ìIn Saudi Arabia, Lives of Fear: Why Some Westerners Struggle to Stay as Terrorist Attacks Mount,î by Hugh Pope, Wall Street Journal, 14 June, p. A15.
ìRecruiters Try New Tactics to Sell Wartime Army,î by Monica Davey, New York Times, 14 June, p. A1.
Westerners have been working quietly in Saudi Arabia for decades. My sister-in-lawís parents were teachers within this large ex-pat community in the kingdom for many years before retiring and coming back to America, and they told of a very good life there.
But that life is fast disappearing thanks to al Qaedaís concerted and consistent effort to target Westerners with terrorism. Many long-timers are leaving, some for good and someóas per their customófor a long summer holiday back in the States. Whether or not they return in the fall will depend on whether or not the situation improves. But this much is clear, when the long-timers start leaving the ship, itís really sinking fast.
Saudi Arabia used to feature a per capita income of about $28k a generation ago. Now itís about $6-7k and itís dropping fast, thanks to the huge demographic youth bulge that drives up the total population year after year. Almost all of the mass violence in the world occurs in states with per capita incomes of $3k or less, and at the rate theyíre going, the Saudis will close in on that number faster than anyone could have anticipated 20 years ago. Westerners may well be right in leaving before the inevitable civil strife spreads beyond just specific terrorist acts against ìinfidels.î
If you think itís hard for companies to recruit for war zones, itís also hard for the military to recruit during an extended war periodósomething weíve never done in this all-volunteer force of the past three decades. Thereís little illusion in joining the Guard and Reserves nowadays, as there was in past years. Recruits know full well itís not just some weekends and a fat chance of going overseas. Since the military canít really afford to jack up the financial inducements too much, theyíre offering some unusual options regarding length of service and the ability to serve side-by-side with friends.
Expect more such innovations in coming years, because there will inevitably be a great renegotiation of what military service means as this global war on terrorism unfolds. Some ìboysî will go to wars and come back, but others will head out for peacekeeping missions and simply rotate, rotate, and rotate for years on endóeffectively never coming home. Those two distinct missions will eventually yield two very different recruiting strategiesónot to mention two very different militaries.