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IW 03

Asia-Middle East

The United States: a gendarme without recruits

For four consecutive months, the US Army was unable to meet its minimum quota of new recruits. In spite of having reduced the minimum requirements for induction and having upscaled the economic benefits, recruits are still lacking.

The reason is that there are not that many youth willing to enlist in order to get themselves killed in Iraq. This has led one analyst of military affairs (The New York Times, 27 Jun) to point out that the “volunteer army” works in “peacetime,” when it offers “job training” for thousands of youth coming from the lower layers of society, but that it “doesn't work” during wartime. This is a brutal condemnation because, after all is said and done, what is the use of an army that doesn't work in times of war?

Apart from a natural instinct for self-preservation, the lack of recruits demonstrates the absolutely unpopular character of the war in Iraq. In past wars, such as WWII, a popular war in the United States, volunteers presented themselves massively at recruitment centers.

In order to fill their ranks, the Pentagon has launched what has been qualified as “a hunt for potential recruits with alarming ferocity” (ídem). Recruitment officers make their rounds of the high schools, using “heavy-handed tactics” for the kids to sign up. The Pentagon has given these recruiters —as well as to private companies to whom they have outsourced part of the recruitment work-- a database containing the personal details of all youth in the country between the ages of 16 and 25, their relations and family income. With this, the recruiters are able to pressure the poorest neighborhood kids with the most problems at home into joining the army.

The pressure brought to bear by the Pentagon is causing many parents to organize “to resist the aggressive recruitment tactics” (ídem).

“Now that the war is going badly and the army is hunting down potential recruits with alarming ferocity, a reaction is developing capable of liquidating the nation's capacity to wage war without obligatory conscrioption” (ídem). But Vietnam showed that the United States cannot wage an unpopular war with obligatory conscription.

After the failure of the draft army in Vietnam, the army of professional volunteers has failed in Iraq.

The “world gendarme” is facing a profound military crisis.