If a Covid-19 Vaccine is Discovered, It Will be a Boon to Military Recruiters

There is some good news coming out of the terror of the Covid-19 pandemic. We on the left aren’t  usually acquainted with anything even remotely approaching good news. How could it be otherwise, always being at the margins of society and at the margins of national consciousness? Bernie touted himself as a liberal with some leaning toward the left, but that proved to be a gargantuan hoax, and now Joe Biden says that he will put some of the policy positions of the Sanders campaign on the Democratic platform. The latter and $4. will get readers a fancy cup of coffee at Starbucks.

But yes, I reiterate, there is some good news on the left, and that’s separate from the hopeful prospects of a Covid-19 vaccine. The pandemic has cut military recruitment to a trickle, with recruits having to wait for boot camp and training programs in the military. The military faces the same obstacles in operating that the Covid-19 infection have caused across the entire globe.

An argument can no longer be made for self-defense as was the case after September 11, 2001. The Cold War that began with the end of World War II was a failure to lean the lessons of that war and begin a policy of mutual cooperation among the superpowers and in the developing world.

No More ‘Kneecap to Kneecap’ Talks: Coronavirus Hinders Military Recruiting,” New York Times, May 20, 2020, presents the case of the dire recruiting consequences of Covid-19. After 19 years of endless wars and expanding US military presence across the globe, not to mention the trillions of dollars pissed away on wars, the individual soldiers that the military-industrial-financial complex depends on greasing its gears of war can’t bring in the numbers of new recruits necessary to keep a tight hold on empire and wealth.

It’s not that military operations can’t proceed as usual, or that CIA secret operations can’t go on, or that mercenary forces aren’t in the field all around the world It’s just that looking down the road, recruiters know that Covid-19 is messing with “their hopes to fit the Army’s need for thousands of new recruits each year.” Even with the “innovation” of drone warfare, the military needs those boots on the ground, or at least the threat of those boots, and people trained in the use of  nuclear weapons. All the stuff of empire and war needs human hands to operate.

A faltering economy usually spells success for military recruiters. But a sector that relies on face-to-face interactions to bring in newcomers — followed by mandatory medical exams and intensive job training in close quarters — has been hampered by the pandemic, which has curtailed recruitment efforts and hobbled some service members who are forced into quarantine for weeks on end before they can get to their first assignment.

The combination has the potential to compromise the pipeline that is essential to the military’s goal of perpetual readiness, a central concern of Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper. Last month, Matthew Donovan, the under secretary [sic] of defense for personnel and readiness, suggested that not all the services were going to meet their recruiting goals this year with the pressures of Covid-19.

The military is using retention of active duty troops to buck the problem with recruits. Readers will recall that during the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers were assigned to those wars again and again and again with the resulting massive number of cases of PTSD and serious injuries to soldiers.

Recruiters have turned to many techniques to get perspective recruits ready to sign up for the military in what the Times categorizes as “sales techniques.”

Why anyone would want to join the military is beyond me. With hundreds of bases across the globe, those endless wars, and constant threats of violence against China and Iran, those causes are hardly worth breaking a sweat over unless a person has stocks in Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, or Northrop Grumman, among other “masters of war.”  If a person signed up to fight Covid-19, then that would be a different matter, but the US lost that war months ago. Many of the dead from that relentless disease generally come from the same socio-economic strata as do perspective recruits. Maybe it’s Chris Hedges’ War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, or the flag, or endless battles against terrorists? I don’t know, but what I do know is that if a vaccine is discovered, there will be plenty of recruits for the military because the job market could look something like the surface of the moon. Perhaps some of those troops can be deployed operating drones to monitor the recalcitrant critics of US militarism, or patrol the streets of the US, a tactic banned by US law (Posse Comitatus Act), or maybe put other critics of US policy in prison awaiting military tribunals because we don’t have the right to habeas corpus anymore. Hyperbole? Perhaps, but not if the political climate movers further to the right in the U.S. Whatever the outcomes, it will be boom time for those salesmen and women in military recruitment offices.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).