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Becoming Cannon Fodder
America's military is considering sending my generation into the meatgrinder for nothing.
America’s armed forces are struggling to recruit.
The Air Force aimed for ~27,000, but received only ~23,000.
The Navy aimed for ~46,000, but received only ~36,500.
The only branches to meet their goals were the Marine Corps and Space Force, which were far more conservative in recruiting goals than their competing branches. The Marine Corps also has the benefit of its reputation, which the New York Times profiled recently. The branches' reserves also fell short, with some recruits also falling into “delayed entry” pools that count individuals as recruited but not immediately entering the armed forces.
Whether these branches count themselves as “fully staffed” is a PR move — one probably only answerable by dragging members of the Joint Chiefs before a congressional panel. Unfortunately, it seems whenever this happens, the questions typically devolve into bickering over “wokeness” (a stupid, unwieldy term) and spats over hours spent on sexual assault and equal opportunity powerpoints.
In the meantime, the recruits are getting dumber, getting fatter, and being let in despite the fact they smoke too much weed, try to kill themselves, or are criminals. As it stands, the “all-volunteer force” is shaping up to be short-staffed, and the margins are being staffed by enlistees who hardly qualify to be there behind all of their exemptions and carve-outs. The armed forces have also been observing all of these problems worsen: their officers are seeing similar intelligence declines, 70% are now overweight, and those in the armed services still experience overwhelming mental health problems and commit suicide at elevated rates.
Not that the concerns of service culture aren’t deserved — but the wokeness is secondary to the real, grand strategy consideration that has been apparent since the mid-to-late 90s. America’s wars aren’t fought for America’s interests anymore.
Our interventions in the former Yugoslavia was ostensibly to prevent ethnic cleansing, for which we have been rewarded the custodianship of constantly supervising the potential for (another) European war.
The war in Afghanistan raged for 20 years, shaping military procurement, and strategy, and fundamentally altering American military culture, all to be extinguished when reality finally struck: the Afghans didn’t care enough to stop a Taliban takeover. With that, the ISAF rolled over, and the children of the men we had ousted 20 years prior rolled into Kabul, praised as victors. Thousands of Coalition forces died, and their accomplishments and sacrifices were all swept away without any resistance.
The war in Iraq was fought on the premise of cutting a head from the Axis of Evil and repossessing any potential WMDs. The first justification was rhetorical, almost meaningless, whereas the second was an outright fabrication. Sadaam may have ruled his people terribly, but what we unleashed on the region was over a decade of Islamist terror and increased Iranian influence, all paid for with the blood of Iraqi civilians and American boys.
Our interventions in Libya and Syria succeeded and attempted to depose dictators, at the cost of destabilizing large swaths of North Africa and the Levant. ISIS, the re-emergence of the Mediterranean slave trade, and the “refugee crisis” all stemmed from the support we provided. After all of it, Al-Assaad still stands, and Gadaffi’s toppling, and subsequent death/sodomization after his relinquishment of actual WMDs through an agreement with the US has likely only promoted proliferation even further in nations such as Iran and North Korea.
The American populace has, predictably, observed the spending of the dollars and blood of our boys for nothing, and has come away wanting. What was it all for? It certainly hasn’t made us safer — terrorist attacks in America are almost solely motivated by its actions and interventions across the globe.
For now, the regime has not decided to start any new, overtly American-involved wars. Instead, we send uncountable amounts of materiel overseas to pursue vague goals and see all conflicts we are currently “engaged” in as being somehow inextricably tied together.
“Both [Hamas and Russia] want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy,” Biden claimed tonight. Therefore, unlimited spending on both of these goals, at the expense of everything else, is justified.
America already has a rival power of serious concern — it’s China. Wasting our resources in other conflicts is a waste of our industrial capacity, a dwindling resource, and our political capital around the world. The West has lost the Global South, not just by way of failing to compete on investment and technology, but by the conflicts that we are choosing to engage in.
Whether one considers these countries to be important is up to your judgment. The necessity of these conflicts, however, is not — they are peripheral, and distracting. The Department of Defense and many of its accessory organs have long acknowledged this truth as we enter into a decade that should have been defined by the US solidifying its competition with China.
The 2017 National Defense Strategy, published by the Trump Administration, openly declared this fact — the Indo-Pacific and South Asia both share China as the chief strategic competitor in the region, and China is even mentioned in a European context through developments such as Belt and Road and other commercial partnerships. But while Ukraine and Israel are mentioned in the document, they are not what it is centered around — Ukraine is mentioned only once, and Israel only four times.
The 2017-8 Congressional response to this document was similarly focused on China - competition with China defines the document itself, mentioned on almost every page. Scenarios including the loss of Taiwan devolving into a stalemate and North Korean nuclear escalation all are centered around Chinese power projection. When Russia is mentioned in the document, it is almost always mentioned in a pairing with China.
