The following is a reply to fellow teacher that I have been debating for some time. He presents some statistics from his favourite blogger Glen Greenwald on the percentage of the eligible population enrolled in the military. The teacher's thesis is that the low percent for the current War on Islamic Militancy reflects the fact that most Americans do not believe the war to be just or indeed apropriate. I of course beg to differ and see many factors that account for this apparent phenomenon. My replies are in Red. His initial words in Blue.
...And according to the CIA, there are roughly 108 million Americans "fit for military service" -- 54 million males and 54 million females who, as the CIA defines it, are able-bodied and between the ages of 18-49.
But the total number (.pdf) on active duty in American's armed services in 2007 only totaled roughly 1.4 million. Thus, a meager 1% of the total number of Americans fit for military service -- and less than 1/3 of 1% of the total number of Americans -- actually serve in the armed forces.
Moreover, roughly 60% (.pdf) of those in the armed forces are in the 18-29 age group, which means that 800,000 out of the 41 million Americans in this 9/11 Generation -- i.e., 2% -- have "answered the call" by volunteering to fight in the Epic War of Civilization against the Existential Islamofascism Threat. Thus, 98% of the "9/11 Generation" in America refuses to serve. It is a redundancy to say so, but nonetheless, the Weekly Standard cover story is a fraud.
The stats that you posted are informative. Indeed they are great food for thought. On reflection (forgive the use of this overly used Ed School term) though I believe that there are number of factors to consider
1. 1.4 million soldiers is still a very large number. Lets not forget that warfare has changed as of late (Era of Third Wave and Fourth Wave combat). There is less of a reliance on brute force numbers and more on technology and sophisticated weaponry (this has its cons in that it too often elevates the usage of mechanized warfare over the need for a common sense approach). In short there is a reduced demand for mass mobilization. China and Russia in the last years of the Cold War both realized that the era of the large standing army was over and began this downsizing of their respective armies as well.
2. The War against Islamist Militancy (WIM my own acronym) is still in its infancy. It takes a while for a population to appreciate the intensity of the war especially in the case where the lines of fire are not clear cut (as they were in earlier conflicts) and the complexity of the struggle is more enhanced. I believe that a vast proportion of the population is in denial of the challnge ahead as are the many who were a tuned to believe (and has been imprinted into the collective consciousness) that there would be no significant conflicts after the Cold War – See Fukuyama’s End of History. Furthermore it is important to note as well that Americans were slow in coming to terms with the threats to their democracy posed by both fascism and communism in previous epochs.
3. There has been a great deal of information downplaying WIM in both the MSM (Main Stream Media), Fringe media and the INTERNET. Lets not forget that this is the first Major Conflict of the cyber era that has direct implications for the West. While I am a big fan of the internet it is apparent that it can be used as a very effective propaganda machine to discourage the war effort.
4. Since the Vietnam War there has been a growing trend amongst educators to deride military solutions to problems. This is a consequence I believe of the 60s generation’s influence in academia and in particular - education schools. I have seen this bias first hand and it seems likely that it has filtered down to the next generation. Some would describe this as the feminization of the masculine mindset but I hesitate to go this far.
5. Americans have become cynical of their foundation institutions. Hollywood has played somewhat of a role, as has Madison Avenue but the causes runs deeper than this (another future topic for discussion).
6. The Y generation appears to be much more ‘me’ focused than their earlier counterparts – Fighting for one’s country involves an extension of the sense of self which I believe is lacking - not only on this issue but on several others. I sense that the twin cults of materialism and victim hood may have something to do with this.
7. The American economy and society has changed and is more complex now than it has ever been. This complexity shuns the ‘entrapment’ of a large section of the population in a military capacity. The US in a sense is a victim of its own progress.
8. The numbers in the statistics above ignore the fact that there is still a large segment of the population who are combatants in the WIM through their involvement in industries directed to war production. In a sense the ‘techies’ are the new troops.
9. The WIM has been poorly managed by the Bush Administration not only in word (it has not been well articulated – I blame pc self censoring for this) but also in action. Foremost amongst these errors were:
- The Invasion of Iraq which was a strategic deviation from the true intention of the war – Iraq drew away important resources from the more critical fight in Afghanistan;
- The setting up of a Homeland Security Department (a glorified show piece) that seems to lack a broad vision of how it intends to protect Americans;
- The apparent trust that the Administration still has in the Saudis, a global exporter of the Wahhabist vision. The Bushites are exposed as hypocrites in this regard, a view that has filtered through to the populace;
- The kid glove approach to military action that has failed to confront the enemy with the same vigor that they confront the West – it could be argued that the caution taken in being ‘mr-nice-guy’ may contribute to higher troop casualties;
- The repetition of the errors of Vietnam where the press is permitted to exploit the war from the front lines to manipulate public opinion. War is never pleasant, adding sensationalized journalism to the mix is a dangerous recipe;
It is reasonable that several of these factors may encourage a further negativity toward the war
Thats All for Now