Enlistment numbers are down

Glenn Greenwald‘s excellent satire of neoconservative chickenhawk yellow elephant Republicans:

We need to prove to the world how powerful and tough and strong we are by kicking ass and starting wars and putting our boots on the ground and getting our hands dirty and bombing and invading and fighting like the Real Warriors we are because Civilization is at Risk. And the way we should do that is by sending those people — the ones way, way over there — to go and fight and risk their lives in the wars I love.

I am a full-throated Supporter of the Epic War of Civilizations, but I can’t fight in it, because my knee hurts and I need to collect advance checks from Regnery and I want to stay at home and wipe dribble from my baby’s chin. But those people over there can and should fight. And between watching Star Trek on television and playing war video games, I will log off periodically to write articles and posts about how great these wars are and I, too, will therefore be strong and noble and resolute and brave.

Via Mustang Bobby @ Shakespeare’s Sister, which is serving again as hurricane headquarters for Shakesville, which appears again to be under attack.

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29 Responses to “Enlistment numbers are down”

  1. Assistant Village Id Says:

    That was a nice offer to have us over for discussion. I have to note right at the outset – the immediate use of the chickenhawk insult. Rather than repeat the usual response to that I will ask “Do you know what the common answer to the chickenhawk complaint is? Why is it not persuasive?”

    The Greenwald satire is of the same idea. I have no doubt that many progressives believe this is exactly what is running through the minds of neocons and other supporters of the war. What if it is not so? What if they are just decent people who see things differently than you do.

    Because it figured so prominently in my leaving the left in the late 80’s, I return to this point often. Much of progressive argument consists of declaring what awful people conservatives are. The energy goes into making the killer insult in a a sort of Oscar Wilde wannabee way rather than wrestling with the idea. That may seem an unfair argument to you, but I came over here and look – first post – nothing but a juvenile attempt to malign motives. Neither you nor Greenwald can read the motives of others. If you believe people’s statements and actions give clues to their motives, you might make the case.

    I came increasingly to understand that progressive political discussion largely centered around social, rather than intellectual ideas. There was always the automatic assumption among liberals that they were the ones who were open-minded and educated thinkers, in contrast to the rubes who didn’t get it, but the actual demonstration of this was lacking. Liberalism is largely social cues showing that you are one of the proper tribe.

    Again I will ask: what if it’s not true? What if the great majority of people who disagree with you are not social misfits, or unthinking fanatics, or easily misled by nefarious and deceptive leaders? What if they see the same things that you do but come to different conclusions? When you take away from the left the things that they can state without evidence because everyone – well, all the good people anyway – “just knows” they are true, I find there is not much left. They may be capable of thoughtful argument, but they don’t show it.

    Example 2, scrolling down. To call Bush a narcissist and a sociopath – certainly if that were true, we might disregard everything he says. But what if that shortcut is not available to us? What if we have to either A)wrestle with the argument irrespective of the character of the person who makes it or B)show evidence that he is indeed sociopathic a/o narcissistic? I have been working in an acute psychiatric setting for 30 years. I know people who fit those categories. I have been unimpressed by the claims of pathology about Bush and the neocons. I believe when that accusation is made something else is behind it, an unattractive motive for which I can show evidence. (And the first evidence is my own heart. I used to say that type of thing and had to face what I really meant, and it wasn’t pretty.)

    I have gone on too long. Short version. Give evidence and reason rather than the easy assumption of ill-will by your opponents. We all use shorthand in discussion with those of like mind, finding it tedious to prove again every day what everyone knows. But in this case the shorthand is too old, too short, and when you try to retrace the route you will find gaps.

  2. whig Says:

    Assistant Village Id,

    Do you think that war supporters have some obligation to sacrifice for the war effort they promote?

    I would encourage you to visit this post: Meet the College Republicans, and tell me if you think that these individuals are cowards, and if not why you think they do not enlist.

    And on a more personal level, can you briefly express your own reasons for not enlisting?

  3. Asst Village Idiot Says:

    I notice you changed the subject to something you liked better rather than answer my comment. That is minor evidence for my point.

