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The Deep Unfairness of America’s All-Volunteer Force

As far as we know, the phrase “all-recruited force” was coined by Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, a book that provides vivid insight into the U.S. Marines who fought in that conflict. Mr. Marlantes used the expression to describe what’s happened to today’s allegedly “volunteer” force, to say in effect that it is no such thing. Instead it is composed in large part of people recruited so powerfully and out of such receptive circumstances that it requires a new way of being described. We agree with Mr. Marlantes. So do others.

In The Economist back in 2015an article about the U.S. All-Volunteer Force (AVF) posed the question: “Who will fight the next war?” and went on to describe how the AVF is becoming more and more difficult to field as well as growing ever more distant from the people from whom it comes and for whom it fights. The piece painted a disturbing scene. That the scene was painted by a British magazine of such solid reputation in the field of economics is ironic in a sense but not inexplicable. After all, it is the fiscal aspect of the AVF that is most immediate and pressing. Recruiting and retaining the force has become far too costly and is ultimately unsustainable.

When the Gates Commission set up the rationale for the AVF in 1970, it did so at the behest of a president, Richard Nixon, who had come to see the conscript military as a political dagger aimed at his own heart. One could argue that the decision to abolish conscription was a foregone conclusion; the Commission simply provided a rationale for doing it and for volunteerism to replace it.

But whatever we might think of the Commission’s work and Nixon’s motivation, what has happened in the last 16 years—interminable war—was never on the Commission’s radar screen. Like most crises, as Colin Powell used to lament when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this one was unexpected, not planned for, and begs denial as a first reaction.


That said, after 16 years of war it is plain to all but the most recalcitrant that the U.S. cannot afford the AVF—ethically, morally, or fiscally.

Fiscally, the AVF is going to break the bank. The land forces in particular are still having difficulties fielding adequate numbers—even with lowered standards, substituting women for men (from 1.6 percent of the AVF in 1973 to more than 16 percent today), recruitment and reenlistment bonuses totaling tens of millions of dollars, advertising campaigns costing billions, massive recruitment of non-citizens, use of psychotropic drugs to recycle unfit soldiers and Marines to combat zones, and overall pay and allowances that include free world-class health care and excellent retirement plans that are, for the first time in the military’s history, comparable to or even exceeding civilian rates and offerings.

A glaring case in point is the recent recruitment by the Army of 62,000 men and women, its target for fiscal year 2016. To arrive at that objective, the Army needed 9,000 recruiting staff (equivalent to three combat brigades) working full-time. If one does the math, that equates to each of these recruiters gaining one-point-something recruits every two months—an utterly astounding statistic. Additionally, the Army had to resort to taking a small percentage of recruits in Mental Category IV—the lowest category and one that, post-Vietnam, the Army made a silent promise never to resort to again.

Moreover, the recruiting and retention process and rich pay and allowances are consuming one half of the Army’s entire annual budget slice, precluding any sort of affordable increase in its end strength. This end strength constraint creates the need for more and more private contractors on the nation’s battlefields in order to compensate. The employment of private contractors is politically seductive and strategically dangerous. To those enemies we fight they are the enemy and to most reasonable people they are mercenaries. Mercenaries are motivated by profit not patriotism—despite their CEOs’ protestations to the contrary—and place America on the slippery slope towards compromising the right of sovereign nations to the monopoly of violence for state purposes. In short, Congress and the Pentagon make the Army bigger than the American people believe that it is and the American people allow themselves to be convinced; thus it is a shared delusion that comforts both parties.

A more serious challenge for the democracy that is America, however, is the ethical one. Today, more than 300 million Americans lay claim to rights, liberties, and security that not a single one of them is obligated to protect and defend. Apparently, only 1 percent of the population feels that obligation. That 1 percent is bleeding and dying for the other 99 percent.

Further, that 1 percent does not come primarily or even secondarily from the families of the Ivy Leagues, of Wall Street, of corporate leadership, from the Congress, or from affluent America; it comes from less well-to-do areas: West Virginia, Maine, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and elsewhere. For example, the Army now gets more soldiers from the state of Alabama, population 4.8 million, than it gets from New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles combined, aggregate metropolitan population more than 25 million. Similarly, 40 percent of the Army comes from seven states of the Old South. As one of us has documented in his book, Skin in the Game: Poor Kids and Patriots, this is an ethically poisonous situation. And as the article in The Economist concludes, it’s dangerous as well.

The last 16 years have also generated, as wars tend to do, hundreds of thousands of veterans. The costs of taking care of these men and women are astronomical today and will only rise over the next decades, which is one reason our veterans are already being inadequately cared for. Without the political will to shift funds, there simply is not enough money to provide the necessary care. And given the awesome debt America now shoulders—approaching 20 trillion dollars and certain to increase—it is difficult to see this situation changing for the better.

In fact, when one calculates today’s U.S. national security budget—not simply the well-advertised Pentagon budget—the total expenditure of taxpayer dollars approaches $1.2 trillion annually, or more than twice what most Americans believe they are paying for national security. This total figure includes the costs of nuclear weapons (Energy Department), homeland security (Homeland Security Department), veteran care (Veterans Administration), intelligence needs (CIA and Defense Department), international relations (State Department), and the military and its operations (the Pentagon and its slush fund, the Overseas Contingency Operations account). The Pentagon budget alone is larger than that of the next 14 nations in the world combined. Only recently (September 2016), the Pentagon leadership confessed that as much as 50 percent of its slush fund (OCO) is not used for war operations—the fund’s statutory purpose—but for other expenses, including “military readiness.” We suspect this includes recruiting and associated costs.

