The All-Volunteer Force and Presidential Use of Military Force
Nasca, David Stephen
MetadataShow full item record
The creation of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF) in 1973 allowed U.S. presidents to deploy American military power in times and places of their own choosing with fewer concerns that the electorate would turn against their leadership. A reaction to the trauma of the Vietnam War, the AVF did away with conscription and instead relied on volunteers to serve and fight in U.S. military operations. The AVF's ranks were mostly filled with those willing to deploy and fight for their country, without the U.S. having to rely on conscription. When U.S. presidents had to use the AVF to fight in conflicts, they could expect to enjoy a higher degree of public support than those presidents who led the U.S. military during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Drawing from casualty, financial, and public opinion statistics from 1949 through 2016, this thesis argues that with the adoption of the AVF in 1973 U.S. presidents have been better able to deploy the AVF in combat with less resistance from the American people. It examines the circumstances behind the creation of the AVF, looking second, at the deployment of the AVF from the Gulf War to the Global War on Terror to determine if U.S. presidents enjoyed popular support and were encouraged to rely on military force as the primary option in foreign policy. Finally, the study compares casualties, financial costs, and public support for conflicts relying on conscripted forces to those depending on the AVF to examine if U.S. presidents were better able to involve the U.S. in military conflicts of questionable interest with fewer worries about organized anti-war movements. The conclusions of my research revealed that my hypothesis was wrong in that the creation of the AVF did not mean the U.S. presidency enjoyed a higher degree of support during conflicts. With the exception of the Gulf War, presidential approval when using the AVF was less than 50% in every conflict by the time military operations ended. The majority of conflicts disclosed that public approval and disapproval was based on casualties, regardless if service members were draftees or volunteers, as well as financial costs. For Korea and Vietnam, high casualties and financial costs resulted in approval levels dropping quickly while Afghanistan and Iraq took longer because casualties and spending did not escalate as quickly. As a result, I discovered that public approval and disapproval levels influenced political change. In the case of Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, it forewarned changes in political leadership while conflicts such as Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo were kept short and inexpensive to prevent political opposition from organizing against the presidency.
- Masters Theses