The reasons are complicated and rather interesting. The strain on family (divorces have tripled since 2002), the geography of the military (stationed on bases like Killeen, Texas), and the changing role for women even within the military. Some goes to Bush himself. Diverting away from the initial goal in Afghanistan cost in troop morale, and the increased deployments is not helping.
Studies show that one deployment actually improves retention, as soldiers draw satisfaction from using their skills in the real world. Second deployments often have no effect on retention. It's the third deployment that begins to burn out soldiers. And a fourth? There's no large-scale historical precedent for military planners to examine—yet.But part of it is the leadership who is there now. This writer suggests a long gradual decline that really started after Vn, when Army leaders decided that they would simply avoid counter-insurgency conflicts from now on. And that showed up within the military as conflict between older Generals and some of the young thinkers from the Point.
"You have a three-star general like John Vines come down to talk to us, and he says, 'Just go out there and shoot people,'" Kapinos said. "And you know that that is not how to fight an insurgency. Everyone who's ever read the most basic article on counterinsurgency knows that is not how you're going to win."
"Yeah," Morin agreed. "The general would come out and give these bellicose speeches, and every time he did that, I'd have to go back to my guys and say, 'What the general really meant to say was ...'"
It always stuns me when some of our commenters here or elsewhere continually say that liberals are soft on national security. While I certainly think that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have been lately--it is because of their capitulation to Bush, not for opposing him. I have always admired people who served and have been fascinated by the military. Not enough to want to join, mind you, but from the outside, I see so much positive there. I have had students from the military and some have been among the best and most thoughtful. One former student was a Navy Seal who, unlike some of his fellow students, could thoughtfully address issues like patriotism and masculinity. And while conservatives complain about higher taxes, I would gladly pay more to ensure that our returning vets are taken care of. It seems to me that it has often been conservative "chicken hawks" who have done far more damage to our military than any liberal.
Anyway. Read the article. It is a good one.