A lot of things have changed in our culture, not least What It Means To Be A Man. It seems to me that the new emphasis on character, job-training, and independance appeals to modern ideas of adulthood (not just manhood). Facing down Death! is generally not something we value as much any more. Also, the whole structural premise of the smaller-scale volunteer army is that the country needs some of you, and why not that guy over there rather than me?
Very true. And the odd thing is I'm not at all sure it works. (Extreme arrogance warning -- I'm just talking out of my ass whereas the armed forces surely has statistical data and marketing consultants backing up this decision.) I see very few people willing to sign up for the armed forces just in order to aim high, or to become army strong. This is especially so when there is a war on. In times of peace, this probably motivates some people who want fitness and discipline and all the other good qualities that military service instills (to be "all they can be"), but during a war? Um... I think I'll just work a bit harder at the self-discipline, thanks.
I know many people in the armed forces. They're all there either because they need the college money, or just had few other options and needed a good job with training, benefits, etc. (call this a "forced decision"), or because we're at war and the military needs bodies and they thought it their patriotic duty to enlist, whether or not they personally supported the war decision (call this a "patriotic decision").
Then again, I can't imagine military ads touting service in Iraq would go over very well. But the "war on terror"? There's still enough support for that, isn't there? I'd think ads aimed to pressure more young men and women into making patriotic decisions -- to defend America from global terrorism -- would be more effective. I'd just like to know how many people in the armed forces are there because of a personal betterment decision, instead of a forced deicision or a patriotic decision. I suspect the number is low.
Although this is more on the level of anecdotal evidence than the highest-level promos MY refers to, it is worth noting that recruiters have been caught on tape lying to prospective recruits about service abroad.
ABC News and New York affiliate WABC equipped students with hidden video cameras before they visited 10 Army recruitment offices in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
"Nobody is going over to Iraq anymore?" one student asks a recruiter.
"No, we're bringing people back," he replies.
"We're not at war. War ended a long time ago," another recruiter says.
3 accords with the experience of a good friend of mine who just signed up for military service (patriotic decision). He knew the recruiters were lying and even called them out on it; they backpeddled a bit but tried to save face. He was upset by the experience but enlisted anyway.
3 sounds crazy, but I have had this argument with co-workers. They insist that the Army doesn't need more troops; they're sending them home, and in many cases letting them out.
4: I can't imagine doing that, but that's probably the big difference between me and someone who'd make a good soldier.
I find this pretty unconvincing. In WWII, we were ostensibly provoked into attack. Same with Afghanistan, though there was no enemy to attack. You can't run a jingoistic campaign against an asymmetric foe.
Furthermore, the Cold War transformed the military into a career professional services administration--people don't so much believe that Americans will fight for what is right and can get the job done goddamnit, but that the American military does all those things because they're the best and have no peers anywhere on earth. The more interesting point is what kinds of jingoism are on display--the military offers access to family, tradition, stability, middle class. Heroism isn't as bright a selling point.
Besides draftees my age, the military people I run into all go in because it's the best option for them at the time. I don't believe that I've known any gung-ho patriots. One guy spent 20 years and thought the Army was good to him, but he came from a destitute Mexican-American family.
In many cases they're gambling that nothing will happen.
The whole volunteer army thing has lots of problems. You end up with the used-car-dealer "get their signature on the dotted line" approach to recruiting, and then when crunch time comes the free-marketers can talk about sanctity of contracts and so on, and treat the troops the same way they treat anyone else who signs a bad contract -- as suckers who should have known better and have it coming to them. Not really a good way to keep morale high.
If we were provoked into WWII, we were certainly provoked into the "war on terror." Conversely, if people don't even believe that we were provoked into that any more, perhaps it's time to retire the name.
But you're probably right abot the transformation of the image of the military during the Cold War. Implying that the U.S. Army Needs You is a way of implying that the U.S. Army Needs Help. Which of course it doesn't, because it is the most awesome ass-kicking machine in history, one you'd be lucky to be a part of.
I'm almost wondering if they woudn't be better off recruiting based on some sort of mystique of honor, war, and Tom Clancy novels. Because really, if the army is your ticket to suburban respectability, for many kids, there's lots of comparable tickets that don't involve getting shot at, that will probably lead to a reasonably comfortable life.
If terrorism is the biggest threat America faces in the world today, then I don't blame people for not running to the Army recruitment offices -- because it's a really minor fucking threat on the grand scale.
(An aside: Liberals who argue that Iraq "distracts from the War on Terror" are saps.)
If terrorism is the biggest threat America faces
It doesn't even measure up to the trade deficit, frankly. But it's harder to scare people into voting for you using that one.
10 - If you suck at high school, like you have no tolerance for being in a classroom and get bad grades, then I don't think you have many tickets to suburban respectability besides the military.
Liberals who argue that Iraq "distracts from the War on Terror" are saps
"Distracts" seems a bit vague, but there's a real issue here from a resources perspective. Taking units like Special Forces and sending them off to chase various militia factions around Iraq means they're not doing actual counter terrorism work.
China, now, there's where you'll get your good propaganda.
13: That's true. But not all military veterans end up respectably suburban, either, and it does mean not getting paid all that much for a while and having to go somewhere and maybe get shot at. I think there's a not insignificant amount of jobs that might compete well versus enlisting.
