December 4, 2006

An Army of Marketing

Matt Yglesias makes a great point about military recruiting these day:

If you watch a lot of male-oriented television programming you'll see lots of military recruitment ads of various sorts and they never mention that the modal outcome for a member of the US military these days is to be sent to fight in Iraq.

It is however, unusual in historical terms. If you look at recruiting posters from World War I or World War II the situation was quite different.

It's not merely that these posters didn't obscure the fact that a war was going on. Rather, the fact of the war was the key selling point of the recruitment drives. Which makes sense. Leaving your home and family to go do an arduous job isn't an obviously appealing thing to do. You get money, to be sure, but patriotic appeals are a key part of getting people to volunteer. The war, in these terms, is a reason to sign up -- your country needs you to fight its enemies.

Military ads these days are all about the great skills and personal development you will receive. A lot of ads these days are about trying to get parents to go along with their children signing up. (Father: you looked me in the eye and shook my hand, where did that come from? The Army) These days you join up despite the war in Iraq, not because of it. Keep that in mind when someone says our troops have to keep getting killed in Iraq to honor the troops who have been killed in Iraq.

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