I have served proudly in the US Army since 1982. It has
been the best decision of my life and one that I would do over again in a
heartbeat. My Army career has allowed me to do more, see more, and learn more
than anything else in my life. I've been around the world and have served three
Presidents directly. Not bad for a farm boy from small-town North Dakota.
There's a lot that's
good about military service. There's also some things that, shall we say, could
use a bit of fixing. Before I get into the details, I should say that the
following opinions are purely my own and don't necessarily reflect the views of
the military itself or anybody else in the military (even though I know
I believe that the
all-volunteer military is the best way to go. So long as there are still ample
numbers of desirable recruits, there should be no need for the US to reinstitute
the draft or to adopt mandatory military service. Most other nations require
anywhere from 1 to 3 years of military service after getting out of high school.
They have little choice, as limited populations and/or the unpleasantness of
military service in those nations would make it impossible to field a standing
army if only volunteers were used. However, conscript armies are, in general,
rather poor ones. Conscripts are rarely motivated to perform their duties at
more than bare minimum standards and they are largely treated like dirt by the
career members of that nation's military -- which further lowers the conscripts'
morale. While the volunteer can still complain about his duties, he will almost
invariably perform them to a much higher level of efficiency.
That said, I think it
would still be a good idea to implement a program of 1-2 year active-duty
military service that could be performed by any qualified individual under the
age of 21. It would still be voluntary, but would be an alternative to the
current 4-6 year commitment. The training, both physical and mental, that a new
service member undergoes would be beneficial to just about anybody. Not to
mention that there are a large number of new high school graduates who really
don't know for sure what they want to do with their lives. A short period of
military service might help them in their eventual decisions. It's also a great
place to learn skills that could translate into the civilian market.
So, what needs
fixing? Several things, really, but I'll just touch on a few. First, the
military needs to resist the special-interest pressures to be the "proving
grounds" for social experimentation. The military is a unique place where the
political correctness of the civilian world just doesn't apply in all cases.
The best example is the question of whether or not homosexuals should be
permitted to serve. The evidence is overwhelming that their presence causes
more harm than good, so the answer should be clear - bar them from service.
The next thing is a
bit of a sore spot with me and that is the disturbing preference for looks,
perception and appearance over reality. The military is expected to be
competent, precise, and capable at what it does. This, without question, should
be the case. However, there is a growing mentality that seems to believe that
an Army that *looks* good *is* good. This is, in my opinion, very dangerous
thinking. With recent "Zero Tolerance" policies, it seems as if it is becoming
preferable to cover up deficiencies rather than to correct them. In reality,
however, this is as silly as attempting to hide a serious flaw in a building by
covering it up with a fresh coat of paint.
It sometimes gets to
the point where a soldier's physical appearance becomes more important than his
exemplary performance of his duties. Now, the military has necessary standards
of appearance and uniformity that are all well and good. However, spit and
polish never produced a good soldier. It might enhance one who is *already*
good, but only training and motivation can make him good in the first place. It
is interesting to note a historical phenomenon known as "the Sukhomlinov
Effect". This states that the *loser* of any given war is most likely to be the
side whose leaders wear the better uniforms. Go back in history for hundreds of
years and you'll find that, in every major war over that time, this effect has
been borne out. Is it coincidence? I'm not so sure...
All in all, the US
military works well. It is the butt of many jokes, of course, of which only a
few aren't deserved. But, even a cursory comparison of our armed forces to
those of other nations will quickly show which system works. Again, I'm proud
Created with Allaire HomeSite 3.0 .......... Last Update: 07 Sep 98
Earthlink Network Home Page