You’ve got to Fight…for Your Right…to…Gain Citizenship

During our discussion in class today on different forms of group identity, many of you seemed surprised when I mentioned that there were many non-US citizens currently fighting for the US military in Iraq; many (a majority at least) are doing so in exchange for the promise of US citizenship. Which begs the questions, just how many non-citizens are currently serving in the US military? According to this paper (pdf),

“As of February 2003, there were 37,000 non-citizens serving in active duty in the U.S. armed forces, almost 12,000 foreign nationals serving in the selected reserves, and another 8,000 serving in the inactive national guard and ready reserves.”*

As we learned in class, prior to the establishment and consolidation of nation-states in Europe, post-Westphalia, most political leaders recruited mercenary armies. Thus, the link between military protection and citizenship is a modern phenomenon. This makes the results of a recent survey done by Foreign Policy Magazine very interesting.


Many proposals have been suggested to help the military meet its recruiting and retention needs. But an incredible percentage of the index’s officers favor the same solution: Nearly 80 percent support expanding options for legal, foreign permanent residents of the United States to serve in exchange for U.S. citizenship. A high percentage of officers, about 6 in 10, also support the idea of allowing more recruits who have a high school equivalency degree—but no diploma—to serve. Almost 40 percent favor reinstating the draft.

*Not all of these, of course, are serving in Iraq. Moreover, while it is a seemingly large number it is still a very small percentage of the total military.

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