April 11, 2012

The U.S. Army: Bruised but Unbroken

I am a strong critic of the U.S. Army and the way in which it has struggled to explain how it best serves the security needs of the nation beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we must give credit where it is due, and the way in which our all-volunteer U.S. Army has maintained its health and integrity through a decade of war is nothing short of remarkable. It is a testament to the men and women who serve in the institution, and they are the subject of my latest column for World Politics Review:

Six out of seven soldiers and Army civilians, [a new study] reveals, trust their senior leaders to make the right decisions for the Army, and 90 percent of those surveyed remain willing to put the Army’s needs above their own. Whereas the soldiers who fought in Vietnam considered themselves amateurs and conscripts, 98 percent of the soldiers in the Army today consider themselves professional fighting men and women. As such, those who serve in the U.S. Army today are in no danger of losing their pride, heart or soul. And based on personal observations from the field, I can report the U.S. Army is today more combat effective than it was when I myself first led a light infantry platoon in Afghanistan in 2002.

The Army still has real problems, which I get into, but the larger questions in my mind revolve around the social contract between the all-volunteer military and the people it serves:

[The] American people should be asking other questions about the costs of having asked so few to bear such a heavy burden for so long. For example, will the way in which the Army has weathered a decade of war make U.S. policymakers more likely to deploy ground forces to combat elsewhere? Do the American people have a moral responsibility to share the costs of wars in which a relatively tiny percentage of the public has served?

Read the rest here.