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Put down that beer and pick up that gun, soldier!

There's a lawmaker here in New Hampshire who wants to lower the drinking age to 18 to members of the armed forces. State Representative Jim Splaine (D-Portsmouth) is putting forth the notion that 18 to 20-year-olds could, with a valid military ID, buy alcohol.

It's an intriguing idea. We trust those young folks to vote, drive, and serve in the military, but we won't trust them to drink responsibly. Apparently a Budweiser is more dangerous in their hands than an M-16.

On the other hand, drunken youths are a given. Anyone who's ever been near a college can tell you multitudes of stories of just how well they DON'T handle their liquor.

It's a tough call, and I'm undecided at this point. One thing is virtually guaranteed, though; MADD will be -- well, mad as wet hens -- over it. And that tends to make me think it wouldn't be such a bad thing.

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Comments (40)

I think that allowing them ... (Below threshold)
Synova:

I think that allowing them to drink at the enlisted club would be a good compromise. Used to be so even when local drinking ages were higher.

Hmmm.This is large... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

This is largely irrelevant as active duty soldiers can buy beer when on base. Which worked out rather well when I was an enlisted 18 y/o except that they wouldn't sell me scotch until I was 21.

I am too busy to Google it,... (Below threshold)

I am too busy to Google it, but I am fairly certain that some states, including Texas, already allow 18 year old soldiers to drink on base, which would include the enlisted club.

Actually, the drinking age... (Below threshold)

Actually, the drinking age of each military base is controlled soley by the base commander (and federal law). Some bases are 21 and over, others are 18 and over.

Aren't there beer vending m... (Below threshold)
joe:

Aren't there beer vending machines on some bases?

Anything that gets MADD's p... (Below threshold)

Anything that gets MADD's panties in a bunch is probably a good thing.

Being old enough to have be... (Below threshold)

Being old enough to have been able to drink legally at the tender age of 18, I've long opposed the federal government's extortion of the states with regards to the drinking age. Let each state make it's own damn laws. Besides, we treat 18-year olds completely as adults otherwise. They can join the military; the can vote; and they're tried as adults for any crime they commit. But for some reason, we treat them like children on this one issue. It's patently absurd.

Go back and check the actual drunk driving fatality statistics that MADD misquoted to help get the federal legislation passed. If I remember correctly, and it has been many years, MADD claimed that the percentage of 18-20 year old drunk drivers involved in traffic fatalities was much higher than the national average. However, I believe that the actual numbers were something like 42% versus 41%, which doesn't seem like anything to me.

Kill this federal law and leave it to the individual states. Barring that, take away the right to vote for 18 year olds and try them as juveniles until they reach the age of 21.

The only beer vending machi... (Below threshold)

The only beer vending machines I've heard of or seen on base were in Korea.

One thing's for sure, if th... (Below threshold)

One thing's for sure, if there is one criticism of the USA that is definitely deserved from Europe, it is about alcohol laws. Over here in Norway, they basically laugh their ass off when they hear that you have to be 21 to buy a BEER, when you can drive a car at 16, and vote and smoke at 18. I mean, come on, it's BEER. In Norway, it's 18 for low-alcohol beverages such as beer, and 20 for liquor. In the end, the laws don't really work anyways. Everyone here that wants to get their hands on liquor before they are 20 end up getting it anyways.

I've never seen an CONUS Ar... (Below threshold)
LJD:

I've never seen an CONUS Army post that allowed drinking under age 21. It is funny though, and truly ironic that most soldiers, regardless of age, have precious little time to do any drinking at all. I remember flying through Shannon Ireland and drooling over the bottles of Jameson's in the duty-free shop. We weren't allowed anywhere near it.

That said, any soldier with the balls to protect his country has earned the right to drink alcohol. Sure, there is a potential for alcohol abuse by the younger troops, but there will be whether legal or not. Their civilian counterparts certainly do a lion's share of consumption... The difference with the civilians is that the Army has a strong network of leaders to manage behavior, a system of counseling, and many more resources to deal with any abuse.

Again, if you carry a rifle for your country, you're a man (or woman) in my book, and have earned the right to all liberties guaranteed by the constitution.

