For nearly two generations, no American has been obligated to join up, and few do. Less than 0.5 percent of the population serves in the armed forces, compared with more than 12 percent during World War II. Even fewer of the privileged and powerful shoulder arms. In 1975, 70 percent of members of Congress had some military service; today, just 20 percent do, and only a handful of their children are in uniform.
The Congressional Research Service has documented 144 military deployments in the 40 years since adoption of the all-voluntary force in 1973, compared with 19 in the 27-year period of the Selective Service draft following World War II — an increase in reliance on military force traceable in no small part to the distance that has come to separate the civil and military sectors. The modern force presents presidents with a moral hazard, making it easier for them to resort to arms with little concern for the economic consequences or political accountability. Meanwhile, Americans are happy to thank the volunteer soldiers who make it possible for them not to serve, and deem it is somehow unpatriotic to call their armed forces to task when things go awry.
THE all-volunteer force may be the most lethal and professional force in history, but it makes a mockery of George Washington’s maxim: “When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen.” Somehow, soldier and citizen must once again be brought to stand side by side.
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Monday, May 27, 2013
The Gap Between the American Military and American Civilians
Previous posts have discussed the gap between the military and the rest of American society. At The New York Times, Karl W. Eikenberry and David M. Kennedy write: