The war drums beat on, the media and public officials certain that the enemy must be conquered. Again, the war is way over there, away from home, in someone else’s. The public for the most part is conditioned to merely accept that war is inevitable, for the liberal democracies of Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA it is ‘obligation’. Whether the voting tax base wants war or not, seldom matters. As bombs drop in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Israel destroys Gaza, the Russians fight in the Ukraine, Washington and it’s allies talk about war with Iran, China, North Korea and Russia. Perpetual war is the health of empire, the glory of the nation, and the profit for many. But who will fight these wars?
Many of the veterans who fought in the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan are past their prime, dead, injured or cynical of the government that exploited them. The recruitment drives, even as the criteria is lowered is seducing less and less willing bodies to fill the uniforms. The career incentive to join the military is not as appealing with the prospect of war, the candidates are not so naive and removed from the understanding that their mental and physical health may be at risk should they venture into another overseas war. And those who traditionally joined to fight to protect and defend are less inclined to do so given that the military is an offensive instrument of policy, recklessly used with little regard for consequence or foresight. War it seems is an extension of domestic politics by other means but the benefactors don’t fight in them.
In 2024 it is hard enough for a lot of employers to find capable young workers who can handle physical or moderately skilled work, who will turn up consistently. It’s easier for a lot of people to lean into the welfare state, to seek comfortable jobs that don’t have consequence or to find careers that don’t involve killing. Physical and mental health is a meandering factor, in cultures that swell with obesity and have a growing populace riddled with depression and anxiety over the every day. In Australia it is easier and far more profitable for someone to either go on a disability pension for a litany of reasons, real or imagined or to become a high paid support worker for said pensioners rather than diving into military or even police service.
War is at times a voyeurs experience, one to be cuckolded to others for entertainment or cynicism, it is the religion of Anglosphere. Every generation has its war, has a foreign land that rolls off the tongue with ease only to return to forgotten obscurity in a generations time. Some however like ‘Vietnam’ or ‘Iraq’ linger permanently, to be known as a war. While others are forgotten as war zones but exist as destinations for the grandchildren to visit, enjoy the food or marry from, ‘Korea’ or ‘Malaysia’. The adventurers, true believers, mercenaries and those with seemingly no other options do enlist, but less of them exist.
It is not just that the military is struggling to get new recruits but also re-enlistments. The relationship between the military and its members is disfigured as the inefficiency and dysfunction is now more openly discussed. Plus on social media anti-military voices are competing against the slogans and at times empty promises of recruiters in a tug of war between the warstate and those who are sceptical or anti its very existence. Social media ‘influencers’ like the Island Boys are paid to push recruitment for the Army alongside the advertising of energy drinks and other affiliate marketing thrown their way. Though it is unlikely that they themselves would enlist or be capable of doing so. The children watching are impressionable all the same. But must see it as ‘cringe’ and desperate.
The woke culture messaging has also harmed the military, as it has disenfranchised its traditional base while attempting to appeal to those who have no stomach for training let alone warfare. The wars itself along with the governments own woke cultural shift and attempts at inclusion have deranged the recruiters task of satisfying numbers and valuable candidates for the services. Confused advertising and a disdain for who usually fills the uniforms in warfare has hamstrung the military when it needs bodies to kill and die for it. A woke window dressing and shift to satisfy the academic and corporate zeitgeist may seem empowering but in reality is another form of mandated delusion.
The government’s will for war exceeds its populations capacity to wage it. Conscription tends to not be a viable solution, Ukraine and Russia have embraced such traditions of martial slavery and it has unveiled a force of fodder to be killed or betrayed by their governments idiocy or those reluctant to fight. Another generation of ‘McNamara’s Morons’ is an unlikely solution either given the motivation and adaptability of the enemies as they fight on home soil, innovating while the technology first doctrine married to dependent conscripts or ‘morons’ may lead to a liability to both commanders and what few skilled and motivated professionals remain to fight the wars.
Regardless of the human attrition and how widely spread the capable and willing may become in such a war, the high maintenance of many weapon systems will erode their capabilities over time. Skilled crews and technicians will be required to work almost non-stop not to mention the manufacture and logistics required to feed such machines for prolonged operations, especially in combat against an enemy who is near peer or in some theatres a peer level threat. It is one thing to attack Houthi’s in Yemen who are recovering from years of war against the Saudi coalition but it is another to wage war against Iran or China on their home turf, a war that they have been preparing for. Because let’s not forget, neither of them have ambitions to invade Australia, the US or UK. The reverse it seems is a constant.
Images of drones chasing Russian or Ukraine soldiers around their AFV’s only to detonate once in proximity exposes us to the modern realities of war. The distance between the killer and the killed is not a new thing. The drone and remote weapon system is becoming smaller, with greater range and versatility that soon we may have people logging on for a few hours a day from home to assassinate strangers thousands of kilometres away with as much regard as though they are killing NPC’s in a computer game. Though that in itself is not how wars are to be won. That same technology and efficiency of distance will be used against the invader as well. The likeliness of sympathetic outsiders ‘logging’ on to join the fight is a reality that may also occur. Those who fight for both sides given any incentive is also a reality, so long as they have a device that allows them to connect to the remote killing machines. The future it remains.
Contractors are becoming more common, not mercenaries that may switch sides according to who the highest bidder is. Rather professionals who are not constrained by government religion when it comes to how a military must serve and act in matters of formal tradition and legal status. Killers and operators who serve the government, work alongside the military and should they die not become a statistic that influences politics at home. Many are ex-servicemen of the government that they now are hired by, trained and motivated elements that perform tasks as a service to their singular customer. The Russians on the other hand have a more varied mercenary custom, one that is made up of contractors while also using prisoner units, inspired by the promise of pay and freedom. Both ancient aspects of war to be dug up in a modern context.
Mercenaries and even drone operators are still only a finite resources, automated systems are a little way off and wars of such a scale on so many fronts will still require boots on the ground. The imaginations of the stoic German soldier manning the Atlantic wall in the weeks before D-Day betray the reality that many of the defending Wehrmacht were former Soviet soldiers and a rag tag of convalescing others. Horse drawn weapons from those captured to mutations of expedience with men in ill fitting uniforms crisscrossing a frontier that consumed man and material was the other reality far in the East. Contrary to the mechanised depictions of a technologically superior, super race of warriors. The reality then as it is now, logistics, man power and attrition are factors in war.
Waging numerous small wars on limited scales or even as occupying forces in an attempt to ‘civilise’ a wilderness will consume. They can become black holes that suck the life, money and material out of an invader. Yet still mostly men will be required for these prolonged operations. The well for such men is running dry, the post ‘911’ era provided many eager bodies and minds who felt the euphoria for vengeance and to defend against the enemies of ‘good’. The terrorists and their ‘alien religion’ was an easy to hate spectre as the twin towers smouldered into smoke and ash. Over two decades later and the reality of such wars is more apparent to the wider public, those willing men are now dead, injured or robbed of their youth. The next generation does not have the eagerness for war, the crusaders zeal is not so widely felt.
So, as the drums of war beat and the call to arms is suggested by those who will never fight it. Who will? No matter what the claimed reasons for war is, spreading democracy, human rights, humanitarianism, security or hegemonic expedience for many at home, they may very well agree. But agree enough to enlist? Unlikely. Many who do believe in the need for war are the creatures of facebook or social media bobble heads, spectators and opinion spewers alike. They are most welcome to form their own battalions to fight for cause. They won’t, rather instead they will merely support the government in its ambition to send mostly men to die and kill. Those killers however are becoming fewer. Improving technology so that the human element for war is less important, finding incentives to pay, reward and motivate human beings so that they will kill strangers with little regard, regardless of reason are weak solutions. The one constant, regardless of the means and methods is that war will always hurt the innocent, perhaps in time as the liberal democracies depress into ill health and rely on automated machines to do the killing, it will be from the minds of the weapons who grow the morality to say, “no more”. For now, while some minds in government seek more war, the public’s flesh is less willing or too flabby to make it so.