Military Disconnect: An Unintended Consequence

My friend posted this story about the nation’s disconnectedness from its military, and while there is a bit of unnecessary editorial blather with which I take issue, by and large the writer, David Zucchino, has about the 80 percent solution on the topic.

The disconnect between the society at large and the military is one of those unintended consequences of the advent of the Volunteer Army (VOLAR). The architecture of the force was supposed to prevent the disconnect.
When Army Chief of Staff Creighton Abrams began designing the post-Vietnam force, he sought to limit the nation’s ability to go to war without the public’s engagement. To do that he redesigned the Army, The US Army Reserve, and the Army National Guard.

He gave the US Army enough resources to fight a limited engagement, but not enough resources to conduct a war or long duration conflict, He put almost all the logistical support in the US Army Reserve (no combat units), put all reserve combat power in the national guard under the peacetime command of the governors of the 54 states and territories. By designing the force this way it requires the mobilization of citizen soldiers to fight a larger conflict. The thought was that civilian communities and employers would scream bloody murder as we mobilized neighbors, employees, and parents.

It’s a pretty slick idea, or at least it was for a while until the haves and have-nots self-segregated and we developed a warrior class who sought military service as a way to better their position in the economic food chain.
What Abrams didn’t plan on was the improved professionalism of the army and other services, the general apathy of the citizenry, and the drawdown of force and force structure after the cold war.

Frankly, our smaller military can now do what a larger one once did and that smaller number of participants is in and of itself more self-isolating. As a result the misapplication of military Abrams sought to stymie is very alive and well. The smaller numbers of potential combatants spread across a nation more than 330 million and 54 states and territories means no single community or state suffers enough to make generating political will to blunt military action likely. I’m not sure what we do about that, but sure is bad place to be.

Note: I take great issue with Mr. Zucchino’s implication that the military lifestyle, healthcare, and retirement benefits are in some way exorbitant. I won’t fight that battle here.

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