Follow us on social


Marine veteran: draft the elites — that'll end our wars fast enough

A draft of the upper income bracket might be the way to get Americans more engaged and more 'invested' in our conflicts overseas.

Military Industrial Complex

Author Elliot Ackerman wants to bring back the draft and he wants to make military service mandatory for the American elite — a strata of American society he believes has no “skin in the game” and therefore has ignored, or worse, has promoted, the policies that have kept the U.S. at war for the last 20 years.

“I’m not serious but I’m kind of serious,” Ackerman told an audience today at the All-Volunteer Force Forum. (See entire video here.) The question, he said, “is how to engage the American people, to get them to pay attention to the critical issues of war and peace. And how do we get the right people paying attention to these issues ... those are the elites, and for the most part they have opted out.”

Aside from the purse-string holders, policymakers, and Blob that craft and push war, the top income bracket in the United States has “opted out” in the sense that they don’t serve. Their friends, relations and neighbors don’t serve. That is for someone else to do. Therefore they don’t really care about America’s global military footprint, its interventions, its endless military deployments overseas. 

A potential solution: conscripting 5 percent of the active-duty and reserve forces — about 65,000 out of 1.3 million total. 

Ackerman, 40, is hardly an empty provocateur trying to make a point. He spent eight years in the U.S Marine Corps, serving several deployments in both infantry and special operations in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. He has a masters in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a White House fellow in the Obama Administration. He’s a bestselling author. Read his Wikipedia page, his background is elite.

But his moment of epiphany came during a fellow Marine’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery, looking out across the Potomac River to the imperial city beyond and imagining all of the denizens of that important center and their cluelessness to what war is. “They have no idea what’s happening,” he recalled himself thinking. 

With less than one-half of one percent of the American population serving in the post-9/11 wars that’s a good way to describe most people, even those who write and think about war every day and follow foreign policy obsessively for every tick and tussle. Being there, having loved ones there — that’s investment. If more Americans were invested, Washington would not be able to use our forces so blithely and unaccountably.

“We have created a very unhealthy dynamic in this country’s approach to war,” he said. “What is very dangerous is that America’s relationship to war has become dysfunctional. Americans think if something happens it’s over there, it doesn’t affect me. If an American division goes into Syria it doesn’t affect me. That’s a great way to sleepwalk into a war.”

As explained by a number of speakers at the event, which was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Statesmanship at Catholic University and the College of William & Mary, is that the post-9/11 all-volunteer force has allowed politicians to wage war largely at the periphery of citizens’ consciousness by keeping the immediate costs of blood (so few are doing all the sacrificing) and treasure (not increasing taxes) down. 

“But the bill always comes due,” Ackerman said. Endless wars abroad have both tangible and existential costs and lead to conflicts and institutional threats we don’t anticipate. One may be that the forces are having a hard time recruiting young people today. According to one panelist, retired Maj. Gen. Dennis Laich, only 15 percent of recruitment-age Americans (18-24) even think about serving. 

Elites have allowed the rest of society to fight wars they directly or tacitly approve through apathy. It should be time they “re-invest.” A draft might sound overly dramatic, but so does a war that goes on so long that children who were born when it began are now signing up for Selective Service.

 “Democracy only works when you have an engaged citizenry,” Ackerman charged. Just the specter of a draft, he said, “that’ll cause more engagement.”

Library of Congress/Public Domain
Military Industrial Complex
Labour's delusions about UK foreign policy

British Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and British Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy walk in Westminster, London, Britain, February 22, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson

Labour's delusions about UK foreign policy


When it comes to foreign and security policy, the new British Labour government has inherited a very bad hand from its predecessors, which it would take great skill to play with any success. Unfortunately, judging by its statements so far, not only does the new administration lack such skill, it is not even sure what game it is playing.

With the partial exception of policy towards the EU, it does not in fact appear that Labour policy will differ significantly from that of the Conservatives. Nor indeed can it differ, if it is determined to go on operating within the very narrow parameters laid down by the British foreign and security establishment. The unconditional allegiance of this establishment to the United States makes even thinking about British national interests difficult, if not impossible.

keep readingShow less
Menendez's corruption is just the tip of the iceberg

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) looks on, following his bribery trial in connection with an alleged corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen, in New York City, U.S., July 16, 2024. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Menendez's corruption is just the tip of the iceberg


Today, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) became the first U.S. senator ever to be convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. While serving as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez ghost-wrote a letter and approved arms sales on behalf of the Egyptian regime in exchange for bribes, among other crimes on behalf of foreign powers in a sweeping corruption case. An Egyptian businessman even referred to Menendez in a text to a military official as “our man.”

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Menendez was engaging in politics for profit. "Because Senator Menendez has now been found guilty, his years of selling his office to the highest bidder have finally come to an end,” he said.

keep readingShow less
European parliament takes a hard line on Iran

France, Strasbourg, 2023-12-13. Member of the European Parliament Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance Hannah Neumann in the Meeting of European Parliament Plenary session - Council and Commission statements - European Defense investment program (EDIP). Photograph by Genevieve Engel via REUTERS

European parliament takes a hard line on Iran


As Iran’s president-elect Massoud Pezeshkian is sending messages about his readiness to reengage with the West, the newly elected European Parliament seems to be moving ever further in a hawkish direction. That can be concluded from the appointment of the German Green Party lawmaker Hannah Neumann to chair the EP’s delegation to Iran in the assembly. Save for a major, and unlikely, upset, she’ll be formally endorsed in that position when the body reconvenes after its summer recess.

According to European Parliament rules, the task of inter-parliamentary delegations is to maintain and deepen relations with the parliaments of non-EU countries. Delegations are not the most influential bodies in the EU but they can offer a valuable channel of communication with third countries, particularly in cases when official relations are strained, as is the case with Iran. Or, alternatively, they can become a forum for ventilating grievances against those countries, thus contributing to shaping negative narratives and creating a political climate detrimental to productive diplomacy.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis



Subscribe now to our weekly round-up and don't miss a beat with your favorite RS contributors and reporters, as well as staff analysis, opinion, and news promoting a positive, non-partisan vision of U.S. foreign policy.