It’s easy, really
The U.S. military is having a major problem recruiting new troops, notes Nan Levinson in an informative piece at TomDispatch.com. As usual, the military has tried most everything. Lowering standards, especially on the ASVAB test. Boosting bonuses and benefits. Infiltrating high school (even grade schools!) with military programs tied to recruitment like Junior ROTC. More money for ad campaigns, using celebrities and catchy slogans. Hoopla at sports stadiums. Nothing’s worked.
But, being an out-of-the-Pentagon-box thinker, I have the solution: Downsize the military!
Why does America need a large standing Army given all the force-multipliers we’re buying for hundreds of billions of dollars each year? What large-scale war is America currently fighting? We pulled out of Afghanistan, out of Iraq (mostly), and should be downsizing our imperial footprint (or bootprint, if you prefer).
I know: Russia! China! We must be prepared!
Those seeking a conventional war with either of those two land powers in their spheres of influence should surely have their sanity checked. Land war in Asia? With nuclear powers? No thank you!
Come on, America. If fewer young Americans want to join the U.S. military, take this as a sign of the wisdom of youth. Wisdom of youth — a phrase not commonly seen, but possibly of great relevance to us all, as Levinson notes in her conclusion.
Want a better military with higher-quality recruits? Simply recruit fewer of them by being more selective and by downsizing inflated recruitment numbers. In other words, change the metrics to show a recruiting victory. The U.S. military, after all, has plenty of experience doctoring metrics (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.).
Lower the quotas* and declare victory! Hooah!
*Warning: lowering the quotas may result in decreased funding from Congress and increased chances of avoiding wasteful wars. May also result in fewer command billets for generals. Warrior discretion is advised.*
10 thoughts on “The U.S. Military’s Recruitment Problem, Solved!”
I still struggle with how to view my time in the Army to this day. There were aspects of it that I appreciate, and some that I do not. This is from a piece I wrote back in 2006:
“I feel conflicted because on the one hand I would have died with my brothers in arms if needed, but find the whole exercise disturbing. I can look back now and see how we were fed war from the beginning. “Blood makes the grass grow drill sergeant, bright red blood.” And I can see how so many of those now serving were swept up in the aftermath of 9/11. But I can also see how they and the terrorists they went off to fight were all led like sheep to the slaughter. How a few powerful people, using the right words, twisting the truth, turned people into blood thirsty savages, convincing folks on both sides to kill each other for some “glorious” cause like patriotism or religion.
And in the end I find myself defending my brothers and sisters in the military while decrying the horrors of war. I never liked the hero wannabe’s when I was in. Even then they freaked me out with their talk of killing the enemy as if it was porn for their souls. I did what I had to, and got out. Looking back I see the ugly moments in myself, when violence seemed so sweet.
There are still a lot of folks there who joined like me. But there is also a lot who joined because they were rallied around the flag, told their freedom was at stake and that it was their patriotic duty to defend this country. What is sad about it is that it has all been for the few at the expense of the many. But then most wars are. And sometimes I think they are fools, but most of the time I just want them to come home safely, to stop participating in this dark stain on humanity that is war, and wake up and see they are being used.
And this goes for both sides. Whether its patriotism or fundamentalism, it’s still bullshit. We are all brothers and sisters on this planet, we are all alone in an infinite universe, and we are all in this together. Fighting for made up causes, killing each other so some can get richer, gain more power, is wasteful and foolish.
We act like spoiled children, claiming this land is mine, my god is better than yours. What good comes from all this in the end? Just another story in the history books, another tale of lives lost, dreams shattered, power and money transferred. And down the road it’s all forgotten when the next war comes about, a new cause, a new day. Only each time the stakes grow, the weapons worse, the damage greater.
And as long as we are fed the glories of war, as long as the young keep being told by the old how necessary and honorable it is, we will continue to piss away our limited resources and our lives for fleeting victories. Because we never learn until it is too late.
So, yes I am conflicted. I have a flag outside and an Army sticker on my car. I also have a peace sign hanging from the rear view mirror and an aching in my heart. I guess I defend my brothers and sisters because I was there once, because I know how it feels to be a soldier. The best I can do for them and for humanity in general is keep trying to get people to see the errors of their ways, to understand that we allow ourselves to be pawns in a game that never ends in real victory but instead breeds more of the same.”
