The US Military’s Recruitment Problem, Solved!

The U.S. military is having a major problem recruiting new troops, notes Nan Levinson in an informative piece at As usual, the military has tried most everything. Lowering standards, especially on the ASVAB test. Boosting bonuses and benefits. Infiltrating high school (even grade schools!) with military programs tied to recruitment like Junior ROTC. More money for ad campaigns, using celebrities and catchy slogans. Hoopla at sports stadiums. Nothing’s worked.

But, being an out-of-the-Pentagon-box thinker, I have the solution: Downsize the military!

Why does America need a large standing Army given all the force-multipliers we’re buying for hundreds of billions of dollars each year? What large-scale war is America currently fighting? We pulled out of Afghanistan, out of Iraq (mostly), and should be downsizing our imperial footprint (or bootprint, if you prefer).

I know: Russia! China! We must be prepared!

Those seeking a conventional war with either of those two land powers in their spheres of influence should surely have their sanity checked. Land war in Asia? With nuclear powers? No thank you!

Come on, America. If fewer young Americans want to join the US military, take this as a sign of the wisdom of youth. Wisdom of youth – a phrase not commonly seen, but possibly of great relevance to us all, as Levinson notes in her conclusion.

Want a better military with higher-quality recruits? Simply recruit fewer of them by being more selective and by downsizing inflated recruitment numbers. In other words, change the metrics to show a recruiting victory. The US military, after all, has plenty of experience doctoring metrics (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.).

Lower the quotas* and declare victory! Hooah!

*Warning: lowering the quotas may result in decreased funding from Congress and increased chances of avoiding wasteful wars. May also result in fewer command billets for generals. Warrior discretion is advised.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

64 thoughts on “The US Military’s Recruitment Problem, Solved!”

  1. Ha. My niece and her husband ( both as right-wing as it comes) strongly encouraged their oldest son to join the military. My brother solved THAT issue by threatening to cut them out of his will if they continued to do so ( he’s quite wealthy, and strenuously objected to his grandson becoming potential cannon fodder.)
    Long story short: my great-nephew went into engineering, got his dream job, and makes a good living.
    Sometimes a little “tweaking” is all it takes . 😉

    1. Over the years, I’ve been asked by a few non-veteran friends to talk with their kids who are considering enlisting. When I’ve done so, I’ve made it clear to both parents and kids that I’m not trying to make/change their minds either way. I just tell them what it’s like and what they can expect. Sometimes they go ahead with it, sometimes they decide it doesn’t sound like it’s for them.

      The up side: The pay isn’t bad, and your housing, medical care, etc. are covered. You may (not necessarily, but may) learn a skill that has some value in the civilian world. You’ll probably get to see places you wouldn’t otherwise have seen. You’ll make friends with whom you weren’t raised, schooled, churched, etc.

      The down side: For your term of enlistment (and longer if they decide to extend that term whether you like it or not) you will do what you’re told, go where you’re sent, eat what you’re fed, wear what they order, etc., 24/7/365. And you may be required to kill people, or die yourself. It will have nothing to do with “defending freedom.” It will be all about doing whatever the people in power happen to want done, whether it makes any sense or not.

      1. Hi Thomas
        My brother didn’t escape the draft. After he completed his residency, he chose the Air Force and was sent to Dyess AFB in Texas in the capacity as a doctor. And he and his wife DID make lifelong friends: a doctor and his wife from southern Mississippi. They always told my brother and sister-in-law, “J… and S..,y’all talk like YANKEES!” 😁 They still keep in close touch.
        My first cousin, Johnny, was not so fortunate. He died before I was born. He was a medic in Korea and was killed rendering aid to a wounded soldier. He posthumously received the Silver Star and is buried at Arlington. One day I’ll go there just to lay flowers on his grave.

  2. The Sheeple, and the government schooled are waking up to the Empires lies!

    Dec 26, 2022 Can the Army fill its ranks?

    And service officials have expressed fear that they won’t be able to rebound in fiscal 2023, telling Congress they think they will shrink to between 445,000 and 452,000 troops. Lawmakers responded by cutting their authorization to 452,000 in the compromise version of the defense policy bill.

    November 15, 2022 The USA’s Military Empire: A Visual Database. World Beyond War

    The United States of America, unlike any other nation, maintains a massive network of foreign military installations around the world.

