The Few and the Proud

by Byron King

One of the problems empires need to solve is how and where to get fresh troops.Typically, they run out of their own manpower and need to enlist foreigners to do the fighting.Often the foreigners eventually figure out that they have the real power and take over.

America is having trouble finding soldiers.But here, its economic weakness is proving a blessing.

The war is not being fought by those usually lumped in together when thinking of American soldiers. Not by farm boys from Kansas or Iowa.Nor by poor boys from the Mississippi delta or from the hillbilly sections of the South.Or if it is, these types of soldiers tend to die less often than those soldiers from America’s major urban regions.

Note the clusters.Boston to Northern VA (urban Mass, BTW; not western Mass); Pittsburgh to Detroit; Chicago to Milwaukee; urban centers in the Midwest & Rockies; LA-SF-Seattle.A few Interstate highway corridors.Interesting how the ‘South’ in general has a very dispersed arrangements of home towns.So it is not the Confederate Army, any more.And these are not just the Blue States, but also the Blue Counties in the Blue States.

Keep in mind that it is a voluntary military.The Army-Marines, plus National Guard & Reserve units that are doing the fighting, are predominantly from de-industrialized urban sections of the country.When the young fellow (or girl) finishes high school or college, there are fewer jobs in the mines, mills & factories than, say, 30 years ago.The U.S. armed forces offer a hard-sell recruitment into the service, but the U.S. economy also provides a good deal of economic push into a job with entry levels of pay above $17,500 in pay & benefits, plus family care for dependents.And with a bit of hustle and personal initiative, the E-3/E-4/E-5 (i.e., the guys who are doing most of the heavy lifting in Iraq) can make $30,000 per year in pay & allowances.

Couple this economic aspect with the sociological lure of a young fellow being able to overcome the girly-man aspects of U.S. culture.The armed forces offer you the opportunity to do real-manly stuff like proving yourself to be tough enough under the watchful eye of a Drill Instructor, or being one of ‘the few & the proud,’ carrying an M-16, driving a tank or jumping out of airplanes, etc.

Still, it makes me wonder.Had the United States retained a basic manufacturing base that could attract people into a workforce that offered the opportunity to slap a wrench on a pipe and do some tangible job, would the all-volunteer force still have its level of attraction?

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