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“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”     Thomas Jefferson

February 12, 2007

Nannyism: It’s for the Military, too

by mike

So if the military trusts you with some of the most deadly and destructive weapons known to man, the logical thought would be that they would also trust you to handle yourself around alcohol, right?


“For all other 2ID Soldiers who choose to consume alcohol, they must do so responsibly at all times. Specifically, they will moderate their alcohol consumption and not consume alcohol to the extent that their blood alcohol content (BAC) is above .10.”

Yes, you heard correctly. The Army’s 2nd Infantry Division (responsible for most of the U.S. Army personnel in South Korea) has mandated that no one under its command will have a BAC above .10%. Ever.

What is the reason given for this drastic action?

“All 2ID Soldiers must be in a high state of readiness and must be able to respond immediately and decisively in order to perform their armistice and wartime fighting mission. Irresponsible alcohol consumption is harmful to that readiness and detracts from training. Furthermore, alcohol-related incidents by 2ID Soldiers can have strategic consequences and can jeopardize the important relationships we maintain with the Republic of Korea. Furthermore, there has been shown to be a direct correlation between alcohol abuse and misconduct (e.g., sexual assault offenses). Therefore, we must ensure that irresponsible alcohol consumption does not deter 2ID from accomplishing its armistice training or wartime fighting mission, and does not endanger the lives and well-being of 2ID Soldiers and others. We must also establish and maintain a Warrior ethos that deglamoratizes alcohol and promotes early identification and treatment of abusers.”

Makes perfect sense to me. Actually, if you dig a little deeper you’ll find that this policy is an attempt to help cut down on the number of underage drinkers. Of course, this raises the question of why we have the idiotic 21 year old age limit on alcohol in the first place, but that’s a battle for a different day. The bottom line is that the 2ID has decided that the solution to underage drinking is to punish everyone and try to control soldiers’ behavior when they are off duty. I wonder how many otherwise good soldiers careers are going to be adversely affected when they blow a .11% BAC?

In any case, this is just the latest in a series of actions by the U.S. military to increasingly control the off-duty lives of its personnel. My favorite is the USAF’s “Culture of Responsible Choices.” It’s a sad commentary on our culture that even the military has been affected this deeply by nannyism.

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  1. What’s the problem here? The military is an employer. My employer has rules about drinking on the job. On the job for me includes when I am driving a company vehicle, when I am at an outing as a representative of the company. When men & women join the military, they agree to always be a representative of the military, even off duty. Specifically because they are always capable of being called into action. By siging up, they agreed to the terms and conditions of employment. Just because they are a part of the government doesn’t mean that this is inherently nanny-statist actions.


    Comment by Nick M. — February 12, 2007 @ 12:38 pm
  2. When did soldiers get rights?

    Comment by VRB — February 12, 2007 @ 12:50 pm
  3. First, answering VRB. Soldiers have the same rights as any other person and the same constitutional protections.

    Second, more generally, Korea is fairly unique and such a regulation doesn’t seem to be too out of the realm of reasonable.

    Comment by Adam Selene — February 12, 2007 @ 4:31 pm
  4. Adam’s absolutely correct about soldiers having the same rights. The only difference is that personnel in the military fall under the UCMJ, meaning that their actions are somewhat more restricted than the average citizen (example: soldiers aren’t allowed to hold down a second job that would bring discredit onto the armed forces, as a stripper for example; soldiers do have slightly more restricted first amendment rights.)

    However, I should clarify what I meant by this being a nanny action. While Nick’s points about being a representative of the military are somewhat valid, there is really no reason for the military to be concerned what I do in my off duty hours as long as I don’t break the law, and as long as I show up for work on time, sober, and ready to go. Adam is correct in that Korea is a unique situation, but as I showed with the USAF’s CoRC, this paternalistic approach to managing personnel isn’t restricted to personnel in Korea.

    It’s not that I’m saying the military doesn’t have the power to do this to its personnel (it does) but that it shouldn’t because it’s inherently wrong.

    Comment by mike — February 12, 2007 @ 5:08 pm
  5. I still don’t see it being inherently wrong of them to do this. Think of it this way, in my home county in Indiana, the first responders are volunteer. My aunt and uncle are first responders, the on-call shift rotates. When they are on-call, they don’t to be in a specific location, but they have to be available the whole time they are on-call. Being available includes not being drunk. Is it inherently wrong for this to be required of them? The military is much the same way. You may be off duty, but you are still on-call, at all times. Especially on our foreign bases. I agree that what I do on my own time is no business of my employer’s unless it affects my work. But, we sometimes have to be on-call during the night and on weekends. I don’t have to be at the job-site, but I have to be available if a subcontractor needs me. Isn’t it fair of my employer to ask me to not be drunk when I show up? And isn’t it fair that the military asks the same of it’s employees?


