Better soldiers are ready to sign up
Our military, especially the Army, is in deep trouble because of the low quality of recruits. Now the Army has a foolish new policy of enlisting even more mentally challenged soldiers. It's already terribly expensive to find qualified soldiers. We spend a staggering amount of money on TV commercials and other recruiting efforts. Yet bringing in more men who are likely to wash out is not going to fix anything. It just makes it all the more expensive.
Bring back the draft? Hardly; there is no political will for this, and the modern military needs enlisted men who can serve at least ten years. That's when they really achieve the skills to run today's high-tech systems. The typical two-year draftee is only learning his soldier's craft when his enlistment ends.
There is a solution, though, if we could take a page from our military's glorious past: bring back the Philippine Scouts! The Scouts were the most famous of the many hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who served in U.S. military units as late as the 1970s. During the intra-war period, they were considered America's most elite infantrymen. These were not the ordinary territorial militias or police, or resident aliens enlisted from the U.S. Rather, these were in-country Filipinos who for most of the 20th century could join directly into Regular Army battalions based in the Far East or serve as sailors on U.S. Navy ships. The last Filipino Army enlistments ended with WWII, but the Navy continued to recruit until 1976, when Jimmy Carter ended the policy.
Today, the Philippines could again be a tremendous source of American military enlistment. The country has over 100 million people, most of whom speak English, are often well educated, are very pro-American, and typically practice a conservative form of Catholicism or Protestantism. And they just adore President Trump.
Economically, the Philippines has had a dysfunctional form of politics since the 1960s, so it did not keep pace with the Asian tigers – Japan, South Korea, ROC, etc. But that's what makes it prime recruiting ground. The islands have millions of poor but bright young men who will jump at a chance to find a career in the U.S. military.
Congress should act immediately to authorize the secretaries of the Army and Navy to each enlist 200,000 Philippine nationals for their branches. After, say, five years of honorable service, they would be eligible for citizenship. (And that's a much better immigration pool than the diversity lottery.) If we did that, we would literally have millions of outstanding recruits to choose from, and it would cost next to nothing to get them.
Or we could just pay Spike Lee to shoot some more commercials.
Frank Friday is an attorney in Louisville, Ky.