What Military Recruitment High Means For Troops

Military recruiters met all recruiting goals for the first time since the draft was abolished after Vietnam

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Despite America's involvement in two wars, one of which is escalating rapidly, Americans are enlisting in record numbers; military recruiters have met all their recruiting goals for the first time since the abolition of the draft after Vietnam. "The military has not seen such across-the-board successes since the all-volunteer force was established in 1973," the Washington Post reports. President Obama will need them all for his aggressive Afghanistan approach. But what does this mean for the troops enlisting?

  • Relic of Iraq-Era Standard Loosening James Joyner points out that standards dropped during the Iraq War's more desperate months. "Recruiting naturally rises and falls in opposite cycles with the civilian economy and the combination of easy availability of jobs in the private sector and the near-certainty of deployment to an unpopular war made it difficult from roughly 2004 to 2008. The decline in casualties in Iraq combined with the economic slowdown has reversed that trend," writes Joyner, who blogs regularly about the military at Outside The Beltway. "It's quite likely a technicality. Maybe we've previously fallen short a few people in one of 500 recruiting categories. Perhaps we've got fewer goal categories now. Or maybe our goals are in perfect harmony with the incentives for the first time ever. (I suspect we've not quite raised our high school graduation, weight, and drug standards to the levels they were during our most recent flush period.)"
  • National Guard's Dedication Shines Joyner suggests that the National Guard being pulled into active duty, once derided as a "back door draft," has strengthened its commitment. "During the 1990s, I took it as a given that the Reserve and National Guard would not stand up to the heavy rotations they were suddenly being subjected to. [...] That has changed radically in recent years and, shockingly, the system stood up. Indeed, most studies I've seen show retention is actually higher in the units that got deployed to war than in those who stayed home," he writes. "Most nonetheless see it as important work and take considerable pride in having undertaken it."
  • Bribing Soldiers to Risk Death, Bankruptcy Gawker's Andrew Belonsky questions the morality of enticing soldiers with bonus packages. "So, it sounds like everyone wins: the armed services and the soldiers. So why do we feel so dirty about the whole thing?" he asks. "Considering that Iraq and Afghanistan have no definite end -- the latter of which will likely get worse -- the fact that about 20% of military families file for bankruptcy as the result of medical bills and 29% of homeless people are veterans, these economic incentives smell like short-term bribes offered to those in need. But, that's the price -- and cost -- of war."
  • Bush Leaves, Soldiers Enlist Markos Moulitsas, founder of liberal opinion site Daily Kos, jokes that former President Bush's policies may have deterred enlisting. "Getting Bush out of office great for military recruitment," he tweets.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.