There is still another dimension of the AVF that goes basically unmentioned and unreported. The AVF has compelled the nation to transition its reserve component forces from what they have been since colonial times—a strategic reserve—into being an operational reserve. That’s military-speak for our having used the reserve components to make up for deeply felt shortages in the active force. Nowhere is this more dramatically reflected than in the rate of deployment-to-overseas duty of the average reservist, now about once every 3.8 years.

Such an operational tempo causes extreme problems for both civilian employers and for National Guard and reserve units. What employer, for example, wants to hire a young man or woman who will be gone for a year every four years on average, when that employer can reach out and hire someone from the 99 percent who will likely not be absent? And how do the reserve units keep up recruiting numbers when faced with such a situation?

Moreover, when we look at the reserve component deployment statistics over a decade or so of what now seems like interminable war, we discover how badly skewed such deployments are. For example, as of 2011, North Dakota, Mississippi, and South Dakota had Guard/Reserve deployment rates of over 40 per 10,000, and Iowa had a rate of over 30 per 10,000. In contrast, the Guard/Reserve deployment burdens for New York, California, and Texas were all less than 15 per 10,000. Perhaps surprisingly, Massachusetts had a higher Guard/Reserve deployment burden per 10,000 than Texas did (these numbers cover the 9/30/01 – 12/31/10 timeframe).

A deeper look at the county levels within each state demonstrates that the Guard/Reserve deployment burden really is an urban/suburban vs. rural divide. New York is a case study. Niagara County (Niagara Falls and Lockport) had a deployment rate of over 30 per 10,000, while Jefferson County (Watertown) and Clinton County (Plattsburgh) had rates over 25 per 10,000. In contrast, New York State overall had a Guard/Reserve deployment rate a bit higher than 10 per 10,000, with Kings County (Brooklyn) and New York County (Manhattan) having rates well below 10 per 10,000.

Most Americans are completely ignorant of the facts outlined above, or understand only partial truths about them. In fact, the majority view the military in general and the way we man the force in particular through a lens of fear, apathy, ignorance, and guilt. The media is unhelpful in this regard because in the main journalists and TV personalities are as unknowing as the people. Few in the military leadership have the courage to speak up about these realities, or are themselves so brainwashed that they are incapable of doing so. But if the country does not wake up soon and demand action, we will be looking at another crisis and asking the question posed by The Economist: “Who will fight the next war?”

Worse, we might be asking the question that Skin in the Game poses: “What if we had a war and nobody came?”

When we put that question to a U.S. senator recently, he replied that “If the enemy were ‘on the shore,’ Americans would respond.”

“Would they?” we asked. “And tell us how you know that, please.”

“They just would, I know they would,” the senator replied.

There is yet another dimension to the AVF that is truly an “unmentionable.” As President Barack Obama said to one of us in the Roosevelt Room in November 2015—referring to Washington, D.C.—“There is a bias in this town toward war.”

What the president meant was quite clear: powerful forces such as the military-industrial complex, a less-than-courageous Congress that has abandoned its constitutional duty with respect to the war power, extreme ideologies, and a nation with no skin in the game, work together to persuade all presidents to consider war as the first instrument of national power rather than the last.

Is there anyone among us who would not believe that having an all-volunteer (or, more to the point, an all-recruited) military coming only from the 1 percent does not contribute to the facility with which presidents call upon that instrument? In a rational world, we would be declared insane to believe otherwise.

Said more explicitly, if the sons and daughters of members of Congress, of the corporate leadership, of the billionaire class, of the Ivy Leagues, of the elite in general, were exposed to the possibility of combat, would we have less war? From a socio-economic class perspective, the AVF is inherently unfair.

Major General (Ret) Dennis Laich served 35 years in the U.S. Army Reserve. Col. (Ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson is visiting professor of government and public policy at the College of William and Mary. He was chief of staff to secretary of state Colin Powell from 2002-05, special assistant to Powell when Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and deputy director and director of the USMC War College (1993-97).

100 Comments (Open | Close)

100 Comments To "The Deep Unfairness of America’s All-Volunteer Force"

#1 Comment By J Harlan On October 17, 2017 @ 7:58 am

On the issue of HR costs and fairness if you were to have a draft presumably privates would be paid less but why would officers and NCOs take a pay cut. They wouldn’t so since privates make up less than half the armed forces and of course are paid the least the savings would be minimal.

WRT fairness. What happens to the draftee who would have joined anyways for a job. The guy who joins to get out of whatever crummy situation he’s in? Does he take a pay cut or is there a work around for “volunteers”. If so there are no savings. If there is only one pay rate then the poor who would have joined get paid less while the rich kids simply have some extra spending money.

#2 Comment By Conewago On October 17, 2017 @ 8:49 am


Your idea of recruiting military officers for Congress will fix nothing. John McCain is a military officer, who served with distinction, yet he is one of our worst offenders in the realm of neocon hawkery.

Secondly, what contributed to the Roman Empire’s ability to pay for soldiery was the promise of land and citizenship. As resources became scarcer and the political class became more corrupt, land became less and less available and the benefits of citizenship shrunk as the central government’s ability to govern collapsed.

Here in America, most of us live as renters. Our ancestors, many of them, came here to have their own land; a nation of small landowners and farmers. Today we are a nation of blind suburban swine living for the next bread, and the next circus. Maybe it is good that the circus athletes of the NFL should strike some zest into that organization, which serves the political classes well in giving the sheep something to focus upon outside of their own souls. A soulless realm of dull consumers is one in which overlords can make a profit. It also helps them create endless wars – the ultimate racket.

