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Defense Policy-Making Suffers from a Lack of Citizen-Soldiers

This is a guest blog post by Donald Stadler, an American living and working in London:

Matthew Bogdanos, the assistant district attorney for New York City and a colonel in the US Marine Corps Reserves, argues in the Washington Post that the United States needs more 'citizen-soldiers', pointing out that:

In the 1970s, 74 percent of Congress had prior military service. Today: 23 percent. Barack Obama, though clearly respectful of the military, has never served in the military and has only two veterans in his Cabinet -- the fewest since Herbert Hoover. By contrast, John Kennedy, decorated for heroism in World War II, had only two Cabinet members who were not veterans. (...)

Service members, like police officers, have clearly defined codes of conduct, the strength of which leads to outrage when they are violated, whether by a police officer abusing suspects or a soldier abusing prisoners. The outrage is particularly acute among those who share the code: No one hates a bad cop more than a good one. But if we limit the warrior ideal's physical courage to an isolated subculture of military, police and firefighters, focusing them solely on this virtue, we risk cultivating doers less tolerant of different lifestyles or ways of thinking. And if we limit aesthetic appreciation to the world of academics and economic elites, never encouraging them to roll up their own sleeves, we risk fostering gifted thinkers great on nuance but subject to paralysis by analysis.
Or worse. This artificial separation forces us to confront global terrorism with either the compassionate consensus of the whole-food collective or the indiscriminate anger of the lynch mob -- failures both.

What does this essay have to do with the Atlantic Alliance? Quite a bit one might argue, because while the phrase "the compassionate consensus of the whole-food collective or the indiscriminate anger of the lynch mob" may accurately describe a dilemma within the US, it equally accurately describes some of the causes of the split within NATO.

The US has tended to become the career military within the alliance, while much of the alliance has trended toward the opposite. This will not do - not only for reasons of fairness, but far more importantly because you are unlikely to fully understand what you don't have experience doing. In this case, fighting. Attempting to make policy for what you don't fundamentally understand simply doesn't work, as we have seen.

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Marie Claude on :

Il Duce had militia, Lenin Checha....wether you're going fashist or sociaolo-communist, or Irobotised

Don S on :

Still pulling the US' chain I see Marie-Claude? The US tradition of citizen-soldiers goes back to the Revolution. I think the armies of the French Revolution came from our tradition, in part at least.

Marie Claude on :

umm, I think it the contrary, we advised you where to fight battles, how to organise your army and our fleet was blocating the accesses, remember Chesapeake, De Grasse, Yorktown Rochambeau http://xenophongroup.com/mcjoynt/bonnel.htm we even made G. Washington to SURRENDER (monkey anyone !!!) "The French response was swift and powerful. Washington retreated to his hastily erected Fort Necessity and awaited both reinforcements and a French attack. When the French attacked on July 3rd, Col. Washington had only 284 men fit for duty. By evening, in a pouring rain, with a third of his men dead or wounded and their powder wet, it was clear that the English position was untenable. The French offered terms, and Col. Washington surrendered. The French now, for a time, were masters of the Ohio country" http://www.fortedwards.org/gwpage.htm

Joe Noory on :

So you believe that politicians should have no past experience that will give them a firm grasp of human mortality? That a legislator who has known how awful war can be is instantly called a fascist? So because you can repeat an American battle loss, in this case only meaningful because it was to the French and nearly 300 years ago, that the NOTION that a voluntary military is to be looked down upon. Typical. Words, ideas, and philosophies seem to have no meaning to so many people. All they're looking for is some foolish rationalization over which to prove to themselves that they're inteligent, even though the concept that they're indulging themselves in for their pleasure is utterly meaningless. Just how is it that the concept of the citizen soldier makes a long dead figure like Washington a "monkey"? Do you want to explain this to me, or is it just a kind of flashed collection of Rohrschach blot images of unrelated and irrelevant "things you like/things you hate" that by themselves have no meaning?