    For myself, I’m 54, which you might have guessed if you’d read closely. I have four sons, one of whom is going into the Army.

    That said, it’s irrelevant. Whether one enlists is a separate question from whether one believes a war is necessary. There is some relation, but your attempt to tie them in as necessarily connected is invalid.

    First, even if it were true that all supporters of a war were cowards, it might still be a necessary war. The irony would be irritating, but not ultimately decisive. As I have said with regards to the ever-changing alliances of world affairs, where todays dearest enemy is tomorrow’s bitterest friend, “avoiding irony is not a basis for foreign policy.”

    Second, you would be hard pressed to show that all supporters of the war are cowards. I don’t doubt that for any conflict we could always find some cowards who supported the war and some brave folks who opposed it. That does not tell us anything about the supporters and opposers in general. In the current instance, those in theater are the greatest supporters of the war. If that were relevant, it would effectively destroy your claim.

    Third, if enlistment is your only measure of support, then you will necessarily have little evidence.

    Fourth, you are again arguing the character of the disputants rather than the idea. History is loaded with people who did not live up to their own ideals. Al Gore’s carbon footprint, a famous preachers sexual involvements, judges taking bribes, and Michael Moore’s lack of care for his own health have some sensational aspects, but don’t ultimately tell us much about whether the ideals are worthwhile. It may be, in fact, that the highest ideals are those which are hardest to live up to.

  4. whig Says:

    Asst Village Idiot,

    Let’s take your first thing first.

    “First, even if it were true that all supporters of a war were cowards, it might still be a necessary war.”

    An interesting mental exercise. A necessary war which nobody who considered it necessary thought it was necessary to fight. I would suggest that this would be a war necessarily lost before begun, no?

    “Second, you would be hard pressed to show that all supporters of the war are cowards.”

    Certainly, some supporters enlist. They aren’t the chickenhawks we’re talking about.

    “Third, if enlistment is your only measure of support, then you will necessarily have little evidence.”

    To the contrary, you can look at enlistment rates, and they have been falling rather precipitously. More importantly you should look for a sense of shared sacrifice, a willingness to bear some cost at least by those who are supporting this. The idea that you should go shopping and cut taxes is inconsistent with such a commitment.

    “Fourth, you are again arguing the character of the disputants rather than the idea.”

    Not at all, I am pointing out that they are not willing to take any personal stake in what they advocate, and this goes to their credibility as “disputants.”

  5. whig Says:

    Asst Village Idiot,

    Are you willing to sacrifice your son for Iraq?

  6. Asst Village Idiot Says:

    “A necessary war which nobody who considered it necessary thought it was necessary to fight.” You create a false exaggeration. If nobody was willing to fight it, that would be quite different. The fact that you have to resort to hyperbole shows that you have no argument. Your title was “enlistment rates are down.” If that is meaningful, is it not also meaningful that re-enlistment rates are up? Does a large enlistment rate mean that the war is valid? You are focusing on an irrelevant point because it is convenient. In even the most just of wars, there will be some who do not enlist, for whatever reason, good or bad. You take this rather automatic fact of life and try to see significance in it. What if most neocons have seen military service – would that make their points more valid? Or would you continue to focus on those who have not?

    You are evading the most basic point, which is why I want to hammer it home. What if you have judged their character wrongly? Greenwald’s satire is wrong enough to be silly. In your next blog up, you use the “well anyone who knows anything” argument again, as if it has merit. You and those in your tribe all “know” such about Gonzales. Except you don’t know it, you just believe it, reinforced by others of similar belief. It is a hall of mirrors.

    As to “sacrificing” my son – the question is asked in a way that shows a complete misunderstanding of the issue. You can’t ask a false question and get a sensible answer.

    I hear clearly that you think the not enlisting means not being willing to enlist means not having the courage to enlist means not caring so much about the Iraq war. That is a long chain of assumption, unsupported by reasoning. You don’t know that – you can’t know that – so you just pretend it’s true because you can see how it might be true. As I said, I hear that you think so, but I have not seen you support it.