14: Yeah, okay, but even with the Iraq War going strong for so many years, we haven't had a single terrorist attack since 9/11 (aside from the anthrax thing, which I'd bet was domestic in origin).
Also, just b/c recruiters aren't using such a strategy ("your country needs you"), doesn't mean it wouldn't work. We don't have much reason to believe that the military PR people are any good at their jobs. Cf. the "Army of One" fiasco, which they have finally been forced to retire, or the shamefully awful Marine commercial of a guy fighting a lava demon that ran for years.
Another possibility: the top guys know that they're supposed to have been making this war look like it wasn't a big deal. They may have thought to mention to the recruiting people that there would be no ads suggesting they need help.
but even with the Iraq War going strong for so many years, we haven't had a single terrorist attack since 9/11
Yeah, the brunt of the consequences are likely being born in places like North Africa where those units help train locals to effectively police their countries.
Latin America's experience with US "security" training leads me to believe that those North Africans may well be better off without our help.
mystique of honor, war, and Tom Clancy novels
This does happen; just watch the ads for the Marines. I think all Yglesias is saying is that the ads don't mention the specific conflict/enemy.
Yeah, they appeal to the mystique, but not to the current opportunity for actual combat/heroism/service. The angle is "Be a Marine (with all the lava-monster fighting heroism that implies)" not "Go fight for/in Iraq".
3: Allow me to add my voice to the growing chorus of, "That is in-fucking-sane."
18: What public criticism was made of the "army of one" slogan? I've been complaining about it for some time: it makes it clear that the army was appealing to the troubled loner demographic; it has nothing to do with real army culture. But the only person person who heard those complaints was my long suffering wife. Has someone else been saying these things more effectively?
I hate that lava-monster shit.
Idealist, a veteran, gripes about it at every opportunity. I always thought it was terribly funny -- isn't the necessary implication that all of the Armies of One wouldn't necessarily be on the same side? "Dammit, driving that tank would be useful. But I'm only an Army of One. Hmm. Yo, Smith, Robinson! Can we form up an Alliance of Three for the limited purpose of operating this tank?"
rob, I'm not up on public criticisim, but I did read that the army finally had to admit that the campaign performed abonimably. i.e. their studies showed that new recruitsl argely joined despite those ads, not because of them.
oops, 20 s.b. 27, though this is not to deny the grim humor of 20.
aargh. i meant 26, 26!
"You end up with the used-car-dealer "get their signature on the dotted line" approach to recruiting
Also the discussion seems like a good place to link to this Harper's article.
(including this anecdote about the various reasons people join the military.
"When Jeremiah announced his intention to join the military he took everyone who knew him in Portland by surprise. "He was raised in a pacifist, macrobiotic house," his mother exclaims. "He went to Waldorf schools. Here is a kid who's never even had a bite of animal flesh in his life!" Jeremiah had protested the Iraq war, in fact. He spent most of his senior year in high school convincing his family and what he and his mother call his "community"--a tightly knit group of families connected by the Portland Waldorf School and Rudolf Steiner's nontraditional philosophy of education--that joining the military was the right thing for him to do. "
I can't believe that so many people here are objectively pro-Lava Demon. Have we all forgotten the lessons of Mount St. Helens?
This does happen; just watch the ads for the Marines.
Sort of. The Marine ads that play around here, at least, seem to be more about fulfilling your personal destiny (climbing rocks heroically) or learning marketable skills, rather than any idea of war. The few, the proud, the future picket fence.
"You end up with the used-car-dealer "get their signature on the dotted line" approach to recruiting
This has always existed, I imagine (at least since they ended impressment). In the past several decades the military has worked hard to police it, but under the current system, where recruiters have enlistment goals, the incentive to get people to sign up drives some people to do unethical things. It always has.
I can't believe that things are even a fraction as bad as when I enlisted in 1974. When we got to the questions about past drug use, for example, the recruiter told me without prompting or question from me "just check 'no', don't read the question." Of course, that was back in the day when "go to jail or go to the Army" still existed and the Army took in people who couldn't even read.
That Army of One stuff was truly awful, for the reasons others have aluded to.
More generally, I think it is correct that the main motivation for many people to join the military is, and in the post-WWII era always has been, things like getting a job and an education, along with travel and adventure. That does not mean that a desire to serve or patriotism do not enter into it at all. Indeed, I get the sense that people are more driven by those latter motives more now than they were before 9/11 (but what do I know, I've been retired for over a decade now).
I think there's a not insignificant amount of jobs that might compete well versus enlisting.
I agree that those jobs exist. IME, though, it's precisely the kids making "forced decisions" about joining the military that don't have the family ties, social capital, or other connections to be able to find those jobs. Or even to know about them.
I blame the 'Army of One' ads without hesitation for all the annoying cowboys in the first-person shooters I play, thinking they're going to Army of One off into the teeth of the enemy team and inevitably get themselves turned into a leaky blood sponge.
Piss on 'Army of One'. I want to be part of an Army of Approximately Ten Million With Appropriate Logistical Support.
I don't know why you think that the mostly racist recruiting materials from WWI and WWII are better than the current "Army strong" and the "Few and the Proud", "Aim high" and whatever the
Navy is doing. PS, the Navy ads are probably the most deceptive, with the emphasis on carrier landings and SEAL commandos. The Heritage Foundation's study found that recent enlistees were mostly white, more rural and suburban than urban. I would link, but unfogged would probably melt down.