Many contend that the citizen-soldier tradition in the United States is dead. They argue that the elimination of the draft in 1973, and the establishment of the all-volunteer force (AVF), severed the link between military service and citizenship. The author maintains that this conventional wisdom is wrong. Critics of the AVF have idealized the pre-AVF U.S. military; they have failed to recognize that the AVF was more a product of change in U.S. citizenship ideals than a cause of them; and they have asserted a homology between institutional design (military recruitment system) and a cultural phenomenon (the citizen-soldier tradition) that has little historical purchase. This article reconceptualizes the citizen-soldier tradition as a set of rhetorical conventions, and it demonstrates that these tropes continue to shape political debate in the United States. From this perspective, the AVF did not condemn the citizen-soldier to death: it gave him or her a new lease on life.
- All-volunteer force
- Military service