All these years later I still feel pretty much the same way. My kids couldn’t join if they wanted to due to health issues, but if they could I would try to dissuade them. We know a couple families who have children heading in to the military after graduation in a couple months. I just hope their kiddos make it through and go on to have good lives.
There is so much more we could be doing as a species, but we seem ever trapped in this wicked game of power, greed, and war. Such a shame, such a waste.
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Thank You, Just Another Vet, for sharing those thoughts. Permit me to share with You the following that may resonate with You quite well.
On January 3, 1970, at a military funeral in Van Nuys, California ~ five months after Neil Armstrong’s “One Small Step”; seventeen months after returning from my second year in Viet Nam; three and a half months before the first Earth Day; and four months and a day before Kent State ~ i delivered the following eulogy for a young helicopter pilot from Van Nuys named Larry, who had left behind a widow bride and two elderly parents paralyzed with grief.
i was the only enlisted man in that massive, solemnly packed Russian Orthodox Cathedral ablaze with emblems of patriotic fealty and fervor: a door gunner who’d flown with Larry down in the Mekong Delta back in 1967-68. We’d survived Tet together. And more. Lots more. Too much more….. :
It is difficult, my friends. Very difficult.
I know none of you, yet I call you my friends. Thank you for being here, for sharing this, for enabling me to bear it.
After two years of this War, I have finally lost someone I love. Buddies? There’s been plenty. Never, until now, someone I love.
It is said that tragedy is the fire that tempers the soul. I can only hope that my soul, and my heart, and my mind, and my life is tempered and forged from this nightmare into a design of dedication NOT to the forces and elements that killed him: rage, hate, lust for violent revenge, a mindless, headlong flight into, through, and finally submerged by insanity.
Not to that, but to the ideals and principles that should have been the forces and elements at work that could have kept him, you, me, us all nowhere near Vietnam, or Biafra, or Suez, or Korea, or Normandy, or Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima, and on and on back thru the ages and the battlefields, back to the beginnings of time, the beginnings of man, the beginnings of War.
The ideals, principles, forces, and elements of understanding, concern, love, peace, and the knowledge of our status as but “the family of Man, fellow-passengers on the Spaceship Earth…. .”
And how meaningless, empty, and vapid these words sound and are tonite. But, a man’s words are really nothing more than indicators, the elements of the metaphor that his living is, as it seeks to explain to him, and to us, his life.
Perhaps these moments of futility, emptiness, and tragedy are the price we must pay for having had the privilege of his company, the strength of his presence, the happiness of his warmth and joy, the security of his being.
We have all lost something. A friend, a husband, a son. But there is a greater loser, a more tragic victim from all this than we, his wife, his parents, his family, and his friends. And that victim, my friends, is the world.
It is this world…this world that murdered him, that is the big loser.
The terms I think it might understand are that he is no longer at its disposal; that he is free and no longer subject to the prices that the world and mankind demand from its children as they attempt to struggle as individual human beings, with individual lives and loves, and concerns and cares, and projects and goals, and plans and wins, losses, and rainouts.
The world requires that you be more than a man or a woman ~ which, until death, is impossible.
It requires that citizens of nations become us all. Citizens of nations, and pawns to realities revolving around such grandiose, eloquent, pompous terms, tenets, and ideas as ideology and geopolitics, alliances and balances of power, negotiations, diplomacy, and treaties, and on and on ad nauseam…. the vocabulary of government.
And much more real, final, and meaningless terms as enemy and body-counts, and hot LZ’s and .50-caliber machine gun positions, and frozen rotor blades at 300 feet, and notification of next-of-kin…. the vocabulary of the logical conclusion of the rhetoric of government, the vocabulary of War.
The world required this of him, and he agreed to pay his portion of the price. Tonite, however, the world’s account is overdrawn. Tonite, there is the matter of revenge. No. No, not revenge. Avenge. Avengeance. aVengeance… revenge without Vengeance; revenge without Violence.
But against whom does one direct it? And how?
