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Culture War Roundup for the week of January 22, 2024

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American Achilles in his Tent

In the Trojan war the Greek overlord Agamemnon slighted his strongest hero (Achilles) by taking his war-bride for himself. Achilles withdrew to his tent and the efforts in taking Troy halted as nobody could oppose Hector, the rival champion on the battlefield.

It seems American Elites have made a similar mistake in modern time by slighting their traditional warrior caste.


https://www.military.com/daily-news/2024/01/10/army-sees-sharp-decline-white-recruits.html

The Army's recruiting of white soldiers has dropped significantly in the last half decade, according to internal data reviewed by Military.com, a decline that accounts for much of the service's historic recruitment slump that has become the subject of increasing concern for Army leadership and Capitol Hill.

...

A total of 44,042 new Army recruits were categorized by the service as white in 2018, but that number has fallen consistently each year to a low of 25,070 in 2023, with a 6% dip from 2022 to 2023 being the most significant drop. No other demographic group has seen such a precipitous decline, though there have been ups and downs from year to year.

In 2018, 56.4% of new recruits were categorized as white. In 2023, that number had fallen to 44%. During that same five-year period, Black recruits have gone from 20% to 24% of the pool, and Hispanic recruits have risen from 17% to 24%, with both groups seeing largely flat recruiting totals but increasing as a percentage of incoming soldiers as white recruiting has fallen...


What was the offense?

There are many reasons, when you go looking at conservative forums, but they can all be classified under a feeling of betrayal and subsequently that the American Military—even the nation itself—no longer represents them and their values. That they are to fight for an economic zone controlled by their enemies instead of a country proper.

In no particular order they complain about LGBT+ acceptance/promotion, Anti-white rhetoric and practices, entry of women in the forces, forced vaccines during COVID, futile wars for profit, fighting for others countries instead of defending the homeland, poor pay for potential deathly work, etc. etc.

Take a look at their new recruitment adds and you can find these complaints in various degrees among the comments: https://youtube.com/watch?v=luc9saxt_YQ

The dwindling pool of recruits comes at a bad time for the Washington Elite as it seems the US is having a harder time than usual being the world's policeman.


https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2023/11/conflicts-around-the-world-peak/676029/

Not a World War but a World at War

The past two years have seen the most conflicts of any time since the end of the Second World War. Just in the past 24 months, an astonishing number of armed conflicts have started, renewed, or escalated. Some had been fully frozen, meaning that the sides had not sustained direct combat in years; others were long simmering, meaning that low-level fighting would intermittently erupt. All have now become active.

The list encompasses not just the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, but hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, Serbian military measures against Kosovo, fighting in Eastern Congo, complete turmoil in Sudan since April, and a fragile cease-fire in Tigray that Ethiopia seems poised to break at any time. Syria and Yemen have not exactly been quiet during this period, and gangs and cartels continuously menace governments, including those in Haiti and Mexico. All of this comes on top of the prospect of a major war breaking out in East Asia, such as by China invading the island of Taiwan...


With several conflicts around the world that endanger American Geopolitical interests how will the Army try to boost their numbers of foot soldiers? Will its attempt(s) be effective?

I can think of several options available to them:

The Patroclus Option

Making a false flag attack, or letting an actual attack on American soil happen despite knowledge of it beforehand, to shore up support among the public. A common enemy binds groups together despite their differences and grievances. After 9/11 the America public was easy to whip into a warmongering frenzy and this support was used for two-decade long misadventures and futile nation-building in the Middle East to keep the Military Industrial Complex fed.

Though many among conservative have seemed to developed anti-bodies to this tactic. Cries about the USS Liberty are frequent in dissident right circles and seemed to have trickled down into the mainstream.

Some thoughts should also be spent on diversity being a negative here as you’ll have a harder time getting a particular group to fight when being a countryman no longer means being the same race/religion.

The Briseis Option

Appeasement and concessions to white men as a group. Highly unlikely I think, but an option. Though what it would look like I have little to no idea. Perhaps putting away the institutional opprobrium against them?

The Foreign Legion Option

Saw this option floated around on /r/Neoliberal and /r/Army. Guarantee citizenship for half a decade of service, or something similar. Many conservatives are in favor of an army boycott (like the one they have done against Bud Light), but warn that this option leaves white America at the mercy of outsiders with guns that the Regime will have an easier time moving around.

The Daedalus Option

Automate the combat with drones and AI, perhaps the most likely among the options (by my account), but a little to early to make the transition I think.

The Penthesilea Option

Put women en masse into the meat grinder. I think it the most unlikely option, though with the rise of robots this could actually be a viable path.

The Midas Option

Make it more economically enticing for new recruits to enter the armed forces. Give greater pay and greater benefits.

You forgot:

The Wagner Option

US holds proud 6th place in incarceration rate and most people here would say it is too low, would say that many more Americans belong in prison.

Nevertheless, keeping millions in prisons is expensive. Why not kill two birds with one stone, why not offer the prisoners option to expiate their guilt in service to the motherland somewhere far away, like Yemen or Iran?

The Wagner Option

What does loving cock have to do with... Ohhh... Different Wagner. Nevermind ;-)

What does loving cock have to do with...

Well it should help with Navy enlistment at least.

I view this thread and the one about Poseidon Archer above as further evidence that Id-Pol makes people stupid.

Your framing is interesting but your, and the authors', fixation on the Melanin content of recruits' skin is causing you to ask the wrong questions, and become blind to the obvious.

As others have pointed out, the core of the US Military since World War 2 has been the multi-generational "Lieutenant Dan" types, and this is especially the case in the middle-management and critical skill positions, Pilots, Senior NCOs, Nuclear Engineers, that kind of thing...

The topic of "Retention" is probably worth multiple effort-posts in itself so I'm going to stick to the cliff-notes but the conventional wisdom post-Vietnam has been that Retention was more important than recruitment when it came to maintaining capabilities. That paying a fat re-up bonus was a small price to pay in comparison to the 1-2 punch of losing experienced troops as well as having to recruit and train new ones. There seems to been a shift away from this approach in the early 2010s (some of which I witnessed first-hand). The idea, on paper at least, was to move towards a "leaner" more "agile" and "economical" force based on the principles of Just-in-Time production. The theory was that fewer people sitting idle and less equipment downtime would mean more getting done, in practice what it meant was dudes burning out, and lapses in maintenance and training due to lack of slack in the system. Mutiple fatal mishaps in the US 7th Fleet ought to have been a clue but like I said this issue and the associated political wrangling could be a series of effort-posts in itself.

What does that have to do with recruitment numbers though? Well, that's where the "Lieutenant Dan" types come in. The naive take is that recruitment, is about selling military life to high school kids. The Savvy take is that it's about selling it to the troops because if the troops are sold they'll stay in, and you'll get a shot at their kids to. Burnout doesn't just lose you one man it runs the risk of losing you his friends and family as well. Simply put it's guys like me, that is a decorated combat veteran with an honorable discharge and multiple male heirs, that the DoD should be courting and yet it seems like it's guys like me that the DoD with all it's [current year] DEI bullshit seems most hell bent on alienating.

