By: Raúl Zibechi
Reaffirming the idea that empires collapse from within, when their contradictions cause their decline or facilitate conquest by their enemies, we see how the United States Armed Forces are having enormous difficulties recruiting members.
The US media maintains that the Army confronts “the worst recruitment crisis since the end of the Vietnam War,” that is, since compulsory military service [the draft] was eliminated, according to a report from Politico in July.
With just two months to go in the fiscal year, the Army had reached just 66 per cent of of its recruitment goal. General Joseph Martin told the House Military Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives that the Army could lose more than 20, 000 members, down from 466,000 soldiers to just 445,000, due to the difficulty of finding recruits.
However, as the Tom Dispatch report points out, the force offers “enlistment bonuses of up to $50, 000 dollars” to the candidates who decide to join the ranks. The other forces also offer bonuses, but all face the same problem recruiting combatants, with the Air Force facing the greatest difficulty after the Army.
The reasons must be found in a broken society, in frayed institutions and in a nation with no other goal than to continue dominating the world.
Only 23 percent of the Americans between 17 and 24 years of age can be selected to enter the Armed Forces, compared to 29 percent in previous years, NBC News highlights. The rest, more than three-quarters of youth, are automatically disqualified for obesity, criminal history, drug use, and physical or psychological problems.
In the US, there is a real epidemic of obesity, which has shot up in recent years and is growing five times faster than before among children, killing 300 thousand people each year.
The suicide rate is the highest among rich countries (14 deaths per every 100 thousand inhabitants), twice that of the United Kingdom and is largely due to mental illness, making up what is called “deaths of despair,” which also encompasses deaths by drug overdose, international reports on health reveal. The US has the lowest life expectancy among the 38 countries that make up the OECD. 
Indeed, a report from the Commonwealth Fund reports that: “Americans are living shorter and less healthy lives because the health care system doesn’t function as well as it could. However, the US spends more on health care than any other OECD country (17 percent of GDP in 2018), because it’s wasted on private insurance, while public care is deficient.
Mental health is another big problem that affects one in five young women and one in 10 men under 25. These are typical effects of inequalities based on wealth and skin color, in a country where the concentration of income continues to grow and the Afro-descendent population is severely punished by repression and the lack of prospects.
There is an additional problem, inside the Armed Forces. Of the population eligible to become combatants, only 9 percent have any propensity to enlist, due to the risk of physical injury or death, the possibility of post-traumatic stress and other psychological disorders. In addition, 34 percent of young people answered a survey assuring that they didn’t like the military lifestyle and 28 percent pointed to the possibility of sexual harassment or assault, Politico explained.
Much more data could be added that attest to the decline of the empire, and now also the difficulty in sustaining its Armed Forces. This doesn’t mean that they are going to give up, far from it. It means that more and more private armies will be created, like the famous Blackwater, now renamed Academi, a private company of mercenaries.
The so-called “private armies” are in reality paramilitary organizations that reach beyond the State armies, but governments don’t pay the costs political costs of sending their soldiers. The British G4S Secure Solutions, for example, intervenes in 125 countries, has 620,000 employees, recruits serial criminals and has excelled in assassinations of personalities, among many other crimes (https://bit.ly/3clRuul).
All the data point in the same direction: the capitalism of death that oppresses us is in the phase of causing genocide out of the desperation caused by the systemic changes underway.
It’s up to the movements to decide what to do, as there are no trustworthy institutions when the known world collapses. When those above only think of themselves, we are the ones that must organize in order to survive.
 OECD – Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, August 26, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/08/26/opinion/019a2poln and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee