Murphy's Law: Politics and Military Recruiting


September 26, 2005: Military recruiting in the United States is increasingly getting mixed up with partisan politics. Some Democratic Party politicians and activists are calling for restrictions on recruiters, and many are urging their constituents not to enlist. This is part of the Democratic opposition to the foreign policy of a Republican president. Overall, this is not having much effect, except on young African-Americans. Currently, the military is 17 percent black (versus 11 percent of the civilian work force), 67 percent white (versus 71 percent) and nine percent Hispanic (versus eleven percent). The number of blacks enlisting has been falling for the last three years, causing a shortage of about five thousand recruits for the army this year. The other services are getting all the people they need. Democrat politicians insist that blacks and Hispanics suffer a disproportionate number of casualties. But they don't, as the troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan so far have been is 71 percent white, 9 percent black and 10 percent Hispanic. This is because whites are more likely to sign up for combat jobs. Blacks have traditionally gone for technical and support jobs, being more career minded about their military service. But the political posturing is having an impact, with many potential black recruits believing black politicians and community leaders, who repeat the myth that blacks are being recruited as "cannon fodder."

The military is adjusting to this by moving some of their recruiting effort away from blacks, and towards new immigrants, who have been enlisting in higher numbers than in the past. Advertising is also making whites and Hispanics more aware of the technical and support jobs that blacks were more eager to take in the past. These jobs are also appealing to new immigrants, who see the military as a way to gain technical training faster, improve their English, get money for college and gain their citizenship sooner.

Democrat politicians are trying to connect recruiting with some kind of class warfare, and demand vague reforms. As a practical matter, the military has been a competitive employer for the last three decades. The military has demanded above average standards (in terms of education and character) from its recruits, as a result of past experience with low quality recruits. To be effective, the military must have disciplined, dedicated recruits. Political opportunists seek to impose other standards for recruiting, ones that will serve partisan political goals, not national defense.


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