Why We Still Need a Movement to Keep Youth From Joining the Military

Elizabeth King /Article Originally appeared in In These Times web edition in June 2019 -

Kate Connel of the Santa Barbara Based Truth in Recruitment group.A scrappy counter-recruitment movement is trying to starve the military of labor.

Out of the spotlight, dedicated counter-recruiters around the country are steadfast in their organizing to cut off the human supply chain to the U.S. military.

­Eighteen is the youngest age at which someone can join the U.S. military without their parents’ permission, yet the military markets itself to—which is to say recruits—children at much younger ages. This is in part accomplished by military recruiters who visit high schools around the country, recruiting children during career fairs and often setting up recruitment tables in cafeteri­as and hallways. As a result, most students in the U.S. will meet a military recruiter for the first time at just 17 years old, and children are getting exposed to military propaganda younger and younger.

The recruitment of young people to the military is as old as the military itself, and has become more and more normalized along with the general militarization of schools. According to the Urban Institute, more than two-thirds of public high school students attend schools where there are “school resource officers,” a name for school-based police. This police presences comes on top of the role of military recruiters on campuses, or at college and career fairs. 


Indiana JROTC Cadets compete in the first State Raider Championship. (Capt. Jesse Bien/Army) - Image DOD


Rick Jahnkow / Demilitarize Our Schools -

Legislation has recently been suggested that, among other things, would greatly expand the number of JROTC units and make military recruiting a more explicit, formal part of the program's stated purpose. It's part of the Inspired to Serve Act of 2020, which is being proposed by the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS). Below is the JROTC-related language (the commission is also recommending draft registration for women):


(a) EXPANSION OF JROTC CURRICULUM.—Section 2031(a)(2) of title 10, United States Code, is amended by inserting after “service to the United States,” the following: “including an introduction to service opportunities in military, national, and public service,”.

(b) PLAN TO INCREASE NUMBER OF JROTC UNITS.—The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretaries of the military departments (as defined in section 102 of title 5, United States Code), shall develop and implement a plan to establish and support not less than 6,000 units of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps by September 30, 2031.

(c) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.—There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out this section.

National Commission Says Expand Draft Registration to Include Women

U.S. Marines with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, and Oscar Company, 4th Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, take part in Tug-of-War during the Field Meet at 4th Recruit Training Battalion physical training field on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., April 21, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Sarah Stegall) - Image Source DODBy Edward Hasbrouck / / COMD -

On March 25, the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS), after a three-year charade of stage-managed and largely one-sided public events accompanied by closed-door meetings and negotiations among the members of the Commission, released its final report. It recommends that Congress amend the Military Selective Service Act to require that young women, as well as young men, register for the draft when they reach age 18, and inform the Selective Service System each time they change their address until their 26th birthday.

The Commission's recommendations with respect to Selective Service registration are such a naïve fantasy, completely unfeasible and with no foundation in research or reality. The Commission kept its head firmly in the sand, carefully avoiding any inquiry into whether or how the current (unenforced and widely violated) registration requirement for men, much less an expanded registration requirement applicable also to women, could be enforced.

In the report’s 255 pages, there's no mention at all of compliance or noncompliance with draft registration. There's been no audit of the registration database since 1982, and the Commission didn't conduct or ask for one.

The Department of Justice is, and would remain, responsible for enforcement of the registration requirement; but nobody has been prosecuted for non registration since 1986, and in the years that have followed, the DoJ has made neither any estimate of the numbers of violators nor any plan or budget for how to identify, investigate, find, arrest, prosecute, or incarcerate them.

News Advisory: Anti-draft activists call on Congress to end draft registration in response to court case on the Selective Service System and report of National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

As Congress prepares to debate the issue of the military draft, anti-draft activists are calling on Congress to enact legislation to end draft registration entirely.

    The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments March 3, 2020 in a case in which a Federal District Court judge has already ruled that the current requirement for men to register with the Selective Service System for a possible military draft is unconstitutional. A decision on that appeal could come at any time. The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) will release its recommendations to Congress regarding the Selective Service System on March 25, 2020.

Understanding the South's unequal contribution of military recruits

by Rolando Zenteno / Facing South - Since the U.S. ended the draft in 1973, young adults from Southern states* have been overrepresented among new military recruits. In fact, the region has been in a league of its own in terms of military recruitment since the late 20th century, with no other region experiencing as wide a disparity in military representation.

The disproportionate presence of new military recruits from the South can be understood by looking at the region's "representation ratio": its share of new recruits divided by its share of the U.S. young adult population. A ratio of 1 means a state's share of new recruits is equal to its share of the U.S. young adult population between the ages of 18 and 24, the typical age range for new enlistees. A ratio of less than 1 means a state is providing fewer recruits than might be expected given its young adult population, while a ratio of more than 1 means it's providing more than its fair share.

Ending Our Addiction to Militarism

Matt Reimann / Mother Jones - There shall be no federal progress if we continue to ignore the warning President Eisenhower presented to us more than 60 years ago. In his 1953 “Cross of Iron” speech, Eisenhower proposed a radical vision—a modern world no longer obligated to squander its wealth and promise on war:

    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The wisdom of this appeal has been undermined by decades of conduct to the contrary. A lack of necessary conflict has not prevented the United States from launching interventions large and small, from phosphorus-lit conflagrations in Iraq and Vietnam to splendid little assaults in the deserts of Yemen and the jungles of Nicaragua. War — hellish, expensive, often counterproductive war — appears the human inevitably it was millennia ago, a prophecy as inscribed in the verses of Homer or in the blade lacerations of a 600,000-year-old skull.

Army recruitment today is less "Be all you can be" and more "Call of Duty"

Taylor Allen / Colorado Public Radio -  The main source of light in this dim, warehouse-sized room in suburban Denver comes from rows of screens. Each panel shows fast-paced military action — camouflaged soldiers swarming a city or special operations forces securing a target.

Andrew Garcia, 22, plays 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare' at the Localhost Denver Arena during an October Army recruiting event. Photo: Taylor Allen, Colorado Public RadioOne of the figures hunched over a computer in the darkness huffs in disappointment.

"I've died like four times in three missions," said 17-year-old Gavin Gains.

Even though he wasn't dominating the brand new "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" game, Gains attracted the attention of the event's sponsors - the U.S. Army. The office held this release party for the new game at an esports venue called Localhost Arena. Anyone who came to the party was able to play the new game as long as he or she also spoke to Army recruiters.

"This is the targeted demographic - these young men and women that came out here to play the esports," said Sgt. Vincent Cruz, an Army recruiter.

The Army has turned to esports, along with other new marketing strategies, in an attempt to make military service more appealing to young people. Cruz says video games are a way for the Army to connect with more people. It has even created its own professional esports team, which has become part of Cruz's pitch.

Cruz said the military wants to, "Reach out to these men and women and show them that 'Hey, you can actually do this in the Army and get paid by the way.'" The Army calls its esports efforts "some of the highest lead-generating events in the history of the all-volunteer force."

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