Here is an extremely important fact: Black volunteers for the Army "have fallen 41 percent" (Tom Philpott, "Military Update: Black Army Recruits Down 41 Percent since 2000," The Daily Press, March 6, 2005). To be more precise, "[f]rom 22.7 percent at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the share [of Blacks among recruits] slid to 19.9 percent in 2002; 16.4 percent in 2003 and 15.9 percent last year, according to figures provided by Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith. The slide has continued, dropping to 13.9 percent as of Feb. 9." -- a severe blow to the Army, since it depends upon Blacks to supply "about 23 percent" of its active-duty troops today (Robert Burns/Associated Press, "Young Blacks Less Willing to Join the Army," Detroit Free Press, Tuesday, March 8, 2005). "Officer recruiting is hit, too. Black soldiers enrolled in the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps program is down 36 percent since 2001" (Philpott, March 6, 2005). Women are also shunning the Army: "the share of females in Army recruiting classes falling for four years running, from 21.6 percent in 2001 to 19.2 percent last year. It has slipped still further this year to 17.1 percent" (Burns, March 8, 2005). The plan to increase active-duty Army soldiers by 30,000, approved by Congress last year, is now in danger. The Army is about "6 percent behind schedule to meet its 2005 recruiting goal" (Burns, March 8, 2005).
The Iraq War -- especially fear of killing and dying in combat -- made all categories of youths less likely to join the military: fear of death and injury is "the top reason to avoid service for 26 percent of youth in 2004, almost double the 14 percent reported in 2000" (Philpott, March 6, 2005). Blacks' reasons for refusing to join the military, however, show a higher level of political consciousness than those of other groups: "Black youth were less supportive of U.S. troops' presence in Iraq, less likely to feel the war was justified, more disapproving of the Bush administration's handling of foreign affairs and more disapproving of its use of U.S. military forces than were whites or Hispanics," according to the Defense Department's Youth and Influencer Polls (qtd. in Philpott, March 6, 2005). Counter-recruitment activists should take note of the fact that parents -- particularly mothers -- are the most important influence, especially in Black communities: "A July 2004 study of parents' influence on young people of recruiting age found that black parents have more say in their child's career decisions than is the case with white parents. Also, black parents trust the military less and have more moral objections to military service" (Burns, March 8, 2005). It makes sense to emphasize community organizing more than campus organizing for the purpose of counter-recruitment.
The "propensity to serve" is thankfully very low, according to the "U.S. Military Image Study" (August 4, 2004) prepared for the Army (which both Burns and Philpott cite in the aforementioned articles).
What makes a minority of young people still consider enlistment? The top reason is, not surprisingly, money for college: 42% mention "education," and 27% specifically say that "pay for education/$ for college" is the top-of-mind reason for joining the military ("U.S. Military Image Study," August 4, 2004). That means that the anti-war movement is inseparable from a movement for economic justice. Already, the equivalent of four-year scholarships at public universities for "7,499,971 students" (National Priorities Project, Cost of War, March 8, 2005) has been spent on the Iraq War! Activists have to struggle harder for more state subsidies to higher education and lower tuitions and fees, so that all who want to go to college can do so without risking their lives in Iraq or anywhere else.
Last not the least, the "U.S. Military Image Study" is worth reading in its entirety, as it presents many fascinating findings that have not been reported by the media. To take just one example, the study, in the inimitable language of marketing experts, offers an unintentionally funny recommendation to the Army in its conclusion: "For the Army to achieve its mission goals with Future Force Soldiers, it must overhaul its image as well as its product offering" . . . because, "[i]n today's reality, the risk/reward ratio is even more out of balance" than usual (emphasis added, August 4, 2004, p. 98).