The 2021 Interim Defense Strategy references China three times more than Russia, and never mentions Ukraine, referencing Israel only once. Again, our long-planned strategic competition with China should be the focus of an administration that is not being wagged by its own tail. Without seriously competing with the Chinese on the world stage, the only thing that awaits America is ruin — and all of the documents that require long, drawn-out thought, and not impulsive action, reflect that.
But the moment that conflict breaks out in Eastern Europe, the defense strategy — and American logistics and attentiveness — seem to be broken almost immediately. The October 2022 NDS reflects this immediately, Ukraine being a centerpiece of the document. The document also takes tangents riffing on “protecting democracy” and expressing concerns about domestic terrorism, whilst also proclaiming climate change to be a chief concern of foreign policy as well. This is where the unseriousness was crystallized into being.
We’re draining our artillery and ammunition reserves. We’re at a level where We’ve drained our petroleum reserve by 300,000 barrels in just over a year so that Biden could save himself from a midterm obliteration. 155mm shells are flying out of our armories. The only plant in the country that produces black powder in the US is still offline after a blast in 2021. The industrial base to replace all of these expenditures does not exist.
The equipment cost, however, is the less horrifying takeaway from our scramble over the past 2 years to cobble together some sort of coherent national strategy. The war in Ukraine, for all its worth, will now likely play a part in justifying the reintroduction of the draft.
Multiple publications by the US Army War College have been written with overtones towards the reinstatement of conscription:
“Large-scale combat operations troop requirements may well require a reconceptualization of the 1970s and 1980s volunteer force and a move toward partial conscription.
The Russia-Ukraine War is exposing significant vulnerabilities in the Army’s strategic personnel depth and ability to withstand and replace casualties. Army theater medical planners may anticipate a sustained rate of roughly 3,600 casualties per day, ranging from those killed in action to those wounded in action or suffering disease or other non-battle injuries. With a 25 percent predicted replacement rate, the personnel system will require 800 new personnel each day. For context, the United States sustained about 50,000 casualties in two decades of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In large-scale combat operations, the United States could experience that same number of casualties in two weeks.”
This piece was almost immediately beaten back by its authors, who claim that it “doesn’t even recommend the resumption of the draft,” according to the Associated Press. But then what does the above paragraph entail?
Even a more reserved, historical-based take, given by another writer at the War College, is still concerning:
“Despite the Army’s wish to return to an all-volunteer force—albeit one with far greater education and technical skills—the years immediately following World War II produced so few quality volunteers it was repeatedly forced to ask that Selective Service be extended. […]
By the end of 1973, the fallacies of both economic arguments and of the idea that initial recruiting success could be maintained were obvious. Despite high bonuses and fringe benefits, the number of high school graduate enlistees fell far below the target goal, with the combat arms experiencing a 38 percent shortfall. […]
A recruiting crisis and its resolution are often determined by factors outside the Army’s means of control: the state of the economy, youth employment, public attitudes, recruitment budgets, pay and benefits, deployments, and so on.”
There exists little, if any optimism for the future of the all-volunteer force. The statistics mentioned previously support that. The reinstatement of a draft is almost inevitable, and draft dodging is now impossible given the rise of digital surveillance. There will be no fleeing to Canada or hiding out somewhere in the backcountry. Unless you perfect those skills now, you will be rounded up and dragged to service.
As Peachy Keenan alluded to in her piece Become Undraftable, there seem to be few paths out besides intentionally offending the polite sensibilities of the ruling class by declaring something about race or gender. Though, when things get desperate and the age of conscription expands, they’ll compel you to do whatever they want, as we’ve seen in Ukraine. Conscript legions surrender, and when they surrender, Ukrainian drone pilots explode their brains with a suicide drone to prevent it. And now the women are going, too.
Or, if we fight for Taiwan in any serious way, we must grapple with the fact that the Taiwanese hardly want to fight for their own survival. That, and that the US and Taiwan are for some reason actively enabling China’s rise by continuing the export of TSMC-grade semiconductors to China, despite rising restrictions and concerns in every other column. The lack of a serious strategy regarding China leads to a lack of leadership and a loss of morale in the entire theatre. What’s the point of the fight for Taiwan if they’re doomed to be ground to dust like Ukraine when they can choose the alternative of becoming Hong Kong — as horrible as that choice is?
We’ve been flirting with WW3 the Soleimani airstrike — and that was the least risky instance of recent years. Aggravating any of the nations aligned in what is quickly becoming a Russia-Iran-China alliance, which we created partly through our genius diplomacy in instances such as the “reset” with Russia.
We’re dealing with the hand that we’ve been dealt, but unfortunately, our predecessors have been horribly predisposed to close-sightedness. As a consequence, assuming the conflicts don’t go immediately nuclear, any man from the age of 17 to 35 can probably expect to see the Selective Service reactivated if things get bad enough. And any man who takes being “right-wing” seriously — being fit, involved with firearms, no criminal record, no tattoos — only increases their eligibility for conscription.