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Jonathan Davis

So what is so pragmatistic about being Jonathan Davis?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Is a military draft imminent?

The Army missed its recruiting goals last month, and not by a few recruits, but by 27 percent. The Army also expects to miss its goals in March and April. This begs to question; how will the US stay one of the world’s military superpowers and how did we find ourselves in this predicament?

Let’s cover the basics first; the concept of the volunteer army is a great one, as long as the military meets its quotas, everyone is happy. Many very intelligent people have sat down and decided the military on average lost X number of people last month, and thus to maintain (or grow) the military size they need Y number of people to join next month.

In the past, as the news went out that our country was on the warpath, young warriors began lining up at the local recruitment stations. These young men gladly took their place in an Army the rest of the world would often envy. Towns and cities saw their young men off with a huge party, watched the papers and mailboxes each day for news from the front lines, and then welcomed the survivors home as heroes.

So why now, does a whisper of war send people running, what has changed? Why is the military now barely able to meet quotas? Why are soldiers who served their time being called back? I believe that we are only seeing the beginning of the problem. Quotas will continue to go unmet for some time to come, even after Iraq and Afghanistan are committed to the history books.

I also believe we can begin to understand the recruitment problem with two simple concepts. Each concept is completely independent, yet offers the same results, a reduced number of people willing to sign on the dotted line. The end result will be a draft, if not now, then during the next major war.

Problem One – Our History
As most people who were alive during the 60’s and 70’s remember the US was at war, in Vietnam and Cambodia. Not only were we at war, but with a drafted military. Of those military men and women who served, over 50,000 lost their life, many for a war they never believed in.

Those people who were left in the states saw a war killing their fellow American’s and many took to the streets in strong protest. At Kent University, four protestors were shot and killed while nine others were wounded during such protest. Many more protestors were arrested or beaten during the melee. The resulting outrage closed over 400 college campuses and sent over 100,000 protestors to Washington. All of this happened in the name of “peace”.

On the front lines soldiers were fighting a disjointed war which included the battle at Hamburger Hill. Forty-six men and 400 others were wounded while taking a hill, and after taking the hill, were ordered to abandon it by their commander. Additionally, the South Vietnamese people the soldiers are fighting to protect were often hostile towards the US military presence there, due to the unconventional warfare tactics used by the NVA and Viet Cong who labeled Americans as “baby eaters” (another blog) among other things.

By the time the US finally began moving personnel out of Vietnam, news of events such as My Lai, where US troops slaughtered an entire village, had taken front stage. Horrified by the news of these events people began questioning how badly they wanted their troops back after all. Instead of parades, parties, and awards welcoming these young soldiers home, many were shunned, jeered, or ostracized by the masses.

In addition to their social problems, many medical conditions began appearing among the veterans. Diabetes, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and soft tissue sarcoma, among others were all traced back to a chemical named Dioxin, the key ingredient in Agent Orange a widely used chemical during the war.

These soldiers, now veterans, had been forced into war, and when they returned, were ostracized by their family and friends, diagnosed with incurable diseases, and left to remember the horrors of war alone.

Now a generation later, many of those that protested, have left an indelible mark on their children, who are now old enough to enlist. One which clearly reads:

“War is bad, should be avoided at all cost, and whatever you do, don’t trust the government to take care of you.”

Those veterans who fought have left also left a mark, one that reads:

“War is a dark secret which should never be told. It should be avoided at all cost, and most importantly, don’t trust your country to take care of you.”

Gone are the days where everyone knew that war was a necessary evil not to be taken lightly, enjoyed, or sought after, but necessary none the less. The distrust and aversion that started over a generation ago became an epidemic which now runs rampant throughout our society.

Problem Two – Our workforce

During the 1990’s there was a change in the US labor markets. While it had started years before, during the 90’s there was a strong blurring of the lines between blue-collar and white-collar laborers. This new breed of employee, called a gold-collar worker, took on the management ability and education of the white-collar and the action of the blue-collar worker. Thus the “knowledge worker” was born.

Before the birth of the knowledge worker, each year between 70 and 90 percent of graduating high school seniors would enter the blue collar workforce. These blue collar workers were the life blood of the military as the benefits it offered far outweighed those offered by most employers. Education, full medical coverage, housing and board, not to mention the experience gained, made the military an easy choice. Additionally, leaving a full time job didn’t mean losing a career. Blue-collar workers didn’t have an investment in four years of college, and jobs were much easier to come by.

With the birth of the knowledge worker, those entering blue-collar labor began decreasing rapidly and will continue to decrease over the next few years. By 2015 it is estimated that 85% of the U.S. working population will be considered knowledge workers. Knowledge workers aren’t as easy to recruit, because many have invested in training, and their career paths. Joining the military, means to the gold-collar worker, walking away from a career, and an industry which continues to evolve in their absence, making reentry into their field difficult at best.

As the number of gold-collar workers continues to increase and the number of blue-collar workers decreases, the recruiting stock which the military has relied on for so long will diminish, and with it the ability to keep a strong military. Additionally, without a major makeover of public opinion in regards to the military, no amount of TV and print ads will draw the numbers needed by the military to thrive, forcing the government to continue trying to open a master lock with a skeleton key.