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No more concept of the Citizen Soldier in the US Military


Nidan1

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081003/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/military_recruiting

Although the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps were traditionally staffed by volunteers, the United States Army always relied on the draft in peace time and increased mobilization during times of war.

Does the all-volunteer Army put America at risk for creating a force of mercenaries and professional soldiers who have no ties to civilians or civilian authority?

What say you?

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It's more like a concession due to lack of leadership and real motivators for soldiers at the moment rather than a long-term trend, I think.

I would also say that the military has to compete with the private sector to get qualified people to fill personnel slots. Money is a great incentive, and money corrupts, in my opinion.

It takes a certain type of person to be attracted to infantry arms, I dont think that enough of those type of people exist right now, unless you can attract them out of the woodwork with monetary rewards.

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The concept of enlistment bonuses isn't really a new one. Enlistment bonuses, and re-inlistment bonuses for that matter, have existed in one form or another since The US Army went voluntary. The amounts have changed (although enlistment bonuses of $20,000 in the mid 80s weren't unheard of) and the MOS's that have been opened up for bonuses have changed, but not the concept itself.

What is new is concept of offering junior to mid level officers $$ bonuses to stay. Those bonuses are pretty hefty and had not existed previously.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081003/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/military_recruiting

Although the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps were traditionally staffed by volunteers, the United States Army always relied on the draft in peace time and increased mobilization during times of war.

Does the all-volunteer Army put America at risk for creating a force of mercenaries and professional soldiers who have no ties to civilians or civilian authority?

What say you?

uhh ... wasn't this debate already had, like, 30 years ago?

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I don't think there has always been a peacetime draft, since Congress had to pass a law establishing one in 1940, and then again in 1941 (before Pearl Harbor). It was then considered prudent, given the world situation, to continue it after the end of WW II until 1973.

Wiki article.

My general feeling is that an army made up primarily of citizen soldiers better represents the interests of the nation as a whole. The Army needs a cadre of professionals who maintain the skills of soldiering and can pass them on to recruits. But if that is all there is, they also tend to develop institutional interests and loyalties that can prejudice their performance as defenders of the nation.

Another issue is that a solely professional army can become too focussed on tradition and ritual. One hears the term 'hidebound' applied at times. Bringing civilians into the ranks during WW II often meant taking a fresh approach to problems that the professionals simply would not have thought of.

Michael

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I am a strong supporter of a citizen army in the US, and so I am very much against the present system.

To my mind, it gets much harder for the professional military to support and pursue wars, that the citizenry thinks is a bad idea. A corollary to this is is that with short-term soldiers rather than potential professionals filling out the ranks, it's much more difficult for the professionals to lie to the citizenry about how the war is going.

This true undermines fighting and winning wars, short term. The professionals are quite right in that the more the civilian populace is committed to the war effort and so supportive of the military. If this means concealing military errors and failures from the civilians, as far as the professional is concerned keeping such information to itself is worth it so as to win the war. Usually this is called "keeping up morale on the home front."

But me, I think keeping the citizens informed is not just worth accepting civilian knowledge of bad stuff from the war, it is pretty much the only way you can win wars with an open society at home. The key reasons are accurate information and its honest transfer.

With the army's ranks filled out with citizens representing the general populace, the general populace is by definition very interested in what the army is doing, and given a decent information flow the general populace will inform itself about the problems faced by soldiers in the army, and so understand much better what it takes to fight a war and win.

A simple example is sergeants yelling at recruits - there was a time when the general populace understood this was simply necessary to convert civilians into soldiers, in large part because so many civilians had gone through the process. As a result recruit training wasn't second-guessed, micro-managed, and "kid-gloved", as it is today.

A more important example is that if the war conditions the soldiers are in are known to the general populace, the populace will understand better how and why it is soldiers die, what they're doing when they die, and so be able to judge when too many soldiers are dying.

As it is now, any soldier death is too many as it contributes to a politicized overall casualty count, and beyond that soldier's unit it is pretty much entirely unclear how that soldier's death contributed to the war effort, whose goal of course is victory. Although it's critical to preserve soldier lives, in wars people die and if you make keeping your soldiers alive as your absolute top priority your combat effectiveness is weakened. A good example of this is US infantry unable to catch Afghan insurgents, because the US infantry is wearing armor and trained to deal with any contact with massive firepower. This approach certainly reduces US infantry casualties, but at the same time improves insurgent morale (even to the point where the insurgents call the Americans by mobile phone and insult them) and widens collateral damage, which in turn creates more insurgents.

