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.