A Little Ray of Sunshine

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Myth of the Volunteer Military

We hear a lot about the 'Volunteer Military' these days, and how terrible a draft would be. Leaving aside the draft issue (that's a whole 'nother can of worms), let's look at 'Volunteer'.
Suppose you go to your church, and you say "I'd like to volunteer with the youth group." Do you get paid? How about the humane society? I sure don't get paid for my volunteer work with Habitat.
So a volunteer is someone who doesn't get paid. Now, obviously the military does get paid, and I'm not saying they shouldn't be. They should. But they aren't volunteers. They're people who got hired to do a job. Employees, if you like. The technical term, I believe, would be mercenary, but that has all sorts of ugly baggage, unless you're a David Drake fan. After all, someone who works in a store for pay is a clerk, someone who cleans floors for pay is a janitor, so someone who kills people and protects other people and does military-type activities for pay is a mercenary. But we can call them military employees, as it doesn't have the negative connotations.
This seems like a good thing, actually. We take people who are willing/able to kill, maim, and do other ugly things, and we encourage them to do such a necessary task. Most of them joined the military because of a combination of pride and protectiveness towards their country, the pay, benefits, perhaps a bit of rebelliousness, and many of the same reasons you might find someone working for the State Department, or perhaps as a Congressional Aide. They are certainly deserving of our respect, but they are not volunteers. They are doing a particular, often dangerous, sometimes fatal job, and getting renumeration for it. Just like, say, a police officer, or a coal miner.
Do we have a volunteer military? No. We have a paid military. And that is a good thing to have. I shudder to think what sort of people would volunteer for such a job, and what such a military would be like. Think the worst wartime atrocities you've ever heard of, and multiply times ten. At least. For those in my generation who did not get a good education, try looking up the Hundred Years War, perhaps, as a starting point. The current minor war is nothing in comparison.
I mean no disrespect to the military. I have many friends and other aquaintances I respect in the Army and a few in the other branches. They are, none of them, volunteers. Their pay is lousy, the food is terrible. They're still employees. I hope they all come home safely.

Note: Peace Corps, Vista, Ameri Corps, etc. are not volunteer organizations.


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