Stop the Endless War: Boycott the Volunteer Army
Since the immense events of September 11, 2001, a large and diverse antiwar movement has arisen in America to challenge the war plans of the US ruling class. It turns out that the death of the "Vietnam Syndrome" (the refusal of Americans to support war) had been declared prematurely after the First Gulf War. We are having an impact. The corporate power elite has found it necessary to delay their plans for an Iraq invasion.
The problem for us is that, popular sentiment not withstanding, they will attack anyway if they feel it is essential to their interests. They will rely on their control of the corporate media and the overwhelming power of war itself to weather the storms. And even if they don't attack, if the balance of risks and benefits for them militates against an Iraq invasion at this time, then what about the next war, and the next? Remember, they have pledged a "war on terror" that will last 60 years. This promises to be a long and serious struggle over the future of our society. What will it be: permanent, aggressive war directed by powerful, super rich elites or democracy, shared prosperity and self-defense of a decent society? It is not just about one war.
The antiwar movement needs to go on the offensive against the war machine. We need to have a long range strategy to challenge the power and maneuverability of the "War Party" so that we don't have to expend all our energy worrying about each and every tactical move of our adversaries.
One foundation of the seemingly invincible elite power is the so-called volunteer army which is a solution that the Masters of War devised for a problem they encountered during the Vietnam years. The army of draftees turned out to be unreliable and volatile, and the widely despised draft itself fueled the greatest antiwar movement in American history. Today the rulers seem almost imperial as they have their own private army to wage their wars, an army primarily composed of young working class men and without the democratic "messiness" of universal conscription.
The volunteer army seriously divides ordinary people in America along class lines. In "Today's Army," the recruitment is aimed at working class, blue collar kids and poor kids, and that's who they get to be their "grunts." The sons and daughters of doctors, lawyers, college professors and upper middle class people in general will not be picking sand out of their teeth in Iraq.
Military recruitment tactics are to use bribery and "incentives" to lure working class kids, to try to appear hip and ultra modern with their "be all you can be" and their "awesome" 3D computer games and graphics. They prey on the legions of somewhat disconnected, alienated young men who feel that they have no bright future or meaningful role in society. They manipulate the desire of the young for action and adventure and their need to find meaning in their lives by being part of something bigger than themselves.
But the pillar of elite strength may also turn out to be their greatest weakness. A movement to cripple their war-making power has only to focus on one goal—to dry up the supply of volunteers. In that sense the volunteer army is a legacy left for us by that last great popular movement against the Vietnam War—it is the Achilles heel of the war machine. By organizing a widespread and focused boycott of the volunteer military of the United States, the antiwar movement can up the ante for the warmakers with a direct threat to collapse their armed forces.
The advantages of a campaign to encourage "Refusal" are numerous:
* It is democratic in character, relying on persuasion and a direct appeal to fellow citizens to resist the lies of the undemocratic forces that dominate our nation and government. We would be talking to each other rather than phony politicians who claim to represent us but who seem to fall over each other in their rush to praise militarism and aggressive war that Americans don't want.
* It is inclusive. Everyone who hates the war machine can participate on whatever level they see fit. It can bring people of different political persuasions and walks of life together in a broad and effective antiwar movement.
* It addresses the inequity of the volunteer army—that it is poor and working class kids who will bear the major burden of the endless war. We are asking people of different class backgrounds to join together and fight for the safety and well being of all our young people.
* A "Refusal" campaign can have a large impact in a relatively short time period and it can also have the immediate impact of saving individual kids' lives. Every young man or woman whom we persuade to reject military service is one less recruit to be "cannon fodder" and/or a professional high-tech killer for the elite. They are our kids not the government's.
* It is also a long range strategy for fighting the rulers' grandiose plans for empire over time—not just a plan to fight one particular war. Regardless of the rhetorical fury that the warmongers will unleash if we are successful, the jet fighters and the aircraft carriers, the tanks and the nukes will become useless piles of junk if there are too few recruits to man them.
We should go into the schools and colleges, and stand outside recruiting offices and talk to the kids and urge them not to enlist and tell them why. We could also approach people currently on active duty and try to persuade them not to reenlist when their time is up. We could build up our own army of "refuseniks"—potential recruits who change their minds and refuse military service—and put their names on the Internet and acknowledge their pledge. Maybe some antiwar businessmen could even set aside some decent jobs and scholarships for them!
Public schools in Oakland, California recently held teach-ins to debate and discuss the issues surrounding war. Such teach-ins would be a perfect opportunity to get this effort started. We could easily develop an emergency "vaccination" kit of anti-recruitment literature to give to the kids. Instead of terrifying them about smallpox, anthrax and nerve gas we could inoculate kids with the truth to protect them from the rotten pro-war propaganda and slick advertising of the military and government. We should also demand that our public schools refuse to cooperate with the "No Child Left Behind Act" and not supply names of students to the military recruiters.
The possibilities are endless and there are already millions of creative people who are profoundly opposed to the orchestrated war fever who might well be galvanized by a plan like this. Short of a revolution, is there anything that has more potential to seriously disrupt our elite rulers' plans for their New World Order?
The kids want meaning and adventure and connection in lives robbed of meaning by a warped money-dominated militaristic society. We can offer them a chance to join the "greatest adventure of all times," the battle against the forces of darkness to make a better world and to challenge the authoritarian control of our country by a powerful, arrogant but vulnerable minority of terrorists which has hijacked our democracy and assaulted our Constitution. The future belongs to the young people. Let's give them an opportunity to create it.
Doug Fuda is an activist and writer with New Democracy. New Democracy will attempt to launch anti-recruitment efforts in the Boston area and try to bring people together across the country. Individuals or groups can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Doug welcomes your comments: email@example.com