Another arguement in favor of the citizen opposed to the professional army is that you get a better quality of recruit, but frankly I am not so sure this is really important. Historically, the soldiers that die in wars - the infantry and the support arms that have to be near them - come from the poor end of the society even if there is a draft, as high-tech military jobs require a the smarter recruits, and infantry by its very nature must be expendable. This is not to say that a bunch of bright teenagers trained to be infantry wouldn't do a better job than a bunch of stupid ones, but frankly infantry combat work on the private soldier level doesn't require a huge amount of smarts.

The story however is very different when it comes to the leaders, particularly the sergeants and company-level officers. These guys if you want a good army need to be top-level individuals, there is no substitute for a sharp, decisive man capable of thinking on his feet and looking at confusion and figuring out how to lead the way. If he does his job right, his soldiers do what he says and believe in it, and without that the army cannot take on any difficult task.

If the NCO or junior officer is a dud, a dummy, an average guy, a yes-man, a person not capable of thinking past what his superiors tell him to do, then the moment there is a contradiction between what the superiors say is the reality, and what the soldiers see on the ground, that NCO or junior officer will become the focus for the soldiers' dissastisfaction with the contradiction. Or, in simple terms, it is up to the lieutenant and the platoon sergeant to enforce the bullcrap. That is a difficult task under any circumstances, and it is nigh impossible if the average low level leader in the professional army is not a good deal more on the ball than the troops he commands.

In the present professional army, a substantial proportion of the combat infantry, I would guess half or maybe more, are there because they are young men out for fun, travel, adventure, and patriotism. Some of these young men will go on, after their service, to top schools and leadership in the civilian society.

Their commanders on the other hand, are more and more guys who are staying in the job because they have accepted so much money they arguably are not citizen soldiers, but mercenaries. This can work if the military is not stressed, but if push comes to shove or the war lasts a long time, you are going to have morale problems. If the leaders were the best and brightest of the society then you could overcome that - but if you have to pay 20 grand to keep a Joe average sergeant or lieutant with a community college education in for three more years, what chance have you of keeping an Ivy League guy, or maybe some genius GED holder who is a born leader, in uniform?

The present army is insulated from society, and it is not suprise that the civilians have little understanding of or indeed concern about what the army does. It is a governement job, more dangerous than most other government jobs but in the final analysis just another big bureaucracy where some people choose to make their career. The people moving up the army bureaucratic ladder - the professional soldiers - by and large are people who are less than competative in the civilian society.

So me, I would institute a draft and not allow any career-tracking even for junior sergeants or officers. Let the company commander and the platoon sergeants be career guys, but every one else in the infantry company, to my mind they should be civilians trained to soldier, and after their tour is up they go back to being civilians.

But so far the government hasn't asked me for my opinion.

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I don't see the problem with having a professional army - one that carries out its duties in a professional manner. And as for paying members of the armed forces market rates, these guys (and gals) are quite aware that their lives are considered expendable in the pursuit of those duties; why the hell shouldn't they be paid well?

Fighting asymetric wars brings about a realisation that different peoples value human life differently - a citizen from a rich nation is more likely to be giving up more than his enemy from a dirt poor country; the poor guy could well have made a choice between fighting or starving. As BD6 points out, the lower levels of the Western armies tend to populated by people from poorer backgrounds - but this is true of all armies from all times.

I don't buy the argument that a draftee army is less likely to be misled by propaganda, nor that it will be harder for a corrupt officer cadre to lead. The systems of propaganda and discipline used by the German Army in WW2 meant that it remained a very capable force until the last few days of the war - by which time it was almost entirely drafted.

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Wouldn't a draft be a strong example of positive liberty? I don't see how such a thing can be implemented in today's age of deregulation, devolution of governments, and an increase in individual liberties. Hell, not even Russia could sustain a draft, and their citizens are probably more pro gov. than most Americans.

It's a good thing that a majority of Americans hold individual liberty at higher levels than some people on this thread who support the draft.

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(snip)

Fighting asymetric wars brings about a realisation that different peoples value human life differently - a citizen from a rich nation is more likely to be giving up more than his enemy from a dirt poor country; (snip)

Yeah, I heard a similar line in "Braveheart" about how the Scottish nobles had so much more to lose than the poor clansmen. I am pretty sure that the poor person is risking exactly the same thing as the richer person. Life itself. Possessions mean absolutely NOTHING when you're dead.

Unless you buy into the bumper sticker philosophy that he who dies with the most toys wins. :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

Bigduke6 you did a wonderful job of describing the current situation. A military leavened with people anxious to complete their enlistments and get out has a much harder time operating in the dark than the professional military that can and does isolate itself from the civilian world.