Look at Benghazi was handled.

Look at how the withdrawal from Afghanistan was handled.

Look at just how few shits our so-called "elite" give about the lives of American service members.

Why would I entrust my sons to these people?

As @remzem observes downthread, the woke don't really think long term.

I'll add that this is not just an American problem but a Western one. The UK military is shrinking at speed:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12985455/Britains-shrinking-army-general-military-recruitment-crisis.html

In a one year period up to September last year, the army's strength plummeted from 79,139 to 75,983 as more soldiers left than started.

The Royal Navy is scrapping its amphibious assault capabilities and frigates due to manpower shortages:

https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/shapps-rumoured-to-be-scrapping-uks-assault-ships/

https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/britain-to-scrap-two-royal-navy-frigates-say-reports/

Even the Australian Navy is struggling, despite our politicians and journalists shrieking about war with China every single day. At least The Australian newspaper is, plus the government conducted strategic reviews that conclude we have no long-term warning time before war, that the strategic situation is disastrous. Naturally, their immediate response after the last strategic review was to start another strategic review rather than do anything substantial or impactful.

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/defence/workforce-crisis-threatens-to-put-two-more-anzac-frigates-out-of-service/news-story/adc8e4a1442831dd17e235389484c415

(link is paywalled but the http address tells the story)

We also have the same broad recruitment shortages, people are floating recruitment from Pacific Island countries.

And so does Germany: https://www.euronews.com/2023/08/02/germanys-army-struggles-to-recruit-new-troops-despite-official-push

The number of new recruits eager to join the Bundeswehr has dropped by 7% this year compared to 2022, the Ministry of Defence announced on Wednesday.

Now, it can't just be that there's a labour shortage and good economic conditions across the entire Western world. If the US economy is going well, isn't the German economy doing poorly? Aren't they in a recession, their manufacturing is going down the drain since they stopped (or were stopped) buying Russian energy? The UK economy is treading water. And in Australia, the standard of living dropped 5% due to higher interest rates and inflation.

I think it's more a crisis of patriotism and ideology than an economic issue. If it were economics, then all races would be affected equally, it wouldn't just be whites refraining, the ratios wouldn't be changing. Countries with stronger economies would be harder hit than countries with weaker economies. Instead, everyone is dealing with the same problem.

What? The UK outsources recruitment to a an external company?

When I read stuff like this, muy blood boils.

Now, it can't just be that there's a labour shortage and good economic conditions across the entire Western world. If the US economy is going well, isn't the German economy doing poorly? Aren't they in a recession, their manufacturing is going down the drain since they stopped (or were stopped) buying Russian energy? The UK economy is treading water. And in Australia, the standard of living dropped 5% due to higher interest rates and inflation.

Unemployment is extremely low across the West. In fact, the problem with a lack of young workers in many jobs is worse in Germany than elsewhere because birth rates have been even lower for longer than they have in the US, Australia and UK.

I propose, in line with your Greek theme:

The Ephorate Option

The Spartans were famously martial, but they were also famously reticent to go to war. They would frequently hem and haw well past the point where the Athenians or Thebans would have jumped into battle. This was largely tied to the martial nature of Sparta's slave society: Sparta always had a weak birthrate and Helot supermajorities and could not afford to spend Spartan blood profligately.

What's changed from the past is that the current leader of the Red Tribe is something of a putative dove, loudly declaring the wars of the past twenty years to be mistakes, and in a sotto voce stage whisper calling dead soldiers suckers and fools. The Trumpian takeover of the GOP has left us with three consecutive presidents who ran promising to pull us out of Afghanistan and arguing that the war in Iraq was a mistake, that there was public outcry when Biden ripped the band-aid off and that we still have troops in Iraq for some reason is a kind of deep-state zombie inertia. No one with any credibility is telling young American men that the wars they will enlist to fight are just. On the Left, they have always been baby-killers, but when Clinton or Carter were president there still existed credible conservative institutions encouraging young men to join up for patriotic red-blooded reasons. Trump, with his anti-war schtick, has supplanted those conservative institutions.

Young Americans are increasingly against America's continued fealty to Israel. As the majority of America's foreign adventures are at root about Israel, this leaves little reason to join up.

If America wants young men to join the military, it needs to rebuild the credibility of the defense establishment as caring about its soldiers. Both in the sense of "don't throw lives away for failed nation building missions," and in the sense of looking after their souls, doing their best to make sure the violence they are called on to practice is righteous. Speaking autobiographically, I should have joined the military, I had all the qualifications and interests they were looking for, and was recruited intensely. But, at the end of the day, I simply disagreed with the wars we were fighting on a moral basis. So when I hear "recruitment crisis" and I see Red Tribe figures like Donald Trump catching up to where my family was in 2003 on the advisability of invading Iraq, I can't help but think that a lot of people are thinking the same things I thought in 2010.

We need to revamp how we go to war, and rework our foreign policy. We need to build a credible system by which we show that we are making intelligent foreign policy decisions. The SecDef needs to be on the job. The President needs to be competent. The Congress needs to do its job and assert authority over the war powers of the executive. We need to have faith that the military is doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. That will make people more interested in serving: if they know that their pledge of their lives and their sacred honor won't be wasted.

On a more prosaic note...

The Malcolm Gladwell Option

There might be little mechanical and procedural tweaks that need to be twucked that can fix things right up. Marijuana usage, for example, is still a black mark on enlisting without a waiver, while alcohol usage is mostly tolerated. This may not reflect modern cultural choices. Moreso a question for career officers than for enlisted: the famous mobility of army careers, with soldiers being moved around assignments constantly even in peacetime, more or less requires that your partner subordinate her life to yours. In a world of two career households, it's a tough sell to any woman I would have considered marrying: you'll have to follow me around, your own career will have to come second, but your career will probably produce more money than mine. I thought about this while talking to a friend from Singapore about reading From Third World to First about how they tried to make careers in the military more appealing, how if I were Singaporean and an army officer even getting deployed to the other side of Singapore is a jokingly short distance from family/friends/spouse's career, while in the USA joining up meant I might end up anywhere at any time even outside deployment in a warzone. Is my young wife going to sacrifice her legal/medical/programming career to my military career?

Speaking of LKY and Singapore, they faced similar problems early on with racial composition of their armed forces:

We faced another security risk from the racial composition of our army and police. Independent Singapore could not continue the old British practice of having a city three-quarters Chinese policed and guarded by Malay police and soldiers. The British had recruited mostly Malays born in Malaya, who traditionally had come co Singapore co enlist. Malays liked soldiering whereas the Chinese shunned it, a historical legacy of the predatory habits of soldiers during the years of rebellions and warlords in China. The question was whether the army and police would be as loyal to a government no longer British or Malay, but one the Malays perceived as Chinese. We had to find some way co induct more Chinese and Indians into the police and armed forces to reflect the population.

