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U.S. Senate Candidate Josiah Ingalls: There’s No Good Moral Reason to Join the Armed Forces

Federal law allows military salesmen to recruit on college and high school campuses, but you have the right to ignore them.

I am Josiah Ingalls, candidate for U.S. Senate, challenging Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination. And I am encouraging Americans to think twice before joining the U.S. armed forces.

Earlier this week, the US Army launched its 2023 recruiting campaign with a rebrand of its 1980s slogan, “Be All That You Can Be.” The Army today isn’t what it wants to be, now that it’s 15,000 people short of its 2022 recruiting goal. This year’s campaign has a “stretch goal” of 60,000 recruits, which Army insiders admit is a bridge too far. But the slogan and the usual lures of a college education, increased self-confidence and the fading glory of military service have been dusted off and put in the Army’s front window. I can only hope that the young people of America recognize this new pitch as the predatory scam it is – and choose to do better things with their lives.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I watched Army recruiters putting up a table at Austin Community College (ACC). I can't help but wonder if they equally recruit from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and other collegiate institutions that the wealthy attend. No matter, today’s recruiters can go pretty much go wherever they want. Federal law (e.g., the Solomon Amendment) allows military recruiters to visit college and high school campuses and even obtain personal information on students (except for those who have formally opted out of their school’s recruitment pool). In 2021, the amendment was broadened to add email addresses to the list of student data that recruiters can demand.

Personally, I think the US armed forces should be legally forbidden to recruit on school campuses – because mostly they're just preying on people who come from poor economic circumstances, dangling before them the carrot of a potential better future. A RAND Corporation study found that nearly 57 percent of students at public high schools with Junior ROTC programs relied on free or reduced-price lunches - about 10 percent more than schools without them. And Education Week found that military recruiters made ten times as many visits to one mostly low-income school as they did to a nearby wealthy school.

Military recruiters have broad latitude in how they can approach students. Sidney Miralao, a Next Leader at the Institute for Policy Studies, recalls seeing them often:  

    “Recruiters at my high school in Fairfax County, VA. always set up shop in the cafeteria. For the next two hours, they would sit through the four different lunch periods and give their spiel to whoever was curious enough to stop at their station.”

    Today, Miralao adds, “Recruiters use their omnipresence on campus to [approach students] in all kinds of different ways. They may offer to chaperone homecoming events, time-keep at football games, or even give lectures in history or government classrooms... Overall, the practice of recruiting in high schools is highly predatory.”

The recruiting game gets even more disturbing:


·         The U.S. Army fields an Army eSports Team composed of regular soldiers and reservists. They represent the Army in electronic competitions and events across the country, such as the Call of Duty Endowment Bowl, an online tournament based on the eponymous and very popular e‑game. According to the Army, their e-team has “shown Army leaders how gaming can help connect us to young people... This initiative will help make our soldiers more visible and relatable to today’s youth.”


·         While recruiting at Santa Maria High School in California, the Army brought in a military truck equipped with a virtual reality helicopter game. A recruiter was on hand with an IPad to collect personal information from would-be chopper pilots, including their citizenship status, GPA, class year and email address.


·         Although recruiters currently focus mostly on 17-year-old high school seniors, Army Assistant Secretary E. Casey Wardynski says they may need to start reaching out to much younger minors. “In looking at these generations, we have to begin thinking about how they approach this question of where they will apply their talent,” Wardynski said. “Will we wait until they’re 17, or will we be talking to them at age 12, 13, 14, 15, when they form the set of things they are thinking about doing with their life?”


·         Jesus Palafox of the American Friends Service Committee attended a very diverse high school on Chicago’s South Side during the Iraq War. The school had a Junior ROTC program and was located a block away from military recruiting stations. “Recruiters would ask instructors who was a good candidate” for the military, Palafox said. “As students were coming out of classrooms, they would be by the door, waiting for them.”

If the above examples seem creepily familiar, that’s because they are. These and other military recruitment tactics are eerily similar to those used by child predators. Common tactics of the latter include:

    1.     Getting access to children

    2.     Targeting kids in need

    3.     Providing games, gifts and favors

    4.     Gaining the child’s trust

    5.     Pushing boundaries

    6.     Gaining control of the child

I’m certainly not suggesting that military recruiters are the equivalent of child sexual predators – I’m saying it outright! Grownups seeking to manipulate youngsters for certain ends are using similar playbooks – and I’m not the first parent to notice it. Military recruiters have become the new predators that parents need to be concerned about. Every parent has a moral and legal obligation to protect their children from sexual predators. And now we are morally bound to protect our children from the predatory behavior of the U.S. armed forces. In the same way that sexual predators groom their future victims for sex, the U.S. military  grooms children as the future victims of the U.S. military industrial complex.

