Friday, August 01, 2008

Standing Armies

The old dead white guys were right. They're not a good idea. I'm agin' 'em.

If the States each had their own citizen militia and had to pay 'em, we'd see a lot less casual use, especially by the Federal level. "But," you might ask, "how would our great nation project force? How would the US maintain our prestige?" To the first, maybe less often by beatin' up the fuzzy-wuzzies and more often by bein' the kewl kids everyone wants to be like; to the second, can you eat, smoke, drink or sleep with prestige? If not, just what are you doin' with that stuff, anyway -- more to the point, what's Congress do with it? Pick up dates? "Hey baby, wanna see my prestige?" Ew. They'd do it, too. You know they do.

Relatedly, I was bothered when (well, when I found out) the Feds -- was it during Gerald Ford's Presidency? -- took a sort of Cub Scout Oath not to surreptitiously bump off foreign leaders. Seems to me a lot of lower-ranking bloodshed could be spared if this meddling intervention stuff could start at the top instead of the low-rank enlisted level.

...Please bear in mind that I am rather determinedly civilian and inherently anarchic; there's a huge lot of .mil stuff stuff I just don't get and cannot grasp. I support our troops and as for the nation's present engagements, go look up what Ayn Rand said about Vietnam. (Hint, it wasn't at all akin to the non-plan the Junior Senator from Illinois is flogging, which appears to involve slouching home and leaving whatever mess behind there is when the music stops).

Okay, try not to be too blamed mean about it; I'm sure my mad plan would do stuff like sour the milk and corrupt the youth. Me and those dead white guys, what'd they know anyhow?

Pity's sake, even they changed their minds. Kind of. Go read what scholars say.

Update: closed comments, I was getting on my own nerves.
Update updated: alllowed comments again -- what was I thinkin'? -- but I'm done commenting there.

19 comments:

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Gonna have to respectively disagree with you on this one, Madam X. (ooooo, I LIKE that honorific...) You can eat drink and smoke 'prestige.' It's alright to not have your own standing army when there is some huge other country keep the world's law and order for the sake of law and order. Those old white guys here NEEDED those old white guys across the pond with their great big navy to have the luxury of distrusting our own standing military. And they changed their mind a bit at the Barbary coast.

Tam said...

Oddly, the FF's didn't seem to have much trouble with Standing Navies and their attendant Marines.

A lot of our view of armies comes not from the Founding Fathers, but rather from our British heritage, which has always distrusted standing armies and troops stationed at home. The British army at home has always been a skeleton force unless Napoleon or Hitler was actually frothing at Calais.

Roberta X said...

Tam: I'm not sure how odd it is; it's difficult to put up fences in the sea.

Generally: It is of some concern to me that this posting will prove a source of contention. If this proves to be the case, I will remove it; I'm neither an historian nor a poltical philosopher, only another opinion on the Internet.

og said...

I've travelled a lot, in the US, in Canada, in Mexico.

One thing I can say is that the differences between the states would make the militia a clusterfuck of biblical proportions. A federal (you know what I mean) standing army is a unified force whcih takes men and women from around the country and makes them something else- and for the most part, that something else is something dramatically better. And they take that something better home with them when they return. If you spend some time working with some Greatest generation folks, you understand. And that greatness doesn't manifest itself, usually, until the generation has developed the wisdom of experience.

No, we need, must have standing armies, and our military provides an indisputably important and unifying force in these United States. In fact, I'm inclined to believe that like the Swiss, Military service ought to be mandatory, and not volunteer. I never served, and at my age, the only regret I have is that I didn't walk onto Parris island at 18.

CounterClckWise said...

Well I think yours is a damn fine idea! It seems like the main purpose of our current army is to fight limited non-war wars. If it ain't worth a few kilotons of nuclear hellfire, then it ain't worth doin'.

And I hope I'm not threadjacking by saying to og that mandatory volunteering is definitely crossing the line in the sand. If you're pining for that kind of government, try living in central Africa for a few years.

LabRat said...

I'm going to disagree for purely logistical reasons. In the FF's time, militaries were much smaller and technologically simpler affairs; you might have been able to count on the average citizen to have a hunting rifle and the ability to use it in a reasonably organized fashion after a few weeks of training in the eighteenth century, but you can't exactly count on the average young man nowadays having an Abrams and the training to use THAT effectively.

One of the reasons I've seen the actual military saying they don't want to see the draft brought back is that with the degree the military has advanced in technology and tactics, by the time they finished adequately training a conscript, his period of service would be nearly over. If all you need is cannon fodder, the draft (or a military you whip together in a few months when a threat looms) works fine. If you need the kind of well-trained and skilled soldiers we now expect, it doesn't.

