DeM Banter: was this not an obvious outcome of ending the draft? The bigger issue is avoiding a gap in Civ-Mil relations, how do we do that? Ensure both sides are clearly understood and represented. Thoughts?
January 2, 2013
January 1, 2013
McClatchy News Service
Some fear that an all-volunteer military may desensitize the United States to the effects of warfare.
WASHINGTON — Before a roadside bomb in Baghdad burned and tore apart Jerry Majetich, before 62 operations put him back together, even before he volunteered for the Marines, then the Army, there were five older brothers who’d enlisted and a mother who’d served as an Army nurse in Korea.
His family background shaped former Staff Sgt. Majetich, who’s now 42 and a single father and investment firm vice president in Jacksonville. Despite the torment since the 2005 blast, that history is part of what moved his 21-year-old son to consider leaving college to pursue a military career, and his 17-year-old daughter to join her high school Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
“I’d be thrilled if they chose to serve,” he said. “Despite everything, I believe in military service.”
January marks 40 years since the United States ended the military draft, and an ever smaller slice of the population appears to share Majetich’s belief, however. Statistics are rare, but a Department of Defense 2011 Status of Forces survey indicated that 57 percent of active troops today are the children of current or former active or reserve members of the armed forces.
A recent Gallup poll showed that despite the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a much smaller per- centage of those who’ve reached military age since Sept. 11, 2001, have served than in previous decades.
Part of it is simple demographics. While the U.S. population has grown since the draft ended in 1973, the military has shrunk. But this all-volunteer force appears to be passing from generation to generation, bringing up the worrying notion that the United States is developing a warrior class.
“The declining veteran population is one of our concerns, since there are fewer young adults in American society who are exposed to military service,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman. “While the armed forces continue to be largely representative of the country as a whole, nearly four decades of an all-volunteer force has shaped who is most likely to serve and from where.”
In the wide halls of the Pentagon, the military often is referred to as “the world’s largest family business.” The fear among some military leaders, politicians and experts begins with the belief that as fewer segments of society have family or friends in uniform, others become desensitized to the risks and stresses of military service. The feared risks range from a reluctance to fully support those who serve to an almost cavalier willingness to wage war, reasoning, “That’s what THEY signed up for.”
Historically, problems with such classes have ranged from the military having too much influence in all walks of society — Prussian officers collected taxes — to being marginalized, as with the so-called “barbarization” of the Roman military, which relied heavily on non-Romans.
Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, has spent decades voicing such fears. He’s one of the few politicians around who still yearn for a draft.
“Now, we’re never going to get the draft back,” he said. “But I really believe the greatest risk isn’t to the military and the few who serve, it’s to the rest of society.”
Inhofe thinks that military service makes better citizens. The broader the base of volunteers, he said, the better.
Even in a conservative state such as Oklahoma, Tulsa residents — more distant from military bases than other parts of the state are — express less interest in Afghanistan and other defense issues than those who interact more often with the military, he said.
“It’s only natural that people are becoming more and more distant from the military,” Inhofe said. “It’s a nationwide trend.”
The concept of a warrior class isn’t new, nor is it unique to the United States. Japan had its samurai. Europe had knights and vassals. The Aztecs had warrior nobility known as the Shorn Ones.
Israel, with nearly 8 million people, avoids this by having everyone serve. That wouldn’t work in the U.S., with a population of 310 million and a military of 1.5 million. Military leaders widely prefer a volunteer force, and one that’s committed to learning and staying on the job, to a conscripted one that can’t wait to muster out.
Still, Michael O’Hanlon, a defense policy expert at the Brookings Institution, a research center based in Washington, worries that whole segments of the population won’t even consider military service in the coming decades. When that happens, do those serving lose political clout?
“A broader base of volunteers helps ensure we don’t stop paying attention,” he said.
The military relies heavily on volunteers from the South and Midwest. Current trends might lead to an even narrower pool of volunteers.
Military and civilian officials admit that there are some positives in the smaller recruiting pool. The children of service members enlist understanding the job. They often were raised around the military and aren’t shocked by the culture, the level of expectations or long deployments.
Consider the Cotter brothers, who share a military life in the Flint Hills of central Kansas.
Several years ago, with college over and the recession in full swing, Gregory Cotter realized that his teenage dream of escaping the family business was a mistake.
“As a teenager, I wanted to do anything but this,” he said.