  7. whig Says:

    I think you should try watching some of the videos that I have helpfully posted. If you would respond to the content of one of those items then maybe we could continue there.

  8. No Oil for Pacifists Says:


    The title of your post asserts a false proposition. Greenwald said only that there are insufficient volunteers for some particular numerical expansion–and since he wrote, we have, contrary to his prediction, “surged.” Besides, is it really your position that the Iraq war is wrong because America should have a larger military?

    I agree with everything AVI said. For the record, I explored enlisting after 9/11 but discovered I was too old (I’m 47). And, for many reasons, the “Chicken Hawk” argument is absurd especially because, as Christopher Hitchens observed, it suggests “that there ought not to be civilian control of the military.” Again, I doubt that you believe that, which suggests your claim is more rhetorical than real.

  9. whig Says:

    No Oil for Pacifists,

    “The title of your post asserts a false proposition.”

    Enlistment numbers are down. That is not a false proposition.

  10. Asst Village Idiot Says:

    All right then, it implies a false proposition. Get a grip.

    Videos. Nothing personal, but no. They are a propaganda medium – I don’t say that as an entirely negative thing, though the word these days has negative connotations. Videos are for selling a particular point of view, not discussing it. They are a perfectly legitimate exercise in persuasion, but they are of necessity concerned with maximum effect and impression. Precision gets sacrificed. Extended speeches are the medium for getting across a complicated idea. Oral debate is the proper medium for narrowly defined propositions. Discussion over drinks is the proper medium for wide-ranging discussion on related topics. Truth seeking is best done by alternating between alone time and exposure to challenging others (whether in print, on screen, or in person). I like film – my second son makes them for a living. Just not for this. I may watch them anyway to receive your information, but I find the temptation to cross media by trying to refute videos (or songs, or sci-fi novels) is too great for me, and I fall into unproductive arguments. If written discussion is not your best suit, I will mentally add 20% strength to all your arguments in my mind. I’m only half-kidding.

    On reflection, I suspect that my answer about sacrificing my son for Iraq was found unsatisfying. To be told “you asked a bad question, you just don’t understand” is hardly helpful. Even when it is true it is unhelpful; much more so if it is untrue. Let me try another tack.

    The word “sacrificing” immediately suggests an Abraham-and-Isaac scenario, or fathers tossing babies into the fire to appease Moloch. I can’t think of anything I would “sacrifice” my son for in that sense. Even if the fate of the world depended on my handing him over to bloodthirsty aliens, I would find excuses.

    Yet I might offer myself. And I might think his decision correct if he offered himself. In raising children one hopes to both perpetuate the best of received culture, but also to change it. One thing most cultures teach is that some things are worth risking death for. Cultures rank what those things might be in very different orders, but they have much the same list. Family, justice, country, tribe, religion, revenge, rescue…

    It is not my place to offer others as a sacrifice, but it might be my place to assert “this should be risked.” With one’s children, you can make that argument during their younger training periods, but gradually, it has to be their decision if it is worth the risk.

    In a related idea, you might like this Pew Research survey about the various American groupings. http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=949
    In this context, look for who does and does not join the military.

  11. No Oil for Pacifists Says:


    Re-asserting a challenged statement without support is a Monty Python sketch, not debate. I linked to a post with numbers and numerous links. And there’s also this, which links to a GAO study with data covering 1996-2004. Whatever its value as “entertainment,” simply pouting isn’t persuasive.

  12. whig Says:

    Asst Village Idiot,

    I’m sorry, but if you don’t want to view the videos which are attached to posts which I make, then you cannot criticize the posts as being insufficiently persuasive. It is to say you won’t look at the evidence you are claiming does not exist.

    You are willing to sacrifice other people’s sons and daughters but not your own. That tells me all I need to know.

  13. whig Says:

    No Oil for Pacifists,

    Your post claims nothing to contradict that enlistment numbers are down. Recruitment targets have been reduced in order to be met, and eligibility has been extended to older people and those with prior criminal records or gang memberships just to meet the lowered quotas.

