The [US military’s] land forces in particular are still having difficulties fielding adequate numbers — even with lowered standards, substituting women for men (from 1.6 percent of the AVF in 1973 to more than 16 percent today), recruitment and reenlistment bonuses totaling tens of millions of dollars, advertising campaigns costing billions, massive recruitment of non-citizens, use of psychotropic drugs to recycle unfit soldiers and Marines to combat zones, and overall pay and allowances that include free world-class health care and excellent retirement plans that are, for the first time in the military’s history, comparable to or even exceeding civilian rates and offerings.
A glaring case in point is the recent recruitment by the Army of 62,000 men and women, its target for fiscal year 2016. To arrive at that objective, the Army needed 9,000 recruiting staff (equivalent to three combat brigades) working full-time. If one does the math, that equates to each of these recruiters gaining one-point-something recruits every two months — an utterly astounding statistic. Additionally, the Army had to resort to taking a small percentage of recruits in Mental Category IV — the lowest category and one that, post-Vietnam, the Army made a silent promise never to resort to again.
Moreover, the recruiting and retention process and rich pay and allowances are consuming one half of the Army’s entire annual budget slice, precluding any sort of affordable increase in its end strength. This end strength constraint creates the need for more and more private contractors on the nation’s battlefields in order to compensate. The employment of private contractors is politically seductive and strategically dangerous. To those enemies we fight they are the enemy and to most reasonable people they are mercenaries. Mercenaries are motivated by profit not patriotism — despite their CEOs’ protestations to the contrary — and place America on the slippery slope towards compromising the right of sovereign nations to the monopoly of violence for state purposes. …
A more serious challenge for the democracy that is America, however, is the ethical one. Today, more than 300 million Americans lay claim to rights, liberties, and security that not a single one of them is obligated to protect and defend. Apparently, only 1 percent of the population feels that obligation. That 1 percent is bleeding and dying for the other 99 percent.
Further, that 1 percent does not come primarily or even secondarily from the families of the Ivy Leagues, of Wall Street, of corporate leadership, from the Congress, or from affluent America; it comes from less well-to-do areas: West Virginia, Maine, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and elsewhere.
For example, the Army now gets more soldiers from the state of Alabama, population 4.8 million, than it gets from New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles combined, aggregate metropolitan population more than 25 million. Similarly, 40 percent of the Army comes from seven states of the Old South. …
If the sons and daughters of members of Congress, of the corporate leadership, of the billionaire class, of the Ivy Leagues, of the elite in general, were exposed to the possibility of combat, would we have less war? From a socio-economic class perspective, the AVF is inherently unfair.
hat-tip Stephen Neil