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Wouldn't a draft be a strong example of positive liberty? I don't see how such a thing can be implemented in today's age of deregulation, devolution of governments, and an increase in individual liberties. Hell, not even Russia could sustain a draft, and their citizens are probably more pro gov. than most Americans.

It's a good thing that a majority of Americans hold individual liberty at higher levels than some people on this thread who support the draft.

Most Americans want their government to be there to protect them from crime and natural disasters and war and to build their roads and to predict the weather and to save them from the terrible greedy people on Wall Street. Most Americans also don't want to pay a penny for it and most don't want to get involved personally - take jury duty as a prime example. :mad:

Personal liberty carries the cost of personal responsibility. The well-being of the whole has a direct correlation with the willingness of each part to contribute to the whole at the expense of self-interest. Many Americans have been brainwashed to believe that participating together for any common goal is destructive. It's invariably branded with the epithet "socialism". :eek: :eek:

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Most Americans want their government to be there to protect them from crime and natural disasters and war and to build their roads and to predict the weather and to save them from the terrible greedy people on Wall Street. Most Americans also don't want to pay a penny for it and most don't want to get involved personally - take jury duty as a prime example. :mad:

Personal liberty carries the cost of personal responsibility. The well-being of the whole has a direct correlation with the willingness of each part to contribute to the whole at the expense of self-interest. Many Americans have been brainwashed to believe that participating together for any common goal is destructive. It's invariably branded with the epithet "socialism". :eek: :eek:

I don't personally hold the view that positive liberty always leads to a tyrannical form of socialism, but when you force someone to be a better person,(some say a draft would make younger people 'better') it can lead to corruption. And if one holds to the generational view, and by this I mean people going through their political socialization in their 'coming of age' years and holding this view until they die, then you would have generation after generation with viewpoints similar to that of social conservatives: incessantly intervening in the free market while holding ideas for social control. I can't say for certain that an ongoing draft would put out social conservatives like clockwork, but what other ideology would these potential drafted citizens have? Or would the draft have no effect on shaping political socialization? It's not likely that a bunch of libertarians would be the result, nor conservative republicans. The only likely scenario are social conservatives, unless the military suddenly starts to allow unions, increase in civil liberties and privacy, marijuana, abortions, assisted suicide, homosexuality...etc., in which case there would be liberals too.

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Yeah, I heard a similar line in "Braveheart" about how the Scottish nobles had so much more to lose than the poor clansmen. I am pretty sure that the poor person is risking exactly the same thing as the richer person. Life itself. Possessions mean absolutely NOTHING when you're dead.

Unless you buy into the bumper sticker philosophy that he who dies with the most toys wins. :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

Bigduke6 you did a wonderful job of describing the current situation. A military leavened with people anxious to complete their enlistments and get out has a much harder time operating in the dark than the professional military that can and does isolate itself from the civilian world.

Dave H - the ultimate risk is the same, sure. The opportunities available to a wealthier person are greater than those for a poor person, thus a wealthier person has less motivation to take the risk. Traditionally, this has been worked around by the establishment of codes of behaviour within the society and within the fighting organisation: respect for the military man, adherence to the traditions of a corps. A set of values held by the entire society has to be held by a subset of the same - so the idea of dying for a flag is appreciated by both the military and non-military populace; the death of the individual benefitting the group.

By the same token, the military group does have to hold itself apart from the rest of the society in order to function - their role is necessarily a differing one (no-one else is asked to die - unless they're drafted) and mechanisms to explain and value the difference need to be put in place. A society with a professional army is more likely to view the members of that army with respect, and a professional military group is less likely to commit crimes in the execution of its duties.

In most governmental models, the military is subordinate to the executive - it does what it is told (the obvious exception being the military dictatorship). Where the leadership of the society is corrupt, the military has less of a motivation to professionalism and is more likely seek avenues to benefit itself and its members - it no longer shares values with the society its members are taken from.

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Yeah, I heard a similar line in "Braveheart" about how the Scottish nobles had so much more to lose than the poor clansmen. I am pretty sure that the poor person is risking exactly the same thing as the richer person. Life itself. Possessions mean absolutely NOTHING when you're dead.

you've misunderstood the reasoning completely. it has nothing to do with what happens after you're dead.

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I don't buy the argument that a draftee army is less likely to be misled by propaganda, nor that it will be harder for a corrupt officer cadre to lead. The systems of propaganda and discipline used by the German Army in WW2 meant that it remained a very capable force until the last few days of the war - by which time it was almost entirely drafted.

