Military Service and American Democracy
From World War II to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars
William A. Taylor
“When I became secretary of defense,” Ashton B. Carter said when announcing that the Pentagon would open all combat jobs to women, “I made a commitment to building America’s force of the future. In the twenty-first century, that requires drawing strength from the broadest possible pool of talent.”
That “pool of talent”—and how our nation’s civilian and military leaders have tried to fill it—is what Military Service and American Democracy is all about. William Taylor chronicles and analyzes the long and ever-changing history of that often contentious and controversial effort, from the initiation of America’s first peacetime draft just before our entry into World War II up to present-day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. A history that runs from the selective service era of 1940–1973 through the era of the All-Volunteer Force of 1973 to the present, his book details the many personnel policies that have shaped, controlled, and defined American military service over the last eight decades. Exploring the individual and group identities excluded from official personnel policy over time—African Americans, women, and gays among others—Taylor shows how military service has been an arena of contested citizenship, one in which American values have been tested, questioned, and ultimately redefined. Yet, we see how this process has resulted in greater inclusiveness and expanded opportunities in military service while encouraging and shaping similar changes in broader society.
“Ultimately, Taylor’s work is as much about civil-military relations as it is about the US military itself—the relationship and subsequent changes that he highlights would not have been possible without the considerable influence of civilian leaders on military policy.”
“Taylor’s book is based on a far-ranging use of primary sources and a variety of archives. He addresses some of the crucial issues of manpower procurement, such as the criteria used by the selective service system, especially when the inequities of who should serve clashed with the desire to make the military representative of the society it was serving. There is also a good discussion of the racial issue in the military in the 1940s and 1950s, and how the military expanded the role of women from the 1960s to the removal of the combat exclusion policy.”
—Journal of Military HistorySee all reviews...
“This is a valuable book. It is concise, comprehensive, and authoritative on a host of factual matters otherwise scattered among many print and online sources; here they are in one place. and it foregrounds much that is little known or underappreciated by historians of modern America. . . . William A. Taylor also illuminates a lesser-known story about the armed forces’ major role in desegregating civilian society.”
—Journal of American History
“A valuable, insightful book. . . . This work represents a significant step toward understanding the military in relation to the nation, the citizenry, and the political values it represents and serves.”
—American Historical Review
“Taylor’s book details the personnel policies that have shaped, controlled, and defined military service as we know it.”
“Rather than simply analyzing the various systems that have been used to provide manpower for the military. [Taylor] instead examines the broader social and cultural effort to reconcile the concept of military service with political realities and explore the larger, long-term crusade to make the US military more inclusive and representative of the population it protects. Taylor deftly uses the last 75 years of history to explore the dilemmas of military service by asking who serves, and to examine the efforts of politicians, military professionals, and society to balance the often-competing imperatives of personal liberty and national security.”
“Who serves? Who fights? As William Taylor makes clear in this exceptionally fine book, the answers to these two questions speak directly to the condition of American democracy. Here is a timely reminder that in our own day the questions themselves have lost none of their prior salience and may, if anything, be more important than ever.”
—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History
“Who Serves? William Taylor shows us why the changing answers to that question matter, not only to the individuals involved but to the health of American democracy.”
—Beth Bailey, author of America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force
“Bill Taylor has written a pioneering work on the political and social history of American military recruiting since the end of World War II. Almost all scholarly investigation of this subject has been done by social scientists. For whatever reason, historians, including military historians, have rarely examined how the USA has recruited its soldiers since 1945; the population subgroups they have come from, or haven't come from; and how the political nation has dealt with perennial issues of who serves and who doesn't. Work on the history of American military manpower procurement since the draft ended in 1973 has been particularly lacunose; surprisingly so, given the perennial public debates on voluntary military service and conscription. Dr. Taylor performs a real service in covering both the 1945-1973 draft era and the forty-plus years since the draft ended. Both specialists in military manpower matters and a wide range of scholars working in the broad area of American civil-military relations will benefit greatly from reading his invaluable analysis. ”
—Robert L. Goldich, retired defense manpower analyst and military historian, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress
“In analyzing how a democracy can best fulfill its security needs, William Taylor has written an insightful review of the evolution of American military manpower policy, from the mobilization based World War II force, through the adoption of a “peacetime” Cold War draft in lieu of Universal Military Training, and ultimately to the current all-recruited force. He documents the progress made over time in racial integration, gender equality, and incorporation of openly gay personnel, increasing the diversity of the force to serve the goals of both military effectiveness and social equality. He also critically examines the increasing presence of private security contractors in the battle space as replacements for uniformed members of the armed forces, which is a threat the historic linkage between service in the interest of security and citizenship rights and responsibilities. This volume is particularly timely given the recent lifting of the ban on service by openly gay personnel and the opening of ground combat occupations and units to women. Readers interested in these issues will have difficulty, as I did, putting this book down.”
—David R. Segal, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Founding Director, Center for Research on Military Organization, University of Maryland
“Who serves in the United States military? Why do they serve? How do they serve? A serious and honest examination of these immensely important questions is critical to current and future discussion of transforming, overhauling, or drawing-down the American military. William A. Taylor’s Military Service and American Democracy is essential to this discussion. Perceptive and persuasive, Taylor insightfully places the evolution of American military personnel policies amidst the distinctive clash between American security needs and individual freedom in a free society.”
—William Thomas Allison, Professor of History, Georgia Southern University
“The way a democracy chooses to man its military reflects its social fabric. Taylor lays out a narrative to facilitate informed dialogue on this critical issue.”
—Major General (retired) Dennis Laich
“This important work is a major contribution to American Military History. It candidly explores the major questions and controversies concerning the relationship between citizenship, social identity and military policy from World War II to the present with a candidness and clarity based on comprehensive research and thorough understanding of all aspects of the subject. All those concerned with issues related to the human dimensions of national security will profit from reading it.”
—Ronald H. Spector, Professor of History and International Affairs, George Washington University
“In his latest book William A. Taylor provides an excellent, well documented, and readable analysis of military service in this country from World War II to the withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq . This book should be required reading for those citizens, scholars and public officials concerned about balancing national security and individual liberty.”
—Lawrence Korb, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and LogisticsSee fewer reviews...
In the distinction between compulsory and voluntary military service, Taylor also examines the dichotomy between national security and individual liberty—two competing ideals that have existed in constant tension throughout the history of American democracy.