Why no one wants to Join the Military
On Civic Virtue and it's Death
I've been reading "The Second World War" by Sandhurst military Historian John Keegan...
It explained a ton about 19th century/early 20th century military culture I didn't get.
The Edwardians were patriotic as hell. the Military was massively popular.
The Average person’s diet had improved and increased in the 19th century, but the soldier’s diet had improved even moreso, it was a massive education and networking opportunity for people of all classes, and produced bonds that would be necessary for social advancement.
Conscription was massively popular and demanded from the population during peacetime, less because they wanted to make sure no one was shirking, and more because they didn't want lower class people left behind and all the opportunity in the army horded by the connected who'd be able to get into a volunteer force.
In Britain which had always abhorred conscription and had Whig (proto-libertarian) objections to it... the populace practically rebelled and formed illegal regiments and militias and drilled to participate in martial life... this was a phenomenon across europe and after the treaty of Versailles restricting Germany to a scant 100,000 strong army, the country was flooded with Freikrops, non-government paramilitaries and militias to either advance some political movement or just be part of militiary life.
This was after WW1! Millions of young men had just died as part of regiments many little different than this. And yet there was this much demand from young men to be part of the martial world.
This is because the Military and military life was ACTUALLY a good career move, and ACTUALLY formed life long bonds in the early 20th century.
Amidst the population boom of the early 20th century and all the excess young men with little inheritance... the military and militia life was a major vehicle for social mobility and aspiration and forming social connections...
So what changed? Why is it almost completely the opposite in early 21st century America?
These attitudes survived the world wars, even the western front of WW1...
But they were devoured by Vietnam and the Civil Rights era.
Implicit in a lot of 19th and 20th century militarism was the vision of "Every Soldier a Citizen, Every Citizen a Soldier" this ethos was first expressed during the french revolution... It was aspirational. The subjects divorced from the state and military were now armed and able to participate in civic and military life, they were now citizens... of course by the early 20th century this sounds very menacing... Soldiers must obey orders, every day... if every citizen is a soldier, and bound to obey, on pain of death, that's Totalitarianism.
Indeed a friend recently said "You know the Weimar Republic may have been the only true democracy in history. We talk about how your vote matters and you're deciding your government, but really the public has little say. Barrack Obama vs. John McCain was literally the option presented to America, that was their spectrum of options... whereas Weimar Germany? They had Monachism, Liberalism, Communism, Fascism All RIGHT THERE on the Ballot! and any of them could win! And one of them did"
It wasn't a coincidence that this seeming pinnacle of democracy, exactly coincided with, and produced, the era when the most men were in uniform (and many women in Auxillaries)
The ethos of universal suffrage and universal conscription went hand in hand... with the contradiction it implies: Are you master of your country? Or is every other person in your country now master of you? Are you empowered with your rifle to move the politics of Europe? Or have you been enslaved to your state, people, and their fate?
One might think this is the source of the disillusionment, but America had conscription and its 1940s martial ethos through the 50s and into the 60s...
But of course there's a contradiction between UNIVERSAL suffrage and this masculine martial conception of the citizen... Why is the vote of a woman or disabled man who've never served equivalent to a man who, through conscription, has been effectively taxed years of his life at often extraordinary risk and effort? How exactly does racial equality work when some groups are underrepresented in military life, or are perceived to be underrepresented in the most dangerous roles?
These Questions were papered over with discrimination.
"What did you do during the war?" was an interview question that made or broke your entire economic life in a world where a massive percentage of people had served... This was a massive inducement to do so, and indeed you could still hear concerns about "missing" a war in the 50s and being shut out of the aspirations and opportunities available to other "Luckier" cohorts of young men. Obviously even though there was little legal barrier to women fulfilling most corporate and professional roles, this fact of life was a massive barrier.