Also, your use of the plural is incorrect in this case.

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 17, 2017 @ 9:44 am

“One word refutes the whole premise: Vietnam.”

Our efforts in S Vietnam reflect one of the few attempts to defend another state in support of their desire to decide for themselves how they would like to be governed. It was a hard fought issue with mountains of lousy management decisions. had we helped the S. Vietnamese secure that victory, North Vietnam would years ahead of China in clamoring foe “freer markets and inevitably democracy most importantly state stability.

I would suggest that a look at that period reveals something else. The decline of a greater social grasp of hat it means to be a citizen and why loyalty to that citizenship matters. That without it no state can survive. If one actually listens to the rationale of the protests from beginning to end, they are emotionally driven and they are routinely factually incorrect.

Gulf of Tonkin or no, we were going to defend . Vietnam’s desire to forge their own path, a a recognized independent state, they certainly had that right.

The current foreign engagement are not in any manner similar a to cause.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 17, 2017 @ 10:04 am

” Vietnam did not attack the US (Gulf of Tonkin was admitted to be a sham by none other than the war’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara, and the US had Special Forces killing in North Vietnam before the ginned up Gulf of Tonkin incident); the US attacked North Vietnam.”

I would encourage you to read the long discussion about the Ken Burn’s documentary on this matter. I would also encourage you to listen to the Presidential audio tape about the Tonkin episode as well as Pres Johnson’s view before entering the existing conflict in Vietnam. Unfortunately Sec of State McNamarra’s comments in the Fog of War are constantly misconstrued. Here’ the actual rendering.


The Navy simply got it wrong . . . It was not made up. It is an example of

“The Fog of War.” Further his comment about Vietnam is in hindsight, and even today the hindsight is highly questionable. The scenario’s are vastly different than what occurred in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Clearly the period in question is a turning point but Vietnam only provided a backdrop to a much deeper question regarding what it mean to be a citizen.

#5 Comment By Wizard On October 17, 2017 @ 10:26 am

The idea that resurrecting the draft would somehow make the rich and powerful less eager to use military force is ludicrous on its face. Who honestly thinks that we could, much less would, come up with a system that can’t be gamed? “No exceptions! No deferments!” you say. Nice slogan, but not something that’s going to fly in the real world. If nothing else, there are simply a lot of people out there that the military doesn’t need or want. Even if the elite can’t completely exempt themselves and their children from service, there are more subtle ways to ensure that they end up in the safest, cushiest billets.

Conscription is morally indefensible on its own merits. Even if it did make wars less likely, that would just be fighting one evil with another. The only just solution to the problems with our too-expensive, over-extended military is to pull back from military engagements and commitments that don’t serve any legitimate national interest. We have troops stationed in wealthy, modern countries that could and should defend themselves. We have still more operating in countries that are utterly inconsequential to the US national interest. Bring them home, and quit squandering money and blood.

I don’t consider myself an isolationist. I’m all for engaging with the rest of the world. I just believe that engaging through trade and diplomacy would be both cheaper and more effective than our current over-reliance on military force.

#6 Comment By Don Hunsberger On October 17, 2017 @ 2:00 pm

One thing that often escapes comment is the role played by American arm companies. When your profit is determined by the number of arms you sell (both here at home and around the world) there is little hope that diplomacy will ever regain its standing as the first option in conflicts rather than the last.

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 17, 2017 @ 2:19 pm

“The idea that resurrecting the draft would somehow make the rich and powerful less eager to use military force is ludicrous on its face. Who honestly thinks that we could, much less would, come up with a system that can’t be gamed? “No exceptions! No deferments!” you say.”

The arguent is not that it would hinder the rich and poweful directly,

but rather that so much more skin would be in the game as to force a discussion. I think the Vietnam protester were full of a lot of hot air save on one issue

war is filthy nasty murderous affair best avoided.

But it was the draft that fueled the matter. Millions of citizen just began asking why and the response should have been simple and straight forward as opposed to elaborate and covered in mud.

The all volunteer services and the gap between leadership and citizen i enough to afford them to avoid having to answer why to a smaller and smaller base.

#8 Comment By b. On October 17, 2017 @ 7:21 pm

The comment thread would make one appreciate the sly subtlety with which Wilkerson/Laich manage to advance the case of a draft – which goes hand in hand with their omission to discuss whether any of the elective, aggressive, unconstitutional and outright illegal wars that have been fought by that all-recruited force were in fact necessary.

It is the height of folly to think that, just because there is a draft, the powers that be damned would not strive to pursue every profitable war possible – the draft certainly did no prevent the folly of Vietnam, or Korea.

The authors will have to make up their minds – if the draft is supposed to address their predominantly fiscal and recruitment concerns, then one has to wonder whether they are otherwise OK with 1.2 trillion dollars worth of national securities trading.

#9 Comment By Surrealisto On October 17, 2017 @ 7:29 pm

The author assumes that the AVF is fighting to “defend the freedoms of the 99%.” This actually is inaccurate. The AVF is fighting for the policy and the status of the government of the United States- reasonable people are not asking them to be sent anywhere, but the government is. Americans have not fought “for their freedoms” in over seventy years. Instead, they have fought to prop up whichever demonology the government would wish to propagandize are “the enemy-” and for the last sixteen years, in a situation in which nobody, not the commandeer in chief, not the chiefs of staff, not lower ranking generals, have even a CLUE as to what the strategy and the end-game are supposed to be, nor what constitute proper benchmarks for disengagement. Perpetual war. And damn if anyone with a lick of common sense is going to enlist for THAT.

