“No Kin In the Game”: Study Finds Members of Congress Without Draft-Age Sons Were More Hawkish


by Zaid Jilani, The Intercept

Quelle surprise!



  1. Not just Congress. Consider Bush Junior and Dick Cheney. Neither had sons. Cheney I believe had grandsons, but they were way too young to serve in 2003 when he pushed for the Iraq War.

    1. The problem especially with "conservative" politicians is that they have less empathy. They can only understand suffering of others when friends or relatives are suffering.
      Like Reagan being concerned about HIV once he learnt that Hudson was infected, Cheney being fine with LGB because his daughter was lesbian, other pols becoming pro disaster aid once their own district was struck by disaster and so on.

      I suppose there should be a difference regarding the importance of kin between left and right, but the study was about conscription issues, and thus doesn't say much about the last foru decades of U.S. politics.

  2. that's a comment based on no facts. The North Viet leadership during the war sent their children abroad to become good communists and avoid the war. Empathy?

    1. That was a dictatorship, not a party in a pluralistic ideological contest with a left-right party spectrum. All kinds of people join government in a dictatorial one-party system - especially authoritarians from both ends of the spectrum.

      Moreover, the "communists" of North Vietnam were nationalists. The entire Vietnam War from the 40's till the 70's was a war of decolonialisation that moved towards a war for national unification. There was never much "world revolution" in there compared to the domestic interests like forming a Vietnamese-dominated nation state and land reform.

      The whole thing is irrelevant for discussions of "left" and "right".

  3. The U.S. Army realized that back in the 1970's; that was the point behind the VolAr, the move away from conscription. Both professional officers and elected politicians realized that a popular democracy (or, at least, a polity that is trying to effectively mimic a popular democracy) can't fight cabinet wars with conscripts - you end up with WAY too many citizens who 1) could care less about trade relations with West Jipip if that means losing their lives or the life of a son, father, brother, or uncle, and 2) have the energy and civic engagement to do something about it.

    It isn't a coincidence that imperial powers largely rely on long-term regulars, native levies, and mercenaries. They're expensive but expendable; all they may cost a politician is money, not their job.

    1. That's an often-repeated and common myth in my opinion.

      I'm pretty sure they simply did away with conscription without any big plans for how to fight cabinet wars. In fact, they didn't fight major cabinet wars until 1991, and then they had much popular support.
      There were few military actions in the 70's, Reagan mostly bombed, invaded a practically defenceless tiny island and the one time his troops suffered substantial losses (Lebanon barracks bombing) they proved far from politically expendable.

      Only GWB began wars that wouldn't have been sustainable for long if waged with a conscript army.

      Also, keep in mind it was traditionally the USMC that was used in small wars. If politicians had thought first and foremost about the political costs of KIA they would have created a Légion ètrangère and turned the USMC - not rest of navy, army and air force - all-professional.

      The widespread narrative / conspiracy theory doesn't fit well into actual history.

      Armed services rarely demonstrate their actual utility and competence. This makes them very needy of more respect, more prestige, more attention. I think this myth is but one more fragment of the armed services' begging for more respect, prestige and attention. They tell others "Look, pols think we are expendable and underrated, pity us!"

      By the way; lots of "imperial powers" relied on conscription. Look past the anglophone world! Look at France (their legion was tiny compared to overall colonial forces), look at Portugal, look at Netherlands, look at Russia, look at Italy, look at Spain. Lots of conscript armies used to maintain empires in the 19th and 20th century.

    2. I don't think that there were any plans to fight any specific wars. I think the "plan" was to avoid another Vietnam when that cabinet war needed to be fought. That and the problem that poor retention was destroying the NCO ranks and killing troop unit quality.

      And if you look at the French, the Portuguese, and the Dutch you actually get a great picture of how trying to maintain empires with conscripts is a mug's game for colonial powers. The French Army damn near broke apart over Indochina and Algeria, and the Portuguese DID over the wars in their African colonies. The Dutch forces in the East Indies seldom exceeded 20,000.

      You're right and the Spanish tended to send conscript units out to their colonies; they tended to fare exceptionally poorly. In the South American wars of independence in the early 19th Century most "Spanish" imperial forces were less than 20-25% peninsular Spanish. By the end of the 19th Century the Spanish expeditionary forces were in difficulty even going up against local guerrillos in the Caribbean and the Philippines.

      So despite there not being a "plan" for US imperial caprioling, the examples of the problems with fighting cabinet wars with conscript armies (and trying to fight a limited war in Vietnam with one) made the political advantage of a small volunteer Army pretty damn clear...

    3. I don't see how the professional U.S.Army does oh-so great in occupying Afghanistan, or previously in occupying Iraq.
      Professional military forces are more expensive because the personnel costs cannot be lowered by force. This reduces the troop qty even after taking into account the smaller share of troops in training.
      Fewer troops are rarely any good in large conflicts. I see how the U.S. could easily sustain one division slice in an occupation mission, but having three division slices on occupation missions required a ridiculous budget increase and hollowed out the conventional warfare capabilities. Furthermore, the stop-loss orders were de facto a selective conscription.

      Now do we really doubt that a conscript U.S.Army would have been able to sustain one divisional slice on an occupation mission as well?

      I'm not inf avour of conscription except in extreme circumstances (such as the Cold War), but the widespread story about the link between conscription in the U.S. and military adventures of the U.S. looks implausible to me.