I'd also note that one of the reasons we were so slow out the gate in World War II was that we had let the size and readiness of our military deteriorate dramatically after World War I and the isolationist spirit that followed (or really, never left and was just plain more irritated). We had to throw huge amounts of effort and cost into rebuilding what would have been much cheaper to maintain.

DirtCrashr said...

Coordination. Imagine the USS San Antonio trying to team-up with the USS San Francisco in order to defend Charleston harbor from Canadians:
SA: "Sir, move aside we're trying to maneuver here!"
SF: "Dude, YOU move over man, we're trying to light our bong!"
Charleston: "All Y'all's bettah gitcher asses out of the way, we're firing our cannons!"
Canadians: "Eh?"

og said...

Counterclockwise: Please go look at the Swiss model so you have some understanding what I mean, and NOT the south african model. Way different animal. The swiss- (as I'm given to understand it from the few swiss I know,) consider service to be one of the duties of citizenship. It doesn't mean you have to go to war, or even serve in a combat position, but put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, regarding your feelings for your country. This is not conscription. This is like showing up to vote.

BobG said...

I'm going to have to side with Labrat on this one. Much as I dislike the idea of a standing army, I see it as a regrettable necessity.
Just my opinion.

CounterClckWise said...

Ok, no threadjacking on Roberta's lawn. My response to og is posted here.

og said...

Feel free to delete my comments, Ms X. I'd rather be missing in action than contentious. And Counter, I have a post which I typed on your blog, which it woudn't let me post because I don't belong to any of the approved systems. I'd be pleased to discuss it there, but you've chosen to prevent me from doing so.

Joseph said...

Gosh, Roberta, don't worry if it's a source of contention. Your opinion is to be respected. Folks that read your blog may not agree with you on this, but I don't think a flame war will break out.
Historically, standing armies have often been used (and are being used) against enemies of the state. Sad but true.
Today, though, in the high-tech battlefield, barely-trained conscripts are going to get slaughtered. Only a standing armed force is going to be able to maintain the skills necessary to win. In times of peace, the US Army generally dwindles to almost nothing. (But bear in mind that most of the past 20 years or so have not really been peace, but low intensity conflicts.

Roberta X said...

Og, what meant was I'd take my post down, not people's comments.

Heck, it's fun when other people fight and if they fight too much, I can always close comments. I just didn't want to get into a whizzing contest on my own blog.

_______________________

I'm seeing a lot of "utility" arguments. Most of them could be -- and often are -- applied to Big Government, too. Hence my original discomfort with standing armies.

LabRat said...

Fair point.

However, when you get right down to it, having a government at all is a bow to utility over liberty.

Roberta X said...

Labrat: My point exactly. If other people think they have to have some bloodsucking parasite to tell 'em what to do, I am kinda stuck with it. I do not think it is a good idea and cooperate only to the extent needed to keep from getting caught in the gears.

--And believing that governments are a poor compromise, I am very reluctant to let them wield much in the way of armies.

Alan J. said...

Roberta, do you want a poll or a discussion? My short answers would be Yes to Standing Army, No to Draft, Yes to Power Projection.

Long answer is that we should only beat the crap out of the people who deserve it, and only when it's in our National Interests.

When I think about countries like Sudan or Myanmar - murdering their own people, then I feel bad for them but it's not in our interest to invade them. But when you think about Iran dominating the M.E. or shutting off the flow of oil by closing the straits, then we need the ability to convince them to not do it. And when you think of the next Stalin or Hitler armed with nukes and ICBMs, then yes - we definitely need a standing army.

LabRat said...

Let me rephrase, then.

Utility arguments aren't bad on their face, because some unpleasant things really are also things we can't get along without. I happen to think that governments are one of them- in practice, anarchy becomes feudalism almost instantly, as people vie for superior local force and protection from same- through hiring someone else's force.

Where the crux of discussion lies is in distinguishing the useful- as people argue, say, a welfare system is- from the necessary.

In a world where having great big oceans on either side is no longer a deterrent to attack on our shores, a modern military is necessary. In order to have a modern military, standing armies are necessary.

Roberta X said...

Sigh Does it say "Campybells Cream O'Worms Soup on that can and am I holding an opener? It does. I am.

Screw that. I ain't arguing. The notion of standing armies chafes me. The States are going even farther that way; that's reality.

I had some stuff to say but it doesn't make any difference. Y'all are fine folks, kind to stray babies and crying cats.

John B said...

Bobbi Darling, anything you say on your blog, or anywhere else for that matter, whether I agree or not, I will cheerfully defend to the death your right to say these things.

Odd, I don't usually get along with French as a rule, But I think I'd like this Voltaire dude...