Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Military Recruiting - A Seduction of the Innocent

In a recent article, Titled, Lying and Dying, Missy Comley Beattie suggests that if only military recruiters would fully disclose the lies perpetrated by the Bush Administration, potential recruits would make far more informed decisions, resulting in far fewer additions to the combat forces.

This writer holds a quite different view than does Ms. Beattie. There are a number of problems with her proposed solution, making its implementation a forlorn fantasy, impossible to achieve.

Army recruiters are first and foremost, true believers. They are career NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers), all with a minimum rank of Sergeant First Class. Invariably they have had several combat deployments. Whatever political opinions they may hold, any public policy criticism is certain career ending behavior (perhaps only running a close second to having a relationship with one’s Commanding Officer’s underage daughter!)

Whatever criticism one may have of military effectiveness, efficiency, or intelligence, there is one thing the Department of Defense does exceedingly well. It operates a marketing/public relations machine that might well engender the envy of any private sector company.

Beyond TV ads advertising the “opportunities” offered by the Army, special appearances by combat veterans are designed to motivate and co-opt the interest of potential recruits As one example, the “Why I Serve” program is a careful appeal to the protection of personal family, and the camaraderie of one’s military family. The comments of one of the participants leaves no question as to the focus of this program.

“’My biggest reason for serving is my family,’ said MacDonald, a combat medic who returned in 2006 from a deployment to Iraq. ‘I looked at my family, and I realized that I want them and their way of life to be protected,’ he said. ‘And one of the only ways to do that is to go overseas and take the fight to the enemy who are perfectly willing to come here and kill themselves just to kill an American. … It requires some sacrifice, but I am willing to do that.’”

America’s Army provides a sanitized view of combat that offers the immature the ultimate pain–free virtual opportunity to “kill people and break things.”

“’America’s Army,’ offers a range of games that kids can download or play online. Although the games are violent, with plenty of opportunities to shoot and blow things up, they avoid graphic images of death or other ugliness of war, offering instead a sanitized, Tom Clancy version of fantasy combat.”

In the end, it is not the PR, not the advertising, not the computer games. nor any of the other varied recruiting techniques employed by the Defense Department.

Rather, it is the gullible readiness of the targeted group – young adult men and women – to uncritically accept all of the promised opportunities as accurate and truthful, while rejecting the more probable threats to health, and life itself.

Regardless of the portrait painted by recruiters, can potential recruits be so unaware of the increased deployment time, and the ugly conditions that exist in a combat situation? Even were recruiters to disclose all of the ugly lies, misrepresentations, and distortions engaged in by Bush, Cheney, et al, would this information dissuade those who choose this career?

The answer would seem to be that the “truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” would have little effect on the number added to the military each year. This view is readily understood after reading this description of adolescent risk taking:

“The socioemotional system, which processes social and emotional information, becomes very active during puberty allowing adolescents to become more easily aroused and experience more intense emotion, and to become more sensitive to social influence. Conversely, says Steinberg, the cognitive-control system is the part of the brain that regulates behavior and makes the ultimate decisions, but is still maturing during adolescence and into a person's mid-20s at least.”

The ideal recruitment target can be typically described as an adolescent male endeavoring to satisfy his ever present need for thrill-seeking, risk-taking, adrenaline producing behavior. Military service additionally provides both peer and adult community approval and support. Coupled with a frequent lack of a respected male role to help guide and place limits on impulsive, self-destructive behavior, the successfully recruited trainee resembles nothing so closely as the “groomed target” of the sexual predator.

For those who may find the above to be an insult to the courage, commitment and driving sense of duty to country and comrades alike, be assured it does not. Rather, it is a critique of the essential slavery under which the military “volunteer” is placed once having accepted employment as a member of the United States Military. He must go where sent, do anything assigned, accept any environment, allow himself to be placed in harm’s way, with no option to withdraw from such assignments until his employers allow it. In fact, even after having left active duty, as a member of the military reserve, he can be recalled at the whim of the Federal Government.

For those who choose to perform their civic duty as first responders to natural disasters, through membership in their state National Guard, they can be Federalized, placed in an active combat environment, and ripped from their homes, jobs, and families for whatever period of time the government deems necessary.

The soldier relinquishes his Constitutional rights during his service with the military, under the draconian provisions of the United States Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Here are a couple of items, illustrative of the surrender of personal rights to which all member of the military must acquiesce. These behaviors, engaged in by a civilian, at worst case, might result in loss of employment. However, under military law each can result in imprisonment:

Article 86—Absence without leave

“Any member of the armed forces who, without authority— (1) fails to go to his appointed place of duty at the time prescribed; (2) goes from that place; or (3) absents himself or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty at which he is required to be at the time prescribed; shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” Depending on the duration of the absence, maximum punishment can include forfeiture of all pay and benefits, Dishonorable Discharge, and most importantly, up to 18 months in a Federal Prison!

Article 89—Disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer

“Any person subject to this chapter who behaves with disrespect toward his superior commissioned officer shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

This behavior is defined by the following behaviors: 1) That the accused did or omitted certain acts or used certain language to or concerning a certain commissioned officer; (2) That such behavior or language was directed toward that officer; (3) That the officer toward whom the acts, omissions, or words were directed was the superior commissioned officer of the accused; (4) That the accused then knew that the commissioned officer toward whom the acts, omissions, or words were directed was the accused’s superior commissioned officer; and (5) That, under the circumstances, the behavior or language was disrespectful to that commissioned officer. Maximum punishment can include: Bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 1 year.

This is neither an argument for nor against the provisions of UCMJ. Rather the failure of the recruitment process to inform potential trainees of all of the negatives, potentially consequential to signing a largely inescapable commitment to a dangerous and inflexible employer, appears to this writer to be an egregious breach of a most fundamental ethical concept applied to the citizen vis-à-vis his government. That concept is that of informed consent, to employment or circumstances putting the individual in danger, at economic risk, of unknown duration, etc.

Quite frankly, the nuances of why we are fighting which enemy pale before this deliberate “Seduction of the Innocent,” achieved through planful omission of risks and costs associated with military membership, vs. the offered benefits dangled before wide-eyed, willing victims.

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