Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ironic Military Musings

Roman Legion

American Citizen Soldiers

It's ironic how unrelated posts will appear simultaneously in the blogosphere only to be recognized as sharing a common theme. This past week’s offerings were no exception. The war in Afghanistan and in turn the military is the focus of this post on recommended reads and commentary.

Mark the master of Zenpundit posted the following as well as his comments on Dr. Bernard Finel's essay entitled, The Fall of the Roman Republic: Lessons for David Petraeus and America.

Mark adds this mid way through his comments:
Could we get a “man on horseback” or a “triumvirate”? Americans have repeatedly elected generals as President, including some of Civil War vintage who were, unlike U.S. Grant, of no great distinction and Teddy Roosevelt, a mere colonel of the volunteers, was a Rough Rider all the way into the Vice-Presidency. (Incidentally, I don’t see General Petraeus or any other prominent Flag officer today being cut from the mold of Caesar, Antony or Pompey. It’s not in the American culture or military system, as a rule. The few historical exceptions to this, MacArthur, Patton and McClellan, broadcast their egomania loudly enough to prevent any Napoleonic moments from crystallizing). Never have we had an ambitious general in the Oval Office in a moment of existential crisis though - we fortunately had Lincoln and FDR then - only after the crisis has passed and they were elected them based on the reputation of successful service. It is unlikely that we would, but frustrations are high and our political class is inept and unwilling to contemplate reforming structural economic problems that might impinge upon elite interests. Instead, they use the problems as an excuse to increase their powers and reward their backers.
When in Rome....

One of the themes in Dr. Finel's essay is the decline of the participation of free rural citizens in military service. This caused the following:
...At the time of the Cimbrian War (113-101 BC), the threat of foreign invasion by Germanic tribes forced Gaius Marius to replace the traditional Roman Army soldiered by land-owning citizens with one built around landless volunteers for whom military service was a career and who owed loyalty primarily to the general paying the bills rather than the state. Marius’ legions defeated the Germans, but a new instability had been introduced into the Roman state due to the tendency of these new volunteer forces to be loyal to personal patrons rather than state institutions.
Small Wars Journal sponsored this next essay by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling, who lays out a good argument for the return of conscription as a way to spread the experience and civic responsibility for defending the nation to all strata’s of American society.
"The U.S. should therefore abandon the all-volunteer military and return to our historic reliance on citizen soldiers and conscription to wage protracted war. This approach proved successful in both world wars and offers several advantages over the all-volunteer military. First and most important, this approach demands popular participation in national security decisions and provides Congress with powerful incentives to reassert its war powers. Unlike the all-volunteer force, a conscripted force of citizen soldiers would ensure that the burdens of war are felt equally in every community in America.
Second, this approach provides the means to expand the Army to a sufficient size to meet its commitments. Unlike the all-volunteer force, a conscripted force would not rely on stop-loss policies or an endless cycle of year-on, year-off deployments of overstressed and exhausted forces. Third, conscription enables the military to be more discriminating in selecting those with the skills and attributes most required to fight today's wars.
Unlike the all-volunteer force, a conscripted force would not rely on exorbitant bonuses and reduced enlistment standards to fill its ranks.
The All-Volunteer Force: The Debate

LTC Yingling, raised valid points that carried the echo of the previous article by Dr. Finel. I would add that in the age of never ending commitments such as Afghanistan or Iraq, having an citizen soldier force structure would have shortened our commitment, by providing the manpower to have put over half a million boots on the ground as soon as the major combat was over. This would allow us to do as we did in post-war Germany and Japan; totally disarm the society and seal off any chance for outsiders to start trouble.

If we look to history, two branches of service the Navy and Marines have traditionally been staffed with volunteer enlistments. These services by their nature, should remain volunteer. The Army bending itself into a hybred force that has to meet COIN and SysAdmin demands while avoiding dulling the Leviathan tip of the spear, would be enhanced by a return to citizen soldiers.

And while we are on the military and how one of the requirements of living in a Republic means standing up to serve one's country. That leads to this segway to whether military officers should voice a political opinion.

Schmedlap posted this Military service and political office do not go together. His post dovetails right into Dr. Finel's post and Zenpundit's comments about relying on former military leaders to fix the countries woes.
Politics and the Military Profession

And bringing up the rear on whether today's officer corp is showing proper concern for the troops is this from Tom Ricks.

Wanat Why it Matters

All this comes after finishing Sebastian Jungers latest book WAR which provides the backstory to the documentary RESTREPO and devotes considerable thought to considering why men go to war. I will be writing more on my impression of the movie and Junger's book in the coming week. I will say that the similarities, like fleeting nightmares of a long ago experience were haunting reminders of my own brief interlude with war.


Bernard Finel said...

I appreciate the mention, but it is Bernard Finel, not Fenil!

HISTORYGUY99 said...

My apologies for not proofreading better.

I remain honored by your visit.