Marie Claude on :

"So because you can repeat an American battle loss" I didn't know that was an AMERICAN battle loss, when America was still theBritish colony, besides Washiington was leading an anglo-virginian army, can't say it was American, though Washington became a politian, then changed his alliance !!! the rest of your dires is simgly your old style story, therefore not worth of ranting, cuz it still shows your patisanship

Joe Noory on :

Okay - in every interaction we have, just for the sake of your tender sensibilities, no matter what it is that really is true or not, If there is a way to identify any situation, person, event, as somehow fitting into your method of self-identification - even though you had absiolutely nothing to do with it, it shall be positive. If it's negative, it shall somehow be identified as American. If it isn't even part of the concept being discussed, but is the only thing you can understand, it will become the concept being discussed. THAT is how the rest of humanity has been dealing with European culture since 1946.

Marie Claude on :

no, just some strange rightful super-power convinced adopted Americans, that are in way of disparition BTW

Mr Hand on :

What? Translation please!

Marie Claude on :

just read the words after one another, or put some commas in between

Joe Noory on :

Thta doesn't make any sense. Just write in French. If you're implying that non-Europeans governments need to pretend to not be significant powers for the sake of your feelings, then I suggest that there are reasons not to take a statement like that seriously.

Marie Claude on :

OK, as I do for yours

Don S on :

"remember Chesapeake, De Grasse, Yorktown Rochambeau" Yes I remember. I also remember that both Laffayette and Rochambeau had the highest respect for General Washington's abilities, and conversely of course. The remenants of the British army under Cornwallis might have been able to escape had De Grasse's fleet not blocked the Chesapeake and fought a battle with the British fleet, that much is true. But Cornwallis was well and truly defeated long before that, in a campaign that neither the French nor even Washington himself had much to do with. Cornwallis was shredded by General Nathaniel Green, whom Washington had appointed commander of the southern states, and by backwoods militia forces at the battles of King's Mountain and Camden. The role the French played in the American Revolution was twofold; they helped trap Cornwallis at Yorktown, and their entry into the war was strong evidence to the British that they must give up hope and make peace as they could not hope to win. Those were important contributions, and I would not minimize them. But of the great victories of the American Revolution the French only participated at the last.

Marie Claude on :

you forgot that Louis XVI was financing the american "resistance" long ago, he got ruined (state budget too) for his inconsiderate help, and this was one of the main causes of the bloody revolution in France.

Mr Hand on :

As far as money goes the Dutch loaned almost twice as much to the Americans as the French and they were the first nation in the world to render honors to an American flagged vessel. Plus the two year collapse in grain prices in France had a lot more to do with the Revolution then any money that was loaned and then repaid by the Americans. But all help was appreciated and the US will be forever grateful to the Bourbons for the money and the entrenching advice of Marshall Vauban. But even now considering the average enlistment in the US military is six years which makes those that stay and master their craft all the more valuable. The days of citizen armies is over considering the Western democracies simply don't have the stomach for the kinds of losses the US suffered during the Civil War, the one day casualty rate of Normandy or Iwo Jima or the French losses at Dien Bien Phu or even the relatively light casualties the UK suffered at the sinking of HMS Sheffield or in San Carlos Bay. But the quality of volunteers is higher now than at any time in our history. A small well-trained and well-equipped volunteer military under tight civilian control is better than a conscript army which to many Americans with long memories is exactly one of the reasons they emigrated from Europe. But the recounting of how many cabinet members served is a bit ingenuoous. Lincoln had very few cabinet officals that had served in the Mexican-American War. After the Civil War, considering how many served, it would be surprising to find few without some military experience. Just as it was after World War II, less so after the Korean actions and even less so after the Vietnam War which saw the end of conscription. And since we don't have a litmus test for politicians as to experience, religion or race then the pool will include many who never served. Even the claim that the elite in the US do not serve doesn't really pass muster as most of the officer corps come from wealthy backgrounds and in most cases are better educated then those who view them still as baby killers.