#10 Comment By SteveK9 On October 17, 2017 @ 8:06 pm

Of course this is the case, and has been obvious since before the Iraq War. You won’t see any Chicken Hawks or their sons fighting. We get a relatively small number of poor people to fight our wars now, so they can literally go on forever … no one cares.

#11 Comment By chris moffatt On October 17, 2017 @ 8:10 pm

If the one-percent’s offspring were inducted into the forces I’m afraid that they would all be commissioned (all having advanced “educations” don’t ya know). The army would instantly see their leadership qualities; the result would be a military leadership worse even than the appalling greedy, arrogant, overweeningly ambitious, corrupt and stupid than the military leadership we have now.

But the main thing is that the armed forces have always been the way out for the disadvantaged – and not just in the USA. How many of Custer’s Seventh were unlettered farm boys or immigrants trying to get a start in the USA? What about the british regulars in the Zulu wars, Boer Wars, WW1 and again in WW2. It’s just that wars lasting a generation and longer were not even envisaged. Always, until 1939, the boys would be “back by Christmas”. There are many other examples.

Far better for the USA to run out of country-boy cannon fodder and have to stop or scale back its murderous progress through the world.

#12 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 17, 2017 @ 8:26 pm

“which goes hand in hand with their omission to discuss whether any of the elective, aggressive, unconstitutional and outright illegal wars that have been fought by that all-recruited force were in fact necessary.”

I would press what is meant by illegal war. If this is the Congress hasn’t declared war argument, I am afraid it’s a might shrift. Congress doesn’t have to declare war for the use of force to be legal.

As C&C, we have given wide birth of presidential discretion on the use of force. Congress has on “numerous” occasions authorize the use of force and has but one rare occasions failed to provide funding.

A Congressional failure not to declare war does not by definition make the use of force under such circumstances illegal. The reactionary “war powers act”, has little weight with respect to presidential discretion.

Neither North Korea nor Vietnam were illegal wars. The most disastrous aspect of Vietnam was that after finally securing the South, we failed to support it.

Congress is unlikely to press for an amendment restricting the executive power of the military or the discretion management tool. For obvious reasons.

#13 Comment By george Archers On October 17, 2017 @ 9:11 pm

I just kept reading mostly about military costs but not one word about the millions of innocent killed by USA military policies.
Most military personnel are folks who love to use guns in killing. Only cure for this madness is to ban all guns out right. Only medicine that can stop the madness-lust to use guns. America has invaded countless countries for over 226 years none stop.
Ban the military and see the good results in no time flat.

#14 Comment By J Harlan On October 18, 2017 @ 9:20 am

Whose children commanded the British Army while the empire expanded?

The most dangerous job in the British Army in the Boer War was brigade commander- at the time a major general. In WW 1 it was infantry captain. Check the honour roll at Eton if you think having the sons of the rich will stop optional war.

#15 Comment By Ellimist000 On October 18, 2017 @ 12:40 pm

“If the children of Congresspersons were in danger of being issued rifles and told to wade into a rice paddy or a desert to be shot at, the people in charge would suddenly be much more conservative about going to war.”

But how do you ensure they will be in danger? Trump managed to avoid it. So did Bush.

#16 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 18, 2017 @ 2:26 pm

“But how do you ensure they will be in danger? Trump managed to avoid it. So did Bush.”

Cease all exceptions except for medical.

#17 Comment By Tomonthebeach On October 18, 2017 @ 6:28 pm

The AVF, like all Pentagon expenditures costs to much and delivers very little.

One issue not directly addressed in this article is that the AVF is now the employer of choice for those with little on the ball (lots of GEDs and kids with waived criminal histories) who want upward mobility. A quarter wash out in less than 6 months. Once fired from the job they hoped would put them on Easy Street, it is not at all surprising that they became the largest psychiatric burden on the VA – not wounded warriors – military rejects. Very sad.

#18 Comment By bob smalser On October 19, 2017 @ 9:35 am

Feeling sorry for yourself, again? Be thankful you’re in a professional force that suffered 8000 dead in 15 years instead of 58,000. We used to dream of having an all-professional army, and built you one. Don’t screw it up.

#19 Comment By Carlos On October 19, 2017 @ 3:05 pm

What a stupid article. First of all, I would rather serve with a hundred VOLUNTEERS than a thousands DRAFTEES. This is why I volunteered to be an Airborne Infantryman when I first enlisted. The idea that we would have a better military if we made such service mandatory is ridiculous. We would have even more Bergdahls.

Secondly, this article did not address the real issue – RETENTION. The loss of a single, experienced Soldier, probably an NCO by then, is not worth the replacement of 10 new recruits. If they actually TOOK CARE OF THE SOLDIERS (Gasp, what a concept!!); maybe they could reduce their recruitment quotas and the number of Recruiters?

Third of all, re-implementing the Draft System will re-introduce a new set of very expensive problems. Never mind the appearance of more substandard individuals than we are currently experiencing. But can you imagine the number of exceptions that will be put in place to keep the same, non-Volunteering individuals that we are experiencing now?

I enlisted in 1984 and despite being part of an All-Volunteer Army, I served with some outstanding individuals who, like myself, VOLUNTEERED TO SERVE. The only time when I started seeing a decline in the qualify of our military was in the 1990s when Klinton became POTUS and Commander-in-Chief, and again in the late 2000s, when obama became POTUS (I finally left in 2014). But that’s just my limited experience.

