When I was growing up, most American men had served or expected to serve in the armed forces.
In my home county, Washington County, Maryland, nobody was drafted because voluntary enlistments filled the draft quota. But I enlisted anyway because I would have felt ashamed not to.
My enlistment was during the peacetime years of 1956 through 1958. Probably if there had been a war going on at the time, I would have waited to see if the Army wanted me.
The armed forces were regarded as the employer of last resort. Virtually any healthy young American man could enlist.
I read an on-line article in The Economist that shows how much things have changed. During the Korean Conflict, 70 percent of draft-age American men served in the armed forces. During the Vietnam Conflict, the figure was 43 percent. But now, according to The Economist, only 30 percent of draft-age American men are eligible to serve.
Among the 21 million draft-age American men, 9.5 million would be disqualified because they lack high-school diplomas or could not pass an elementary intelligence test. Another 7 million would be disqualified for such reasons as being too fat, or criminal records, or tattoos on their faces and hands.
That leaves 4.5 million, of whom only 390,000 are interested in enlisting.
This fact makes a lot of things fall into place. It explains why the armed forces no longer resist enlisting women, or gay men. It explains why President Obama bases U.S. military strategy on drones and missiles, and elite Special Ops teams, and arming foreign fighters.
The whole basis of small-r republican government, going back to Rome, is that the men who fight for a society have the right to voice in how it is governed. When the responsibility to fight is delegated to a small minority, how secure is our republic? Then again, as Roman history showed, men who are willing to die to defend a republic are not necessarily willing to die to create an empire.
Who will fight the next war? from The Economist (via naked capitalism)