[N]ot having those domestic political constraints inherent in a draft force may have freed otherwise cautious U.S. government decisionmakers to carry out large-/scale extended military operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. When I have spoken on this topic to various audiences around the country, I ask: "If we had a conscripted military good enough to accomplish the same missions assigned our current volunteer forces (admittedly a bold assumption), would the U.S. have invaded Iraq in 2003 and had almost 100,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan one decade after 9/11?" Never more than one or two participants offer an affirmative response.These points should give us some pause; we are less invested, socially, in those who serve, because, after all, they choose to do so. They, in the lovely language of lawyers, "assume the risks" of service.
The second unintended consequence of the AVF, which the Gates Commission did not speculate on, is the potential impact on the quality of civilian oversight and on the willingness of senior military officers to take fair responsibility for their organization’s failures. I believe both have suffered, though the views I offer here are admittedly more informed by personal experience than by quantitative analysis.
We should not be so cavalier with the lives who enlist to defend our freedoms. I sometimes think we are too flip about decisions involving the lives of those who serve, no matter which party is in power. I'm grateful to all I've known, family and friends who have served. We citizens owe them not just a quick "thanks for your service," but an ongoing commitment to not expel their lives loosely, and to care for them when wounded, or otherwise incapacitated.
I know; bummer of a post on Veteran's Day. We should be honoring those who serve, not hectoring our fellow citizens, right? Maybe; but I can't help but think of those who have not been received the care that is their due.