Saturday, February 9, 2008

The irony of military recruitment in a 'me first' culture

The first look into the military’s recruitment problems rightfully exposes the Iraq war as the primary culprit. After all, why would young men and women choose to serve their country in a time of war when the mission has nothing to do with defending America?

According to an article in the Boston Globe, the latest new enlistments incentives include “up to $40,000 to buy a home or start a small business upon completion of service”. Money talks, it always has, and a lot more is needed to offset the effects of a dishonest war on recruiting.

Rand Corporation analyst David Johnson explains, “They have to get people to join in a very tough market. Everybody knows part of the contract [for enlisting] in the ground forces is you are going to go to Iraq and Afghanistan at least once" -

It’s not only a tough market because of the war, there is a lot of competition to satisfy the ambitions of our young people. Does this point to a contradiction in the idea of service? What happened to JFK’s call to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Recruitment efforts before the war always had financial incentives, such as guarantees of up to $50,000 for college education. So the only change is in the type and amount of incentives. The market is certainly tightened because of the war, but if people are going to spend their youth admiring success stories that include the accumulation of personal wealth, then the obsession with Wall Street points away from the idea of service until after individual financial security is attained.

It seems that the ultimate service to one’s country is diametrically at odds with a lot of core values taught in a society that focuses on individual freedoms and financial success. It’s a fitting irony that a capitalistic war over oil rich Iraq has created a military recruitment problem.

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by Rich in Juneau