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Reasons For Not Becoming A Soldier

August 13, 2014


Modern military institutions, for the most part, are jobs programs.

With conventional warfare almost disappearing, the enlisted soldier has less and less to do.

What was historically a seasonal occupation is now a career for expendable individuals who have little usefulness in peaceful societies.

There are pitifully few wars to fight now and scarcer are the wars that need to be resolved by mass armies. So when the national armed forces’ ranks are swelled with recruits from the lower classes, they end up in vocational training for specific skills.

Even with the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan, Gaza, and Ukraine, most actual combat happening today involves paramilitaries.

But across the world, anywhere between 25 to 30 million men and women are serving in uniform.


The answer might never be known, but as the power of the state—the combined institutions that control a particular country—has grown in the last 200 years, so has the power of armies. In some cases, the army hijacks the state, with disastrous results and terrifying consequences.

There is no effort on behalf of governments to make people understand what purpose modern armies serve.

Unfortunately, the United States’ preeminence as the single most powerful country means the portrayal of its own military is skewed, thereby skewing the perception of other country’s militaries.

This is the same US that spends the most on its offensive power; arms and trains the soldiers of at least 30 countries; and has been actively fighting small wars without interruption for the last 25 years.

Because war is scarce. Because paramilitaries are preoccupied with the fighting and dying. Because the US monopolizes warfare.

Unless enlistment is mandatory, people from all walks of life have better things to do than become soldiers.

Here are more reasons.

Low pay

 The wounded soldiers – some walking on crutches, others missing limbs or with bandaged wounds – stormed out of a military hospital at the Giada barracks near Juba University, blocked traffic and threw stones at passing motorists as they demanded that their wages be paid immediately.

–Philip Aleu, Wounded South Sudan Soldiers Demand Unpaid Wages

Unpaid soldiers are a source of coups.  Also, smaller, well-trained, volunteer armies perform better than massive conscripted ones. It is easier to instill discipline and professionalism in a small force.

–Sean McFate, Raising An Army: Ten Rules


I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

–US veteran Tomas Young, The Last Letter

Substandard Equipment

…the troops’ tents date from the Soviet Union and are full of holes, which quickly flood whenever it rains. The soldiers have little to no body armor, tactical gloves or eye protection. Their fabrics are not burn-proof, and the palms of the soldier’s hands burned from firing his hot AK-47 without gloves.

They’re short on everything. Sleeping bags. Helmets. Socks. They’re particularly short on medicines and first aid. They’re superstitious about being wounded.

–Robert Beckhusen, Ukraine’s Army Slogs Through The Merciless Donbass

US composite GI videogame

The heroic soldier archetype in the popular imagination.


 Suicide has become an epidemic among those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan — an estimated 22 commit suicide each day — but the testimony before the House pointed to a mental health treatment system that has some of the same general treatment problems uncovered in the past two months at hundreds of VA hospital and clinics across the country.

–Travis J. Tritten, Veteran suicides called ‘horrible human costs’ of VA dysfunction

Oppressing Civilians

The Navy Mechanics School (ESMA) in Buenos Aires was Argentina’s most important clandestine detention and torture center (of 340 documented centers)…If the victim was a woman they went for the breasts, vagina, anus. If a man, they favored genitals, tongue, neck. Sometimes victims twitched so uncontrollably that they shattered their own arms and legs. Patrick Rice, an Irish priest who had worked in the slums and was detained for several days, recalls watching his flesh sizzle. What he most remembers is the smell. It was like bacon.

–Ian Guest, Behind the Disappearances

Palparan is facing kidnapping with serious illegal detention charges before the regional trial court in Malolos, Bulacan for the abduction and subsequent disappearance of Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006.

But he steadfastly claimed that Cadapan and Empeno were “full time” members of the New People’s Army…

…Cadapan and Empeno were seized along with farmer Manuel Merino in Hagonoy, Bulacan on June 26, 2006 by soldiers allegedly under Palparan’s orders.

‘The Butcher’ Falls

Killing Innocents

I saw one case where a woman was shot by a sniper, one of our snipers. When we got to her she was asking for water.

