Last year, in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, Harvard University conducted a poll of millennials asking two simple questions. “Do you support or oppose the United States sending ground troops to participate in a military campaign against the Islamic State?” And “If the United States needed additional troops to combat the Islamic state, how likely would you be to serve?” The results were striking, 60 percent of those interviewed said they would support the use of U.S. ground troops. But at the same time, 85 percent admitted that they would probably not or definitely not join the military if needed. This demonstrates the growing disconnect between the United States population and the military that defends it.
Less than one percent of the American population knows any of the horrors of modern warfare. They are content to enjoy the benefits of empire without the shouldering any of the costs of maintenance. The American population demands cheap oil and foreign goods but are not willing to take on the challenge of keeping these economic channels secure and stable. When the violence of the world penetrates the American bubble, we want justice through destruction of those responsible, as long as someone else has to go. Since 1973, when conscription was banned, the all-volunteer force has struggled to fill the ranks and now after fifteen years of endless warfare, the strain is beginning to show.
This is not to say that military service should be mandatory or in any way suggest that a career in the active military is for everyone. Both of these statements are undoubtedly false. The problem lies, however, in the disappearance of the citizen solider from American society. The citizen solider was, for the majority of American history, the backbone of our military. Regular civilians called into service to defend their nation carried the day at Gettysburg, the Marne and the beaches of Normandy. The commitment can be minimal. With just one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer of mandatory training the U.S. reserve forces have proved more than capable to serve alongside their active duty counterparts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As argued by John Spencer, an all-volunteer force is based on the principle that in times of national crisis people will, in fact, volunteer. What the Harvard study has shown us, however, is that even though the majority of millennials see the rise of ISIS as a national crisis warranting the deployment of U.S. ground forces, they are no more likely to join the fight. Which ultimately leads to the question who will go? Though I disagree with Donald Trump on nearly every political issue. I will concede to him one point. We have lost many things that added to the strength of this nation over the past few generations. The first among these remains selfless service to the nation.