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Old 01-01-2012   #1
MikeF
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Default SWJ Small Wars Survey 2012

This one is up on the frontpage, but have at it down here in the trenches boys.

1. Great powers (and the US is certainly one) tend to privilege stability or order over justice or just relations. To maintain order and stability the US has supported dictators and regimes that if we had privileged justice we would not have supported. We know the argument that one does what is possible. But justice deferred becomes a festering sore and source of instability eventually. So rather than having to choose between inappropriately interfering in the life of another country or being isolationist and concentrating only on ourselves, how do we creatively engage the larger world so as to increase justice?

2. What can the United States actually do to restore order to the world without having to engage in either global policing or nation-building?

3. Are their gaps and disconnects between what the United States says and what it does, how it wants to be perceived, and how it is perceived?

4. What should be the United States military role in foreign policy?

5. Outside of the United States mlitary, what other institutions MUST be fixed in order for the United States foreign policy to be successful?

6. What reforms are needed within the United States military?
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Old 01-01-2012   #2
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1. Great powers (and the US is certainly one) tend to privilege stability or order over justice or just relations. To maintain order and stability the US has supported dictators and regimes that if we had privileged justice we would not have supported. We know the argument that one does what is possible. But justice deferred becomes a festering sore and source of instability eventually. So rather than having to choose between inappropriately interfering in the life of another country or being isolationist and concentrating only on ourselves, how do we creatively engage the larger world so as to increase justice?
I attended a very interesting presentation at Brookings last year on innovation. There was a panel discussion with CEOs from GE, AT&T, etc… One of the CEOs noted that large trans/multinational corporations have a great deal of influence in global stability. I am not an economist but it would appear that with the current state of the global economy, TNCs could be leveraged to improve conditions that may undermine regional stability. The track record of TNCs has been not been great if you consider BP in Iran and others but I think there is potential in this area.

Another consideration of how to address this issue can be found in the Y Narrative. I realize it is light on recommendations but there certainly are some issues worth considering in light of your question. I’ve heard the authors speak at NDU and they provide an excellent argument that goes far beyond what is in the paper.

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3. Are their gaps and disconnects between what the United States says and what it does, how it wants to be perceived, and how it is perceived?
This question directly relates to other discussions on the power of the state. The internet and other forms of IT are changing the way large masses of people around the globe communicate, daily. Your question is not as relevant today as it was during the Cold War since individuals and groups around the world are communicating daily. America's strategic communications are being conducted by our citizens despite of what the USG says or does. Consider in 04/05 when the USG was attempting to gain coalition support for OIF and US organizations and individuals were sending the message of immediate withdrawal to a global audience.

Two good references on this topic are:

The New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations

The Digital Disruption

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5. Outside of the United States mlitary, what other institutions MUST be fixed in order for the United States foreign policy to be successful?
I know others, such as American Pie, have differing opinions on how to define US National Security but I like the simple definition offered by George Kennan (although I haven‘t been able to find the original reference):

"the continued ability of the country to pursue the development of its internal life without serious interference, or threat of interference, from foreign powers"

Bergen and Garrett from Princeton offer an excellent follow-on discussion of this definition.

“George Kennan's definition of national security has became a starting point for deliberations on the meaning of national security. However, transnational threats and globalization force us to broaden the categories of sources of "serious interference" in our "internal life" beyond rival states.

U.S. national security policy operates to secure primary public goods that are at the heart of the social contract between the people and its government: economic prosperity, governance continuity, ideological sustainability, military capability, population well-being, and territorial integrity. The environment that influences the production of these primary public goods is critical, and the United States must understand how radically different the context for producing these goods is in the 21st century compared to the Cold War. The structure and dynamics of Cold War international politics have given way to the “networked anarchy” of globalization.”

IMO the Critical Infrastructure model (not to be confused with the DHS program) may provide a useful starting point to examine what “internal life” may look like.

"Critical infrastructure are the assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, public health or safety, or any combination thereof."

I provide this information to get to the actual response to your question. I think Foreign Policy is just a small component of a larger system that needs to be overhauled. National Security provides an umbrella term to capture many of the sub-components, national defense, intelligence, law enforcement, diplomacy and homeland security. EO 13434 was an excellent initiative that would have brought these communities of practice together but was bogged down by the federal bureaucracy. The USG must take a more balanced investment approach in the entire national security enterprise. Of course, in the current era of fiscal austerity this may mean less $$$ for DoD. Any effort to decrease funding will result in myriad of responses of why this line of reasoning is flawed and why we must preserve the present system.
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Old 01-01-2012   #3
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1. Your question implies there is a distinction between 'stability' and the US' perception of 'justice'. As is often the case, the big fish considers the devouring of the little fish as justice because it needs to do so to survive. So, the question really is: can the US "creatively engage" the world to "increase justice" while maintaining its superpower status?

2. The instability in the international system is not rooted in either security or political imbalances, but in a gross economic inefficiency in the structural formation of the entire global regime. The United States must restore effective regulatory controls over financial capitalism, reinvigorate the American middle class and its productive capacity, and ensure that nationalism and patriotism triumph over elite profiteering. This, of course, assumes that the nation-state is the preferred method of the distribution of political power and legitimacy.

3. Absolutely. But this is a consequence of operating in a global real-time media environment monitored by a global politically active liberal middle class in Europe and the United States. There will always be political opposition to every decision and every interest. The real problem in my opinion is the disconnect between the public interest and private political interests, which leads back to my commentary in the previous point about financial capitalism.

4. To supplement diplomatic initiatives in the pursuit of national interests.

5/6. The US must restore the draft. The draft will create an immediate stake in America's foreign policy for all classes. The decision for war will face much higher scrutiny by the public and will require a higher level of legitimation. The defense economy will be required to make readjustments to its structure and relations in order to properly train and equip a conscript force within limited means (even though those means nearly match all other countries combined). The large influx of a diverse population in skills, languages, and background will break the southern Christian messiah complex taking root in the services (at least in the Army) and provide a robust roster of people capabilities to use. Lastly, it would be the only institution in which all citizens participate (except the Superbowl), channelizing public energy and identity into a national union. It is my firm belief that national service is the only long-term viable means to preserve the American way of life, its democracy, and its role in the world.
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Old 01-01-2012   #4
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This one is up on the frontpage, but have at it down here in the trenches boys.

1. Great powers (and the US is certainly one) tend to privilege stability or order over justice or just relations. To maintain order and stability the US has supported dictators and regimes that if we had privileged justice we would not have supported. We know the argument that one does what is possible. But justice deferred becomes a festering sore and source of instability eventually. So rather than having to choose between inappropriately interfering in the life of another country or being isolationist and concentrating only on ourselves, how do we creatively engage the larger world so as to increase justice?
Deal with what you cannot change and don't be an obstacle to the sovereignty and freedom of foreign people.



Quote:
2. What can the United States actually do to restore order to the world without having to engage in either global policing or nation-building?
Don't lead by bad example, don't break and disrespect the rules which you agreed to yourself. Don't be an aggressor. Don't threaten others (prohibited by UN Charter), so they don't feel compelled to build up arms, rhetoric and nukes.



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3. Are there gaps and disconnects between what the United States says and what it does, how it wants to be perceived, and how it is perceived?
You joking?



Quote:
4. What should be the United States military role in foreign policy?
Push for 25% primary + secondary sector share of U.S. GDP in order to make the domestic quality of life sustainable if not better. This requires a trade policy shift away from lobbyist-led corporation-pleasing towards being actually concerned about domestic output and jobs.



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5. Outside of the United States military, what other institutions MUST be fixed in order for the United States foreign policy to be successful?
K Street, State Department



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6. What reforms are needed within the United States military?
First and foremost: Drug withdrawal.
(Reduce military + foreign intelligence spending total to half of the current DoD budget in one administration period.)
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Old 01-01-2012   #5
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Default Great way to start 2012

Mike,

Great questions to set our orientation as we pass the artificial line of departure known as the New Year...


1. The powerful protect their own power, and the powerful protect the powerful. What you have to do is to convince the powerful that their position of power is unsustainable in the near term unless significant changes are made - you must create the sense of urgency that comes from a belief that crisis is imminent unless change is made. Perhaps this is done my adding preconditions to your cooperation that "nudge" those behaving badly in a specific direction, but I think the most effective way to do this is to convince them that the internal forces in their own system won't support the status quo much longer, and that they won't be able to keep their selfish and hypocritical practices out of the public eye any longer, no matter what the US says or does. And I think you have to clearly spell out limits to what you can look the other way on - there's no way we could support Saudi Arabia if they were doing what the Syrian government is doing to their people on a similar scale...

2. Even counterinsurgency done imperfectly sends a huge message - you don't want to be the next country that Uncle Sam stumbles into. That said, a full occupation with 3-24 doctrinal counterinsurgent ratios isn't necessarily needed to put a former leader in the docket or in the streets with those he formerly crushed with impunity, as we've seen recently. Each situation is specific and unique in a complex world. But the US can't "restore" an order that hasn't emerged yet, it can only help to steer bottom up movements in certain directions, and occasionally take some steps that apply pressure from the top down. No blanket answers for this one - the proper orientation going into the problem is more important than specific recommendations ahead of time.

3. Yes. This is an almost inevitable product of our internal political processes and reward systems even more than it is from our external policies. There are always overlapping priorities in play along different timelines and levels of scale - we like to pretend that we can present a unified coherent set of policies that address all of our interests at the same time, but in practice this is impossible. Half is how well you manage the balancing act, the other half is how well you spin the balance you've chosen to various audiences with different interests.

4. In general, it must provide a credible and capable threat to impose physical force in a wide range of scenarios. We must maintain the reputation we've earned as a professional, capable force that you don't want to tangle with force on force, and you think twice about engaging with assymetrically, and do so because it's your only realistic option.

5. By asking to "fix" institutions, you're suggesting that we understand the "problems" in the first place, and also that a fix in one will solve problems from that perspective without causing a whole lot more from other perspectives. As above, it's a balancing act in which you can "never do one thing", and in the real world, it's not a matter of "fixing" so much as it is managing the balance as best you can by "nudging" the system with the levers of influence available to you.

6. There is no real reform in a bureaucracy until the reward systems change - the current status quo of funding and rewarding (i.e. promoting) the services in separate bins has created some useful overlaps and variety that has helped the joint force cope with various unforeseen contingencies, but with the coming austerity such surplus and replication will be unsustainable. I'm not even getting into the mix between the DoD, Congress, and special interests here...The question is this: will real change, which means change in the fundamental DoD bureaucracy, come before or after a significant crisis? Can we all agree that the "boom" is coming so we can act to the left of it, or will we play the same "musical chairs" game that our government is playing on a larger scale, betting that we can get what we need to serve our own parochial interests before the "music" stops, and we realize that more than one chair got yanked while we were running circles around each other?

In closing, I'd like to say that it's a very good sign for 2012 that there are people out there like you who are asking these questions on the morning of Jan 1st instead of nursing their hangovers. Thanks for creating this forum, and staying continuously "on watch" even as others celebrate (and recover from) the freedom that we hope to preserve with the insights you're seeking here.

Cheers, and Happy 2012 to the entire SWJ community,

Sugar

Last edited by DJL; 01-01-2012 at 03:58 PM. Reason: grammar and precision
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Old 01-01-2012   #6
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1)
I can't imagine how we could engage the world in a way which increases justice without also increasing violence. We have to ask ourselves if it is worth conflict to not support a regime. For example, if we choose to oppose regime X because of its treatment of its citizens we can either isolate it or push for regime change, but these both have costs - and often high ones. If we take to pushing for regime change for nation X then what of nations Y and Z? Do they accommodate us or further repress their populations IOT remain in power? WE can isolate nations who fail to provide adequate justice, but that depends on the willingness of all global powers to behave similarly. A repressive regime doesn't necessarily need us but, but we might need them. For example, oil producing countries must remain as stable as possible IOT keep the cost of oil down. Even if we don't get our oil from country X, instability there still effects global prices which in turn enrich those who oppose us (Russia, Venezuela, etc.) and potentially reduce global availability - which in turn can lead to conflict as global powers race to secure what they need.