    1. Schools should have people trying to discourage people from joining the military. The US should close its bases abroad & train its troops there for jobs in the US such as border patrol agents.
      Anyone that is not capable of serving in the military regardless of gender should not have to register for the draft. I had to register for the draft before I turned 18 although I would not pass a physical. I knew some girls that would pass the physical & did not have to register for the draft.

      1. “The US should close its bases abroad & train its troops there for jobs in the US such as border patrol agents.”

        The only thing I can think of that would be worse than having them work as murderous thugs over there would be having them work as murderous thugs over here.

        1. Thomas, my father was nearly 40 when he went to enlist in WWII ( he was 50 when my much younger mother had me.) He was turned down because he’d had typhoid as a child in the Old Country. ( They put leeches on him.) I think it had something to do with the fact that it stays in one’s bloodstream? You might know more about this than I do.

          1. Can’t say as I know any more about it than you do. I recall my mom mentioning that she’d had typhoid as a child during the Depression. Or maybe it was typhus, which I think is a different thing.

            Her dad was exempt from the draft as an essential farmer. My other grandfather was drafted into the Navy and worked as a laundryman on a transport.

          2. One of my uncle’s was exempt because he was a tool and die maker. More valuable here. Another uncle served in the Marines in the Pacific Theater (that always cracks me up, “theaters”), came home legally blind. During his boot camp, my father nearly died (hospitalized 2 months) due to a bad batch of yellow fever vaccine. Killed men in his barracks. Upon recovery, he was sent to the ME, then North Africa, then the Big One, Normandy. Records concerning the vaccine and the deaths were interestingly destroyed in a fire in Atlanta, Georgia VA. So it goes.

          3. I was draft age late in the Vietnam war, but I refused to register (by “refused” I just mean that I didn’t register, not that I had to battle against it). I could never figure out why my anti-war friends were registering (one told me that his mother made him do it), because at that time, if you didn’t register, the military didn’t know you existed. I saw no point in registering if you were against the war, seemed totally contradictory to me.

        2. I wouldn’t say worse, I’d say just as bad. Worse for Americans, but not for the planet as a whole.

      2. Should, but history proves the very opposite. This is history that reflects our truths.

        Oct 30, 2014 The Prussian Connection to American Schooling (Part 4), by John Taylor Gatto

        Where did the American school system come from? And what are its true purposes?

        1. Whether teachers and administrators know it or not, the main goal of schooling is to socialize kids. As Ralph Nader once said, you learn everything you need (in order to survive in modern society) from school at a very early age.

  3. Convincing kids to join the military couldn’t be more disgusting. (As William Astore points out here, the much bigger problem is the size of the U.S. military.) If the U.S. were to close its almost 1,000 foreign military bases, that alone would substantially decrease the size of its military. Of course it would be harder to maintain and expand U.S. empire that way, but oh well.

    That said, all males should have to serve in the military, just like in Israel but with no exceptions. As disgusting and abhorrent as I find the military (the violence, the machismo, the authoritarianism, etc.), if people aren’t at risk of getting killed, maimed, or injured themselves, they won’t oppose U.S. wars of empire in any meaningful way, even if they’re against them.

    1. The you get the problem of every cop has military training, thus citizens will continue to be treated with disrespect, and more civilians will become target fodder for people with almost impervious blanket immunity from conviction, if not prosecution, for the most egregious cases of cowardly, emotion-driven back-shooting. Today civilians are treated as if they are natives of a conquered foreign country, just like Israelis treat the people living in Gaza. I say eliminate eligibility for police certification for anyone who has served overseas, anywhere, any time, even for a day. Get that us-vs-them and Thin Blue Line thinking out of law enforcement.

      1. LOVE that idea, AA.
        Just yesterday cops responded to a domestic disturbance and got the wrong address; they killed the homeowner.
        Some cops actually train in IsraHell… big surprise there.

      2. The government should never have been allowed to set up our security! Each community should abolish government police and take bids from competing insured and privately owned security agencies.

    2. Sounds dumb. Look, if the draft didn’t do it, why do you think mandatory service will?

      1. The draft was mandatory service, you seem very confused. And what do you mean by “do it”? College campuses were in open rebellion during the Vietnam war.

        All we can do is to do what we can, and no solution is going to be absolute or magical. I don’t know what you want or expect, but the situation during the Vietnam war was infinitely better than it is now, with no Americans currently even caring about all the U.S. wars abroad.

        1. I don’t know how you can claim with a straight face the world was better off during the vietnam war. So what that some people cared? The US was still gallivant around the world, killing by the hundreds of thousands. Now, they still are, except I’m not forced to participate.

          As long as the selective service is a thing, Americans have it in the back of their head that this is a possibility. actually inducting people is just a different point along the same gradient.

          1. So you’re saying that the world isn’t better off when people care? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

            The only chance of stopping all this U.S. military aggression is if Americans care. If they don’t, like now, there’s no chance. During the Vietnam war, we were getting very close to stopping the war because of all the opposition.

            You also don’t seem to know that the reason that the draft was stopped was because of the opposition it created to the Vietnam war. People running the military and the country don’t want opposition like that to their wars, and they realized that if they stop the draft, that opposition would evaporate. Unfortunately, they were quite correct.

          2. You also don’t seem to know that the reason that the draft was stopped was because of the opposition it created to the Vietnam war.

            Nice theory, unfortunately it’s not true. They stopped the draft for the Vietnam war, not generally. It wasn’t 5 more years when they attempted to use the draft again in Afghanistan 1 against the soviets. That attempt ultimately failed, not because of popular outcry, but because no one complied with it. Individual draft dodgers decrease America’s role in Afghanistan 1, not popular outcry, and this was accompanied by a failed draft, not a successful one.

            I didn’t say the world is better off when people don’t care. I said the world was better off without a draft, regardless of whether people care.

          3. The people in charge said explicitly that’s why they canceled the draft; it’s not a theory, it’s a fact. Let’s just agree to disagree here, there’s no point in continuing this.

          4. I’m not disagreeing that the draft for the war in vietnam was cancelled, or that it was in response to public outcry. But it’s not true to try and generalize this to all war or even wars that were started as little as five years after. Yes, the ended the draft in vietnam. And that was it. The real reason we don’t have a draft now is the mass non compliance with the draft for Afghanistan 1.

    3. I strongly disagree with the draft idea. A better solution would be to pay for wars as you go. No borrowing! I suspect a great percentage of people would become strongly antiwar if war would cost them thousands of dollars of increased taxes every year! With the draft, the evil government would just borrow more money. Many of the elite would like to see a population reduction anyway.
      Better yet: Abolish forceful government!!!

      1. I’m not only anti-war, I’m anti-military. I strongly opposed the draft during the Vietnam war. However, I’ve come to realize that when people have nothing to lose personally, they just don’t care about U.S. wars of empire. Making people pay might provide some incentive to be anti-war, but putting people’s lives and bodies on the line would provide a much stronger incentive. And the draft used to exist, while the payment method you propose never did.

        1. The method I proposed hasn’t even been tried in this country. I do not know if any of the other countries have tried that since the invention of fiat money and fractional reserve banking. The Vietnam war draft went on for quite a few years before the protests helped to end the war. That doesn’t sound like a success story to me! More than 50,000 Americans died in that war.
          It is my belief that the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 enabled the government to quickly grow in size, enabled reckless spending, and lead to increased wars with distant countries. The U.S. has only had 21 years of peace since its founding: .

          1. That was my point: your idea is just that, it’s never been done. It’s not a “better idea” than the draft for getting people to oppose wars, because it’s never been done, whereas the draft caused people to rebel against the Vietnam war.

            And I didn’t claim that having a draft for the Vietnam war was any kind of success. What I said is that it made people care enough to openly rebel, which is infinitely better than the apathy that we have now.

            Wars are a result of civilization, which is a result of human overpopulation. Until those problems are fixed, we will continue to have wars. But it doesn’t have to be this bad, with our evil empire making war against so many people and countries for the purpose of maintaining and expanding its empire.

          2. Really? Where did I say that? I said that your idea has never been tried, making it just a theory. I don’t disagree with it at all, but making people subject to a draft and thus in danger physically would be a stronger incentive for most people to oppose these wars.

  4. Eventually the U.S. will have to adopt the 2 year mandatory military service other countries have for all their able bodied young men.

    1. And hopefully that will put college campuses back into open rebellion like they were during the Vietnam war.

      1. Major universities are controlled by, run by, corporations. A few years ago I read about one of our major universities having a “special place” for protesters created so the students could have a “place” to protest. Out of sight. Controlled area. Chris Hedges has a great piece in Scheerpost concerning the strangle hold corporations have on universities. It ain’t pretty.

