Thursday, January 26, 2006

All Volunteer Force

An article from a Swedish Newspaper contained this quotation: "Voluntarism is predicated on the openness and honesty of those doing the recruiting. Conscription compels youth into joining the military." That quotation started me thinking about the proper way to man a military organization, after I had all but settled on the benefits of an all-volunteer force.

John Locke argued that, to be free, one could not choose to be a slave, for such a choice eliminates all future choice based on the consequences of ones current decisions. This position is ethically troubling, as every choice limits the alternatives available, since decisions form chain reactions. If one eliminates the freedom to enslave oneself based on the choice-eliminating consequences of that choice, then one should be able to limit the freedom to do other things based on their adverse consequences.

Regardless of the philosophical conundrums, military life necessitates the compulsion to do things one would rather not do. Even if, in the heat of battle, one fights merely to save oneself and one's friends, the decision to fight would not have happened had one not joined the military. Referring to the quotation above, military personnel are not fully informed of the consequences of their decision prior to joining--they have to act on trust that their nation will not make them do that which they would not do (massacre whole villages, for example).

It seems, then, that the proper solution is not to hide the compulsion of the military under the "specious mask" of voluntarism. At the very least, boot camp should be compulsory, after which the decision to join the regular or reserve forces could be made voluntary.

On the other hand, all-volunteer forces perform much differently from conscript troops; so much so that conscripts in a counter-insurgency are worse than useless. Perhaps there's something in voluntarism after all.

1 Comments:

Blogger Noumenon said...

At the very least, boot camp should be compulsory, after which the decision to join the regular or reserve forces could be made voluntary.

Or not to join at all, right?

If you join a SWAT team, you can quit any time. Why not the military? (not being able to quit is the only distinctively slavery-like quality of the military compared to a corporation.)

Referring to the quotation above, military personnel are not fully informed of the consequences of their decision prior to joining--they have to act on trust that their nation will not make them do that which they would not do (massacre whole villages, for example).

This so reminds me of a Joel Stein column I read recently about not supporting the troops.

"I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I'm tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel.

But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam.

And sometimes, for reasons I don't understand, you get to just hang out in Germany."

7:23 PM  

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