But then the 64 Civil Rights Act was passed and the logic of it necessitated Affirmative action to women, and underrepresented minorities, whilst at the same time a new generation of upper-middle-class young men, insulated by one of the most abundant and forgiving economies in world history were encouraged by family and friends to either avoid the draft with bogus medical excuses , hide out in university, or indeed dip out of the country for a spell...
And far from suffering a fatal blow to their career and social prospect for, what previous generation would have called, Cowardice... they were rewarded.
Military service became increasingly a marker of the lower class... and the Liberal Educated non-serving class, already critical of the war out of self-serving concern to not be draft... Latched onto tales of war crimes in Vietnam, often going so far as insulting and spitting (literally or figuratively) on returning soldiers not wealthy enough to dip into university. There were no return parades, GI benefits were often non-existent (with some unable to get healthcare for even Malaria (a disease a New Yorker probably didn't catch at home)) And not only were they not given priority in employment, lacking both the right ethnicity and the university degrees which are the only qualifications protected from a disparate impact assessment, many fell to the bottom of the economic ladder.
America's Recruitment Capacity really has never recovered. Total US military personnel shrank from 3.5 million in 1969, to 2 million in 1985 to 1.3 million today, even as the US population has increased from 200 million to 330 million.
America has gone from over 1% of the population actively serving at any one time to nearly a third of that.
The "Professionalization" of the US military to an "All Volunteer Force" has in effect just been a cover for this collapse in recruiting capacity.
America's military isn't significantly structurally different. These aren't really professionals.
Your average 3 year contract private isn't making some obscene Yuppie amount of money for his ambitious professional commitment. A private makes under 30k a year. A Second Lieutenant, with a university degree and years of professional development, who may have had to plan out his career from 16 years old, getting a Congressman's letter of recommendation to attend West Point or another service academy... Makes 40-60k a year.
US GDP per capita is 72k. If that Lieutenant had gone to a second tier school and gotten a Computer Science degree he'd be making 6 figures and have vastly more control over his life.
It's not a good career move, in the 1780s or 1900s the ambitious scion of a decayed noble family desiring to conquer the world might want to become an artillery officer... Today he wants to work on wall street or at Google.
Even if you're starting out from a very rough place there are almost certainly a dozen better things you could do to advance yourself faster, for better money, and with less effort than joining the Military.
The only appeal of the US military, for decades now, has been to people who really want to escape their situation, who really felt they needed to hard reboot their life, or who are really drawn to military life out of sheer love of it.
And then the Army went woke.
Wokeness is toxic to the Army not just because of the values clash with most ordinary recruits... but it places front and center the entire dynamic that makes the military such an awful career path.
Not only are young men not enticed to join the military out of the knowledge that they're wasting years not getting a university degree, or that their Gender, skin colour, and sexual orientation are still going to count against them even once they're out... They're now having it declared to them that they'll suffer that distain and discrimination even in the military, invariably by some fat university educated minority woman brought in to give a diversity lecture.
Even whilst you're serving, the US government its going to rub your face in the fact that it's undermining you and your career... And it's somehow a mystery the army can't recruit?
The US Military is taking close to half of the people it took in the 1980s... and it still can't find anyone.
Meanwhile its not uncommon to hear in various forums open talk from active military that if the US military were used in an internal war against the dissent of the Trumpenproletariat... They'd desert. Indeed Anonymous leaked US military wargaming projects something close to a 50% desertion rate in any major civil conflict.
And there's nothing to be done to save it. There's no will to double or triple pays to reflect GDP or what similar effort could get a person in the US economy (don't enlist, go Fracking or Alaskan crab Fishing) there's no political will to undo the bizarre system of racial and sexual patronage that benefits everyone except the productive class that drives the US economy... and there's no way any of the elite would recreate a world where military service was a better guarantee of job prospects and financial security than a university degree.
So America's effective recruitment capacity and civic feeling will continue to collapse even as Americans hate each other and their government even more.
You think recruitment capacity is bad now? Wait until they imprison Trump.
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