Ours was no easy task. We had to reorientate people's minds to accept the need for a people's army and overcome their traditional dislike for soldiering. Every Chinese parent knew the saying hao han bu dang bing, hao tie bu da ding (a good lad does not become a soldier, good steel does not become nails). We set up national cadet corps and national police cadet corps in all secondary schools so that parents would identify the army and police with their sons and daughters. We wanted the people to regard our soldiers as their protectors-a reversal from the days when army and police uniforms aroused fear and resentment as symbols of colonial coercion. People must admire military valor. As Keng Swee said in sorrow, "The Spartan approach to life does not come about naturally in a community that lives by buying and selling." I had to get people to change their attitudes. We also had to improve the physical condition of our young by getting them to participate in sports and physical activity of all kinds, and to develop a taste for adventure and strenuous, thrilling activities that were not without danger to themselves. Persuasion alone was not enough. We needed institutions, well organized, well staffed, and well directed to follow up the exhortations and stirring speeches. The prime responsibility was that of the ministry of education. Only if we changed people's thinking and attitudes could we raise a large citizen army like Switzerland's or Israel's. We gave ourselves a decade to accomplish this.

Looking at a lot of the moves Singapore made, an emphasis on making military careers compatible with professional accomplishment made significant inroads. I'm also in favor of conscription, less in the model of the draft historically, and more in the mode of an expanded and revamped National Guard* which most men would be expected to join.

*Really what I'm in favor of is replacing the system of police in our country with a militia made up of anyone under the age of 50 who wants to take a few shifts a month of acting as a first responder for public order/protection calls. The militia would be funded by a flat income tax, say .5%, on anyone who doesn't serve in the militia.

Data point of one, but the only Singaporean I've known loathed the army, loathed having been a conscript, and deeply resented the government for having deprived him of two years that he could have spent staying competitive with international students. He described a world of complete incompetence and lethargy, because none of the conscripts expect to stay on and therefore none of them have any incentive to work. They just rot for two years. And the cynicism has become institutional, so it's hard for even enthusiastic conscripts to escape the pull.

I'm torn on the subject, personally. The advantages of a well-run conscript system are clear, but it's expensive to run and encourages corruption and (often) dislike of the army. Similar to forced Irish teaching in Irish schools. The Brits used to have a fairly good system where you could sign up for the officer cadets (or something to that effect) and spend one weekend per month doing fun, interesting exercises that also made you a little bit of money. Most people didn't stay on, but many did and the ones who left still had acquaintances in the army and an appreciation for army life. We stopped doing it because it was too expensive. And I doubt that one could afford to do it for the poor bloody infantry.

I've known many young men from Singapore and this is a nearly universal opinion on their period of conscription. Its a waste of time and energy, no one wants to do it or cares about doing a good job, there often isn't really anything for them to do after they finish basic. There experience is more about what they can't do: start college, get a job, pursue a relationship. Most also express resentment that, while they are "unemployed in uniform" the women they just graduated with spend those same two years partying and sleeping with foreigners.

I hadn’t thought about the gendered aspect but you’re right. The Swiss 18 weeks seems like a much more viable form of conscription.

Similar to forced Irish teaching in Irish schools.

Threadjack, but I'm interested in the lessons drawn from this that can be applied to other language revitalization efforts. Young Cajuns usually find my partial speaking incredibly cool and wish that learning Cajun French was more available as an option.

And they successfully revived Hebrew in Israel. I don't know, I think it's some combination of bad timing and culture specific issues.

Re: bad timing, I will get some flack for this, but as far as I can see Irish and Scottish nationalism are heavily American- and returning-expat-influenced 'modern' nationalisms. In comparison to Israeli nationalism or Islamic nationalism, which are revivalist movements aimed at throwing off oppressors who prevented them from acting according to their ancient ways, they want to throw off the oppression of a British-tinged nationalism in order to become a modern, liberal, secular nation. The Irish people that I have known personally identified very strongly with chocolate-box Irishness but associated actual traditional Irish culture with backwardness and Catholic atrocities. There is a dislike of anything resembling ethno-nationalism that coexists uneasily with the explicitly nationalist (and anti-British) nature of the politics in both countries. Learning Irish is (I'm told) boring, compulsory, and was instituted by the bad old nationalists not the shiny new nationalists. It's resented in the same way that learning the Catechism is resented.

Re: culture, Irish and Gaelic were mostly spoken by the embarrassing parts of the country, backwards old country people that the cool crowd have no interest in associating with, and it's barely even spoken by those people. Learning Irish doesn't let you do anything cool, it's just something you have to put up with. The cool crowd therefore resent it, don't use it, don't make anything cool with it, meaning there's nothing cool you can do with it, and the cycle continues. A lot of Jews genuinely want to read the Old Testament and other religious documents in the original.

I'm aware that the above is really pretty insulting to Irish traditionalists. It's the anti-Irish-language perspective as I was told it by left-wing nationalists at an English university, recalled as accurately as I can and mixed with my own observations and those of an English acquintance who grew up in Ireland. Personally I think it's rather a shame.

TLDR: modern Irish nationalism is for various reasons surprisingly anti-Irish. Make sure that you have genuine ground roots support before making language teaching compulsory. Otherwise, sponsor making cool stuff in that language.

TLDR: modern Irish nationalism is for various reasons surprisingly anti-Irish. Make sure that you have genuine ground roots support before making language teaching compulsory. Otherwise, sponsor making cool stuff in that language.

On the other side, if you learn Irish Gaelic, you can be translator of official EU documents into this language.

And no one will ever check whether your translation is any good, no one will ever read EU regulations of banana size and curvature in Gaelic. Dream job for life.

Standard translation process for major institutions, EU included, is that translated documents will get proofread and possibly QA'ed, so at least someone will read that document.

https://toppandigital.com/translation-blog/welsh-road-sign-displays-out-of-office-message-in-translation-blunder/?amp=1

Government officials who requested a translation for a Welsh road sign thought they were receiving their translation via an email reply. They sent the text “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only.” to Swansea Council for translation into Welsh and awaited a response. However, the response they received was Welsh for “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated”.

Officials assumed the response was the content they required and promptly approved the text for use on a road sign used to halt heavy goods vehicles near an Asda store in the Morriston area.

“When they’re proofing signs, they should really use someone who speaks Welsh,” said journalist Dylan Iorwerth.

Seriously, though, government work is as far as you can get from cool.

I think the advantage of conscription in Singapore that I'm trying to get at is that it increases the prestige of the army as a social institution, and the concomitant prestige of the career (non) commissioned officer corps. LKY is always about attracting the best.

Don't know about Singaporean system, but any prestige from conscription hinges on the implementation details. My hypothesis:

Conscription system where everyone is called up, avoiding draft is difficult, and candidates to officer and specialist tracks are selected by reliable, standardized tests and methods for IQ and other desiderata, compulsorily administered to all -> Military is unpleasant, but has some prestige to offset, because (a) if you made it to the officer track, your rank signals your IQ (b) no matter your personal rank, there is a high chance that in you observed relatively intelligent and competent superiors during your stint.

Conscription system where draft avoidance is easily possible -> Highly competent, affluent people who have most to gain from college or have family networks or otherwise good prospects of lucrative career have the highest opportunity cost from the draft -> They avoid the draft -> The majority of the elite in your country doesn't serve -> If you manage to nevertheless recruit competent officers, the elite won't observe their competence first-hand -> Avoiding draft correlates with elite status and signals good things, military career signals bad things. -> Prestige plummets.

