The Military’s Alleged Morale Crisis Needs More Context

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Photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger

Raphael S. Cohen, a former Army officer and Iraq War veteran, writes on claim that the military is suffering from a crisis of low morale — claims that often lack context. Cohen offers an alternative explanation: doubts over the success of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


“To begin with, the morale ‘crisis’ must be placed in context,” writes Cohen. “First, concerns over low morale are not new and not unique to the Army. Indeed, observers regularly fretted over low morale during the defense drawdown of the 1990s, during the start of the Iraq War, during the Iraq Surge, during the Afghanistan Surge and at practically all the points in between—each time with renewed concerns over ‘breaking the force.’ And yet the military has not broken. To the contrary: After each report of troop morale hitting ‘rock bottom,’ troop morale seems to slip lower yet and, still, the military soldiers on. In fact, some previous indicators of low morale—like achieving accession and retention goals— have rebounded as of late. This is not to diminish the military’s present troubles, but it is also important to avoid the ‘Chicken Little’ trap: Despite the dismal poll numbers, the sky is not falling.”

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