One can blame post-Cold War peacekeeping missions to unpopular areas of the globe like Haiti and Bosnia. Or increasing emphasis today on college as a pathway to a successful career. Some military retirees point to the government's broken promise to provide lifetime health benefits.
Whatever the reason, young black and white American males have grown less and less interested in military service since the end of the Persian Gulf War.
The trend is confirmed by the Pentagon's latest Youth Attitude Tracking Survey of 1996. Interviewers conducted half-hour telephone calls last fall with 10,200 youth ages 16 to 24. The key question: "How likely is it that you will be serving on active duty in one of the armed forces?"
The results, released this summer along with smaller reports summarizing the views of youths and parents who participated in more in-depth interviews, show a disturbing trend for service manpower officials.
In the fall of 1991, soon after U.S. and allied forces clobbered Iraq, and towns across America hosted victory parades, the propensity of males to enlist was strong, with 26.2% responding positively.