What's the AVF? It's the initials for the "All Volunteer Force," the present compostion of the United States military. Tom Ricks, former Washington Post military correspondent and current Foreign Policy blogger, has hosted a fascinating conversation among recent and current soldiers about what being part of such a military is like -- and what it does to the relationship between our soldiers and the country at large.
It used to be, until 1974, that if the country wanted to fight a war, it drafted a cross section of young men as soldiers. The system was never fair; privileged people could usually stay out of the fighting. But the big wars of the 20th century up through Vietnam drew in a pretty broad section of the population. Having experienced military service was almost a necessity for ambitious politicians, certifying their "man of the people" status. But since the draft was suspended, that's all changed. As a former Marine who calls himself "A. Scout-Sniper" explains:
He thinks that is wrong and calls for reinstatement of universal service. Some of the reasons he brings forward:
- The "volunteer" force is not genuinely voluntary. There's a poverty draft.
- The military sells itself as better -- more honorable, more profesional -- than civilian pursuits.
- A military whose social composition is as narrow as our current one, easily becomes politicized -- in just one direction. Again "Sniper":
Mostly they feel out on a limb in a society that has no idea what their service has meant. One or two even wish there was more of an antiwar movement; that would show them someone noticed. David J. Morris writes
Precisely because only one percent of people in the United States are directly experiencing the country's Iraq and Afghanistan adventures, people who oppose these wars need to work at getting a glimmer about how they are experienced by the fighting forces. I've rearranged and excerpted in these posts. Go read the whole thing and do go on to follow up posts, here, here, and here.