Holding The Line

Talking with Nanda last night got me thinking about something she said.  It is unfair that such a small number of our nation stand guard for all.

The military services will argue that the “new” all-volunteer military is a great boon.  Some of this is probably just “supporting the boss.”  The congress has decreed that we will have an all-volunteer force, so it is the law of the land.

Some of this may just be that the services are happier to have people who wish to be there.  Training a dedicated force usually works more cohesively, more efficiently, and projects more power.

There are also “observations” that the nation has gotten soft, that it won’t fight, etc.  Perhaps.  But I have noted in reading that it seems a universal characteristic of Americans that they never want to fight — and only come out to fight when it’s absolutely necessary.  We may be ferocious when we fight, but we aren’t spring-loaded in the fight mode.

So why don’t we go back to universal service?  One issue is certainly political.  Much of the left would scream and holler about being “forced” to defend their nation.  These are the same hypocrites who are against personal gun ownership and concealed carry of weapons, while maintaining armed guards for themselves.

But another difficulty in a return to universal service might be money.  It would take a significant amount of money to go back to training and keeping some form of military readiness.  I am not certain the services would be happy with the uncertainty of budget. But are such arguments valid when pitted against the concept that the nation stands ready to defend itself?

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27 Responses to Holding The Line

  1. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    For those who might wonder, I took the title from the old days of standing in a shield wall.

  2. AvatarEThompson says:

    “Some of this may just be that the services are happier to have people who wish to be there. Training a dedicated force usually works more cohesively, more efficiently, projects more power.”

    I think this is exactly the argument and I use Viet Nam as an example of the disadvantages of conscription. And I do think that civilians contribute simply by working and paying taxes. It is very expensive to fund the strongest military in the world and to support veteran medical care. Somebody has to be paying the donuts and this I gladly do.

    We who work at home can also contribute by helping vets find work in the civilian world. George W has founded an organization at his presidential center (www.bushcenter.org/explore-our-work/issues/military-service-initiative-team.html).

    I myself have hired an ex-Marine to handle all my computer tech problems/updates and have found it to be a very satisfying experience. He is knowledgeable, concise, prompt, and calm (especially when my system crashes in the middle of a trade!). What’s more, this young man has accumulated over 500 accounts and is making a very good living. Oorah!

  3. PencilvaniaPencilvania says:

    In Israel every young person is required to serve a few years in the military, isn’t that correct? I would think the rationale is that the country’s existence is literally in danger and under assault at every moment.
    While we certainly have bad actors chipping away at the US – e.g., the last 8 years’ administration – I don’t know that we are under siege in the military sense at the moment. I absolutely think that our children should be much more informed, through school, about the military, their purpose, the degree of expertise they achieve in serving, etc. I don’t think that is taught virtually at all.

  4. drlorentzdrlorentz says:

    A good solution that combines the benefits of voluntary service and compulsory service for all citizens is the Heinleinean approach (cf. Starship Troopers) of requiring military service for those who wish to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship (i.e., voting). This same idea is used in the novel People’s Republic by Kurt Schlichter, which I’m currently reading. Service is voluntary but if you don’t serve you’re not a full citizen.

    Of course, this will not happen in the US as things are now. A nation has to be under the continuous imminent threat (like Israel) for such a system to come into being. It is possible to imagine a time in the future when this would gain traction. I hope things never get that bad.

    The service-for-full-citizenship model makes good sense to me even in our current state because only those with “skin in the game” should be deciding on national policy. If I recall, in Starship Troopers many residents who choose not to serve still have successful lives; it’s a respectable choice. But given that this approach will not be adopted in the US, the volunteer military is the next best thing.

  5. AvatarEThompson says:

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    We have the greatest military in the world and a president who supports it wholeheartedly. Despite 8 years of socialist rule and an attempt to defund it, the military has lived to fight another day! It is, truly, the only function of government that operates efficiently. I believe this is because it has managed to separate its culture to a large degree from the ignorant politicos.

  6. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    Well, OK. So here’s the dirty little secret.

    We won the military war in RVN. We actually didn’t need to even sign the Paris Peace talks. We could have bombed the North with maybe another month of B-52 strikes and it would have been over. But we signed. The South could hold its own – provided we supplied them the ammo and gas.

    We reniged. They fell.

  7. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    We were good soldiers even back then. Our problem was Walter Cronkite – who lied. Outright lied. Told misstatements. Like what is happening today to Trump.

    But back then we didn’t have and alternate sources for news.

    • MLHMLH says:

      And didn’t McNamara tell LBJ what he wanted to hear rather than the truth?