That's a fair point, but a modern Western nation is not Nazi Germany. The run-of-the-mill modern democracy answers to the people not the dictator, and the media is free and open, at least in a general sense. So with a society like that, taking the army into a really stupid war and keeping it there is alot harder, as news of the stupidity gets back to the population, which is quite capable of changing the leaders.

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A society with a professional army is more likely to view the members of that army with respect, and a professional military group is less likely to commit crimes in the execution of its duties.

In most governmental models, the military is subordinate to the executive - it does what it is told (the obvious exception being the military dictatorship). Where the leadership of the society is corrupt, the military has less of a motivation to professionalism and is more likely seek avenues to benefit itself and its members - it no longer shares values with the society its members are taken from.

I'm going to disagree with that. I think that history shows pretty clearly that professional armies sometimes have the respect and support of their society, and sometimes they don't. Here are some shorthand examples:

Imperial China - Professional soldiers are not respected as they are considered expendable masses for the Emperor's goals. The army is a dumping ground for the poor and the destitute; if a citizen has any wits about him at all he avoids the army like the plague. Soldiering is a generally dishonorable profession.

Imperial Rome - The army is initially distrusted as it is what destroyed Republican Rome, but quickly becomes a focus of something similar to national patriotism: It is the army that brings the victories and makes Rome mighty. Yet soldiering is considered a bad career choice and soldiers are considered rude, uncivilized, and as the Empire continued less and less part of the society, and more and more outright mercenaries. There was and is no question of the army's professionalism and skill, after all we are talking about the Roman legions. But that same extremely professional army was responsible for coups, lootings of Imperial treasuries, and even dictation of government policy - precisely because it was answerable to no one but the Emperor, and sometimes not even him. The society considered the army I would say a dangerous reality: something that cannot be controlled, that sometimes turned civilian life upside down, that absorbed too much tax money, but that could neither be opposed nor changed.

Frederickian Prussia - Frederick the Great arguably created the first truly professional European army, and in any case one of the most efficient. He did so using the rod and by his own admission the dregs of society, and civilians neither respected nor considered themselves protected by Frederick's extremely professional and viciously-disciplined army, as it would loot any village near it as a matter of course, and kill any civilian that tried to protect his property.

Now for a more politically contentious example, I submit it for discussion:

Modern US military - Drawn from portions - I repeat portion the middle and lower levels of society, and is not completely divided from US society as alot of the US military values, with assumptions like the military defends freedom, soldiers are patriots willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and the military is representative of the society as a whole.

The problem is that in terms of percentages of the modern society as whole, these are minority views. I would say the dominant majority of the US society considers military service a career choice for the less-educated and less-competative. There is a general lack of interest in what the military does as frankly, the average member of US society knows no one who has served. The society as a whole if it thinks about the military does so asking the basic question "Is the money we're paying worth it?" This means that unless the military can produce results promised by the politicians - and you can see how this is a danger area - the bulk of the society starts wondering whether all those well-paid professional soldiers and their often hideously expensive equipment is worth it. American society focuses on the bottom line.

It is true the American society has a tradition of praising and respect the citizen soldier who takes up arms to defend his country, that goes straight back to the Minutemen. But the question is, how close really is a guy accepting a $20,000 dollar bonus, fighting in wars outside the US, to the Minuteman? It is inevitable under such circumstances that at least part of the US society is going to sour on the idea every service member is a hero deserving praise and respect, and the longer the Imperial-style wars go on, the further that process will go. If you think the process isn't happening, consider how the US society regarded its army during WWI, and now. That's a huge deterioration of faith, trust, and support, in less than a century.

The classic parallel is of course ancient Rome, when the Republican volunteer armies became Imperial professional ones. Arguably, and I am overstating this last point for effect, the degredation in the US is happening even faster.

Which is why I would draft every one under O-3 and E-7, if it was left up to me.

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...the average member of US society knows no one who has served.

I am going to challenge that assertion. I think nearly everyone in this society knows at least one person who has served in uniform, probably several, drawn from more than one generation. Whether that gives them much of an insight into military life is another matter though.

Michael

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Hey BD6 - this might be a little painful::P (wafflesome)

Imperial China, Imperial Rome.