        1. They’ve been doing the “free speech zone” thing for 20-25 years. I know I ran into it in 2000 when I attended a protest “at” a presidential debate and they had a fenced off area with cops, etc. for protesters. Most of the protesters seemed to ignore it. I went in for a few minutes just to have a quick argument with a guy from the “God Hates Fags” church, then went back out with the anarchists. They were more fun.

          1. It was like that at the Mondale democratic convention in San Fransisco. Then an organic decision was made to go occupy the police station. The police were running from the convention and beat us to the key intersection by less than a minute, They holed up behind locked gates until the calvary arrived from Oakland. That was wild. Kids laying flat on skateboards zipping under the calvary. The only thing that saved the kids was the horses didn’t want to step om something squishy, as near as I can figure.

          2. There was a huge Rock Against Reagan punk rock show during that convention, and we marched to the convention after the show. Cops were beating people in the street with 3-4 foot clubs and attacking us with motor bikes ridden down the sidewalks to keep us from escaping ( we got away anyway, f*ck the police!).

        2. They’ve been doing the “free speech zone” thing for 20-25 years. I know I ran into it in 2000 when I attended a protest “at” a presidential debate and they had a fenced off area with cops, etc. for protesters. Most of the protesters seemed to ignore it. I went in for a few minutes just to have a quick argument with a guy from the “God Hates Fags” church, then went back out with the anarchists. They were more fun.

        3. They’ve been doing the “free speech zone” thing for 20-25 years. I know I ran into it in 2000 when I attended a protest “at” a presidential debate and they had a fenced off area with cops, etc. for protesters. Most of the protesters seemed to ignore it. I went in for a few minutes just to have a quick argument with a guy from the “God Hates Fags” church, then went back out with the anarchists. They were more fun.

    2. The only up side I can see to that is that it will probably result in the overthrow/collapse of the US regime in about 30 seconds.

      Which is actually a pretty good up side.

    3. Hi JP:

      If they go with 2 yr. mandatory, it will be for young men and young women…………………………………….

      Like Israel does.

      1. Easy for a young woman to get out of that one, Donna…get yourself knocked up 😉

        1. Very true, very true. I don’t like seeing anyone being forced to serve. We do that during war….

          1. You can go conscientious objector, then serve as a medic, like my wife’s uncle did in Europe during WWII. He received 2 Bronze Stars for tending to the wounded when other medics refused to go into open fire to do so.

      2. I have no problem with that. As long as women are not on the front line in mano y mano combat situations. Any other supporting role is okay. Like flying support hello’s, jets, transports, logistical transport vehicles and the like. There are many roles for women in the military. I’m sure there are women out there who could hold their own in combat. That being said, guys just get protective of women when it comes to actual live fire and hand to hand combat situations. Could be problematic. Just my opinion.

    4. We are a couple generations away from American youth ever going along with that. People are way more independent minded today.

  5. He’s right, it is easy. This would be a good start to downsizing. Do it quietly and the usual militarist suspects in Congress may not raise flags. Having fewer recruits means less hardware, fewer bases means less environmental impact, less money. Just keep the toys well-maintained to keep Congress happy. Speaking of whom, they will need replacement pork for their districts, so it’s a good time to start rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. And, uh, just get rid of the nukes. Downblend that shit into something we can burn in reactors or make pharmaceuticals out of.

  6. Slightly off-topic, yet relevant to answering the question “how in God’s name did America morph into a militaristic global bully?” Read “The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War” by Stephen Kinzer. The answers are right there.

    1. Read Smedley Butler even before that. The U.S. has been this way for at least the past 100 years or so.

      1. Butler was a prophetic voice. He described the foundation for the bellicose institutional mindset that the Dulles brothers elaborated and set in stone. Biden’s Ukraine folly illustrates it perfectly.

        1. The Dulles brothers were a fundamental evil in modern America. Figures they were from Texas.

          The U.S. ploy in Ukraine may very well backfire, as the sanctions against Russia have already done. Russia and China are now uniting, and the sanctions have pushed BRICS to a new level, including a seeming end to the petrodollar.

          Overriding all of this of course is the insane threat of nuclear war. Did you ever think you’d see Dr. Strangelove become reality?

          1. Dulles boys were hardcore New England Puritans. There were only two entities in their world: Good and Evil. They saw their mission to destroy Evil…even if it took evil deeds to do so.

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