Cannon Fodder

Russell Turpin
Fri, 17 Jan 2003 15:18:47 +0000

James Rogers:
>>Most of the soldiers that actually see combat had to work hard and compete 
>>to get assigned to a combat slot.

>I'm assuming this was a change made recently?  I.e., it wasn't something 
>that occured during Vietnam, or WW2.

There has been a tremendous change in the military
over those years. Before WW II, the US military had
300 thousand people. At the peak of WW II, there
were 12 million, forty times as many. In 1968, at
the peak of the Vietnam war, there were 3.5 million
people in the US military. In 1994, 2 million.

In WW II, most officers were fairly new recruits.
They had to be -- there just weren't enough
veterans prior to the war's start. Of course, by
the end of the war, many of the officers in combat
were breveted.

In Vietnam, there was considerable difference
between commissioned officers, who were largely
volunteers and who often did seek combat roles,
and the enlisted men, who were largely draftees,
or near-draftees.

The US military today is smaller and all volunteer.
It has changed tremendously in how it recruits
and trains. We have moved from a people's army, to
a professional military. A partial cause and result
is the perceived need and now ability to wage wars
with less political backing. The US could not have
fought WW II were it not for the fact that it was
so broadly supported at the war's start. (The same
was true for the Civil War, at least at its start.)
In Vietnam, the cause was murkier, the volunteers
were proportionately fewer, and the draftees were
more resentful. The change to a smaller, more
professional, and better equipped military gives
the government more political leeway to decide
military policy. The planned war with Iraq would
be much less probable if it had to rely on increased
volunteers or draftees for its prosecution. It's one
thing to vote for George Bush and parrot slogans
about taking out Saddam. It is quite another to sign
up for a tour of duty in Baghdad.

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