My view has always been tha... (Below threshold)
edmcgon:

My view has always been that if you're old enough to die for your country, you're old enough to drink alcohol. Period.

If you're old enough to decide who should run this country, you're old enough to drink alcohol. Period.

Either raise the age on the military service and voting to 21, or lower the drinking age to 18. The combination is an absurdity.

In reality, the issue was n... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

In reality, the issue was never about 18-year olds drinking. It was and is more about 18 year olds buying alcohol for the younger than drinking age friends. Now, if you crank up (and enforce) underage drinking laws as well as laws on providing alcohol to minors, then you may be able to win the fight about drinking ages.

The fallacy in the "we send... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

The fallacy in the "we send them to war" argument is that we don't send 17 year olds into battle untrained and undisciplined...

When I was a commander overseas I had a whole slew of young men 17-21 years of age to supervise. In many cases, they had graduated high school and a few months later I got them.

For many it was their first time away from, overseas in a foreign country, and since it was Germany they were allowed to drink by the local law.

After spending my first 2 weeks there, every night, at AP's desk sgt office, bailing out yet another one of my people for getting into a drunken brawl at a local bar or the NCO club. Having to write a letter home to a mother of an 18 year old who died in a car crash because he was too drunk to drive was the final straw. I imposed a draconian, machivellian edict that all those under 22 were forbidden from visiting local bars or the NCO club unless it was a social event arranged by me. Yeah, they pretty much hated me and I'm sure my NCO had to squelch talk of fragging me from time to time. ;-)

I was given the same argument about "we're allowed to carry weapons at 17 but not a beer."

My counter argument was that unlike beer drinking, the handling of weapon was something they were allowed to do only after much training and drilling on it's proper use.

Unlike beer, M-16s didn't render the holder incapable of coherent thought...just the opposite....because of it's inherent danger and single purpose and intense training it tended to bring the holder's attention to clear focus and purpose.

They couldn't hold a weapon until they had proven they were responsible enough to do so.

I held them to the same level of responsibility for holding their alcohol.

In the following 4 years I never had another alcohol related incident or fatality in my entire unit. We were n't tee-totallers and had our share of parties...but they had to prove to me they could be adult enough to do it...

The problem with underage d... (Below threshold)
Phinn:

The problem with underage drinking-and-driving is not the drinking. It's the driving.

We should lower the drinking age to 18, but raise the driving age to 21.

That way, when they start driving, they can already handle their liquor.

Faith+1 - Good points you r... (Below threshold)

Faith+1 - Good points you raise. Not sure how to give the youth of our nation that kind of directed education, though.

Phinn - Another interesting point, to raise the driving age...

But what I waded down to write was this:
What about the old adage that people really only want what they can't have?
Except for the dolts buying for their younger siblings and friends, could we expect that the kids would find the novelty of beer to wear sort of thin after a while?

Ah yes, the age old questio... (Below threshold)
stan25:

Ah yes, the age old question of 18-20 year olds drinking legally. That is one of the liberals pet peeves. I was one of those people that drank legally at 19, it did not effect me all that much. I did not drive a motor vehicle except when I was working. I was driving a concrete mixer truck at that age and the person that I worked for would have fired me instantly if I would have been caught drinking and driving.

There is one other thing that this question arises about the situtition, if there were 18=20s consuming adult beverages, the states would not have rasie the taxes on booze any time soon. They would be overflowing with income.

we had a beer vending machi... (Below threshold)

we had a beer vending machine in our frat house. Every other can was an empty. One quarter, an empty, second quarter, a beer.

I hit the 18 y/o drinking age too. It was good for business, for sure -- but jeez when I think of how some people were driving. The difference between drinking and war -- if we could be assured that kids who drank were half as terrified about drunnk driving as they would be on the battle field, fine.

But kids (who aren't in battle) and are drunk feel indestructible.

I could be mistaken, but I thought that the 18 y/o limit was really just a mandate to the states that IF THEY WANTED FEDERAL HUGHWAY MONEY, they had to raise the legal age to 21. Might was WELL be a federal law.