A key part of military recruiting involves stressing the benefits and minimizing the dangers. Probably the main example of the former is the opportunity for a college education. Recruiters tell you the military will help pay for your college education, a promise that many impoverished teens have fallen for.

But a college degree isn’t necessarily a ticket to affluence or influence anymore. The Bloomberg news website reports that more than half of U.S. College grads don’t work in the field they studied. And one-fourth of grads over the age of 25 make less than $35,000 a year, with many of them earning near-poverty wages. So what good is that college degree if you can’t work in your chosen area and/or your pay is comparable to what many retail clerks earn? And what good is that college diploma if you are injured so badly that for the rest of your life you can no longer function well enough to hold a decent job? Worse yet, what good is all that higher education if you get killed fighting to gain more power and resources for the top 1%?

With a defense budget of $801 billion in fiscal 2021, the United States spent more on its military than the next nine nations combined:  China, India, Russia, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, and South Korea, who together spent $777 billion. (Notice that six of the preceding countries are American allies, whom we’d never think of fighting.) Our defense budget accounts for more than 10 percent of all federal spending and nearly half of discretionary spending.

So I have to ask: by what right do we maintain a vast and expensive military while we neglect our own people? By what moral logic do we spend billions in overseas aid while the federal government turns a blind eye to the humanitarian aid needed right here in America by our own citizens? I ask again as I've asked before, from what are the armed forces protecting people who are homeless, starving and often abused by law enforcement?

They claim they're protecting us from external threats, but to so many Americans the threat of being homeless or starving is far more real than the threat of a terrorist. To so many Americans, the prospect of losing their job because their company is outsourcing jobs overseas is more real than the threat of terrorism. So by what moral right do we spend ungodly sums of money while neglecting our own people?

Our current defense spending habits do not put America first, they seek world power first, even if Americans starve and die from the neglect of our government. America's government neglects its people, creating the economic disaster that most people endure in their day-to-day lives, and then offers a military-flavored carrot as a possible way out of that hell – as long as you're willing to potentially sacrifice everything for the empire. And the empire will think nothing of your dead body as long as the top 1% gets more power and resources.

So then, let me pose a few more questions, since the government with its actions over the course of my entire life has shown that we don't fight wars for freedom anymore, but instead for power and resources. By what morally logical reasoning would any of us join the US armed forces to become nothing more than a dispensable resource for which your family will get a cheap medal, an American flag and a burial plot?

I believe you cannot put a price on a human life. However, the armed forces can put a price on your life: that price is a $20 medal in a fancy box with zero resale value, a US flag worth maybe $40, and a military plot worth about $4,000.  So is the total market value of your life only worth $4,060?

And through your death and complacency, the cost to our citizens (including your family) is more neglect and more suffering. But the value of your death to the military industrial complex – that unholy alliance of government agencies and equipment/weapons manufacturers – is untold amounts of wealth and profit.


From where I'm sitting, joining the US armed forces is mostly a one-sided contract. For me, the answer is “Hell, No!” I'm willing to give my life to stand up and try to make our country better, more fair and more humane. But I'm not willing to die to help the 1% gain more power and resources. With the current state of our union, I can see no good moral reason that any person should join the armed forces of this empire. That is and will remain my position until our government puts the American people first, and the pursuit of power and resources last.

In the meantime, I’ll share with you my list of reforms for reining in the excesses of military recruiting:

    1.     A law that allows public and private schools and colleges to ban armed forces recruitment on their campuses.

    2.     Legislation that requires schools and colleges permitting on-campus recruiting to allow those with opposing viewpoints to distribute their literature and staff their own tables.

    3.     New recruiting standards that honestly address the disadvantages of military service. The surgeon general’s warning on cigarette packs could serve as a model.

I’ll leave you with the words of Smedley Butler, a retired U.S. Marine Corps major general and the holder of two Congressional Medals of Honor, who spent decades helping American companies profit from exploitations in Haiti, Latin America, and China during the early decades of the 20th century. After he retired, Gen. Butler had this to say:

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

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