Is it to be directed against those people and places and principles that killed him? Against other young – and old ~ women and men from other nations who, too, are but paying [and playing] their price and thus part, as their world ~ this world, our world ~ demands? They are but pawns as we. And as long as we pawns keep fighting ~ and paying for ~ all these Wars, there will be War.
What, then of the kings and queens and bishops and rooks and generals and knights and such? They, too, are but pawns. Their bloodshed is not their own; rather, it is of those that they like to call “their Peoples’.” These, too, however, are paying a price: the price of being those most directly associated with the true killers ~ the ideas, and terms, and tenets, and vocabularies. And, having to live with them, by them, and for them, they thus become the emptiness, the insanity, the impotence, the wretchedness that these words are.
No. It is neither the pawns nor the princes ~ the presidents, premiers, and propagandists ~ that are to be sought out and made to give retribution for Larry. It’s not the people who are directly, and thus apparently responsible for his having been there, and thus being no more.
Rather, it is those who are truly, though indirectly responsible. It is those that could have stopped it, could have prevented this specter from becoming the spectacle that it is.
It is, indeed, those who permit the world to make them pawns and slaves, and legions to, of, by, and for these ideas and words. Those who permit themselves to go and become but the bit-players in this passion play, the finale of which is the death of their brothers and their sisters, their sons and daughters, their fathers and their mothers, their selves.
A death as meaningless, as senseless, and as empty as their lives. Lives spent under the tyranny of ideas, killing and thus dying under their effect. Lives lived under the anarchy of this self-imposed despotism, rather than in and through the fulfillment that is to be found in the truth, the beauty, the reality of the mind’s products ~ ideas ~ as they are used instead to eliminate the trials, tragedies, and traumas of man. Rather than, as today, propagating, perpetrating, and perpetuating them.
MAN is the object. MAN and LIFE. All of LIFE. Ideas are but vehicles. The price for avenging Larry shall have been extracted when that simple statement becomes a world-truth.
We live now in the insanity of Man being the vehicle, and terms, tenets, vocabularies, ideologies, and ideas being the object. The object that man has permitted to become, at not only his expense and thus life’s, but at the world’s, as well.
The guilty, my friends, is you and me and him and her and everyone. Each and every one of us all. Including Larry. And we begin, now, to pay the price for this. We have lost someone for whom Man and Life was the object.
Larry, as the rest of us, the young, was at but the beginning of this realization, at the beginning of this work. Because those of us that could have helped, long ago, to prevent what has happened did not, we are now paying the price.
Again: MAN is the object. MAN and LIFE. Ideas are but vehicles. The price for avenging Larry shall have been extracted when that simple statement becomes a world-truth.
The question, again, is “How?”
If, in fact, a man is ready to die when he knows himself completely, I am at last ready.
With this experience, with these words, I have come now to know and to understand the meaninglessness of the meaning I have permitted the world to attach to my, to your, to Larry’s, to everyone’s being.
And knowing this, I swear… No more.
aVengeance will be mine. I pray, my friends, yours as well.
The question, at last, is “How?”
This we will learn. With help….. .
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Thank you for sharing that. Going to spend some time letting everything you said soak in.
Wonderful Eulogy, JG, and your words apply to the Systems we’re erected and allowed to be erected over us TODAY, as it’s been greatly magnified in 53 years.
Reading it, this is the gist I take from it, comparing your basic ideas to the record of so long ago;
Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with TRUTH, and having on the Breastplate of Righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of PEACE;
Above all, taking the Shield of Faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the Helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God:
Thank You, Ray; glad You liked it.
The only problem i have with equating that eulogy to Your religious read on it is that, throughout human history, organized religion has caused more human Pain, Loss, and Suffering than any and every other human institution except the Nation-State and their political, economic, military Empires, or their attempts to become one.
The only difference is that while Empires seek to impose political, economic, social, and cultural orders of control, organized religious wars and conquests seek to impose so-called “spiritual” orders of control. As in which “God” is to be believed in, worshipped, and rules adhered to, and whose institutions of worship are to be economically supported.
And of course, the deadliest combination is a Nation-State Empire that has successfully wrapped itself into an intimate working relationship with one of those organized religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism.