#20 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 19, 2017 @ 5:51 pm

“I enlisted in 1984 and despite being part of an All-Volunteer Army, I served with some outstanding individuals who, like myself, VOLUNTEERED TO SERVE.”

I am not sure you grasp the idea of the draft. It ha no impact on those that wish to volunteer.

The record pf competent, talented and faithful service member drafted far outweighs your imagined fears and speculations. That include those that served in Vietnam – perhaps one of the most contentious foreign policy endeavor engaged in the US. A year or two ago another discussion about Vietnam revealed a very surprising but common ethos among veterans:

1. once there they fought for each other — in every conflict this thread remains powerful thread – men face the horrors of war for the man standing beside them.

2. routinely, veterans from the Vietnam conflict/war stated time and time again they would do it again.

But that was a time when those men grasped a sense of national unity without dismissing the inanity of the war itself or the completely bizarre choice made by commands.

I would posit after reading and watching the stories of men who served resulting from a draft that they too served with and were “outstanding individuals”.

#21 Comment By Ken T On October 19, 2017 @ 6:43 pm

Cease all exceptions except for medical.

But Trump’s exemption WAS medical – he had a bone spur, remember?

That’s why I can’t advocate for a draft. Because I know that there will NEVER be a system that the wealthy and connected will not be able to buy their way out of.

#22 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 20, 2017 @ 10:56 pm

“That’s why I can’t advocate for a draft. Because I know that there will NEVER be a system that the wealthy and connected will not be able to buy their way out of.”


if you are waiting for a full proof method . . . I cannot help you. But that should bot bar a full rendering of every US citizen registering and being available for draft.

Not to be insulting, but your position seems to be unless we arrest every guilty person, we might a well arrest no one. I have no clue whether Pres trump was a mere draft dodger or he actually had a medical deferment. In either case, citizens in the US should hold ourselves accountable for our union.

#23 Comment By Glenn R Sebolt On October 21, 2017 @ 3:01 pm

A good, honest and informative article

#24 Comment By Dennis Lang On October 22, 2017 @ 2:53 pm

Much of the geographic recruiting disparaties can be explained by the last 30 years of military basing decisions. Base closures made primarily for cost-savings led to a small number of large bases in poorer (to save military housing and civilian pay costs) and more rural (access to larger training areas). Large swaths of the country – especially in more urban (and expensive) areas have scant military presence. Young people are less likely to enlist when they have had little exposure to military in their communities. They are more likely to enlist when they are used to seeing the military in their communities, have military family members (who live on or near these remaining bases) and know that they have a good chance of being stationed close to home/family – or in an environment which resembles their home.
Similarly, much of the disparity in reserve component deployment rates can be explained by what types of units are based where. Units with large troop formations – combat arms, transportation, etc. tend to require the larger training areas found in rural areas. The types of reserve component units often found in urban areas tend to be of smaller, more specialized types.

#25 Comment By Glen Trebour On October 23, 2017 @ 11:36 am

Why do we continue to see articles by these experts outlining the problems with nothing about their ideas for real solutions?

#26 Comment By John T Mainer On October 23, 2017 @ 1:23 pm

One alternative is to make elected office at the state or federal level only open to those who have served as deployable (no sneaky seat warming with no potential to be sent overseas).

The British and Romans understood corruption was part of the system, but if you wanted to be a piggy at the trough, you had to first earn your rights on the frontier putting out brush fires, and risking your ass to keep them safe.

You also tended to have less ability to pretend what you were doing when you signed off on a new war. They still went to war, but they had fewer illusions as to what they were going to get with it.

#27 Comment By with_liberty_and_justice_for_all On October 24, 2017 @ 1:27 am

Problem identification: correct
Solution: draft?

How can we suggest that the way to protect liberty is to take away people’s liberty by forcing them to participate, to the point of death, in something they would otherwise not choose? Conscription is saying that one does not own themselves, rather they are owned by another man. Being owned by another man is a deprivation of liberty, and more commonly referred to as slavery.

If a future situation arises where the threat to people’s liberty comes from another country, rather than our own country, there will not be a shortage of volunteers.

#28 Comment By John On October 24, 2017 @ 8:33 am

@Glen Trebour/11:36 a.m.:

Maybe there aren’t any real solutions, in the sense that one can foresee them being achieved in the near term.

Americans have no regard for the people our military harms abroad, and only slightly more regard for our service members when it comes to spending money on their physical and mental well-being after discharge. As they say in AA, the first step is admitting you have a problem, and America isn’t doing that because it doesn’t care about our expensive little wars being fought by our unfair volunteer military.

#29 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 24, 2017 @ 12:42 pm

“How can we suggest that the way to protect liberty is to take away people’s liberty by forcing them to participate, to the point of death, in something they would otherwise not choose? Conscription is saying that one does not own themselves, rather they are owned by another man”

I think its time to end the mystical idea of elf ownership. This is a country. The country is built on the idea that we foster elf ownership. Conscription i not akin to the tragedy of slavery. Not even close.

Our country demand a certain level of buy in from its citizen. Should it become one of pure self ownership, the country will die, for lack of common cause. No. We pay taxes as a mans of contributing the health of the nation. Government service are to the service of all. A military is to the service of all. A pledge a a citizen means, my self ownership doe exit unto itself, but is connected to a collective idea of nationhood.

