Saturday, July 09, 2005

Another Perplexing Statistic

From The Gallup Organization:
June 22, 2005
Many Americans Reluctant to Support Their Child Joining Military
Nearly half would suggest a different occupation

by Jeffrey M. Jones
A new Gallup survey finds only a bare majority of Americans saying they would support their child's decision to enter the military if he or she made that choice, while a substantial proportion would suggest their child try a different occupation. This represents a significant decline from 1999, when two-thirds said they would support their child's decision to enter the military. A majority of Americans oppose mandatory military training for young men, and more than 8 in 10 Americans are opposed to re-instituting the draft.
You have to pay to get the full report, which I am not willing to do.  It probably would not answer the question, though: how is it that anyone could support their child's decision to join the military?  A recent editorial in the Fairfield Daily Republic reminds us of an important historical note:
"Why, of course, the people don't want war, (but) the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

- Hermann Goering, April 18, 1946
They go on to point out that Bush's credibility has taken such a beating that most people didn't bother to listen to his last speech; the speech during which the military audience did not applaud:
There's a reason why President Bush's speech on Iraq last week went unheard by most Americans and hasn't changed his sagging poll numbers. He and his administration have a credibility problem that Democrats and Independents have seen for some time and some Republicans are starting to acknowledge.

The 2002 Downing Street Memo is just the latest blow. While the memo has been trashed by conservative bloggers and right-wing blowhards like Rush Limbaugh, it has been authenticated by two senior British officials. It states that the British believed Bush had decided to go to war long before he told the public and says that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
As far as I am concerned, the term "Downing Street Memo" is becoming a convenient shorthand reference for the sum total of evidence for the deceptions that led us to war.  

For someone to enroll in the military now, it would not be a sign of patriotism.  It would be an expression of validation of a policy of secrecy and lies.  It would encourage the Administration to continue the practice of war profiteering, to the detriment of all.  Well, almost all.  A select few are getting rich off of the Iraq Adventure, but most of us are paying for it and will continue to pay for it for decades.

There has been talk of another war, this time in Iran.  That is impossible now, because we simply do not have enough troops to do it.  The declining enlistment numbers indicate that we will not be able to get those troops through voluntary enlistment.  We need to keep it that way.  After all we know there won't be a draft.  From the second Presidential Debate (October 8, 2004):
FARLEY: Mr. President, since we continue to police the world, how do you intend to maintain our military presence without reinstituting a draft?

BUSH: Yes, that's a great question. Thanks.

I hear there's rumors on the Internets (sic) that we're going to have a draft. We're not going to have a draft, period. The all- volunteer army works. It works particularly when we pay our troops well. It works when we make sure they've got housing, like we have done in the last military budgets.

An all-volunteer army is best suited to fight the new wars of the 21st century, which is to be specialized and to find these people as they hide around the world.

We don't need mass armies anymore. [...]
Now, if only we could believe that.  I would say that if a military draft is started, we would have two options: impeachment, and/or a general strike.  The Administration needs to know that we will not stand for more military adventurism.

So the question remains: Why would anyone support their child's decision to volunteer for military service?  

Categories: war, politics
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"For someone to enroll in the military now would not be a sign of patriotism."

Joseph: The time for joining the military for patriotic purposes was right after 9/11. Joining the service, other than during a bonafide war (and there have been only two, really, since the all-volunteer force), has never been about patriotism. It's about money for an education, a job when you're right out of HS and Wal Mart doesn't appeal, an opportunity to do something different, a rite of passage, a chance to figure out what you want in your life, a time to save some money, a legitimate chance to acquire a skill, and an opportunity to see different places. Patriotism is rarely a reason.

People ARE joining the services these days, and only the Army, Marines, and the National Guard is having problems with getting people --- the price for those ancillary opportunities just went up when an 1800 person body count hit the table, that in addition to the rotation cycles for visiting places that aren't quite as exotic or user-friendly as many others were in the past. The Navy and Air Force are apparently both meeting their recruiting goals and I don't think it takes much imagination to figure out why.

Goering's rationale works very well for a draft, when mothers and fathers, those who are most prone to complain, are having to give up their children to a war machine. Appeals to patriotism cut the calls to headquarters down and help to keep the politicians in line, but it's not like anyone drafted really had a choice in the matter. Ultimately today, in this country, those going into the maw of the beast choose whether to go or not.

I've seen two things rally people into the military under the all-volunteer system we now have, and neither had anything to do with demagogery. First was 9/11, and I suppose that was understandable enough and no one was calling for anyone to volunteer. And the other was a bad economy. Parents now likely have little more to say about what their kids do than they ever have --- joining the military has never been popular, especially with the middle and upper class. The current war gives parents more incentive to proselytize their kids about the negatives of the military and why they should stay away, but the fact remains the kids themselves will make their own choices, which they can legally execute when they're 18.
Let me start by acknowledging that you are more knowledgeable about the subject than I. When I titled the post "Another Perplexing Statistic," I did so because I truly don't understand the phenomenon.

If I understand your point, patriotism alone is rarely the reason for voluntary enlistment. The pragmatic benefits are more important that I realized. This leads me to wonder if enrollment in things like the Peace Corps is up, perhaps as people turn away from the Army, Marines, and NG. (I assume that there is a limit to how many people can enlist in the Air Force and Navy.)
I would say that if you ask the average kid in uniform why they joined the service they'd tell you one of the following as the first reason:
- I wanted money for school.
- I wanted to get out of ________.
- I wanted to see the world.
- I wanted to acquire a skill.
- I wanted a chance to find myself.
- I needed some discipline and I thought this would be the thing to do.
- I didn't like the jobs offered me right out of high school.

After that would come some generalized comment to the effect, "I feel I owe something to my country and this is a way of paying that something back." Their choice is not devoid of a patriotic consideration, but it's rarely ever a primary consideration. This would be somewhat different for officers, whose thinking tends to be a bit more abstract when it comes down to doing things like joining the service.

Keep in mind that with the Peace Corps and non-military service oriented endeavors, the requirement is that you have a college degree or some practical and utilizable life experience. This isn't an option that's available to the average recruit, who often times is joining the service to get the money to go to school, or otherwise hasn't a clue about what they want to do.

The Air Force and the Navy will make goal, apparently, but all the services scramble to get recruits, regardless of the geopolitical realities at the time. Sustaining a voluntary force is far from an easy endeavor and while I expect some of the people who would have otherwise gone into the Army and Marines have moved over into the other two services, I think on the whole that people who want to go Army or Marines are brand specific, but they won't see right now as being the right time to more closely associate themselves with that brand. If the economy should do a significant down turn anytime soon we can possibly see that change, which speaks to something unsavory about the underlying nature of who's ultimately making the sacrifices
for this country to sustain a defense force --- it by and large isn't the rich.
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