Let’s review: I think we can agree that military service to make our nation secure was and is unique in its call for self-sacrifice. It can rightly be held to be the first among National Service. And, I think we can agree that a search for common purpose through civilian service that is called “National Service” must account for the treatment our nation has afforded our newest veterans of military service.
Did you notice concern for our veterans in the calls for National Service that we have reviewed? More importantly, have you read of any reasons for our diminished sense of common purpose, the foundation of our democracy? The “read ahead” for today, by Lt.Gen.(Ret) Karl Eikenberry and Prof. David Kennedy (E-K, for short), is important because it addresses not the plight of our veterans, but the circumstances which threaten to waste their futures--and yours. And, it offers us a vision of military service that seeks the restoration of “civic obligation.” Their article appeared in the New York Times which you may not be able to access. It has been extracted and placed under “Soldiers” in the top menu.
This is why I like the article. First, it identifies at the beginning, a central problem of our Democracy observed by Professor Wolin, the problem of hierarchy. Observed by E-K, “…the greatest challenge to our military is not from a foreign enemy--it’s the widening gap between the American people and their armed forces.” This is hardening into the ”…makings of a self-perpetuating military caste, sharply segregated from the larger society and with its enlisted ranks disproportionately recruited from the disadvantaged.”
If E-K is correct, does this tell us, in part, why our Army as a government agency failed its soldiers? I would say so.
But E-K explain further the reasons our Democracy failed the Army:
First, our decision in 1973 “…to depart from the tradition of the citizen-soldier by ending conscription and establishing a large, professional, all-volunteer force..”
Second, new technologies insulated our citizenry from the military that bred “..indifference and complacency about the use of force.”
And third, our “…military’s role has expanded far beyond the traditional battlefield.” Our leaders think that we can use the military to occupy counties and control their people. We have created a “Democracy” exerting “… maximally powerful force operating with a minimum of citizen engagement and comprehension.”
Can “common purpose” be fashioned from such systems and values by simply getting your generation to donate a year of your life to good causes?
I suspect that E-K think not. They recommend a number of remedies for fixing our diminished democracy, none more important than bringing the soldier and the citizen back together. They would begin to do so by instituting a “Draft Lottery.” “The lottery would be activated when volunteer recruitment fell short and weighted to select the best educated and most highly skilled Americans, providing and incentive for the most privileged among us to pay greater heed to military matters.”
What do you think about such a plan for you? There is much to discuss.
If you look at the article under “Soldiers” you will note various key phrases that are underlined. If you use these phrases and others that you may highlight to research with a search engine of your choice, you will discover various sites that will add to your understanding of the issues.
One very heavy site is this one, by Professor Janowitz who was instrumental in the planning for the All Volunteer Force:
Janowitz: Citizen-Soldier and National Service