Won't outline the failure mode where instead of standardized tests the officers are selected by either political patronage or nepotism.

Officer's rank absolutely offers prestige in Finland, even moreso in the old days than now (people unironically used to say that the Reserve Officer School offers better training for general leadership, in corporations and so on, than dedicated leadership courses), but it's probably still the case that young male job applicants are instructed that you shouldn't put your military rank in your CV when applying for jobs abroad, since it's... well, not a similar sign of prestige in many other countries, quite the opposite.

Has any conscription system ever placed officers through conscription? I was under the impression that officer corps always consisted of volunteers.

To my knowledge, Israel and Finland. I think both are offshoot developments the old German system, where a prospective officer candidates were volunteers but had to serve a lengthy period of time first in enlisted and NCO equivalent positions in regular regiments before and between officer school exams.

Basically, in the Finnish system, there are two sorts of officers:

Reserve officers: Every conscript starts as, well, a conscript, equal to all others. After eight weeks of basic training, the most suitable ones for command are selected for reserve NCO training, organized in their company, and after seven weeks of basic NCO training, the most suitable ones for further command then go to the Reserve Officer School, which can train them up to (generally) a major's rank, usually lieutenant's rank. They would then be activated in wartime but don't stay in the army after their conscript service are up (apart from refresher courses, of course).

Commissioned officers: These are commissioned for army service (training, rapid response etc.) during peacetime. They are trained at National Defence University, which takes applicants on the basis of exams like any other university, though you have to be a reserve officer (in some cases reserve NCO) to apply.

Huh, TIL. Looked it up, guess I was wrong. I was more used to the American system and assumed it was universal, I guess.

That's what I'm saying, judging purely by the chap I knew, it did the exact opposite, it instilled a lifelong contempt that otherwise he might not have felt. You cannot 'attract the best' and conscript every able-bodied man, they aren't compatible. If the army was prestigious (as in Rome) people would be queuing up to join of their own accord.

As always whenever US military recruitment woes comes up, it's relevant to bring up that something like 80% of new recruits come from a family where someone else has served. The implication of this isn't that the US has a racial demographic recruitment option, but a familial one: that families that once would have encouraged children to join, are no longer doing so / encouraging them not to do so.

Failing to work around this issue makes many of the options presented pretentiously comedic rather than serious, because the audience that needs to be convinced isn't the recruits- it's the already-separated family members who are dissuading recruitment.

Behind a paywall, but one of the better breakdowns of the US recrutiment issues from the WSJ.

And I suppose that this is further exacerbated by the decline in birth rates: if military families aren't having as many sons (or, in this brave new world, daughters) as they used to, even among the ones that do encourage their kids to join there aren't as many potential recruits.

I think it's just that people, conservative or liberal, just don't want to join the army any more. The traditional pool of recruits may have more options than the past, or may be unfit/incapable of being recruited. And I think the LGTB+ types they are trying to appeal to are the kind who think the army etc. are all a tool of the patriarchy, violent arm of the colonisers, state power, all the Bad Stuff The Man Does.

So one set are "it's no longer a choice between go to jail or sign up with the recruiting sergeant, so no thanks" and the other set are "this is The Establishment and we are not interested, this does not fit in with our post-revolution cottagecore fantasy world".

I've always considered this issue to be one of white people shooting themselves in the foot. I have so many friends, including some ex-military, who champion this as proof that the based white men go their own way. And it's just like the conservative exodus from academia. Or liberals discouraging each other from being cops? It's just- no, you fools. What do you think you're accomplishing by removing yourselves from a seat of power? You're not owning anyone, you're just marginalizing yourselves, and ceding the entire institution to your rivals. It's not a gain.

But I don't think it's the main issue. Black overrepresentation in the military has generally been due to it being a good opportunity for people at the bottom, and less interesting to anyone above. The first assumption shouldn't be that white people necessarily feel spited by America. It should be considered that it's not an economically attractive option to anyone who can make it in the private sector. People often ask why people don't just leave the hood, and the military is actually a good path to anyone who actually wants to do that quickly.

Also, to test your theory, you should really consider the political persuasion of young white people. Do you think the average white 19 year old zoomer isn't joining because he feels scorned for being white? For a white person to feel that way would be indicative of a level of conservatism I think is relatively low in that age demographic. Instead, I'd posit that these people are more leftist-inclined, and think that to serve America is to serve a country that is fundamentally white supremacist, the exact opposite problem- not to mention the military itself being a tool of colonialism etc, but the point is, their racial perspective would go the opposite way.

Even if they don't fully embrace these leftist ideals, they have enough sympathy to fuel an, "I wouldn't want to get killed for that" mentality, with many people's popular perception of what soldiers do still rooted in WWII-era meat grinder situations.

I've always considered this issue to be one of white people shooting themselves in the foot.

There is no "white people" there's just a bunch of individual white men. The power of "white people" will only mildly trickle down to any individual lower-middle class enlistee. Individual benefits are how they're making that decision, not the success and power of "la raza."

Shooting oneself in the foot is making the decision to sacrifice oneself for an imagined community that doesn't give a shit about you.

Do you think the average male zoomer isn't joining because he feels scorned for being a man?

Yes. This scorn need not be direct; indeed, to coddle a man (and stifle his growth, insulting his dignity as a human being doing) is to scorn him.

"I wouldn't want to get killed for that" mentality

Or to be more precise: "I'm already treated badly enough by society at large; insulted at every turn for existing, oppressed and emasculated by its shitty laws and taxed half to death in the name of some twisted self-serving morality. Why would I ever put my life on the line so that this society might survive given that, if they lost, the culture my enemy would impose on me is actually a better deal?"

Western society is overdrawn on its balance of white feathers.

It's worth remembering that Afghanistan is under Taliban rule today because pre-2021 Afghan society had no white feathers to give. No incentive to join the ANA, no reason to fight for a structure that can't pay well enough, and the society the Americans were trying to build there folded without a shot fired. Whoops, guess you needed men after all.

It's just- no, you fools. What do you think you're accomplishing by removing yourselves from a seat of power? You're not owning anyone, you're just marginalizing yourselves, and ceding the entire institution to your rivals. It's not a gain.

I think you're overlooking something important here. Even if it's ineffective as a means to drive change, people simply don't want to work in an environment where they are hated and they know it. That goes double if said environment involves risking life and limb. Is it really that surprising that young red tribers might say "nah I don't really want to take a bullet for these people who hate me"?

It's not surprising and I understand that - the same thing's been talked about here for red-leaning professors. But to me, it seems that the last bulwark against total, permanent loss of presence in a system is when people give up in the face of the hostile work environment. Which I guess I can't blame them for, but it seems like it was otherwise not necessarily beyond salvaging until after then. Probably irrelevant since not many are going to take one on the chin year after year so that things maybe get better in future generations.

The leadership in the military was already captured. You aren't going to change it from the inside, DEI makes sure that people like you aren't promoted.