But like his father and two brothers, he enrolled in the Army.
A tour in Afghanistan now behind him, Sgt. Cotter, 27, lives at Fort Riley, along with his twin, Andrew, a lieutenant, and their 28-year-old brother, Brian, a captain, both of whom served in Iraq. Their father, Col. David Cotter, retired not too far away, in Platte City, Mo., outside Kansas City.
“What we understood when we signed up is that this is a job, and we were raised to believe in serving something beyond ourselves,” Brian Cotter said.
While public support for the military has been strong for the past decade, “the real test comes five years after we leave Afghanistan, after the sexy missions are over,” he said.
Victor Davis Hanson, a military historian at Stan-ford University’s Hoover Institution , said the current picture of the military might have been inevitable. Some people gravitate toward the military, while others are lured to jobs in finance or the post office, he said.
“A lot of people think this current system is a great deal, and that includes both those who chose to serve and those who chose not to,” he said. Still, former Staff Sgt. Majetich can’t help but wonder whether national defense shouldn’t have a broader base of support.
“Do people understand the sacrifices?” he said. “Do they understand the toll combat, long deployments, not to mention injuries and death, take on a person, a family? Do they understand that my 17-year-old daughter has more memories of me in recovery than before the injury? No, they don’t. Not at all.”
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7 Replies to “No-Draft Military Creating A Warrior Class? By Matthew Schofield”
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Hmmm… No easy answer (obviously). Personally I always liked Heinlein’s solution (Starship Troopers) in which only those who had served in the military were granted “citizenship” and allowed to vote! Realistically – I think the only way is to somehow encourage more “service”. Perhaps something like shorter guaranteed “REMF” enlistments (although it’s commonly agreed that there is no-longer any “Front-line”) with transferrable civilian experience and schooling money etc.?
Mark: service is important…I ponder if there could be the possibility of a wider portfolio of service options…military, state, peace corps, USAID, I don’t know,,,,agree, no easy answers.
Hey Bill – while I agree that would beneficial I’m still thinking that the divide between those with military experience and those without would still be “deep”. I remember dealing with the State Department, NGOs, and the Peace Corps and, while I respect them all greatly and met some great people, that gap in understanding was still there if not more so in some ways.
I do think that the number of service members that are, and will be, joining civilian life over the next few years are going to help at least a little. Still, I think we’ve got to figure out a way to make service a little more enticing. Also, perhaps transitioning the guard back to more of a State resource and National defence force versus its current role of almost another division of the active force could help to bridge that gap as well.
Still – comes around to no easy answers!
Mark: So you are all for the draft? There are good and a lot of bad with a draft… I know as a commander I see both. However, I can’t help but think “service” to the nation is indeed HUGE and very important for folks to understand what it means to be a citizen and what it means to contribute to the country. That’s why I would offer “service” beyond the military…and of course to make this mandatory would be a massive shock to the American system. I can’t help but think of those that garner benefits from some of our systems such as welfare but don’t add to it. A reform must happen and soon… something that could offer welfare for a time and then a mandatory job in a system such as developing/improving infrastructure, military service, Peace Corps or intercity work…we are out of money… we need to think. If we have folks that can work, that can contribute…they must. The longer we continue on the path we are on…the tougher it is to get off it…. and the more people feel living off the government is their right as generations continue to exist on this system… So to say EVERYONE must serve…would be very tough to get there. But to say you must contribute in either the private or the public sector might work. The welfare system is not bad… it is an incredible service our country offers…however it must be limited. Not sure that even hits the target of where you were going…and I wish I had deeper and more meaningful answers.
I agree that service is important. I would offer that the USCG, USAF, USA and USN/USMC have academies as does the Merchant Marine. There are also ROTC programs and the others that create citizen soldiers such as VMI, & Citadel etc. Perhaps its time for a civil service academy modeled after those military academies that also comes with a government service contract at graduation. These grads can serve in State, Fed, or Local government jobs with some rotations to build a broader base of experience etc. That may address some of the gap that Mark brought up. Although it won’t go all the way I am afraid.
I think a more pressing symptom is the paucity of veterans in Congress. Somehow it seems that the fraction of veterans is ever smaller lately. Without the voice of someone that has walked in those boots there to represent, I wonder just how well the rest can or will represent.
Like the idea of a “service” academy. We used to talk about that a lot in the “interagency.”
And agree…a lack of vets in a myriad of places causes issues..