    • jzdrojzdro says:

      True, Deveraux. I saw this unfold in real time. And I heard my Dad shouting epithets and insults at Cronkite on the screen.

      So all we have to do is retake the culture: abolish the teachers’ unions, defund the J-schools, rebuild the news business, teach civics from the White House, set up a New Hollywood. Easy-peasy, right?

  8. AvatarEThompson says:

    McNamara was a true war criminal imho and should have stayed in Ann Arbor and taught classes in Marxism.

    He didn’t even belong at Ford where he tortured one of the greatest businessmen in modern history- Lee Iacocca.

  9. SeawriterSeawriter says:

    Over the last 2000 years the driver of military victory has see-sawed between quality and quantity. Sometimes innumerable hordes have been the path to victory. Sometimes small numbers of elite troops have been.

    In the middle 18th century – including the American Revolution – victory went to the side with the better, more disciplined troops. (This included the American War of Independence, btw. Washington won because he was able to forge a regular Continental Army as good as the British Army. The militia troops, both sides, were pretty well useless.)

    By the French Revolution and the subsequent Wars of French Revolution the pendulum had swung the other way. Mass armies were the way to go. It stayed that way through the nineteenth century and much of the first half of the twentieth.

    However, by 1950 the pendulum had begun swinging the other way. Even during the Korean War, victory went to smaller numbers of well-trained troops. Chinese human wave attacks could not defeat disciplined US forces. (In the first three months we lacked disciplined troops on the ground.) Despite the myth of the draftee the Vietnam War was fought – and won militarily – by volunteers. There were exceptions, but relatively few draftees went, and most of those that did volunteered to serve in Vietnam. (They may have had reasons to volunteer, such as avoiding legal problems . . .) The conscripts mostly went to Europe or places like Alaska.

    Vietnam was the major reason the US abandoned conscription. Motivated volunteers vastly outperformed conscripts. Additionally with the increased lethality of modern weapons, fewer troops were needed. We saw the apogee of this strategy during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, where the volunteer US forces whipped the battle-hardened Iraqi conscript army.

    Since then, virtually every nation has abandoned conscription. Even Russia. At least for the present motivated, professional volunteers beat mass conscript armies almost every time. Technology might swing the pendulum back the other way, but not yet.

    Conscripting citizens for “public service” in absence of one exception (defense of the realm) is a good way to turn them into subjects.

    A republic can draft citizens during periods of crisis and remain a republic. The US was able to do so during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. But the peacetime draft of the 1950s and 1960s (in my opinion) helped undermine the belief in a self-reliant citizenry in this country and helped facilitate the belief “the government should take care of us.” That path, too, is the road to serfdom.

    If we needed a draft to protect this country I would support it. But a draft to “instill civic virtue” almost always ends up doing the opposite. It provides too much opportunity for government corruption.


    • jzdrojzdro says:

      “But the peacetime draft of the 1950s and 1960s (in my opinion) helped undermine the belief in a self-reliant citizenry in this country and helped facilitate the belief “the government should take care of us.” ”

      Thank you, Seawriter.

      Could you expand on this particular bit? How did the peacetime draft do that?

  10. AvatarEThompson says:

    “Motivated volunteers vastly outperformed conscripts.”

    Exactly my point.

  11. NandaNanda says:

    To amplify: Part of the ‘unfairness’ is the civilian disconnect with the reality that We. Are. Engaged. In. A. L-O-N-G. War. “Guns and Butter” doesn’t cut it. It allows those of us who’re enjoying the butter to disregard/denigrate/dismiss those running to/wielding the guns. It also has a side-effect of creating the ultimate continent-sized ‘safe space’ barring the occasional ‘outbreak’ of ‘workplace violence’, that is…Unconscionable.

  12. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    At the risk of sounding argumentative, perhaps you misstate the situation.

    Motivated anyone outperform “conscripts”. Marines are a great example.

    Marines have been, for the most part, volunteer soldiers. But not exclusively. My first platoon in-country was probably half “volunteered” by the local judge, probably to the overall benefit of the young man. One of my replacement troops was this scrawny kid who had gone to Princeton but dropped out. Did NOT fit the rest of the platoon. Didn’t seem to try to fit in. Yet about 6 weeks later I was going out on patrol with that squad and noted his helmet had the Marine Corps version of the 23rd Psalm on it. He had adapted.

    Marines have always been better troops than the Army. I don’t say that as bravado. Marines are better trained, better led, and given more freedom of action. It comes from how they think of battle. And that they have better leaders.

    Marines will discard those who don’t make it in induction training. I’m not sure the Army ever throws out anyone (except maybe for wearing a cross).

