Fewer white people in the United States (US) are joining its military now than before.
As per reports, the number of new white recruits joining the US Army has fallen drastically in the past five years, from 44,042 in 2018 to just 25,072 in 2023.
In fact, 2023 has seen the most significant decline in white enlistment, with a 6 percent drop compared to 2022.
This is the biggest decline of any racial group in the history of the United States Military, pointing to a larger problem in the recruitment beyond the usual annual fluctuations.
Making it worse for the US military is its timing, coinciding with increasing volatility in the world, marked by escalating regional conflicts and geopolitical tensions.
With conflicts raging in almost all parts of the world, ranging from the Russia-Ukraine conflict in Europe to the Israel-Hamas war and the Yemeni Houthi terror group's harassment of merchant shipping in the Middle East, to the increasingly aggressive attitudes of China and North Korea against their neighbours in East Asia, the role of the US military is set to rise.
Amidst such global turmoil and rising commitments, the US military is debating whether the decline in white enlistment is due to the prevailing 'woke' culture within the military or conservative party members' attacks on that said 'woke' culture.
Some military planners attribute the reduction in white recruits to conservative criticisms of the military's efforts to recruit from diverse demographics, including LGBTQ+ communities.
Conservatives often label these attempts as 'wokeness' in the military, arguing that the focus has shifted towards inclusivity, rather than on its primary job — war-fighting.
Conservatives are asking questions on why a white male would want to join the military if promotions are based on skin complexion, rather than skill, or whether he would be made to feel guilty for the past injustices committed by his ancestors against other minority groups.
The phenomenon of fewer whites joining the military cannot be attributed to a single reason. However, some reports suggest that the declining trend may be due to factors such as the less-educated white conservative male group not joining the labour market, or increased deaths due to opioid overdoses and obesity among white males.
The report claims that the participation of white conservative male in the labour workforce has gone down from the earlier high of 94 per cent in 1948 to just 86 per cent in 2023, leaving close to 6 million (60 lakhs) white males unemployed.
US military's attempt to get new recruits has also not gone down well with the social group.
The 2022 Army recruitment ad 'The Calling,' depicting a real-life female soldier with two female parents, became a target for conservatives, who claimed that the ad supports their assertion that US military has become more focused on inclusiveness (read wokeness), rather than war-fighting.
Following the backlash, the US Army distanced itself from the ad.
All of this is feeding into the larger recruitment crisis, with the US military failing to meet its recruitment targets across various branches, consistently for the last 24 years. In 2023, the US Army faced a shortfall of 10,000 recruits, adding to a similar shortfall seen in 2022.
The US Air Force and Navy also saw fewer recruits, with shortfalls of approximately 2,000 and 7,000, respectively, compared to their targets.
These challenges, coupled with the low percentage of whites enlisting, pose concerns for the US military, especially given its increased commitments in an increasingly volatile and tumultuous geopolitical landscape.
How the US military will address these issues remains to be seen.
Editorial Associate at Swarajya. Writes on Indian Military and Defence.
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