Del Spurlock Jr.: Requiem for the All-Volunteer Force — and a Comment on Thomas Ricks’ “The Generals”

Ethics, Military
Del Spurlock Jr.

I supported the all-volunteer force but I now recognize the wisdom of General Matthew Ridgeway–he warned against relying on all volunteer force..  In combination with a battlefield full of unaccountable contractors — and a military no longer able to go to war without contractors — the failures of our generals are part of a larger picture.  Fiasco was the better book, Generals does not cut to the core, the terrible price paid by our youth, with 18 suicides a day among veterans returned home being a strong signal that we have been terribly irresponsible in our training, equipping, and organizing of the US military.

Requiem for the All-Volunteer Force

GI Joe is broken, and is about to be thrown away. Built to be a Transformer; we’ve made him now: an employee.

The All-Volunteer Force (AVF) was America’s gift to itself. It was conceived in the belief that the values of American culture would create the sacrificial willingness on the part of enough of its young to satisfy the requirements of the American People for their defense. Our young people’s willingness to step forward to personal jeopardy consummated their gift to us: their actual sacrifice in nine years of horrific conflict and foreign occupation on our behalf consummated the American Peoples’ obligation to their restoration to full and productive citizenship.

Experience and reason dictate the conclusion that Americans have failed and will continue to fail their restorative obligation to our newest veterans. This is a failure of momentous consequence for the Country. It is the result of the American People’s acquiescence to the moral failures of a generation of its political and military leadership.

In the nearly 40 years of its existence the All-Volunteer Force has been transformed from inchoate policy, to the most robust and successful defense structure the world has known, to a negative influence on the interests of the American people as a wasteland for its young. Those who ostensibly knew American Defense interests best and had the most power to affect its course set in place the preconditions for this debacle during the Administration of George H.W. Bush. Richard Cheney and Colin Powell were is architects, but many have been complicit

How did this happen?

The successful promise and execution of the AVF was built on the values of the generation of which Ronald Reagan was representative. Those values were founded on the unassailable fact that our military is based on our people, and that our people cannot succeed unless supported with cohesive structure, honorable function and ethical integrity. From those values flowed the belief and policy that the AVF was to be an institution designed not only for the betterment of our volunteers in and for the military, but also for the betterment our society through him or her. Those values and policies were systematically abandoned or corrupted by our political-military leadership since the end of the Cold War. A broken AVF and a broken generation of our most valuable young citizens is the result.

Structure is about how something is put together: its size, its hierarchy, and the interrelationship of its parts. The Reagan generation understood and valued institutional integrity in public and private life, in peace and war. Our Military structures are now in shambles.

Logistics, the most justly celebrated sustainment structure of the American military, is now a contract function for companies flipped on Wall Street along side Waste Management and Burger King. As a result, we now have a military that cannot feed itself in the field or in garrison. It is an Army that cannot maintain or move its equipment; that has marginal capacity to protect itself, or to gather tactical intelligence. This is the sustainment structure that failed our volunteers for the past nine years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Function is about the goals of an institution and whether its mission is understood, accepted, and supported. The Reagan generation understood the scourge of war, the value in its deterrence, and the requirements for the successful societal reintegration of those who sacrificed in fighting if necessary. The post cold war generation of leaders turned our historical commitment to deterrence, or necessary national commitment to rapid victory on its head. We are now a nation willing to commit the honor and bodies of our volunteers to undeclared perpetual imperial wars of occupation; in the Orwellian language of our military industrial intelligencia, to “Sustainable Pre-eminence.”

Ethics concern the manner, in which an institution conducts itself, how it is used, and what image it has of itself. The Reagan generation understood the value and primacy of rule of law, of professionalism and of human life. To that generation, meaning was derived from the pledges of the Atlantic Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the fundamental quest for fairness embodied in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the openness which permitted the heroism of Mauldins, Pyles, and Murrows. Our generation of political military leadership sent our volunteers to Iraq in an undeclared war, unready in training and rationale for occupation, and, for eight years, turned the nation’s back on their ultimate sacrifice.

Americans and their political military leadership will turn their backs on our veterans because they turned their backs on them as volunteers. The broken structures, functions and ethics at the heart of the All-Voluntary Force have obliterated the connection between the soldier and the citizens he sacrificed to represent. Ours is now a Contract Force and our ‘volunteers’ contract-employees. Our volunteers, as “veterans,” continue to die: of broken hearts.

Based on notes from a talk at Ingleside at Rock Creek, June 25, 2012 entitled: “The Defeat of Reagan’s Army.”

Phi Beta Iota:  The all-volunteer force disconnected society from the military and allowed unethical and even unprofessional generals and admirals, in collusion with corrupt legislators, corrupt corporate chieftains, and ideologically driven presidents and vice presidents, to sacrifice our blood treasure and spirit precisely because of this disconnect.  The all-volunteer force assumed that Washington has intelligence and integrity.  Not so.  Indeed, this resurfaces the entire concept of ending the election of politicians, and instead adopting the lot system — Members should be like jurors, selected at random and given strict term limits.

See Also:

2008  Sunday Forum: Vicarious war: Matthew Ridgway warned against relying on an all-volunteer military, and now we can see why, writes former Army official DELBERT SPURLOCK

2007 Del Spurlock Jr.: Our Obligations to Wounded Warriors

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Dereliction of Duty (Defense)

Worth a Look: Impeachable Offenses, Modern & Historic

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on War Complex—War as a Racket