It seems like the political persuasion of young people, i.e. broccoli headed zoomers that fight oppressive power structures and therefore won't join, is just the other side of the same coin that prevents traditional conservative recruits from joining. So the elite's poor leadership is still at fault.

They cynically exploited oppressor / oppressed dynamics and inclusion to Trojan horse themselves into all the major institutions. Now you have a generation that grew up steeped in that ideology. On one hand many are true believers that don't realize it was just a ploy, they hate the military, think the holocaust didn't happen and want to #freepalestine. On the other hand the white conservative youths are the kids of the people you knifed in the back to get yourself into power, so of course they aren't interested in signing up. Our elites don't really do long term thinking.

White recruitment into the military takes place very heavily from conservative communities that object more strongly to left wing ideas as the null hypothesis than the median zoomer.

You’re correct about the economic incentives, obviously- any young white man who can pass a drug test can get a career-track hire to train job in this economy, they don’t need to join the army for it. But the military’s alienating conservative America is probably part of it, and the DEI shit is a big part of alienating conservative America.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Non-Hispanic_White_Americans_population_pyramid_in_2020.svg

There are also fewer young white men now than there were a few years ago. The chart above is from 2020, so the 15-year-olds on that chart are turning 19 this year. With limited natural selection, rampant obesity and mild dysgenics, the number of able-bodied young white men is clearly in decline and will continue to decline for years to come.

We need a chart showing percentage of that age group rather than absolute numbers.

You're not owning anyone, you're just marginalizing yourselves, and ceding the entire institution to your rivals. It's not a gain.

The rivals were already calling shots in the institution. The two-mothers, non-binary woman ad came from inside the house.

By your own account police departments are red-triber enclaves. But I think blue states made their displeasure felt after George Floyd and other such incidents. Budgets were cut, people were made uncomfortable enough that older cohorts took retirement...

The reason "DEI" has taken over as a general online-conservative curse-word is cause it allows them to express the insight that not all institutions need to be taken over from the bottom-up.

Police have been doing a lot of organized demonstration of their disapproval, though. By staying in the force and simply refusing to do their jobs, in a bid to prove how much they actually mattered. It's been hard to ignore, not that their governments haven't tried.

If white people exile themselves from the military, the woke mindset, I think, will suddenly sympathize with it more. They're going to start wanting to pay soldiers more and it's going to become our most dearly beloved institution instead of an evil tool of oppression. All leaving does is surrender yet another avenue of control to that camp. Even if there's already a relative top-heavy disparity in power, it would only get worse. If there's ever to be a reversal, it would happen a lot quicker if the entire ground level composition of the military wasn't comprised of woke-preferred individuals. Just like with colleges- that's how you set yourself up to lose an institution for more than just the current day, but for generations.

The military is one of the conservatives' last bases of power, even if their opponents pull the strings, it still has a high degree of conservative symbolic meaning and representation in the lower ranks in particular. Willingly ceding that leaves them with nothing but a bunch of alienated and isolated white dudes with no sense of unity. Seems a lot easier to maneuver around. What's left, farming?

By staying in the force and simply refusing to do their jobs, in a bid to prove how much they actually mattered.

Retirements spiked. Part of the "success" of the strike was forcing cities to work with less experienced cops or to try to hire new ones.

If white people exile themselves from the military, the woke mindset, I think, will suddenly sympathize with it more.

That's assuming what some people like about the military (and police) isn't inherently offensive to progressive mindsets. It requires the belief that the American empire is good and that coercing the "oppressed" like the Houthis - aka people whose maliciousness outstrips their capacity for warfare - into acting in its interests is acceptable.

I can accept they want to take over the military - because that's how totalizing ideologies work - but that is not the same as actually valuing it.

The sort of people drawn in by the "two mommies" ad were a) not likely to join in the first place and b) were likely not going to be as reliable in the event that some Oct. 7th thing drew the US into war.

Willingly ceding that leaves them with nothing but a bunch of alienated and isolated white dudes with no sense of unity. Seems a lot easier to maneuver around. What's left, farming?

Fair.

Police retirements spiked, but famously so did those in every profession.

If that is the case the Army will have a fine tightrope to thread when recruiting whites since its conservative and progressive factions have so different a view on it as an institution.

It seems

Hey, I found the problem!

I like the overall structure of your post, but I think it relies on several shaky assumptions. First, does the shortage of recruits actually represent Red Tribe disenfranchisement? Second, are “American Elites” responsible?

First and foremost, I think you’re overselling the demographic shift. The rates of enlisted army service are pretty similar between ethnicities. Enlisting in the army is less popular in general, and there are more minorities now than in 2010, so it’s easy for white representation to go down.

The effect is definitely stronger for women, as the national sex ratio didn’t really change. But it’s still an overwhelmingly masculine profession, with 15% women instead of 13%. So there are definitely a few more women, especially in officer positions, which could potentially shift the culture. To be honest, I have no idea which populations send the most women to the army; I’d assume them to be more Red Tribe than the national average, but I have no data to back it up.

2010 was the peak for a lot of military stats. The most active duty personnel, highest percent male, most men and women enlisted, and so on. But why? This wasn’t 2002. None of the rallying flags were present, and national politics were as bitter as they could get pre-Trump.

I think @2rafa has the general thrust of it. Enlisting is an employer of last resort. There were a lot more people at their last resorts in 2008-2012, a lot of people who really needed a competitive paycheck and a comprehensive insurance policy. In 2024, that’s not necessarily the case. We’re coming off a couple years of COVID distortions and zero-interest-rate phenomena. That has a way of making boot camp less appealing. I would expect the entry wage—relative to inflation—to matter more than the current President or the percent of minorities.

So if 2010 was an unusually good time to join the infantry, and 2024 isn’t, are we really seeing a calculated move by “American elites”? Are they making a move at all? The actions that would fix military recruitment involve tight money, austerity, or general economic stress. If those things are coming, I expect there will be bigger fish to fry.

Numbers from the 2022 demographic report.

I've got no hard data, at least none that self-respecting academic would accept as valid, but anecdotally the stretch from 2008 to 2012 saw a significant shift in the culture surrounding retention with all the "Perform To Serve" bullshit coming to a peak around that time. 2010 being the peak definitely fits a vibe.

First, does the shortage of recruits actually represent Red Tribe disenfranchisement?

The marines- historically the most right wing branch of the military- being the only branch that hit their recruitment goals surely gestures at that being part of it, at least, although I'll agree that rapidly rising blue collar civilian wages getting to whites first is probably a bigger factor.

Edit: sorry, fat-fingered the submit button. Still working on this.

You can delete the post, finish composition, and then undelete it.

I was actually worried that my delete button had become an admin option, so I erred on the side of transparency. Ah well.

My first post here after being exiled from Reddit and having a long sabbatical from online commentary. I originally wanted to do it when I saw the response to an even earlier Army Ad with Johnathan Majors (it seems to have been removed, likely because of the rumors of him being a domestic abuser) and was shocked at the comments, it basically read as a /pol/ thread and the dislike bar was 9/10 negative.

Digging a little further an anti-war sentiment seemed to have spread among American conservatives with me first noticing then and there. It seems like a total flip from the 00s where being a Republican meant being pro-military no matter what. Veterans was almost a fetish to rally around, politically, from what I recall.

