Desertion and the American Soldier, 1776-2006

Desertion and the American Soldier, 1776-2006

Desertion and the American Soldier, 1776-2006

Desertion and the American Soldier, 1776-2006

Excerpt

Desertion, defined here as the willful departure from a military obligation —either conscripted or volunteered—is not new. The ancient Greeks contended with this issue and no nation since then has been exempt from it.

In order to maintain the discipline necessary for any nation to achieve its military goals the government of that nation has traditionally framed desertion in the most negative light possible. Deserters are referred to as cowards and traitors who, if caught, face execution. While this portrayal has had at least some effectiveness in discouraging desertion, it has, as will be shown, not met with more than a modicum of success.

For the United States, the consolidation of its economic and military power base over two centuries has often involved invasions of sovereign nations. “[T]he nation born of the first colonial revolution in modern history had itself become a colonial ruler.” During many of those and other military campaigns a policy of conscription has been used to assure the manpower necessary to achieve the nation’s goals. Desertion remains an issue whether military personnel have volunteered or been conscripted. Nations sympathetic to the plight of Americans seeking asylum within their borders are generally more tolerant during times of conscription.

During times of any armed conflict, whether the fledgling nation sought its independence from its colonizer, or when interfering in a civil war in Southeast Asia, the populace, at least initially, generally supports the government and its

1. Cooper, John Milton. 1990. Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900–1920; p. 17.

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