No, the US military shouldn't lower the enlistment age to 16 so children can fight

Opinion

This photo shows a group of 12 to 16 year old German boys wearing uniforms of the "Deutscher Volkssturm," at an unknown location in Germany, on April 27, 1945. During the final days of World War II the Nazis mobilized the Hitler Youth as a last available reserve in manpower.

(Associated Press photo)

There are all sorts of reasons why the U.S. military enlisting 16 year olds (which means actually recruiting them at 15, 14, even 13 years old) is a bad idea.

Just to name five:


  • Misunderstanding the different brain chemistry of youth and their ability to make informed judgement;
  • Violating US labor law unless you make wildly different structures for them;
  • Undermining everything from combat effectiveness (for example, studies show mid/late twenties is best age for modern infantry) to unit cohesion (only the aged part of the force can deploy while the pre-18 year olds cannot, unless you want to commit a war crime by making them),
  • Destroying the day to day lives of the poor drill instructors and commanders of these teens' first unit;
  • Jeopardizing the way parents and the broader public think about the military and its currently unique status as trusted institution.

But since the rationale for the proposal really just boiled down to the observation that 13 year olds are, as the article wrote, "30 percent cheaper" to target with web ads than 18 year olds, it's really not worth writing hundreds of more words on it.

Signed,

Someone who literally wrote the book on child soldiers.

Peter Warren Singer is strategist and senior fellow at the New America think tank in Washington, D.C., and author of multiple books, including Ghost Fleet, LikeWar, and, pertinent to this topic, Children at War.

SEE ALSO: Generals Again Warn That America's Youth Are Getting Too Fat Or Dumb To Join The Military

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