It is a lie to contend that conscription reflects some manner of ownership. Unlike slavery, the nation provide benefit, in pay, privilege, health care, and other extensions. One may say it is not enough, it is insufficient, but they are guaranteed for service.

The country need to distribute that burden of service more broadly and unless there is some mandate it appears, many are willing to be carried by a few. In that — the consequence are revealing.

I always lean on the history of black in the Us to reflect reality. For no population demanded of itself sacrifice for the good of all more tan they. When the nation wanted to fight in spite of all the disparities- they fought. They have fallen all over themselves time and time again for the sake if an ungrateful nation — because — nationhood and its promise mattered.

There is no pure self ownership. We each own a part of the other for the sake of nation. That so many are losing this is reflected in the very peculiar trains tucking at the fabric.

The generation maybe very kill the Us of America. I suggest we take a page from the black population as opposed to blaming them for the failures of the many.

#30 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 24, 2017 @ 1:40 pm


(“It’s the real thing”) Me generation may very kill the US of America. I suggest we take a page from the black population as opposed to blaming them for the failures of the many.

#31 Comment By Merrick Spiers On October 24, 2017 @ 3:55 pm

Is an AVF the same thing as a “standing army”?

#32 Comment By Zoo On October 24, 2017 @ 4:11 pm

You question if people would join avf but dont question if people would dodge the draft?

You say your plan isnt fool proof well guess what neither is the avf but its 10× better than a draft.

Your theory would fail in real life and in america. No one could force me to fight for our corrupt government

#33 Comment By Zoo On October 24, 2017 @ 4:19 pm

Rome went broke looking after an empire and so will america.

Guns vs butter

#34 Comment By freeman On October 25, 2017 @ 2:30 pm

EliteComminc writes, “There is no pure self ownership. We each own a part of the other for the sake of nation.”

Earlier he writes, “I think its time to end the mystical idea of elf ownership. This is a country. The country is built on the idea that we foster elf ownership. Conscription i not akin to the tragedy of slavery. Not even close.” (I assume some “s”s are missing.)

What if, Elite, I believe, for the good of the country, you should be taken out and shot? And what if I hold government power? Would you object to being taken out and shot if I, who hold government power, deem it for the good of the country?

If you would object to being taken out and shot, would you object to being ordered to join an organization where you could be shot at? Why or why not?

#35 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 25, 2017 @ 7:53 pm

“What if, Elite, I believe, for the good of the country, you should be taken out and shot? And what if I hold government power? Would you object to being taken out and shot if I, who hold government power, deem it for the good of the country?

If you would object to being taken out and shot, would you object to being ordered to join an organization where you could be shot at? Why or why not?”

despite the peculiar out of left field the comment, I will respond.

1. My comment in total are o framed in the context of a country with a constitution, that is designed to advance justice for its citizens.

2. No one should be prosecuted for any accused crime minus due process. Given the disparities that exit in our criminal justice system — I wouldn’t even support the shooting of the convicted, muchless the mere word by another. Hence, such behavior is against the law.

3. Second question, see answer 2

4. In the context of answer number 2, I think my is clear. I do not think the draft is conscription. I do think the idea of absolute self ownership would tear the country apart.

I have no objection to people declaring themselves conscientious objectors, and a service in some noncombat capacity. But if we want a nation, our loyalties cannot and should not be unto self alone.

Your question in the realm of mere philosophical discussion are valuable questions. But those questions have been answered by the fact that we have a country. And I think a communal by in would assist in challenging the need for any use of force.

I am mindful of the extreme possibility you posit, but in the context of the US we are not there yet — and unlikely to get there.

#36 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 25, 2017 @ 8:02 pm

“If you would object to being taken out and shot, would you object to being ordered to join an organization where you could be shot at? Why or why not?”

This is not 1960, 1970. 1980, or even 200. The only people at risk are those of our population that are black. And it matters not whether the whites are asian, hispanic, mideasterners, europeans . . . or other white “wanna be’s” I have no doubt that should such a time come — 40 plus million blacks would not go gently into that good night. And while, whites of the categories above in total outnumber said blacks, compliance would not be an option, in my view.

That is in essence what you re referring to. In my view of all the issues of divisions, the only real issue remains the constant of white superiority by default by skin color.

But as I say, we are not there yet.

#37 Comment By WorkingClass On May 27, 2018 @ 11:33 am

The AVF is not as unfair as conscription. It’s not as unfair as blowing up whole countries that are no threat to the United States.

I was a volunteer in ’65. But it was a conscript army. Three million dead locals and 58,000 of our own just to make a few rich men richer was profoundly unfair.

#38 Comment By b. On May 27, 2018 @ 11:48 am

“[I]t is the fiscal aspect of the AVF that is most immediate and pressing. Recruiting and retaining the force has become far too costly and is ultimately unsustainable.”

Glad we have our priorities sorted out. Memorial Day is now officially an opportunity to talk profit and further the cause of profiteering.

“Like most crises, as Colin Powell used to lament when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this one was unexpected, not planned for, and begs denial as a first reaction.”

Thanks you for reminding us of Mr. Powell’s service. I am sure we remember “that one”, the invasion of Iraq, which was only initially unexpected, was planned for, badly or not, and certainly should have begged principled, uncompromising opposition as the first, last, and only reaction.

“Today, more than 300 million Americans lay claim to rights, liberties, and security that not a single one of them is obligated to protect and defend. Apparently, only 1 percent of the population feels that obligation. That 1 percent is bleeding and dying for the other 99 percent.”

