Friday, July 20, 2012

Things, change, stay the same, etc.

[A]n all-volunteer military is not expected to differ significantly from the present mixed force in its size, composition, and relations with civilian society. Its subordination to the nation's political leaders will change not at all. The belief that volunteers will be more aggressive, will have greater autonomy from the civilian leadership and will exploit international tensions to their own advantage springs, not from any rational evidence, but from an irrational fear of relying on the neglected mechanism of freedom to preserve and protect our nation. 
I have been reading through a few documents from the 1970s discussing the move from a mixed force of conscripts and volunteers to the all-volunteer force. It's fascinating that the discussion has not changed much since then. The quote above is from The Report of the President's Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force. I also recommend RAND's Military Manpower and the All-Volunteer Force.   

In addition to little change in the discourse, I was struck by how much these documents talk about fairness. Today's debate focuses on the fairness to the "other 1%" who have borne the burden of war. I've never understood this from a service perspective (a war tax on the other hand...) since that 1% did volunteer to carry burden. But the 1970s debate focused their fairness on those induced into service for peacetime service - their service was not often necessary, was against their wishes, and was economically unsound to both the service and the draftees. I have the feeling that a lot of modern pro-draft voices would prefer that compelled service into the other 1% would come from the original 1% and aren't thinking about all of these other kids (from populations more likely to volunteer anyway) who get saddled with this unnecessary infringement upon their rights.

Concerns of civil-military relations seem to not have changed much over time. Decades with a draft military did not abate those concerns (some of the biggest crises in CMR in our history occurred during these decades).  If you are interested in this topic, I highly recommend that you read these two publications.


  1. To add to your list on this subject is Beth Bailey's "America's Army: The Making of the All-Volunteer Force."

    While she does pay attention to the debate on whether or not to end the draft, most of the book is about the problems of actually implementing the AVF.

  2. Had we had a draft going into Iraq and Afghanistan, would we have had another uprising in the streets and within the military similar to that which occurred during Vietnam? I think so and I think this is the main reason we have an all volunteer military.

    USMC Sgt, Vietnam 1966/67

  3. But Vietnam went on for some time even with the "uprisings"? I guess counterfactuals are always a difficult thing to deal with.

    I always worry that the same cronyism and elitism that exists at the "top" today would translate into any draft so that what was meant to right a wrong would only create another wrong. Plus, I don't think we can afford a draft, moneywise. Is this correct, people that know about this stuff?


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