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17 Military opinion on the AVF was divided. While discipline problems during the Vietnam War illustrated some of the problems of relying on draftees, many worried that a purely volunteer system could not possibly meet the manpower needs of a global power with wide-ranging international commitments. No comparably sized military anywhere in the world relied on volunteers alone to fill its ranks. Even those who thought a volunteer military might be sufficient for peacetime needs feared it would be inadequate in wartime, when it would be much more difficult to lure soldiers with promises of pay and other benefits.

It was in Vietnam that the United States first employed some of the earliest versions of the weapons associated with the contemporary RMA that would be improved and refined in the decades leading up to the Iraq Wars. During the early phases of the Vietnam War, bombing raids against targets in North Vietnam had to address the same problem that had plagued all such missions since the advent of airpower: the difficulty of hitting and destroying relatively small targets with bombs dropped from moving planes thousands of feet in the air, a task made even more difficult if the planes themselves were trying to evade enemy fire.

On the AVF, see Bernard Rostker, I Want You! The Evolution of the All Volunteer Force (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2006). From Vietnam to Iraq 33 of Americans killed in the Pacific theater were carefully censored for fear that they would erode morale and support for the war on the home front. The post-Vietnam concern that a reluctance to place Americans in harm’s way might preclude the use of force in the years ahead was merely the most recent manifestation of this sentiment. 19 Thus, from the perspective of military planners, not only did they have to deal with manpower and fiscal constraints but also social-political currents that were increasingly demanding that military actions be conducted with minimal casualties.

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