Pat Patterson on :

Forgot to change back to my name after the Spicoli reference. Link to demographics on US military; http://www.heritage.org/Research/NationalSecurity/cda06-09.cfm

Marie Claude on :

thanks for not quoting us as "weak", as far as the money that the Dutchs lend to America, it wasn't gratuitous : The Amsterdam merchants did not have a purely idealistic interest in the colonists' effort to break through British trade restrictions. They hoped that Amsterdam would succeed London as the European center of American trade. This hope was not to materialize and England continued to monopolize the trade of the former colonies after their independence was won. In 1782, Adams obtained the first loan for Congress, five million guilders, from three Amsterdam banking houses. http://www.let.rug.nl/~usa/E/newnetherlands/nl8.htm French expenditures for the war were enormous: Robert D. Harris sets the total French cost for the war for the years 1776-1782 at 928.9 million livres (as opposed to 2,270.5 million livres for the British), with another 125.2 million to be added for the year 1783! At the same time the total ordinary income of the French crown stood at 377.5 million livres for the year 1776. More than half of the cost of the war had to be funded by loans, and by the end of 1782 the total constituted debt of the French monarchy had reached 4,538 million livres. Even if most historians agree today that these additional outlays for the war were not the primary cause of the French Revolution, there can be no doubt that 4 All figures are taken from the various articles published by Sam Scott cited above. More than 1/4 of all desertions in the French forces occurred during the last three months before departure. 2 an extra billion livres in expenditures, and annual expenditures of some 207 million livres just to service the debt, did nothing to enhance the financial situation of the French monarchy between 1783 and the outbreak of the revolution in 1789.5 Most of these funds were spent on the navy: the annual naval budget rose from 33 million livres in 1775 to 169 million in 1780 and peaked at almost 200 million livres in 1782.6 During these same years, however, the army budget increased only marginally from 93.5 million in 1775 to 95 million in 1783.7 Expenditures on the American war were minimal within the overall French war effort. According to Claude C. Sturgill, "all of the monies directly appropriated for the entire cost" of Rochambeau's little army amounted to exactly 12,730,760 livres or a little over 1% of the total cost of the war!8 In addition the American rebels received 18 million in loans, to be repaid after the war, as well as outright subsidies of about 9 million from the foreign affairs department and other aid for a total of about 48 million livres spent in support of the American Revolution. ... Almost 135 years after France had helped ensure American independence, America "paid her debt to Lafayette," first in 1917/18, and again in 1944, when American troops under General Dwight D. Eisenhower helped liberate France" So, the loans came too late for Louis XVI, cuz Washington, broke the alliance during the revolution I like precision, sorry

Marie Claude on :

oh, I forgot the source http://www.hudsonrivervalley.net/ROCHAMBEAUINCONNECTICUT/ROCHAMBEAUINCONNECTICUT4.pdf

Pat Patterson on :

Your penultimate sentence doesn't make any sense. Which Washington and which revolution? I didn't say the Dutch made it a gift but a loan it was not a gratuity. And at a crucial point during the Napoleonic Wars the US did fight against the British. And this war caused the British to have to withdraw more than half of its fleet to try to blockade the American ports to keep the almost unbeatable US frigates like the USS Constitution and it five sisters from destroying the British merchant fleet. But during this period Napoleon essentially ignored his navy and left the majority of the fleet at anchor in Toulon. France was the equal of England in terms of wealth, industrialization, population and productivity before the Revolution yet because of its antiquated or nonexistent banking system was paying much higher interest rates than the English. Also there is the little matter of the debt for building and maintaining Versailles Palace which at $2 billion plus is twice any estimate of how much the French regime spent on the American Revolution. And we didn't even get a postcard.

Marie Claude on :

really, umm, you just say what you want, but not history facts

Pat Patterson on :

So are you saying that Versailles didn't cost over $2 billion, that the French had a banking system just like Britain or the Dutch, that the British fleet did not send over half its frigates and men of war to blockade US ports during the War of 1812 or that Napoleon did send his fleet out during this period when the British blockades was at its weakest. I'm afraid that the facts do speak for themsleves else you would have been able to dispute them. The support the French gave to the US was entirely because they saw a chance to recreate at the least a French vassal state in the wealthiest part of the British Empire. To have expected more from the US with memories of the French-Indian War, the unpopularity of being allied with a monarchy and being allied with a Catholic monarchy that was still destroying Protestant settlements in the New World as charged by the Vatican means a capacity for self-delusion that is staggering.

Anonymous on :

I love how you bias the discussion, it's not Versailles that costed Louis XVI's head, cuz it was already there since Louis XIV, UK was insustrialised, not France, and you know why the nobles were courting in Versailles, and their life there was not gratuitous, (the king only sonsored his friends) but Louis XIV imagined that it was easier for him to control them as being spectator of the court, rather than making complots against him. Now, Mr Hand said it, also inflation in grain prices made it too, because of 2 following years of bad weather, frost and dilluvian raining empeched crops to grew the support of the Frenchs were mostly EMPATHY for your cause and not that greedy instinct that only anglo-saxons can feel, and suspect for the others. If you'd know so well your history, then you'd know that the French settlers were remnantly chased by the British, and helping America to get her independance was a way for them to get rid of the British, but that was not forecasting the english settlers appetite too

Pat Patterson on :

The interest payments for the first three phases plus the garden renovations of Louis XVI were the principal debt of the French government/court. And yes the debt was one of the primary causes of the regicide of Louis XVI. France was indeed industrialized, for that period, but it was much slower as many businesses were royal or patronage monopolies (one of the reasons DuPont came to America was that he could sell chemicals without a monopoly or without having to pay for one). The cost and the debt service was taking up over half of the budget that the king had available which was one of the reasons he called for a National Assembly so he could regularize taxes (which is the universal code for raising taxes on everythin). The American Revolution was popular among the nobles but pamphlets from America were not allowed to be imported into the country. It was only after the Revolution succeeded that there was more overt sympathy but still mostly just animus towards the British. The Acadians bore the brunt of British antipathy but it should be noted that they had refused to take an oath to the Crown or provide militias for the Indian wars. Even as late as World War I and World War II the Canadian government had to guarantee that French-Canadians would not be sent to fight unless they volunteered. Some things never change. As for greed ask France's former BFF, Quaddafy, about who he would rather deal with in contractual matters, the Americans or the French. Also I thought I made it clear that Mr Hand and I were the same not two different commenters.

Marie Claude on :

ah, you're Mr Hand, good riddance he is gone then, I appreciate your "fair" joke Khadafi delt with the Americans because of your bombs and your leading part for the boycott that prevented him from becoming as much rich as his Saudi cousins, but be sure that he doesn't like you more for reversing the attitude towards him. Yeah, Bush could lift the embargo, after that Khadafi paid the ransom of Lokerbee...the French for Tenere had to STFU. Very fair indeed ! Besides a post, where Khadafi was the topic, has been on board a few months ago The french got the nuclear reactor, the Brits the arms, the Germans the mercedes :lol:

John in Michigan, USA on :

Franco-American history comes alive! But back on the original topic... On the importance of citizen soldiers, it's hard to imagine a better example than how the Marines handled a recent, under-reported jet crash in San Diego. Compare and contrast with the Wall Street clowns, and the clowns who regulate them, and their clown bosses in Congress. "[url=http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123629513232645561.html?mod=djemBestOfTheWeb]A Tragedy of Errors, and an Accounting[/url]"

Consul-At-Arms on :

I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms2.blogspot.com/2009/03/re-defense-policy-making-suffers-from.html

Zyme on :

Marie, I have a somewhat off-topic question. First I ve read about what happened after British muslims protested at a home-coming parade of British troops here: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/campaigns/our_boys/article2310996.ece Now are there similar parades of French soldiers upon returning from duty? I have suspected for a long time that it would be a good measure to increase the morale among the troops, when they feel public support for their mission. But here we don't have anything like that.

Marie Claude on :

Zyme, I haven't heard of that until now, our soldiers parade only on 14th of july, and on armistice day

Pat Patterson on :

Don't they also have a fairly large parade, I know of at least two occasions, on Aug. 24th. The first being 1972 when I was in Paris and saw the parade and the other being the focal point of The Day of the Jackal. In the US there are many hometown parades either for the local National Guard unit when it finishes its rotation and when a town honors a local military base, say Oceanside CA, when it held a parade and huge picnic for the 11th MEU when it reurned from Iraq. Very similar to what the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment was doing in Luton. What is hilarious is that when questioned by ITV one of the protesters kept referring to the "Royal Anglicans" until the newsman explained that the name was Anglian which wasn't descriptive of the religion of the soldiers, but rather that area of eastern Britain referred to as Anglia.

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