Seixon: among any type of ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Seixon: among any type of those accommodating dependencies, you'll find few who do NOT "laugh their asses off" about any restriction, and other people, who reason otherwise. Try asking your question in a bar and see how loud everyone laughs. Try asking that same question among people recovering from chemical dependencies, and see how loud they laugh, but at you, not with you.

It's a matter of social perspective. When you're immersed in a culture that accommodates any debatable behavior, you won't hear much encouragement to change. And, among the Netherlands, they could not manage a social change to deal with chemical dependencies (among other behavioral problems), and so they accommodated and still do just about anything: change the definition from a problem to not-a-problem and presto, no problem.

When you're sixteen, "it's just a BEEER" seems to have as much sense as "I can't drive FIFTYFIIIVE" -- and thus, unless there are serious consequences, the lacking of standard does not change.

Right on - tough one here. ... (Below threshold)

Right on - tough one here. Can they drink when they serve overseas? If so, they should be able to when they reture on leave - as long as they are on active duty.

I like the Wizbang comments... (Below threshold)
-S-:

I like the Wizbang comments suggesting the reality of college campuses, where the "they can't manage alcohol" standard because, when you're eighteen -- as every one of us knows since we lived and survived it -- you are sure you can handle anything. From the college students I've seen drinking, THEY think they're handling it. So does Joe Wino.

Having a beer is much different than the excess that results from people without any understanding about moderation...if there are no negative consequences, "then do it" is the rule for many. Where alcohol use is concerned, regulating it is the same responsibility of society as is other potentially exploitable human actions, based upon the EXPERIENCE of surviving adults who know and remember what being sixteen, eighteen and twenty was all about. Note that the laws are not determined by sixteen and eighteen year olds. There's a reason for that.

Hmmm, maybe we could get th... (Below threshold)

Hmmm, maybe we could get the Supreme Court to step in on this one, citing foreign laws, and the increasing numbers of states which had lowered the age to 18 prior to the extortion by the Feds in terms of holding back the highway money?

Okay, just kidding.

I do not remember a time wh... (Below threshold)
Mike:

I do not remember a time when the legal drinking age was 18, so maybe someone could help me with this one question. What was the reasoning for raising the age and who were the proponents of raising it?

It seems to me that abuse, indiscretion, and stupidity know no age limits. It would seem that stricter laws and better enforcement of these laws ( providing alcohol to minors, underage drinking, and especially drunk driving) would be reason enough to discourage the behavior we were trying to prevent when we raised the age to 21.

As far as those in the military are concerned. I think a fair compromise for the time being would be to allow those under 21 to buy alcohol on base only.

Remember that native Americ... (Below threshold)

Remember that native Americans were great warriors till we got them drunk. I believe underage drinking is not the best solution for troop morale or for war fighting skills.

Visit any command during the Christmas Holidays. In the past, on piers by US Navy carriers, they place a wreck near the enlisted brow as a reminder that if they drink and drive, they can get killed. Too many of our kids do.

I'm a Vet, and I remember getting more hammered as a 19 and 20 year old than I ever should have been. The simple truth was that as an 19 year old, I was not a responsible drinker. How many 19 year olds are?

Being a director in Navy League of the United States, I am a huge supporter of the "white hat", and the Marine.

There are better ways of helping. Howabout opening up country clubs to enlisted golfers, skiiing lift tickets, sponsored sport fishing and hunting trips etc.?

If you give them beer, make it near beer or light beer. No depth charges"", boilermakers, or other killer drinks that do wind up killing our guys.

"We trust those young folks... (Below threshold)
Strick:

"We trust those young folks to vote, drive, and serve in the military, but we won't trust them to drink responsibly. Apparently a Budweiser is more dangerous in their hands than an M-16."

I guess I'm for it, but only if they get enough basic training on its use and have a NCO around to ensure they handle it safely.

Personally, I don't like th... (Below threshold)

Personally, I don't like the concept of a legal drinking age. I do, however, understand the arguements for one.

Then again, if all parents - not just some - were doing their jobs and the media wasn't so full of BS, (most) kids probably would be responsible enough to handle alcohol and we wouldn't need such laws.