You are a liar and a fraud. Here is the oath I swore:

“I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law”

You have no idea how the majority of those “300 million” lives, your definition of “security” is a profitable and hollow one, and you willingly and knowingly serve the ends of the original “1% percent” to whom the bulk of the profits accrues.

The rest of us, we already have “kin in the game”. Whatever wars you and your owners will elect to have us fight in the future, all those profits are already taking a toll out of our daily lives. It is just not as easy to see as a scar or a torn limb, and, courtesy of our debt-financed “national securities interest”, it has been 40 years in coming, but while many if not most of those 300 million might not know about it in a visceral sense yet, maybe the overall lack of “patriotism” is a direct result of witnessing a blatant con perpetrated for generations.

“What if we had a war and nobody came?”

What if we had no war except the ones that actually come to our shores?

What if you and those other retained elites and camp followers stopped agitating for how to extend and expand this machine that grinds minds and hearts and flesh and blood and bones to produce murder-backed securities and dividends and bonuses and payoffs and campaign donations and salaries? What if you dedicated yourselves to the cause of ending wars of choice, wars of aggression, unconstitutional wars, war for profit?

You are apparatchiks, part of the problem, not the solution, and you know better. You have chosen “the fiscal aspects” as your cause for Memorial Day. It is a cause worthy of you, I suspect.

#39 Comment By Kurt Gayle On May 27, 2018 @ 2:06 pm

Bring back the draft!

#40 Comment By E Kent On May 27, 2018 @ 2:31 pm

I always have a thought whenever this argument of reinstating the draft to make the so called “elites” have some skin in the game.

We saw how the expansion of the war after 9/11 strained us as we expanded into Iraq. I wonder, if we had an all conscript force, how much further the war would have expanded? I mean, I’ve seen estimates that it would something like triple the size of the military, would we be fighting in Iran as well? Would all the places we have special forces advisors have full on divisions?

And as for returning to an all conscript force to make elites have “skin in the game”, point to one time in history when that actually mattered? It conveniently ignores all the elites in society that are veterans or already have sons or daughters serving in the military. And it ignores all the stupid military adventures down through the whole of history that were waged with all conscript forces.

And lets not even get into the garbage about how military service somehow magically confers some kind of higher morality or better attitude. In my adult life I’ve worked alongside many many veterans in manufacturing. There have been some who were great disciplined people with great work ethic, there have been some with the attitude of “now I’m out, I don’t have to listen to anyone anymore”, and there have been some with major personal failings. The vast majority acted like normal civilians, with no special qualities that were conferred upon them by their service.

#41 Comment By LouisM On May 27, 2018 @ 3:16 pm

This is observation not an accusation regarding the US defense and all volunteer force.
1) I do see that muslims will join US military in hopes of gaining US citizenship which is not unreasonable since most of the muslims working with the US military are in very unstable, failed or totalitarian countries. However, if one takes a look at muslims once they gain US citizenship then it is a different story. Muslims with citizenship often refuse military service because in most cases their tour of duty will be fighting fellow muslims and there is a lot of anti-US feelings within muslim communities. It is not uncommon for muslims to protest expressions of Christianity, patriotism, display of our flag, respect and meaning for our veterans and memorial day…as well as making accusations of religious/ethnic racism, persecution, bigotry, intolerance, etc where none exist.

2) The oldest veterans organization is jewish. This was to counter historic accusations that jews do not join the military and infact they don’t. From a pragmatic perspective, jews do not consider joining the military to be an upwardly mobile option. However let us take an honest and objective view of who (comprises our enlisted troops excluding pentagon personnel) is fighting wars, where these wars are being fought and our high school and college campus’s where our enlisted are recruited. 80% of the Ivy League colleges caucasion population is jewish and a similarly high proportion of jews are represented in the honors programs of the best ranked high schools. This fact shouldn’t rank significance except that these high schools and Ivy League Colleges are some of the most anti-US, unpatriotic places in all of academia. Now lets take a look at the neoliberals and neoconservatives in politics and in the media who are also significantly represented by jews and consistently promote foreign wars in the middle east and anti-Russian propaganda even though China is far more of a technological, economic and military threat. The end result is that we have a significantly large portion of the American jewish community that is unpatriotic and is more sympathetic to socialism, communism, Marxism, progressivism, cultural Marxism, political correctness and unpatriotic anti-US beliefs while at the same time promoting the US to use its full military might to fight in middle eastern wars.

The end result is continued involvement in foreign wars by a very powerful lobby which has no self interest in actually fighting in such wars. The all volunteer army is staffed by an enlisted class seeking US citizenship or coming from an impoverished / middle class background seeking upwardly mobile opportunities while expressing their patriotism….and an command class graduating from the elite military academies.

The saddest thing is that whether its the command class or the enlistee’s who want to patriotically serve their country….our foreign war commitments are (opinion) based more on political donations, political lobbying and commitments to foreign countries some of whom have appalling human rights….but NOT direct threats to the US.

As an example: China and Russia now have strong presence not just in Cuba and Panama but in Venezuela and the Caribbean islands. The US naval presence in that area is little more than coast guard vessels which would never be able to compete with the increasing presence of Chinese and Russian war ships and military bases in the region. We (US) is spending trillions on Mideast war while ignoring South America, Central America and the Caribbean. This would not be happening is our Pentagon, President and Congress were operating on US interest rather than powerful monied lobbies…none more powerful than Israel and Saudi Arabia.


