I still remember my parents singing the World War I-era song:
“You’re in the Army now,
You’re not behind a plough,
You’ll never get rich,
You son of a bitch,
You’re in the Army now.”
My father volunteered for what was then the Army Air Corps right after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As is still true, it wasn’t seen as a particularly lucrative or upwardly mobile way of getting ahead, even if it was a patriotic act at the time. These days, however, there’s an exception to that rule about never getting rich in the Army: become a general and the next thing you know — powie! — you’ve retired onto the board of Raytheon or some other giant weapons maker and upped your cash value immeasurably. In other words, you’ve become part of the remarkably lucrative revolving door between the U.S. military and the industrial part of the military-industrial complex and you’re on easy street.
Still, in the twenty-first century, for most troops sent to fight in pointless, losing wars abroad and possibly struggling afterwards with PTSD at home, the military hasn’t exactly been a winner, as TomDispatch regular and co-founder of the invaluable Costs of War Project Andrea Mazzarino suggests today.
Behind the plough? Maybe not in 2022. But “in the Army now”? Well, not that either, which couldn’t be more curious — a subject Mazzarino explores — in a military that Congress never stops over-funding in a mind-boggling fashion. Tom
And the Frayed Social Safety Net That Goes With It
The American military is now having trouble recruiting enough soldiers. According to the New York Times, its ranks are short thousands of entry-level troops and it's on track to face the worst recruitment crisis since the Vietnam War ended, not long after the draft was eliminated.
Mind you, it’s not that the military doesn't have the resources for recruitment drives. Nearly every political figure in Washington, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, invariably agrees on endlessly adding to the Pentagon’s already staggering budget. In fact, it’s nearly the only thing they seem capable of agreeing on. After all, Congress has already taken nearly a year to pass a social-spending package roughly half the size of this year’s defense budget, even though that bill would mitigate the costs of health care for so many Americans and invest in clean energy for years to come. (Forget about more money for early childhood education.)Read More