Right, there has definitely been a shift since the GWoT. I’m inclined to believe that it owes more to how Afghanistan played out, plus the overall economic trends post-2008, than it does elite decisions.

If the Greeks had full employment for years I bet they would have had recruitment problems as well. The military is a job and right now competing jobs are looking more attractive.

Anyone who thinks this is the result of the culture war should ask themselves one simple question: if there’s a huge recession and the young white male unemployment rate triples next year, do you really think these recruitment figures don’t budge?

The truth is that the US has been in an unprecedented (since the postwar era) employment boom since 2017. A young Midwestern or southern white man’s options in 2023, if they don’t go to college, are simply much much better than they were in 2010 or 2013 or even 2005 for that matter.

Why would anyone make $25,000 a year in the army when trucking companies are desperate for recruits and warehouses and gas stations are paying $60k+ a year. Where many trades pay six figures easily. Even decent personal trainers make triple what a new private does, and don’t have to spend months away from women and possibly risk their lives. What do young men care about? Girls, money and status. The military doesn’t offer the first two, and hasn’t offered the third since the Vietnam debacle.

Hispanic recruitment has risen because the population of Hispanics has risen, while black recruitment has held steady because of generations of outreach work to increase black enlistment and advertise in the black community. These offset the same impulse in those groups.

When was the last recruitment crisis in the army? Oh yeah, that’s right, it was in the booming economy of the 1990s. Who would have guessed? Triple pay for junior enlisted ranks and watch the recruitment crisis vanish.

Still, it’s a waste of goodwill. People used to want to serve for patriotic reasons. That was pure profit for the state. It was like a charity, they were fed and housed, but some of the work they did was effectively donated. As with billionaires, the state should find ways to encourage donations, not turn them away to make the diversity quota. You know, tell people what they can do for the country, not what the country can do for them, all that jazz.

Sure, in a wider sense the military has been in a slow-motion recruitment crisis since around 1979 (really, since Vietnam). Enlisted pay was boosted by huge amounts in the 80s, and that and high unemployment and Reagan patriotism kept things from boiling over. The 90s saw the military shrink significantly, easing recruitment issues (although they were a big concern in the middle of that decade). A combination of 9/11 and the dotcom bust boosted numbers through the 2000s, then the Great Recession kept things fine until the mid-2010s. Now the historic pattern is just resuming.

A lot of people who enlisted in the 2000s just had a visceral reaction to 9/11 and wanted to go kill Arabs in revenge. That sounds uncharitable, but I don’t mean it that way, it just is what it is. You saw the same impulse in Israel after October 7, it’s just bloodlust and will to vengeance. The “major” Islamist terror attacks on American soil in the last decade have been by some random guy on a gay nightclub, by a Pakistani husband and wife on a California department of health party and by some Chechens on the finish of the Boston Marathon. None killed as many people as died in other mass shootings like the Vegas one committed by a white male with no discernible motive (and almost certainly not an Islamist one). That’s not driving anyone in a red state to war.

Vegas one committed by a white male with no discernible motive

This remains one of the weirdest events I can think of. It truly is unlike any other mass shooting or casualty event. No one had anything bad to say about the guy. It is the one conspiracy theory I sort of believe.

The Stephen Paddock case fascinates me as well because I believe it is the first ever truly nihilism motivated serial killing.

This was a Rich White Man (TM) who whiled away the time passively gambling and enjoying a low tier Vegas lifestyle, replete with copious alcohol and something like a mail order girlfriend / occasional prostitutes. His career seems to have been almost comic bookishly boring with a few well timed investments and what appears to have been a dab of family money.

Then he killed 60 people and injured up to 800 with what looked liked about a weeks worth of true planning [^1].

It really looks like this guy just ran out of interest in life and that that ennui then triggered a much deeper explosion of anger about .... the human condition? I don't know what you would call it.

Hand-wavy armchair psychologists will gesture weakly at "he was crazy ... blew a fuse ... drank himself into going schizo." But we know this isn't the action or pathology of someone like that. The Big Names of serial killing (Dahmer, Gacy, Bundy, Ridgeway) all had patterns and escalation paths. This stuff is taught through a literal manual at Quantico now.

Paddock is different. And the speed with which the news cycle moved onward is not evidence, in my opinion, of a conspiracy, but of a stone could whodunit at the largest (individual killer) scale in history.


[1^]: I'm quantifying the planning here in terms of material actions. The idea was in his head far longer (back to Oct 2016 at the least), but I only "start the clock" from when he showed up in the hotel room and then sketched out the shooting dope.

Hand-wavy armchair psychologists will gesture weakly at "he was crazy ... blew a fuse ... drank himself into going schizo." But we know this isn't the action or pathology of someone like that.

Maybe, but then again the link between nihilism and mass murder isn’t very clear either, there’s a reason it would be the first nihilism inspired mass murder as you say, namely that nihilists usually just kill themselves. And again, killers of the ‘rage against the world’ type usually leave some kind of manifesto, even if it’s incoherent. I wonder if it wasn’t kind of amusing or interesting to him, and he just decided to follow through for the hell of it. And alcoholism would have an effect on his inhibitions.

What exactly is the conspiracy?

That the attack wasn’t motiveless (the official narrative says it was).

It's not really a conspiracy if cui bono isn't spelled out.

The main conspiracy, which seems to be that it was an attempted assassination of MBS, doesn’t make sense if you look into it. I think that as with other conspiracies there’s a ‘soft’ version where Paddock was maybe involved in some marginally shady military supply stuff but also wasn’t an assassin and/or terrorist.

The military was in many ways the organization that least represented conservatives. It has always been the power tool of the globalists and internationalists. In a global empire, the capital city will be multicultural. The US elite won't be loyal to the population of the fly over states when their empire consists of a billion other people and their interests. The US elite won't consist of WASPs when the empire is less than 10% wasp.

The US military doesn't protect America, Americans or the American way of life. It protects international trade, aka shutting down production in the rust belt and outsourcing production to cheap countries.

Socially conservative and nationalistic minded people won absolutely nothing in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen or Afghanistan. On the contrary, these wars were against the interests of conservatism. If anything, the average conservative voter has a greater strategic interest in supporting the groups fighting against the US military.

Socially conservative

How is the modern American red triber ‘socially conservative’? Do they refrain from sex before marriage? Do they go to church every Sunday? Do they sincerely believe blasphemy is a sin and avoid expressions like ‘damn’ or whatever? Social conservatism is dead in America outside of a few niche communities of Christians, Mormons and Jews. Your average red state conservative is as ‘socially conservative’ in their own daily life - if not less so - than a deep blue Democrat corporate lawyer who lives out in Connecticut and hosts fundraisers for Biden. Unless disliking Bud Light ads is the central defining factor in social conservatism, of course.

The US military doesn't protect America, Americans or the American way of life. It protects international trade, aka shutting down production in the rust belt and outsourcing production to cheap countries.

The American way of life is, in many cases, all about the acquisition of cheap consumer goods made in China and elsewhere.