    Technology has its place. Certainly one of my early Lieutenant lessons was that it was better to kill the BG with a 250 Snake-Eye than a 5.56 FMJ. But leadership and esprit de corps are crucial in performance. I don’t think that’s a factor of conscript vs volunteer.

    I would argue that drafting with the attendant standing army is probably a waste of time and money for a nation like us. BUT short term service, to learn the basic skill sets, and perhaps reserve duties for some period of time, might be a decent alternative.

    • SeawriterSeawriter says:

      “I would argue that drafting with the attendant standing army is probably a waste of time and money for a nation like us. BUT short term service, to learn the basic skill sets, and perhaps reserve duties for some period of time, might be a decent alternative.”

      A draft with our current army would be a waste of time and money. But why would conscript short-term service and reserve duty serve any useful purpose, especially if done on a federal level? It would require money and resources better devoted to the regular force. It would provide a large number of unmotivated and undertrained reserves. It would create a giant federal bureaucracy which would be exploited by Progressives.

      It is a romantic notion on one level, with an underlying belief that it would somehow develop patriotism, but absent a real threat to national survival (such as in the American Civil War or WWII) it would quickly devolve into something akin to the Dignity Battalions of Noriega’s Panama.

      The only reason a military tend to be more efficient and less corrupt than civilian government is that in the military inefficiency and corruption is likely to be rewarded with death on the battlefield, even for senior officers. When there is no imminent threat of war (and the consequence of death and humiliation is removed) militaries quickly devolve into bandbox organizations more interested in pomp and bullying he civilian population than in efficiency. I hate to tell you how many times through history it has happened.


    • DevereauxDevereaux says:

      OK. Perhaps I’m just nostalgic for citizens who feel some attachment to the nation. Perhaps doing time in the military won’t instill any discipline and sense of duty in the youth of the nation. One can hope, but it might only be hope.

      OTOH, do not assume that because the military is “all-volunteer” that the usual gerbils and low life don’t still inhabit the upper ranks. The Mattis’s of the world are few and far between. Meanwhile the services protect and advance their “bright” prospects while leaving the troop leading to the “lessor” officers. All you have to do is look at some of the recent flags during the Obama years to see crawling lowlifes – not good for either service or country.

      • SeawriterSeawriter says:

        What you are doing is assuming a marker of patriotism is a way of promoting patriotism. Patriotic people serve in the military therefore service in the military can promote patriotism.

        It is the same error that created the housing bubble and the education bubble. Successful people own homes. Therefore if we make it easier for people to own homes there will be more successful people. Successful people have a college education therefore, if we make it easier for people to get a college degree we will have more successful people.

        The problem is you do not get more successful people. You get unsuccessful people buying homes and defaulting on mortgages making everyone else’s home less valuable, and unsuccessful people getting college degrees, discovering they cannot get jobs with watered-down or Useless Studies degrees, and turned into debt peons through undischargeable student loan debt. Meanwhile kleptocrats in both the public and private sector feast on the gullible fools who bought the argument.

        Similarly patriotism and and love of country are reasons why people join voluntarily (or do not resist conscription) and serve in the military. It has to be fostered through the education system, which is why the Progressives have focused on education with a laser-like precision. Destroy education and you destroy patriotism and independence, developing good little serfs.

        If you want to fix what is broken, you have to fix where it is broken.


        • DevereauxDevereaux says:

          ?So how do you explain Switzerland. They are progressive, as is much of Europe. Yet they seem to have a bigger dose of patriotism. AND they all serve, albeit mostly in reserve units.

          • MLHMLH says:

            It’s a little country (with big bank accounts to protect)?

          • SeawriterSeawriter says:

            1. They are a small country and need it. Conscription works if it is needed militarily and virtually universal. It devolves into corruption when it is unneeded or needed in such small numbers that the privileged can evade it.

            2. It is a small country with a homogeneous population.

            3. They serve because they are patriotic. They are not patriotic because they serve.

            It is worth noting the Swiss are taking the first steps to phase out conscription. Their air force is moving to an all-volunteer service, and they have shrunk the size of their army.


  13. AvatarEThompson says:

    “Yet about 6 weeks later I was going out on patrol with that squad and noted his helmet had the Marine Corps version of the 23rd Psalm on it. He had adapted.”

    Yikes, I have zero experience in the military, but 6 weeks is an awfully long time to adapt to the culture when American lives are being threatened every single minute of every single day. As a grateful civilian, I appreciate the volunteers who most likely take to the task more readily.

  14. AvatarEThompson says:

    And BTW, I have been referred to as a “devil dog” more often than not on the business front. :)

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