  14. whig Says:

    Boston Globe:

    Nearly 12 percent of Army recruits who entered basic training this year needed a special waiver for those with criminal records, a dramatic increase over last year and 2 1/2 times the percentage four years ago, according to new Army statistics obtained by the Globe.

    With less than three months left in the fiscal year, 11.6 percent of new active-duty and Army Reserve troops in 2007 have received a so-called “moral waiver,” up from 7.9 percent in fiscal year 2006, according to figures from the US Army Recruiting Command. In fiscal 2003 and 2004, soldiers granted waivers accounted for 4.6 percent of new recruits; in 2005, it was 6.2 percent.

    Army officials acknowledge privately that the increase in moral waivers reflects the difficulty of signing up sufficient numbers of recruits to sustain an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq; the Army fell short of its monthly recruiting goals in May and June.

    Since Oct. 1, 2006, when the fiscal year began, more than 8,000 of the roughly 69,000 recruits have been granted waivers for offenses ranging in seriousness from misdemeanors such as vandalism to felonies such as burglary and aggravated assault.

  15. Asst Village Idiot Says:

    whig, those are both misrepresentations of what I wrote. There remain more than a few unanswered points of mine. As any objective reader of this thread would see that, I don’t feel the need to pursue that further.

    Next topic.

  16. whig Says:

    If you want another topic, pick another thread.

  17. No Oil for Pacifists Says:


    Touche!–and shame on me for not reviewing the facts since May. But I note that all services had been meeting their recruiting goals through April and — with respect to active duty recruiting — only the Army fell short in May and June. Further, as I noted, there is no long term slide in enlistments; indeed, as of June 30th, active duty recruiting for all services was at or above year-to-date targets.

  18. whig Says:

    No Oil for Pacifists,

    What is your point? Recruiting targets have been lowered in some cases in order to be met. Standards have been lowered. This is not just in the last two months, it has been happening for awhile now.

  19. No Oil for Pacifists Says:


    I am not aware of any non-transitory reduction of recruiting targets. Yes, the Army has reduced some standards, but that partly reflects the historically low unemployment today; in any case, even the current threshold is vastly above where it was during the Army’s nadir, in the 1970s. And re-enlistment remains high. And the majority of our military support the war.

    But more generally, what’s your point? Were we to increase military pay and bonuses and thus increase enlistment, would you support the war? Or are you just interposing a counter-factual? And what does any of that have to do with your flawed “Chicken Hawk” claim?

  20. whig Says:

    No Oil,

    What sacrifice are you making for this war?

  21. No Oil for Pacifists Says:


    I could list a few–but I deny the relevance of the question. Stick to the topic and rebut to my critiques of the “Chicken Hawk” argument.

  22. whig Says:

    The topic is not your critiques on your blog. I don’t expect readers to click your links to follow our conversation here.

    How many Americans are you willing to sacrifice? How many Iraqis?

  23. Asst Village Idiot Says:

    whig, those are false questions, but you keep repeating them. They seem meaningful to you, perhaps because on a superficial level they make a sort of sense.

    But the superficial level is not the only one. If you take that same reasoning, I could ask, regarding monkeyfister’s linked video, “How many Americans are you willing to rescue the Jews?” The superficial answers are “None” or “all.” But when you actually have to answer that question about real people in real time, it becomes messier. As real life always is.

  24. whig Says:

    What is a false question?

  25. whig Says:

    define: “false question”:

    No definitions were found for “false question”.

  26. whig Says:

    My grandfather served in World War II.

  27. No Oil for Pacifists Says:


    Silly me–the first sentence of your post may have confused me into thinking the topic of the post was the “Chicken Hawk” argument that I challenged. As an assist to deciphering your posts, can you tell me the topic here?

  28. whig Says:

    Glenn Greenwald’s excellent satire of neoconservative chickenhawk yellow elephant Republicans. Did you read his post?

  29. Yellow Elephant Says:

    Welcome to Operation Yellow Elephant, a non-partisan grass roots citizens initiative to Support Our President by encouraging his strongest 41-or-under supporters, the College and Young Republicans, if healthy and heterosexual, to volunteer for military service.

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