I was stationed at the Pres... (Below threshold)

I was stationed at the Presidio of Monterey, & the on base age was 18. It was a problem for some, but then drinking is a problem throughout the military. We had staff sergeants who would pass out at PICNICS

I grew up in New York State... (Below threshold)
Jim:

I grew up in New York State back in the days when the legal drinking age was 18 in N.Y and was 21 in the surrounding states. I recall when I was in college stopping with friends in a bar to grab a burger and a beer and then returning to campus. One of the group was from Massachusetts and he was astonished that we could stop and just drink one beer with a meal and then leave without having another and another. Most of the New York natives could drink responsibly but the New England kids could not resist getting hammered every time. (Back then we used to complain that we could drink at 18 and get drafted at 18 but couldn't vote until we were 21.)

I was against the federal government nanny state gradgrinds blackmailing the states into forcing the increase in the drinking age to 21. I would welcome a return to a drinking age of 18. As far as drunk driving goes, that is strictly tied to the corruption of our political hack state legislatures. There is no drunk driving problem in (for example) the Scandanavian countries -- people there know that if you drink, you absolutely do not ever drive because you will end up in jail if you violate that rule. Here our legislators keep killing mandatory breathalizer tests or alcohol blood tests because so many of them are lawyers who make big bucks getting drunk drivers out of trouble (or have been bought and paid for by the trial lawyers).

Maybe I've missed something... (Below threshold)
Bush4more:

Maybe I've missed something in other threads, but I don't get the animosity toward MADD. I don't belong to them, but surely we can all agree that drunk driving should be criminal, and discouraged as much as possible.

Two years ago, a drunk driver hit the van some friends were driving, headon, and killed the little boy. One little boy dead, his family ever devastated, and an otherwise nice man now destroyed because he's overwhelmed by guilt for what he did.

I feel for him, but then again, he had had several DUI's before that. He should have gotten help.

When I was in high school, four kids in a different grade were killed when another drunk driver drove his truck the wrong way on the interstate. Of course, he survived. Unlike the recent young man, that man never expressed any remorse.

Doesn't MADD just work to inform people about the dangers of drunk driving, and to make the punishments more severe?

In my opinion, the punishment should be more severe, given that it's willful negligent homicide. If we make smoking the crime that we have, drunk driving should be more so.

If MADD does some other weird things I don't know about, I'm open to being educated.

But I do hope we all agree here that driving while intoxicated is flat out wrong.

bush4more, It is not that m... (Below threshold)
thomas:

bush4more, It is not that madd was not started with good intentions, just that we know where that leads. Take a look a some of the madd agenda, Having raised the blood/alcohol limit to 0.8 they now want to raise it again. Some members have "ride alongs" with police . Staking out restrauants not just bars and calling police when cars leave(wether drinking or not). But most egregious of all is promoting random sobriety checkpoints. Can I see you papers please, and breathe into this.

A major concern in all five... (Below threshold)
epador:

A major concern in all five branches of the armed services is keeping their members alive and safe from accidents, and alcohol use/abuse, prevention, recognition and treatment is a major project and cost related to that effort. Lower the drinking legal age and I am sure the current drop in MVA deaths in service members would rise substantially. I can't imagine many responsible commanders supporting such a move. No need to give the military what it doesn't want! (Unless you are trying to degrade our military effectivenes, that is).

Well, my dad managed to get... (Below threshold)

Well, my dad managed to get into the Army when he was just 17 (WW2); according to him, all he needed to drink was a military ID. I don't remember him saying it was only on post or in certain states either.

As I recall, our side did win that war...

...all he needed to drin... (Below threshold)

...all he needed to drink was a military ID.

Well, and money. Or a friend willing to buy.

An alternative viewpoint on... (Below threshold)
Captain Ned:

An alternative viewpoint on MADD may be found here:

http://www.duiblog.com/

Thanks for the information ... (Below threshold)
Bush4more:

Thanks for the information and the link. I see what you mean. Just as I want the truly guilty (murderers, rapists, etc), I don't want us to just start wantonly incarcerating or executing people who are only accused of such crimes. We don't want the State to become guilty of stealing innocent people's lives.

