One of the issues the Institute investigated the report we released last week on the impact of war in North Carolina -- "America's most military-friendly state" -- is the lengths the armed forces will go to recruit new soldiers.
It's no secret that the military targets working-class and low-income youth -- especially from rural areas -- for recruitment. As our report showed (pdf), five of the top 10 states in number of youth recruited are in the South. Over half of those who have died in Iraq came from towns of less than 25,000.
And it's also no secret that recruiters will use misinformation and other shady tactics to lure young people into the military. North Carolina at War also includes an interview with Jimmy Massy, an Iraq war veteran and former recruiter who openly talks about how he was encouraged to bend the rules to bring in new young people:
There was a particular incident where I signed up a mentally handicapped young man...to make a long story short, this young man went to boot camp and was kicked out, saying that he defrauded the U.S. government and hid his medical problems. I knew this was a complete lie. I knew of his medical problems, we just covered them up. [...]
It was after that point [that I started to become indifferent to the military], because you're taught from the very beginning when you go into Marine Corps boot camp about honor, courage, and commitment, that Marines don't lie, Marines don't steal - all [this] Boy Scout ethos and morality. When we got on recruiting duty, that creed and code no longer existed.
As war has over-extended the military, the pressures to recruit have led to major stories of abuse, which is what has inspired the Pentagon to announce they are taking new steps to rein in "recruiter misconduct":
The military is considering installing surveillance cameras in recruiting stations across the country, the most dramatic of several new steps to address a rise in misconduct allegations against military recruiters -- including sexual assaults of female prospects and bending the rules to meet quotas. [...]
Recruiters may also be required to give potential recruits "applicant's rights cards," spelling out what a recruiter can and cannot do to get them to enlist, and the military may set up a hot line to report violations, according to the letter.
Together, they mark the Pentagon's most forceful attempt to address what government investigators say is an increase in the number of recruiters using questionable tactics -- and breaking the law in some cases -- while trying to fill the Pentagon's need for new soldiers and Marines.
These may be useful steps -- but it sounds like the Pentagon is addressing the symptom, not the problem. As long as recruiters are being called on help recruit 92,000 new troops over the next five years -- at a time when public disenchantment with war is growing -- recruiters will likely resort to "any means necessary" to bring in new blood.