A retired general offers his opinions on the state of America’s volunteer army and some suggestions for its future.
In this short but substantial book, former U.S. Army Gen. Laich delivers a detailed assessment of America’s all-volunteer force, elaborating on what led to its creation in 1973 and evaluating its performance since then—particularly as it’s waged two wars at once in Iraq and Afghanistan. His statistics are grim: Returning veterans are much more likely than civilians to commit suicide, abuse drugs and alcohol, and become homeless. He underscores the unfairness of the volunteer model, which fills the armed services with disproportionate numbers of lower-income people, leaving wealthier, better educated people underrepresented. He also decries the planning failures that led to the use of reservists and National Guard troops in combat despite their lack of readiness and to the redeployment of servicemen for combat tours after insufficient recovery time stateside. He clearly has no patience for the civilian and military leaders who’ve let these situations arise. However, Laich’s main point is that the AVF has failed because it was asked to conduct a protracted overseas war—something it was never intended to do. The author handles this complex subject with a firm hand, marshaling data effectively to prove his points and striving to maintain an objective approach throughout. He’s very direct about how the military, by its very structure, discourages the sort of creative thinking needed to push through necessary reforms. He also resists the temptation to expound on policy—specifically, the wisdom of waging particular wars in the first place—which gives him added credibility. He accepts that America will inevitably become involved in military conflicts overseas; he just wants those deployments to be fair, efficient and sustainable.
An absolutely essential read for those concerned about the U.S. military, its purpose and its future.