Isn’t it interesting that there has never been through history a Buddhist or Taoist Empire built on military conquest?
In any event, Thanks again and have a Great day. ~ jeff
As i posted on BV Substack:
To properly “downsize the military,” the mission, function, and purpose of that military must be changed FROM protecting corporate and financial institution returns on investment and global access to resources and markets for the accumulation of economic wealth and thus political power, control, and domination.
From that TO protecting the individual American’s Human Rights of life, liberty, property, privacy, and the pursuit of happiness, and the core American values and principles of freedom of speech and press, freedom of assembly and dissent, and freedom of [and from] religion.
But for that to happen, the “Congressional” wing of the MIC must be at least neutralized, if not eliminated altogether. Which ~ given the choices America’s Ruling Political Class will give in Election2024 ~ ain’t gonna happen.
And separately: Young Americans’ reluctance to join the military is perfectly understandable. After all, who wants to die or be maimed in a “Forever War” that has already long been lost even before they were born?
i am reminded of those troops in Vietnam in the 70s who did not want to be the last American killed in that war.
Thank you JAV, for this religious teaching without offending others using the word “religion.”
“Blood makes the grass grow drill sergeant, bright red blood.”
And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
And the LORD said to Cain, Where is Abel your brother? And he said, I don’t know: Am I my brother’s keeper?
And he said, What have you done? the voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.
“We are all brothers and sisters on this planet, we are all alone in an infinite universe, and we are all in this together. Fighting for made up causes, killing each other so some can get richer, gain more power, is wasteful and foolish.”
But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
But you not be called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all you are brethren.
And call NO MAN your father upon the earth: for ONE is your Father, which is in heaven.
Without mentioning it Jav, I see you’re making the same case as the Prophet who wrote, “”This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying: ‘Not by military force and not by physical strength, but by My spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts.”
“There is so much more we could be doing as a species, but we seem ever trapped in this wicked game of power, greed, and war. Such a shame, such a waste.”
Blessed ARE the PEACE MAKERS, for THEY shall be called THE CHILDREN of God.
They are excluded from exposure on the MSM, Propagandists for the US/NATO WAR Narrative, acting like a 5th Horseman of the Apocalypse, always inciting for more WAR and more Children of WAR.
OT, but not really.
Somebody tell me again exactly what the so-called “Legislative Branch” of this government is supposed to do and be doing.
Or better yet: Somebody tell those folks on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue up on their Hill exactly WHAT they are supposed to do and be doing.
Congress abrogated and blithely destroyed one of its core Duties and Responsibilities ~ the sole authority to Declare War ~ back three days after 9/11 with passage of the AUMF, giving the White House sole discretionary power to wage war any time and any place it wanted to. Congress’s role was reduced to making sure that all these wars would be sufficiently financed. Which it has done via the magic of Deficit Spending and ballooning the National Debt.
And now there is this:
CONGRESS MISSES BUDGET DEADLINE FOR 20TH STRAIGHT YEAR https://www.thefiscaltimes.com/
April 15 is the statutory deadline for Congress to complete a joint budget resolution for the next fiscal year. CONGRESS WILL MISS THAT DEADLINE FOR THE 20TH YEAR IN A ROW.
The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 laid out a timetable for the annual process. The president is supposed to kick off the process by submitting his budget proposal by the first Monday in February, A DEADLINE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN MISSED FOR THE THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR. And Congress has only rarely met the deadlines set out by the 1974 law or a related one from 1985.
“Congress has completed action on a budget resolution prior to April 15 four times since FY1985, the last time being for FY2004,” the Congressional Research Service said in a report last year. “In years when Congress has completed work on a budget resolution, it has typically been in late spring or early summer in the months of April through June.”
THIS YEAR, NEITHER THE HOUSE NOR THE SENATE HAVE PUT FORTH A BUDGET PLAN, LET ALONE PASS ONE. And Congress is likely to skip the joint budget process this year. “That means that in the past quarter-century, Congress will have taken a pass on a budget in almost as many years — 12 — as lawmakers have actually adopted one — 13,” Roll Call’s Peter Cohn writes. “It’s become practically optional given other tools Congress has to put internal controls on budget bills, such as “deeming” appropriations limits or statutory spending caps like the ones imposed in 2011 as part of that year’s debt ceiling deal.”