    Comment by Nick M. — February 12, 2007 @ 5:38 pm
  6. You know when I was in the military, they could tell you what and when to do any thing they wanted. Restrict your movements off post, and I as female at the time before the volunteer army; they could tell me that the civilian jeans I wore had to have the fly open on a certain side. I do not quite think my daily life was as free as anyones not in the military. I may have had rights, but they were under certain circumstances. Telling a soldier that they can’t drink more than a certain amount, would have been par for the course. They put certain establishments off limits, including certain supermarkets. Of course this was for the soldiers own good.

    Comment by VRB — February 12, 2007 @ 6:12 pm
  7. None of your constitutionally protected rights were denied you. Since women have never been drafted, you voluntarily chose to limit those things when you entered military service. Aside from that, when I served in the military they did many of the same things, but that doesn’t mean that a soldier is not subject to the rule of law, the bill of rights or individual rights in general.

    Comment by Adam Selene — February 12, 2007 @ 8:15 pm
  8. So the military is always on call? That doesn’t seem very realistic to me.

    Comment by mike — February 12, 2007 @ 9:38 pm
  9. Mike,

    Are our troops not supposed to be at a constant state of readiness? Is being drunk a state of readiness? Maybe this isn’t on-call, but the fact remains that soldiers sign up for their term of service and enter into a contract with the military. This is a part of that contract. Just because the contract isn’t just for a “job” but for a way of life, doesn’t make it any less valid. Would you also feel that it is nannyism for a Board of Directors to write it into his contract that a CEO could not participate in the sport of skydiving as long as he was CEO? He is perfectly able to walk away from the job, just as soldiers are able to walk away before signing time. They are also perfectly able to not re-up when their tour is up.


    Comment by Nick — February 12, 2007 @ 10:07 pm
  10. It just seems to me that the 2ID leadership should have bigger things to worry about than if their soldiers, of age, are drinking a little too much when they are off duty.

    Comment by mike — February 12, 2007 @ 11:03 pm
  11. Nick,

    Sorry, but the military used to be very cognizant of the fact that soldiers were more apt to fight, fuck and get drunk, and not necessarily in that order, when they were off duty. There was a time when it was understood that the sort of rough men that were needed to go into harm’s way in combat were a bit more likely than the norm to do those things. These days the military is as overtaken by the PC bug as all the rest of our society.

    The generals are busily kowtowing to Mrs. Grundy. And, not coincidentally, losing a war.

    Comment by Adam Selene — February 12, 2007 @ 11:15 pm
  12. Mike,

    I’ll grant you that 2ID probably has better things to worry about. I may have been arguing a different point than you.


    I will also grant you your point. I was arguing this from a contracts POV. I agree whole-heartedly with you that military personnel need to be tough and maybe a bit nuts. I would hate to be labeled PC. I think my head might explode.


    Comment by Nick — February 12, 2007 @ 11:52 pm
  13. Ah, alright then. Like I said in my first comment, the military definitely has the right to do so, and might not even be inherently wrong in doing so. But I think that the bottom line is that policies like this one are a mistake.

    Comment by mike — February 13, 2007 @ 12:00 am
  14. Adam,
    I was speaking of the right of the military to limit off duty activities of soldiers. The way the military administers justice may not always be as constitutional as one would like to think. My experience. 40 years ago, before PC, they did try to control the libido of soldiers.

    When I volunteered, I had no idea what the military was like. The men (Korean Vets)I knew alway spoke of the glory, not the mundane.

    Comment by VRB — February 13, 2007 @ 8:14 am
  15. In my experience as an NCO, yes, the military is partially a nanny type institution. We are young men and women, some of us with families of our own. But many times, we’re treated like children and only children who’s job it is to follow orders. Instead of trying to instill fear by consequence as many superiors in my life have done, I wish the military would promote personal responsibility instead. Sorry a little bullheaded, but I’m ready to leave the service.

    Comment by Adam — February 13, 2007 @ 10:19 pm
  16. Adam, as a former NCO myself, I know exactly how you feel. The military is a very paternalistic organization. It used to be one that winked at the boy’s escapades, but no longer.

    Comment by Adam Selene — February 13, 2007 @ 11:36 pm

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