A different take on that “Millennials and War” poll

Millennial Soldier

You likely already saw the poll released last week from the Harvard Institute of Politics regarding millennials and their thoughts on ISIS and military service. To summarize, 60% of young Americans (18-29) now support sending US troops to combat ISIS on the ground, and just about the same percentage (62%) says that they would be unlikely to serve in the event the US needed more troops for that fight.

It sparked a debate online in the military sphere and much of that debate manifested itself with military folk displaying indignation that a bunch of hipsters (that’s how I read millennial) want the military to go fight ISIS, but aren’t willing to go do it themselves.

This idea gets veterans worked up because it fits neatly into the continuing trope that there exists this “warrior class” made up of the “less than 1%” that does the nation’s dirty work while the latte-sipping, man-bun crowd critiques them from the sidelines.

The difference here is that for the first time (as far as I know) the latte-sipping, man-bun crowd actually supports direct ground combat against someone.

At the heart of the discontent is the fact that a generation of Americans could be willing to send American troops to war but not willing to serve themselves in that same war – a concept that feels foreign to American values.

What has been lost in the debate is the fact that this poll, in a strange way, validates the all-volunteer force as a concept. This is the first generation of Americans that grew up outside of the shadow of Vietnam, and instead under the warm blanket of “shock and awe,” Call of Duty, and Zero Dark Thirty. All of the conflicts this generation has seen came completely through electronic screens,  fought by an all-volunteer military with very little asked of them. They’ve seen the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Years upon years of war, fought by someone else.

This is a generation that not only feels comfortable sending the military to fight wars they are not personally interested in fighting, it is the only thing they know – it is the norm.

We have created exactly what we sought to create – a specialized, professional military filled with volunteers who want to serve, and a populace that feels comfortable using it.

Instead of getting upset about it – because really, there’s nothing you can do – shouldn’t we be celebrating it?

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Volunteering to Not Volunteer

Full Metal Bitch

When I was in college I met lots of smart and ambitious young men and women who struggled – like most people – to figure out what it was they wanted to do for a career. Being one of the only veterans they knew, I’d ask them if they ever considered military service. I’d usually get a range of replies that all led to the same answer: no.

If you are a young man or woman and physically capable of serving in the military and you happen to be of prime fighting age during a time of war, is it a duty to volunteer?

We talk about draft dodgers of the Vietnam era. In the future, will the candidate running for President who is an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran challenge the non-veteran on why they chose not to volunteer when they could have?

It just seems to me that in a country where so few are eligible to serve due to education, drugs, criminal history, or physical fitness, that those who could, should – especially if we are actively engaged in war.

It’s a hard argument, I know. It’s the “I don’t want you to do the dishes, I want you to¬†want¬†to do the dishes” argument.

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Don Draper on war, youth, and military service

Don Draper Inferno

A couple of weeks ago, Don and Arnold sat down to discuss Arnold’s son’s predicament. He was avoiding the draft. The Vietnam War has been the background song of this past season, and I found myself enthralled by this conversation between Arnold and Don, talking about war, youth, and soldiering, topics I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

Arnold: It doesn’t matter if he goes to school, he’s 1A, his induction can be tomorrow, he’s on a damn list for the rest of his life.
Don: On some level you have to admire his idealism.
Arnold: You sound like Sylvia. But she doesn’t really buy his bullshit. You think she’s gonna let her baby rot in jail for a cause?

<sigh>

I don’t know what to do. What would you do?

Don: What I’d do with my kid? Or if it was me?
Arnold: You were in the service right?
Don: I was.
Arnold: You see action?

Long pause.

Don: It was very different. I wanted to go. I did when I got there.
Arnold: That’s the trick. Kid’s 18, 19 years old they have no sense of their own mortality.
Don: Or anyone else’s. That’s why they make good soldiers.
Arnold: Well the Army paid for Med School. I served in a hospital in Pusan.
Don: We were very lucky.
Arnold: Lucky enough to live in this country. And service is a part of that bargain, sacrifice. We knew that.
Don: The war is wrong.
Arnold: I’ll tell you if there’s anyone that’s going to get it it’s going to be him. He’s soft.
Don: I’m sure he’s a good kid.
Arnold: The best.

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SWJ: Why Bringing Back the Draft Makes No Sense

I have an essay on the Small Wars Journal blog about why I think bringing back the draft makes no sense – for the reasons that most people want to bring it back, anyway.

I’ll concede that if people want to bring it back for the symbolic notion of reaping what you sow – a l√° ‘The Chocolate War’, or ‘The Hunger Games,’ then fine. Even though the actual chances for that person to be drafted is infinitesimally small.

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