Cohn notes that the last time Congress adopted a joint budget that wasn’t just meant to grease the path toward a budget reconciliation package was in 2015.
“BUDGETING IS A FUNDAMENTAL PART OF GOVERNING, AND THE FACT THAT CONGRESS HAS NOT TAKEN THIS ROLE SERIOUSLY SHOWS JUST HOW BROKEN OUR BUDGET PROCESS HAS BECOME,” MAYA MACGUINEAS, PRESIDENT OF THE COMMITTEE FOR A RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET, SAID IN A STATEMENT. “PASSING A BUDGET IS ONE OF LAWMAKERS’ MOST BASIC TASKS, AND IT IS ABSURD THAT IT’S BEEN EIGHT YEARS SINCE WE PASSED ONE THAT WASN’T JUST A VEHICLE FOR BUDGET RECONCILIATION BILLS. IT IS LONG PAST TIME FOR LAWMAKERS TO DO THEIR JOBS AND PUT OUT THEIR BUDGETS.
Racketeers for corporations,
Thug enforcers for the banks,
Told that they defend their nations,
Paid with, “For your service, thanks.”
Global oligarchs give orders.
“Governments” then fall in line.
Capital observes no borders:
“Everything I want is mine.”
Single customer provided.
No-bid profits guaranteed.
Back home keep the proles divided.
On each other, let them feed.
Jay Gould said that he could hire
One half of the working class,
Then tell them to aim and fire
At the other half’s bare ass.
They would do it, too, no question,
Soldiers, cops, and prison guards.
Set off by a mere suggestion,
Money sends its least regards.
Mercenaries, contract killers,
Merchants of their own demise
Answered ads for “graveyard fillers”
Makes no difference just who dies.
Uniformed or not, still suited:
Smedly Butler, Al Capone.
Continents and districts looted.
Most will pay while few will own.
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2019
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“The drama’s done. Why then does any one step forth? Because one did survive the wreck.” — Herman Melville, Moby Dick
(after the style of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”)
In Mekong Delta’s heat and sweat,
where Asshole of the Universe
and Bottom of the Barrel met,
about as close as one could get
to uselessness or worse,
a base “advanced” and “tactical”
for warfare quite impractical,
built on a riverbank near some canals
existed to enforce some clever schemes,
dressed up in military rationales,
for thwarting peasant independence dreams.
This place, a Sordid Chancre (not envisioned)
was staffed by surplus sailors (elsewhere, ballast)
who’d done no crime but still felt there imprisoned,
and though with food and beer they were provisioned
sheer boredom left them feeling numb and calloused.
Short-timer’s calendars marked each day’s passing;
sporadic incidents – “V.C.” harassing —
some movement in the countryside at night;
some mortar rounds exploding. Sirens! Light!
Then body bags and wounded flown away
for treatment somewhere on some other day.
“Vietnamize” the war, Dick Nixon told us.
A word that meant “get out” is what he sold us.
But not too fast or we might look defeated
So take your time in hauling ass, he said
which meant that more of us would wind up dead.
And then, in time, we’d see it all repeated.
Those fishermen and farmers had some nerve
to think they’d rule themselves and not just serve.
So we went. Then some returned.
Re-election time drew near
Villages and rice-fields burned
Nixon won. What’s left to fear?
Our military got to play its role
assisting Saigon with the loot they stole
Hammers looking for a nail:
The Pentagon since World War Two.
Hammer salesmen, their careers
left the Budget in arrears.
Nothing they could ever do
should induce one to suspend
as the Truth they choose to bend.
Hence, the need to scream: “Stop! Thief!”
Folks at home should moan, “Take Care!”
“Look at what a mess we’ve made!”
The glassy eyes, the vacant stare;
the deer caught in the headlight’s glare;
the gale force winds of pure hot air:
a solipsistic serenade.
So heed no pundits who’ve opined
For they on bullshit gruel have dined
and drunk the urine of Crusade.
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2023
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