enough to buy cigarettes.” And, they have a point. It does seem odd that people that can get shot at or watch their friend get turned inside out by a roadside bomb shouldn’t buy cigarettes because they’re dangerous.
Ignoring the idea that the human brain apparently doesn’t fully mature until we are in our mid-20s, which is why – from some vaguely remembered article I read years ago – some people argue that the age for buying beer and cigarettes should be older. It’s far easier to damage younger brains.
But ignoring that, I wondered what if we switched things up. What if we didn’t send people to war until they were 21? People could still join the military at 18, go through all their training, but then get stationed either within the US, or in some safe allied nation, like Germany. Only older troops would be sent to possibly hostile areas, like Iraq.
Wouldn’t that hinder our capabilities in a war? you ask. Well, the way around that is that whenever Congress votes on a bill declaring war, they’d just stick in an amendment saying that the age restrictions would be lifted for the conflict.
The biggest problem, that I can see, would be unit cohesion. Right now a unit has people of various ages in it and you can’t just send 20% of a unit overseas because everyone else is under 21. Of course, if this was a direction we went in, there would be ways to work around the problem. It’s almost funny that – at one point – the ancient Romans had almost the opposite set up.