A Volunteer Army: Pro and Con

A Volunteer Army: Pro and Con

American armed forces today, including as they do levies of conscripts, do not constitute an army of citizen-soldiers. They are not subject to effective democratic control. Elimination of conscription will not introduce a “mercenary army”: we already have one. On the other hand, elimination of conscription can accomplish little of what many of its advocates hope for: most of the faults of the military system are rooted elsewhere and are not so easily eradicated.

The armed forces are run, and their tone and practices are set, wholly by professional career soldiers—mercenaries, if you prefer. Draftees and short-term volunteers can do little to affect the way the military system operates. Their presence may induce healthy modification in the attitudes and practices of their superiors, but an opposite process inevitably is the more significant in its consequences for civil society.

...