Social conservatism is relative. American red tribers don't refrain from sex until marriage but it's more often with a long term boyfriend/girlfriend that eventually leads to marriage as opposed to either hookup culture or cohabitating for 5+ years without planning to get married. Some of them do go to church every Sunday. Many go at Christmas or Easter. They don't generally avoid saying "damn" but that's been common for centuries so I'm not sure we can blame modernity for that one. If you define it by pre-1920s America standards then yeah nobody is a conservative any more but there are still useful distinctions.

The blue tribe Democratic lawyer in Connecticut is probably socially conservative than a red triber in a trailer park, but less so than a red triber of the same class. The manners of the upper middle class have always skewed conservative.

It seems like a major confound that you pretty much have to have a college degree to be a blue triber, whereas the red tribe covers the whole economic spectrum.

IME red tribe normie elites are fairly socially conservative, at least enough to raise objections to their grandchildren fornicating openly(although usually with a don't ask/don't tell) and expecting their dependents to be members of- and at least sometimes attend- a church. That's of course not getting into the omnipresent homophobia(which is enough for tons of people to call Russia based), continuation of at least occasional shotgun weddings, and belief that yes, it's better for mothers to stay home even if it's not realistic for lots of families.

A red tribe country would be by western standards fairly socially conservative, but Islamic norms would be a pretty small minority.

I've sometimes thought of the mainstream contemporary mode of social conservatism in Europe (and, increasingly obviously, in the US), as 'lifestyle conservatism': conserving the typical lifestyle of, say, the early 90s (or even the early 00s), what increasingly seems like the true golden age of the West, the carefree period between the Cold War and 9/11 (perhaps even extending up until 2008 crisis), with no real threats to Western dominance, continuously improving economy, no particularly onerous environmental regulations (if you're not a farmer), EU momentarily looking unambiguously like something that creates wealth for all Europeans instead of channeling it to GREEKS WHO DON'T PAY DENBT´S and so on. And, yes, cheap consumer goods made in China, too.

Lifestyle of the grill pill, currently considered to be threatened by (in Europe) 15 years of no growth, environmentalists blocking your traffic and trying to tax your meat, immigrants (in a variety of ways) and weird wokesters who think you should be interested in US-imported causes you don't understand and which don't seem to affect your life, expect perhaps negatively. Maintenance of a set of secular societal values that were common in your childhood and associated with a period of economic growth. Extremely exploitable by right-wing political parties unless they start getting uptight about sex stuff or partying; the 90s-00s lifestyle still includes casual sex, alcohol and feeling absolutely no shame about not going to church on Sundays, after all, perhaps even moreso (in the first two cases) than now.

Is it social conservatism? If your reference point is the 1950s, well, no, but that's 70 years ago - might as well be the 1850s, insofar as most people are concerned.

Going to push back a bit on "the early 90s [were] the true golden age of the West". The way I remember it, there was a lot of abundance but also a deep ideological conformity and a corrosive cynicism. I remember the 00s better but I remember it as a time that was resolutely anti-ideological, such that any hint of sincerity was mocked and any possibility that we hadn't discovered the only philosophy man would ever need was almost incomprehensible. The great questions of life were regarded as solved or irrelevant.

Our current crisis is unpleasant in many ways but at least we know the wokeness exists. It's something that one can recognise when implemented, it's something that you can identify with or stand against (even if one is afraid to stand against it publicly). There is far more, and better, free thought now than there was in the 90s and 00s.

I'm not saying it was necessarily the "true golden age" (a thing with no objective criteria, really), I'm saying that it's easy to view it that way. The conformity and the anti-ideological nature of it all are arguments for why people would see it that way, not against it. If one's criteria for good life are purely hedonistic and materialistic, good and free thought is not all that important - a clarity that it's been all solved and you can just concentrate on living your best life is far better.

Fair enough. It’s a common perspective and I wanted to provide a counter-proposal.

I'm going to be blunt here - the reason why there's current nostalgia for the 90's, is that is now the age where middle-aged people were now children. Shockingly, about a decade ago, there was nostalgia for the 80's, including I'm sure paens to how the culture was better then as well, because everybody, even libs, didn't like the Commies or whatever.

Also, as somebody who was alive during the 90's, there were many, many, many, many social conservatives upset about the current state of things at the time, and looked toward the prior generation of pre-11/22/1963, just like the current middle-aged people look to a pre-9/11 age. Oh, wow, groups of people looking back around 30 years to an imagined past. Weird how that continually happens.

There will be people upset about whatever in 2050, who will talk about the 2020's as a golden time. Hell, there was nostalgia for the Depression as people freaked about how teenagers had freedom and such in the late 50's and early 60's.

Also, as somebody who was alive during the 90's, there were many, many, many, many social conservatives upset about the current state of things at the time, and looked toward the prior generation of pre-11/22/1963, just like the current middle-aged people look to a pre-9/11 age. Oh, wow, groups of people looking back around 30 years to an imagined past. Weird how that continually happens.

I think a couple big differences are that, today, this is a common view of social progressives rather than of social conservatives. Social conservatives seem to be pining for stuff that was considered old fashioned and backwards in the 90s. Another big difference is that these people were pining for the nostalgic 90s (and actually the 00s as well) at least 10 years ago, so this isn't something that happened to middle-aged people. It was that adults in their 20s and 30s (I've even seen teens, actually!) were remembering what things were like fairly recently and concluded that, in some important dimensions regarding the culture war, things were better back then, and coming to these conclusions due to the specifics of how these societies looked relative to their progressive standards.

I'd also note that the nostalgia for the 80s that we saw perhaps a decade ago seemed to be purely aesthetic, with things like 80s fashion and pop culture coming back en vogue, but I saw very little talk about how much better something like, say, race relations or censorship was back then. In contrast to the nostalgia for the 90s (and, again, much of 00s actually) seem to be around the actual ideological regimes that influenced our day-to-day lives.

Sure, I thought of that, but the years I pegged here as the golden age - late 90s, early 00s - were horrible for me. I was not a child, I was in junior high, I was bullied, didn't have friends, any thought of having a GF was incredibly remote, the works. The post-08 years, in particular, have in almost every way been better for me. Still, objectively speaking, the global vibes had a marked difference that is also possible for me to now analyze.

Also, as somebody who was alive during the 90's, there were many, many, many, many social conservatives upset about the current state of things at the time, and looked toward the prior generation of pre-11/22/1963, just like the current middle-aged people look to a pre-9/11 age. Oh, wow, groups of people looking back around 30 years to an imagined past. Weird how that continually happens.

Well, yes, that's almost the definition of conservatism. Conservatism tends to change a lot, ironically more than liberalism or socialism. I was just analyzing the current particular mode of conservatism and its underpinnings.

Well, since we're being blunt...

The first issue with the whole "the past was not better" argument is that we cannot trust progressives to admit it, if it was. The entire legitimacy of progressivism rests on things getting better, so mentioning even stagnation gets them antsy, let alone a decline. Not even a partial concession is possible, nor an acknowledgement of a trade off, because if some things got better while others got worse, some people might be prone to ask "was it really worth it?". Indeed, for a defense of modern culture there's scarcely a mention of anything you find good about it.

