America's military recruitment crisis – symptoms of an overreaching empire
Published: Dec 14, 2023 09:15 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

In recent years, America has faced a growing "recruitment crisis" in which branches of the US Armed Forces are unable to meet recruitment quotas and, as a result, are diminishing in both quantity and quality. The US Army, for example, has fallen 10,000 short of the 65,000 recruits it aimed for in 2023 because of an inability to meet recruitment quotas.

To address these gaps, the US has gradually lowered the entry standards for joining the military and expanded the eligibility criteria to include non-citizens. For several years, legal immigrants have been permitted to serve in the US military as a means to expedite their path to US citizenship. In recent times, there has been suggestions to recruit undocumented immigrants.

Last week, a press release from the office of Illinois US Senator Dick Durbin concerning ideas to fix what was called a "broken immigration system," included mention of the military recruiting illegal immigrants.

The press release noted: "Do you know what the recruiting numbers are at the Army, Navy and the Air Force? They can't reach their quotas each month. They can't find enough people to join our military forces. And there are those who are undocumented who want the chance to serve and risk their lives for this country. Should we give them a chance? I think we should."

Senator Durbin also mentioned a lack of qualified human resources within the US itself which he hoped to address by recruiting talent from around the globe.

The US media admitted that the US Armed Forces are failing to meet quotas for a variety of reasons including a growing percentage of the American population unable to meet health and fitness requirements, drug addiction, criminal record, and mental health issues, or a general disinterest or even distrust of the US Armed Forces following decades of wars predicated on dubious pretexts. 

Yet, there has been no introspection as to how the US arrived at this crisis, both for its military and its domestic workforce. Thus, there is little hope of US leadership ever genuinely resolving it. 

The US has plenty of human beings living within its borders. The problem lies within American society, or rather, the lack thereof. It suffers from a general unraveling of family values, work ethic, and social cohesion. Additionally, there is a collapse of America's education system, including vocational education, which creates a shortage of qualified candidates for economic and military activities. 

Instead of understanding and addressing this problem at its roots, the US seems intent on papering over it. Rather than creating a sustainable foreign policy that would allocate more resources to education and infrastructure at home, the US continues to pursue overreaching maximalist policies overseas. These policies encroach upon, encircle, and attempt to "contain" both Russia and China. The former policy would address the growing shortage of qualified candidates for the economy and the military, while the latter ensures that this problem will only continue to grow. 

The US has been engaged in almost perpetual war since the end of World War II, not in defense of America's homeland, but in pursuit of its influence and "interests" abroad, both of which are euphemisms for modern-day empire. Like all empires before it, the US finds itself facing a dilemma. It must either continue expanding to maintain and grow its wealth and power globally, or it must refrain from doing so, in which case its international wealth and power will crumble.

Like empires throughout history, the necessity to fill the ranks of its military, one of the primary tools used to secure and expand US wealth and power worldwide, is paramount. And like all other empires throughout history, the US has found itself growing increasingly desperate to do so. 

The mind-set in Washington that makes the pursuit of modern empire such an urgent imperative is also the same mind-set incapable of understanding and solving the problems the pursuit of empire always inevitably creates. It is a mind-set unable to admit the unsustainability of an empire and the military and economic requirements needed to pursue it. 

The desperate search to fill the ranks of the military, which is deployed across the globe among hundreds of bases dotting scores of nations and involved in interventions on virtually every inhabited continent, consumes Washington to the extent that no one in the White House or Congress ever stops to think if they should continue doing so in the first place.

The induction of immigrants into the US military may temporarily delay America's multiplying problems, but it will not make the pursuit of empire any more sustainable in the long run. Until Washington understands that what it is trying to do cannot (and should not) be done, it can start to solve its many problems sooner.

The author is a geopolitical analyst and a former soldier of US Marine Corps. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn