Thursday, August 31, 2006

American Gurkhas or Legionnaires

One point made at yesterday's roundtable on whether America is a crippled superpower or not was the question of the military instrument and its effectives (and/or degradation) in recent years. There was some discussion about Larry Johnson's comments about the rapid change in special forces, from being able to have soldiers who have served for several years being able to mentor newer recruits, now shortened. [It reminded me of comments about the problems faced by the Imperial Russian military in World War I, the utter decimation of the officer corps in 1914-16 leading to much more poorly trained and capable officers unable to handle command.]

Is it time for the United States to consider the development of a professional military arm that is divorced and separate from citizen volunteers? Our British and French allies continue to call upon the services of highly trained professional forces even as post-imperial powers.

Do we want to reach an agreement with the Kingdom of Nepal--we can certainly outbid the British, given that it appears they have shortchanged the Nepalese on pensions--(or with perhaps a pro-American former Soviet state, for example--to provide a set number of recruits who will be trained and can be sent anywhere in the world--Darfur, Lebanon, etc. What about an American Foreign Legion that offers training and eventual citizenship in return for service? Could this be one way to solve the Gordian knot of illegal migrants in the United States from Latin America--offer "no questions asked" enlistments in the American Legion?

Might this become more politically attractive if there is a rising cost to be paid from stop-loss orders, increased National Guard deployments and so on?

Two observations.

a) How would it play out politically to have to say "Our military isn't enough, we need to have foreigners to fight our wars for us"? I don't know of the politician who could survive putting that forward.

b) If implemented, it would drastically reduce the political threshold needed to commit troops - not a moral observation, strictly an emperical one.
I do not understand why this idea of mercenary soldiers holds such attraction for you.

Mercenry soldiers would only lull US populace into getting deeper into endless foreign entanglements since the immediate cost will not be borne by US citizens and their off-spring.

In fact, if we had the draft in US, George Bush would have lost the presidency (I suspect).

Gurkhas and the Foreign Legion are remnants of a world that no longer exists.

About US immigratio: US took away one third of Mexico. Now Mexicans are claiming it back again culturally.

This whole line of thinking that compares US with extinct empires is not very useful.

Just look at legal cases that have been brought against US soldiers; these types of incidents would never have been considered worthy of prosecution in previous empire projects since those cases were considered as part and parcel of being a soldier of the Empire.
I think that this is the only direction you can move, anonymous 8:27, when you have two contradictory impulses at work: the US wants to intervene more and US citizens don't want to go, if you don't want not to intervene.

Nick, it was a fascinating point Leon Hadar made yesterday at the roundtable, how the world's superpower basically had to beg Italians and French to go to Lebanon, because there was no way US soldiers were going to go.
Anonymous 8:35 PM

Yes, I agree.

The head (DC) wants to pursue one path, the body another.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.
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