The second problem is that the entire argument boils down to an extremely flattening equivocation: there was cultures war before, there is culture war now, culture war = culture war => things aren't worse.

As someone who also lived through the 90's I can tell you there was a marked difference between the discourse of today and back then. Back then progressives were pushing for race blindness and harmony, now they're pushing for centering race as an identity and racial conflict. Now, you can point out that harmony was not achieved at the time - muh Rodney King riots etc. - that does not detract that it was explicitly what progressives were fighting for, and now they are explicitly fighting for racial conflict. That looks like a decline to me.

As fun as it is to point at conservatives of yesteryear handwringing over trivial things, and smugly point out that society has not fallen apart, I'm not sure you can actually look at how things have developed and declare that nothing has gotten worse. Sure, back in the 90's conservatives were losing their minds over on-screen titties, and while the world has not literally ended, the rampant sexualization in media got so bad that young audiences of all people are saying it's getting a bit much for them, which to me is a clear sign something has gone terribly wrong.

We could go over the issues this way, though I'm not sure how convincing either of us will find it, and you maybe right we'll have impassioned arguments in the 2050's how not-quite-so-terrible the 2020's were, but that doesn't mean people arguing it will be wrong.

There will be people upset about whatever in 2050, who will talk about the 2020's as a golden time.

The rest of your comment is defensible, but unless things pick up dramatically a decade defined by three-ish years under government lockdown being looked back on with nostalgia would require things to be pretty bad by the 2050s I would think.

There won't be nostalgia for the bad things, just like there's no nostalgia over the Rodney King riots or the OKC bombing, but for the aesthetic, and how it was better for reasons. It'll just be nostalgia for Fortnite, whatever shows on Netflix teens like these days, maybel Marvel, and the styles of the time.

As a side note, nobody was under lockdown for 3 years in the US. I'm in one of the most blue parts of America, and even here, things were fairly normal by summer/fall of 2021 as far as places being open and being able to go to them. Yes, mask mandates were longer and concerts checked for vaccines longer, and you can dislike that, but saying there were three years of gov't lockdown is just a lie.

People in the UK got nostalgic about the Blitz. A feeling of “we’re all in it together” is attractive for a lot of people.

Does the US need a large army at all? A small high-tech army is good enough if your goal is to topple foreign governments, it's annexing nearby countries that requires a large body of infantry. The US isn't going to send a million men into the P.R. of China or even Iran, it isn't going to start another Mexican-American War either.

They need a large army to repress the domestic population in case shit hits the fan. "Political power grows out of a barrel of a gun" at the end of the day.

No, they don’t, using the army for internal police has historically failed. It didn’t work for Britain in NI, it didn’t save the Soviet Union, and honestly the colonels are the ones who you need to worry about when SHTF, because that’s prime time for military coups(if the US is even intact still; state governments have militaries, resources, and territorial control beyond the dreams of the feds).

What you need to oppress heartlanders is a much, much, much larger FBI. That’s currently not in the cards.

It could have worked for Britain in NI if Britain had been willing to kill large numbers of people, but - probably out of a mix of knowing that the PR hit would be gruesome (for example, the US has many influential Irish who would have been upset) and maybe also some genuine morality - it wasn't.

In the late 1980s/early 1990s, the Soviet Union didn't seriously try to hold itself together through military force. For the most part and in most places, its military units just stood aside and did nothing while the system slowly unraveled. There was little political will to try to use force to preserve the regime. If there had been, I am not sure if the attempt would have succeeded, but there wasn't anyway so we never got to find out.

But in that case, how much of the failure to recruit the "traditional warrior caste" OP talks about is a benefit, rather than a problem? As a commenter at Jim's blog recently put it:

People who say the military of today is worse than the military of 2000 don’t know the metrics that GAE values: which military is more likely to obey orders to carpet bomb Omaha, NE?

Toppling foreign governments requires massive militaries. It is if anything the most man-power intensive form of war. Firing a few multi-million dollar missiles from platforms that cost hundreds of millions of dollars isn't going to knock out Iran. Even if a small force rolled into Tehran, they wouldn't be able to control more than a tiny area. Afghanistan required US troops in every valley in the country to be won.

How many governments has the US toppled by shipping hundreds of thousands of infantrymen abroad since WWII? Iraq required less than 200k, as did Afghanistan.

How many governments has the US toppled by shipping hundreds of thousands of infantrymen abroad since WWII?

Two, but it was more of a "temporarily threatened" and less of a "toppling".

Funny, because I think we've had this exact debate over whether air power alone can win wars the last time exuberance about being able to kill people remotely got to people.

AI will just lead to a rehash. At least until the robots can do a passable job as filthy occupiers.

I think the point is that the US isn’t going to overthrow the Iranian government. It’s not viable. In the same way, it was only “viable” to overthrow Saddam because the Baathists were a Sunni minority ruling over a largely Shia population who were ultimately happy to see him go (and who are now in charge).

Regime change works when a huge proportion of the population wants it and the US intervenes in their favor. Even Afghanistan had substantial and longstanding domestic opposition to the Taliban. The only other option is a government so sclerotic that it just crumpled under the slightest real pressure. Cuba would probably just collapse if the US invaded, but again it isn’t really worth it now.

The US could certainly overthrow the Iranian government; a government cannot govern if every time an official pops his head up to make a proclamation he gets a bullet in it. What the US couldn't do is replace it with anything better.

One obvious (though probably also very unworkable) option would of course just be the Finland Option: conscription.

probably also very unworkable

Yep.

The US clearly does not need conscription to defend itself. Its nuclear weapons more than suffice. If Finland built nuclear weapons, it probably would not have any need for conscription either.

And I think that people in the US would quickly come to understand this if the government tried to enact conscription. In the US, conscription for defensive purposes is completely unnecessary. And not many people in the US, on either the left or the right, would be ok with conscription for offensive purposes.

Its nuclear weapons more than suffice.

That and the Navy as a first line. And the Navy needs highly trained experts to operate its ships, not bodies to throw at a meat grinder. If it came to "The Big One", the US would have much more need of workers to be funneled to industry, armament manufacturers and shipyards than combat service.

This would burn down major cities, mostly blue ones, and degrade the quality of recruits. The American military is actually very picky about who it takes and mass conscription obviously doesn’t work with that.

This would burn down major cities, mostly blue ones, and degrade the quality of recruits

For no reason. What major conflict does the US have on the horizon that would require conscription? Any US V China war would be decided by equipment loss well before it got to man power issues.

Guarantee citizenship for half a decade of service, or something similar.

As far as I know, a year of service already guarantees citizenship qualifies for naturalization. Although starting to depend on foreign fighters is generally pointed to as one of the points of decline in the Roman Empire.

Of the bunch, I suspect the US can, for now, afford your Midas option, or at least ways of making enlistment a more competitive time investment for young folks. It seems the current vibe is more "joined because I can't afford college" in a time when student loans and increasing incomes are providing alternatives. Plus there could be more investment in making veterans high-status, although that's probably too right-coded for the current administration to target -- and social status isn't easily enforced in a top-down fashion.