A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger

A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger

A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger

A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger


Surveys show that the all-volunteer military is our most respected and trusted institution, but over the last thirty-five years it has grown estranged from civilian society. Without a draft, imperfect as it was, the military is no longer as representative of civilian society. Fewer people accept the obligation for military service, and a larger number lack the knowledge to be engaged participants in civilian control of the military.

The end of the draft, however, is not the most important reason we have a significant civil-military gap today. A More Perfect Military explains how the Supreme Court used the cultural division of the Vietnam era to change the nature of our civil-military relations. The Supreme Court describes itself as a strong supporter of the military and its distinctive culture, but in the all-volunteer era, its decisions have consistently undermined the military's traditional relationship to law and the Constitution. Most people would never suspect there was anything wrong, but our civil-military relations are now as constitutionally fragile as they have ever been.

A More Perfect Military is a bracingly candid assessment of the military's constitutional health. It crosses ideological and political boundaries and is challenging-even unsettling-to both liberal and conservative views. It is written for those who believe the military may be slipping away from our common national experience. This book is the blueprint for a new national conversation about military service.


There is no more delicate subject in America today than the fitness of the all-volunteer military. Thirty-five years after Congress dismantled the military draft at the end of the Vietnam War, we find it difficult to have serious, honest conversations about the meaning of military service or the wisdom of military policies. Any discussion of who should be serving in the military, and whether this special responsibility and privilege is fairly shared among all Americans, is extraordinarily sensitive. The subject becomes even more difficult, almost untouchable, when we ask whether the military might be more effective if we made different choices. Maybe we should rethink who should be allowed to serve in the military, or who should volunteer to serve, or perhaps who should be required to serve as an obligation of citizenship. Maybe we should, but we probably won’t. Any suggestion we could have something less than the very best people serving in the military today is one of the most taboo subjects of national security debate.

The lesson we have learned all too well is that there is very little to be gained by asking whether the military could in some sense be better, because someone will inevitably interpret the question as an insult meant to convey there is something wrong with the military. We don’t consider whether young people joining the military could be better in terms of education, maturity, experience, or temperament, whether the military’s professional leadership could be better, whether civilian government’s management of the military could be better, or whether the relationship between the military and the rest of America could be better. In the last thirty-five years, certainly few people have been rewarded for thinking creatively about the military. No one wants to go down that road, because no one, of course, ever wants to be accused of not supporting the troops. The most effective conversation stopper ever invented in contemporary American dialogue is the charge that someone doesn’t respect the military or those who serve in the military.

There is an uneasy and sometimes unbearable tension between appreciation and critique whenever we discuss the all-volunteer military and the people who serve our country in uniform. Surveys show that the military is . . .

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