As is often the case, the correct answer is the balanced one. Prosecute those who drive drunk, but don't get in the family stuff that link described (and don't lower the limit to the extent where one glass of wine would become illegal!).

[email protected] Faith+1</p... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

@ Faith+1

My counter argument was that unlike beer drinking, the handling of weapon was something they were allowed to do only after much training and drilling on it's proper use.

Yeah but the way you get "much training and drilling" in drinking is by drinking!

:):)

When I was a yout I had a... (Below threshold)
mark m:

When I was a yout I had a buddy that went from high school into the navy. When he came home on leave he could walk into any local store and buy beer for all of us with his military ID. We were 19ish at the time. We had many a field party and never hurt anybody.

"Yeah but the way you get "... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

"Yeah but the way you get "much training and drilling" in drinking is by drinking!

:):)"

Hence the events I sponsored where I controlled the environment. I didn't train my troops to handle their weapons by sticking it in their hands and sending them out unsupervised. Why would I do that with beer?

Unmonitored and unsupervised free reign of local drinking establishments had already proven to be a piss poor...and in one case...fatally flawed approach. Try writing a mother a letter explaining how her only son died from letting him do something he didn't have the capacity to do. Scratch that. Pray to whatever god or gods you worship you never go through something like that. It's a life altering event. It would have been difficult enough if it had been in battle, but from an alcohol realted accident it is just mind boggling horrible.

We had our share of fun and drinks, but under my rules and my conditions. It wasn't always popular but I didn't have to write any more letters home either.

"Unmonitored and unsupervis... (Below threshold)
Ken:

"Unmonitored and unsupervised free reign of local drinking establishments had already proven to be a piss poor...and in one case...fatally flawed approach. Try writing a mother a letter explaining how her only son died from letting him do something he didn't have the capacity to do. Scratch that. Pray to whatever god or gods you worship you never go through something like that. It's a life altering event. It would have been difficult enough if it had been in battle, but from an alcohol realted accident it is just mind boggling horrible."

Didn't have the capacity to do?

What exactly did this individual not have the capacity to do? Picking a designated driver, walking home, or not drinking ain't exactly rocket science.

If this dude at age 18+ lacked the capacity to avoid driving under the influence, then he belonged in an institution, not in the military. If he had the capacity and didn't use it (a far more likely scenario), well, that's how some people collect their Darwin Awards. And babying everyone else that shares something in common with this person is not a reasonable response, no matter how upsetting an experience it might be notifying his parents that they released an overgrown child into the world.

The Europeans do manage to not be complete morons with alcohol even before they hit 21. They may not know jack about economics, but they seem to have the right ideas about beer. (Not to mention their version of beer tastes pretty damn good...)

Mike:The legal dri... (Below threshold)

Mike:

The legal drinking age was (allowed to be) lowered, state-by-state, from 21 to 18 for a short period of time around 1973-1977. It is my recollection that it was raised thereafter (again, state-by-state) at the behest of Congress after a significant spike in drinking-related fatalities on US roads. The policy was implemented through the Federal Highway Administration requirements on the receipt of federal highway funds. States that didn't raise the age to 21 by a certain deadline became ineligible for FHA funding.

That's my recollection, but remember, I was drinking (way too much) during those years (senior year of high school and all 4 years of college -- the Perfect Storm), so my memory could be fuzzy.

"If this dude at age 18+ la... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

"If this dude at age 18+ lacked the capacity to avoid driving under the influence, then he belonged in an institution, not in the military. If he had the capacity and didn't use it (a far more likely scenario), well, that's how some people collect their Darwin Awards. And babying everyone else that shares something in common with this person is not a reasonable response, no matter how upsetting an experience it might be notifying his parents that they released an overgrown child into the world."

Oh I see, since their parents failed to teach them responsible drinking I'm just supposed to let them get themselves into trouble?

Wow, such detached thinking indicates a complete lack of experience in anything even close to the reality of the situation.

Trying it your way resulted in death.

Doing it my way resulted in no deaths and teaching them how to handle it responsibly.

Sorry, your way is stupid.




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