In both cases it is the army that defines the broadest reach of the Empire's power, control. In conquest and the following settlement, the army opens and maintains lines of communication - for supplies and information. This means that anyone messing with the army's supply chain (bandits - groups of the other professional soldier) has to deal with the army in the normal way - submit and/or be killed. It also means that once the (surviving) bandits get the idea and become the other sort of professional soldier, the lines of communication, still maintained by the Army, are used for trade. Taxation of the wealth generated by trade goes to maintaining the army in the field, with the remainder being spent by the Emperor as he sees fit. The taxation is carried out by ex-patriots (usually from the army) and the tax inspectors given protection by - you guessed it, the army. The trade routes close when the Army goes back to war (*something that wasn't factored in by the US in this latest debacle - how many banking customers did Wall Street lose following 9/11 and the subsequent ramping up of border harrassment of foreign nationals? How did the cost of trade rise with the implementation of the "more secure" procedures put in place for each and every shipping container?) - and there is little love in the hearts of the general populace when the army is required to live off the land (loot and pillage). It's not until the development of a fair degree of the science of logisitcs has taken place that Empire can appear and survive - it's not until the development of mass produced preserved food that the necessity for an army on the move to live off the land is overcome to any degree.

Frederick's Prussia is a little different. As I understand it, Prussia was a country rich in the ability to produce people, and little else. Few natural resources meant that it had to enter into unfavourable trade terms for trade goods, or miss out entirely. Or, exploit it's strengths and sell the skills of its people - as mercenaries. The professional army model here was the organised band of adventurers in the same vein as the Viking raiders of the previous millenium, seeking fights in return for loot to bring back home - the means of maintaining their trade and wealth. To this end some degree of thought was put into fostering good blood lines - exceptional examples of specimens from other countries, taken as slaves in war, were selectively bred for use in mercenary companies. Also, military traditions and histories were examined and tested with the aim of developing a professional cadre - a skeleton structure around which the bulk of the fighting men could be attached to and trained by in times of need. This wasn't just happening in Prussia, but it was used to great effect by Fred. It could be argued that he had greatest need.

It is worth noting the rise of the British Navy and its successful use of the "press-gang" in the Napoleonic wars.

with assumptions like the military defends freedom, soldiers are patriots willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and the military is representative of the society as a whole.

These are exactly the values I would want a member of my country's defence force to hold, and I think s/he would be quite right in expecting me to hold the same - along with the assumption that the military exists to serve and benefit the society. If there exists a disconnect between the sets of values, it needs to be adressed as a matter of urgency.

At the moment, the US is (hopefully) at the end of a pendulum swing that has given power to people needing [the US] to fight to preserve their position in US society. They gained control of the popular press and the means to propaganda with ease, mostly due to the ignorance and apathy of the populace and the greed of the owners of the press (politics of fear was a big presence over the last decade). I think the problem is that when someone asked if making a huge pile of money was a good enough reason to go and fight in the Middle East (what, they didn't?), nobody said "No." (It was understood that revenge was the only other reason that needed to be mooted.)

There is the disconnect in values - the professional soldier believes he fights for the preservation of law and order, a flag, a country; their leaders believe they fight for money.

[/waffle]

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I am going to challenge that assertion. I think nearly everyone in this society knows at least one person who has served in uniform, probably several, drawn from more than one generation. Whether that gives them much of an insight into military life is another matter though.

Michael

Well, fair comment if you mean "Having spoken with a military or former military person at least once."

The standard I was using was a little different, basically "Person is familiar enough with military people to have a basic understanding of military life and a basic curiousity about fellow citizens in uniform, as a matter of course."

My point is the US average citizen is not only ignorant about the military, through lack of contact he is not in the least curious, past a superficial interest. And of course I think a result of that is a military insulated from the society and vice versa, which I think is bad.

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Which modern democracy is it where money doesn't rule politics and the media?

None, if by money you mean the profit motive. But there is a big difference between the media and the information it produces in an open, democratic society, and the media and the information it produces in a totalitarian or even authoritarian society.

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The systems of propaganda and discipline used by the German Army in WW2 meant that it remained a very capable force until the last few days of the war - by which time it was almost entirely drafted..

but so what? the level of conviction of those draftees was often higher than that of volunteers in other armies. its a technicality in many cases - they drafted so early - 16 yearsof age by 1944 - that they simply didn't have time to volunteer. syaing they were draftees isn't really an indictment of their motivation as it woudl be, in, say, the Vietnam war - where, i would point out the majority of us army servicemen were actually volunteers and not draftees.

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but so what? the level of conviction of those draftees was often higher than that of volunteers in other armies. its a technicality in many cases - they drafted so early - 16 yearsof age by 1944 - that they simply didn't have time to volunteer. syaing they were draftees isn't really an indictment of their motivation as it woudl be, in, say, the Vietnam war - where, i would point out the majority of us army servicemen were actually volunteers and not draftees.

But,.. but, he already conceded! And now you make me admit I used a sophist argument for cheap points scoring? You're a hard man, GordJ.

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