#42 Comment By SteveM On May 27, 2018 @ 3:27 pm

Re: “The Deep Unfairness of America’s All-Volunteer Force”

All of these protestations about the plight of military service people ignores a fundamental fact – those who sign up have complete access to information about how they may be utilized and free will to decide whether they want to accept the job description.

The easiest way to escape the deep unfairness of the all-volunteer force is simply to not sign up. Or get out ASAP if one already has.

And regarding a return to the draft, a better first order solution is to have all of the Power Elite class in DC read the foreign policy sections of Washington’s Farewell address every day for a month. Here is an excerpt:

“In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.

Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim…”

The whole of the foreign policy advice in that document is breathtaking in its clarity. If that doesn’t plant the seeds of doubt in the America as Global Cop Gorilla model, nothing will.

#43 Comment By Clifford On May 27, 2018 @ 4:10 pm

I disagree. In a free society, no State has a claim upon the lives of it’s Citizens except in the most dire of circumstances.

Such sacrifice must be given freely.

Consider it a check on adventurism. You cannot fight a war if few show up to fight it.

As for the elite, the fact that their children do not volunteer for the armed forces is a stain squarely upon our ruling class, not on the rest of the nation – who do volunteer and serve.

Our elites have not led by example for the last two generations, and today’s elites think they have some right to tell everyone else how to live but exempt themselves from those same rules.

I was one of the elite. I thought I was too busy, too credentialed, too… “elite” to serve.

Then, we had a child. How was I to tell my daughter that this country was worth fighting for when her own dad hadn’t written a blank check to Uncle Sam? My dad had. My grandfather had. All of my family had back to King Philip’s War. Was I that special?


So at 34 I enlisted. I had a college degree and professional registration. I left a good-paying job to make 30 percent of what I was making.

I did my time, and I am glad for it. That said, I did what I did voluntarily. I do not think anyone – elite, poor, or anyone in between – should be forced to put on the uniform. Let the future judge their actions or, more specifically, their inactions.

#44 Comment By gfy On May 27, 2018 @ 6:21 pm

Does John Bolton have any kids in the military? Does Bill Kristol? Does Liz Cheney? Elliot Abrams? David Frum? The Kagans? The Kochs? Sheldon Adelson? Just asking, folks.)

#45 Comment By Going My Way On May 27, 2018 @ 9:06 pm

Vietnam has statistics on deaths by religion. It was originally draft with lots of deferments. As best I can calculate Roman Catholics were the only group whose deaths exceeded their percentage of the population. Not sure how to interpret all this? I do think that drafting people to fight non-declared wars might peek their interest in why we fight?
Religion Number of Records


































































Total Records


#46 Comment By Lefty On May 28, 2018 @ 8:26 am

Since we’re not really going to draft every 18 year old in the country let’s find a more realistic way to temper the hunger of the well-off and well-connected for military adventures:
Every time a military unit engages in combat for more than 1 day (including drones), the marginal tax rate will go to 99% for all income over the national average, that’s about $59,000 per household.
That will put a real crimp in war fever, plus pay some of the cost of our “defence”.
I don’t see any flaws in this proposal.

#47 Comment By Nancy E. Head On May 28, 2018 @ 3:09 pm

Frank Schaeffer (part of the elite whose son volunteered to become a Marine) did a nice discussion of this issue in Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story about Love and the United States Marine Corps.

An excellent read–especially if you one of your kids is already there.

#48 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 28, 2018 @ 11:08 pm

I believe calling the current mercenary army an all-volunteer force is not only a misnomer, but an Orwellian twisting of words with one association propagandistically misapplied to something completely different.

Volunteers are the altruistic, who give without expecting anything back.

Our current military is a career, a job choice evaluated for pay and benefits. When there was a draft, those who served under that minimalist indentured servitude deserved some sympathy for what they endured, and those who volunteered under the same conditions could be said to have truly done so, doing something they wouldn’t have done out of self-interest and careerism.

The supposed voluntary nature of military service means that it is only voluntary, in the same sense one decides to become a Wall Street broker without being coerced into it. It certainly by itself doesn’t confer moral superiority. After all, those career soldiers are deployed in the financial interest of the self-same volunteer bankers.

Shall we say the brass, those early retirees with full generous pensions and benefits, with additional lucrative sinecures in the military-industrial complex, for whom they plump for contracts and wars, are the penultimate volunteers, to whom we owe unlimited thankfulness for their service to General Dynamics? I guess, what’s good for General Dynamics, is good for what corporate America has become.

#49 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 29, 2018 @ 3:10 pm

“Frank Schaeffer (part of the elite whose son volunteered to become a Marine)”

Frank is the apostate son of noted evangelical philosopher/theologian Francis Schaeffer. He’s a proven liar in the many false accusations made against his parents, directly refuted by those who were there first-hand. Read his own screeds, and note how he relates stealing cuts of meat from the supermarket. He fancied himself a great filmmaker, and when his career did not do successfully among the elites of Hollywood, he turned very, very bitter. I can attest from meeting him in Miami, that there was something seriously wrong with his morality. He loathes evangelical Christianity, confusing his own waywardness by assuming others are as equally dishonest.

This does show that, despite the teachings and traditions, that children are not guaranteed to become Christian, no matter how exemplary their parents. It is a gift by spiritual rebirth, not a birthright of family.

#50 Comment By Simon On May 30, 2018 @ 12:45 am

The draft is still slavery, as Milton Friedman contended. The injustice is useless wars, and it’s foolish to volunteer to fight those wars. Don’t draft the unwilling, discourage the willing.