I was reading an older draft discussion and apparently the SSS did a study that said only 25% of draft aged men would be able to be immediately drafted into the US Armed Forces without either lowering the standards or granting mass exemptions for certain specific conditions. I’m going to assume the fact 75% of current American men are considered overweight as being the key factor in that.
So what would happen if we had another WW2 where 80% of the draft eligible men were actually drafted? I’m assuming that the overweight issue is the core cause of that, so would the military actually give in and create fat camps across the country that would funnel fat people in, make them lose weight, then put them into actual boot camps, or would they cut the middle man out and make the fat camps actual boot camps as well?
And what happens to fat men in other countries that have mandatory conscription, like Russia?
Yep. The reason the military doesn’t take people who are too fat is that they are more expensive. They may not pass the basic training the first time and will have to be “recycled”, where essentially they get shoved into the next basic training class and the next, losing weight all the while. They may also be put into a special fitness unit.
The next problem this creates is that this kind of extreme physical stress and lack of sleep can cause actual damage. Yes, they lose weight rapidly, but they may break bones or burn through joints as well. So now they are out of commission while they recover under the care of the VA.
So just in general, if the military has a choice, it’s going to take younger people who are already skinny. But it can deal with moderate fatties.
The standards aren’t holy writ. WW2 is totally different from anything the military expects to be involved in today, so if something like that happened again, they’d have to change a lot of stuff, including their amount of choosiness.
If there was a WW1/WW2 style requirement for a huge conscript army you might well see some serious public health initiatives to reduce obesity.
The first serious public health initiatives in history were started during WW1 when the powers that be realized how many potential conscripts were failing the (pretty lax) physical requirements the military had, due to poor living conditions in the working classes.
So that brings up the next question. How would the next world war even happen? Basically it would have to be the USA against a major world power with a massive military. That’s basically just China or the entire EU. And it presupposes that both sides retain enough discipline not to reach for the nukes right away.
The EU has major problems projecting power. But you’re missing India. And Russia. A possible major conflict could be India vs China with America on the sidelines. Indonesia might become a significant power, particularly in naval power.
Basic Training is the best fat camp ever invented. I was only a little overweight when I joined the service with the easiest of boot camps and lost 20+ pounds in 8 weeks. If the Navy can do that, no problem for the Army.
Standards-wise, there’s a cause and effect. They are set higher now than long ago due to wanting to have fewer, but better qualified personnel. If you get to the situation where you need a draft, then that goal is tossed out the window anyway.
So standards will naturally be lower when a draft is put in place. Not just weight/condition but also mental capabilities and intelligence.
Also, in such a situation the distinction between the Regular Army and the Army of the United States would expand like it did during WWII. Those soldiers that met the old standards might go into the Regular Army. Everyone else into the United States Army.
The problem alluded to by SamuelA (too much exercise crippling people before they can turn the corner to shaping up) looks plausible to me, though. If intensive compulsory exercise on the lines of military basic training really were such a panacaea for obesity I am sure governments would be pressured to pass legislation to enable Ulysses pacts for ‘compulsory fitness training regimes to be voluntary entered into’, and a lot of people would sign up for these Ulysses pacts (I know I’d have done so fifteen years ago when I was a desperate fattie at BMI 40).
Anyway, World War III would not be a good example for the industrialized nations reintroducing the draft. It is pretty generally agreed that WWIII would be fought over a period of weeks, months at most - the first draftees would not be trained in time to make a difference.
A more realistic use case for conscription would be a prolonged occupation of a large-ish country that has been militarily beaten the modern way, with firepower. For example, the US armed forces would have the firepower to compel Mexico’s surrender in a war, but do not have the manpower to occupy a nation of 120 million people. A draft could easily raise an occupying force of say 10 million pudgy soldiers, though (and I don’t see why such occupying troops would need to be be physically fit).
The modern US Army has high admittance standards because it’s a volunteer force that’s relatively selective about who it brings in. The high command don’t want a bunch of dumb labor doing grunt work, they want people capable of using and maintaining high-tech equipment and dealing with confusing combat situations. If the army did want the draft, then it wouldn’t want to be so selective, and would lower standards accordingly. Between basic training cutting off a lot of pounds and a lot of roles not really needing physical fitness, I don’t think the army would have too much trouble getting bodies to fill slots.
Mental health could be interesting though, there are a lot of minor psych conditions that can disqualify you now, and I don’t know how much the army would be willing to loosen standards on those. This could be a big problem if the draft was unpopular, because it’s not hard to get a doctor to write a prescription for Prozac, but that’s currently an absolute disqualifier. Until very recently, a draft would also have run into problem with the general acceptance of homosexuality. If someone wanted to avoid being conscripted, they can just claim to be attracted to other men, and would be automatically disqualified. In the old days claiming to be gay would likely ruin your life, but in the 2000s it lost a lot of it’s stigma.
Also, the draft would probably have to include women to be legal in the modern court, as otherwise it’s blatant sex discrimination, and there would be an easy equal protection argument to make in a lawsuit. Would be interesting to see how that aspect played out.
Economics goes out the window when it comes to war, if it takes 20 weeks of PT and special diet to get you to your BMI range versus five for someone who’s not overweight, the military will take the 20 weeks, they’re not running a business.
But there isn’t a credible scenario for a draft and there never will be again. We don’t need five million riflemen and riflewomen, no matter what their BMI. For what? To occupy where exactly?
The military needs a much smaller number of people who can sit in chairs on an airplane, a boat or a nondescript office complex anywhere surrounded by computers and kill people thousands of miles away. There is just no existential threat to our way of life any more, and if one DOES come along, we’re not going to take it on with small arms and a citizen army in a year or two, hopefully.
The occupation of Iraq failed IMO because, caused by the illusion that it was not an occupation (an illusion politically necessary to evoke and maintain or the US would not have gone into Iraq at all), the US did not allocate nearly enough troops - a maximum of about 180k troops (US+coalition) for occupying a country of 38 million people - one ocupier per 211 occupied, in a beaten but emphatically not disarmed country.
Contrast with Germany where the US at the end of 1946 still had ~300k troops to occupy an US occupation zone with a population of 17.3 million - one occupier per 58 occupied, with a totally disarmed population, a large proportion of military age males dead, crippled or still POW, and no discernible threat of violence to the occupying troops. These US troops did not need to be particularly fit, they only needed to keep their eyes and ears open.