Then the lieutenant said to kill her. So they ripped off her clothes, stabbed both her breasts, and shoved an entrenching tool up her vagina…and she was still asking for water.

It wasn’t like they were humans. We were conditioned to believe this was good for the nation, it was good for the country. Everything we did was okay.

–Testimony from Winter Soldier, 1972

Thousands of Afghans have been killed or injured by US forces since the invasion, but the victims and their families have little chance of redress. The US military justice system almost always fails to hold its soldiers accountable for unlawful killings and other abuses.

–Richard Bennett, for Amnesty International’s Left In The Dark report

A real modern soldier. Poorly fed, poorly trained, poorly paid, poorly equipped, and just plain poor.

A real modern soldier. Poorly fed, poorly trained, poorly paid, poorly equipped, and just plain poor.

Children Always Participate

Andrew was recently put in a unit of reinforcements during an actual combat mission, but has so far avoided taking part in any battles. A Donetsk Republic militant says the boys have yet to be ‘baptized by fire’. Despite not being an adult, the terrorist group has already made him a commander of a training division.

Pro-Russian insurgents openly recruit child soldiers

The rebels capture those who can be useful to them, including children strong enough to carry weapons. The captives are tied together and marched to camps where they are violently indoctrinated and turned into soldiers, porters, cooks, or sex slaves.

–, The Lord’s Resistance Army

Murphy had always wanted to be a soldier, and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he tried to enlist, but the Army, Navy and Marine Corps all turned him down for being underweight and underage.

–Audie Murphy, Wikipedia profile

Crippled for Life

In the long and bitter-armed struggle waged for thirty years, tens of thousands have paid their dear lives, and thousands more have sustained light and heavy wounds. Some are now living with serious physical disabilities at the Eritrean war veteran center in Kassala, Sudan.

Conclusions:: The results imply that chemical warfare survivors suffering from late complications have a low health related quality of life.

Quality of Life in Iranian Chemical Warfare Veterans


 Methamphetamine went into wide use during World War II, when both sides used it to keep troops awake. High doses were given to Japanese Kamikaze pilots before their suicide missions. And after the war, methamphetamine abuse by injection reached epidemic proportions when supplies stored for military use became available to the Japanese public.

–Drug Free World, History of Methamphetamine

For all age groups, veterans with PTSD and substance use disorder were more likely to die from injuries than those with PTSD alone.

For veterans under age 45, those with PTSD and substance use disorder were more likely than older veterans to die from non-injury-related causes, reports.

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.


Earlier this month, the department reported 5,061 cases of sexual assault for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013, a 50-percent increase over the previous year. Defense officials said assaults often are preceded by harassment and that they are determined to stamp out both.

DOD releases figures on Sexual Harassment in Military

In a ground-breaking decision, a mobile military court held in Bukavu, in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) found, Lieutenant Colonel Mutuare Daniel Kibibi and nine others responsible for rape and terrorism as crimes against humanity for the mass rape of over 50 women and girls. The Court sentenced the Lt. Col. to 20 years imprisonment for ordering his troops to attack the village of Fizi on New Year´s Day.

Five lower level soldiers were found guilty of rape and inhumane acts and sentenced to either 10 or 15 years imprisonment.

Women’s Link Worldwide


Every year, some 800,000 conscripts enter the Russian military. For their first 12 months, as described in the Human Rights Watch report, they are virtual slaves to their older colleagues, forced to hand over money, food, personal effects, and perform tasks day and night for their “masters.” Insubordination is punished by beatings and humiliation. The climate of scarcity in the Russian military — where food supplies and proper supplies are often inadequate — encourage this system.

–Jeremy Bransten, Russia: Military Conscripts Caught In Deadly Cycle of Violence

Dire Poverty

According to the Council for the Protection of the Rights of the KLA Fighters, hundreds of veterans live in poverty without any financial or social support, while more than 40 ex-fighters have committed suicide because of poor living conditions.

–Edona Peci, Kosovo War Veterans Protest Over State ‘Neglect’