So I guess the short answer is we promote justice always through soft power and setting an example (as best we can anyway), but before using "tougher" methods, we evaluate the overall cost...

2)
I don't think we have an order to restore - the system is more like a poorly maintained machine which requires significant repairs but which we cannot live without long enough to do more than quick field repairs.

I don't think America can do much outside of direct, costly, and painful interventions short of trying to play by the rules and working to maintain fairness in the way resources are extracted and then distributed or things are manufactured and then sold.

3)
Yes. The United States wants to be seen as Captain America but I think in many cases is perceived more as a Jekyll and Hyde. At best, we are probably perceived as being mildly schizophrenic and at worst, severely so with a dose of megalomania added in for fun. I'm not certain those perceptions are valid - but I can understand where they come from.

4)
To be the big stick. Sticks don't talk - they just sit in a corner and look imposing.

That's an oversimplification of my view I suppose - I support the use of the military for humanitarian ends when necessary. Sometimes we can just get there more quickly than anyone else.

5)
I don't know Mike - I'd like to see more money invested in State and I'd like to see more options for officers and state to go to each other's professional schools, but that's only going to help them work better together. The real problem is, I think anyway, that all of these organizations view each other as rivals for parts of the same pie; and we contribute to waste by having a system which determines budgets based on what you spent the year before. If we resolve the turf and budget conflicts, we can probably start making real progress towards fixing the rest of the problems. Until then though, I think institutions are going to dig in and resist change for fear they'll also lose influence and money.

6)
I've thought about this alot... and I don't think I have a good answer, or at least not a defensible one so I'll leave this question alone for now.
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Old 01-02-2012   #7
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Default Fuchs- US leave Europe?

Fuchs,

Should the US pull all military bases out of Europe and redeploy home?
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Old 01-02-2012   #8
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Fuchs,

Should the US pull all military bases out of Europe and redeploy home?
Maybe some depots for (old) equipment in Western Poland (~Reforger) would be a good thing, as well as U.S. personnel in NATO institutions and as liaison or exchange personnel.

Everything else is needlessly expensive in my opinion.


The presence in the Mediterranean should go simply in order to largely prohibit entanglements in BS that happens there.

I don't think that "redeploy home" is a good idea. The forces have to shrink. head first, then logistics, then transition of active formations to reserve or NG.
A big military tells politicians that they have a big stick, and history shows that they become bullies who begin needless brawls since they believe that they'll win the fight easily.
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Old 01-04-2012   #9
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Default Probably repeating things said by others, but...

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1. Great powers (and the US is certainly one) tend to privilege stability or order over justice or just relations. To maintain order and stability the US has supported dictators and regimes that if we had privileged justice we would not have supported. We know the argument that one does what is possible. But justice deferred becomes a festering sore and source of instability eventually. So rather than having to choose between inappropriately interfering in the life of another country or being isolationist and concentrating only on ourselves, how do we creatively engage the larger world so as to increase justice?
I think it's a mistake to assume, as we often do, that order and stability are the same thing. A stable social system often has to allow for a certain amount oi disorder, with citizens allowed open dissent and the opportunity to press for change. Order may cover up dangerous pent-up tensions. Where these tensions have been pent up for extended periods, for example when a long-term dictatorship falls, a period of disorder may be necessary to vent that tension and restore a viable equilibrium. Trying to restore order too quickly may actually endanger long-term stability.

I'm not sure that increasing or defining "justice" anywhere outside our borders is something we should try to do.

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2. What can the United States actually do to restore order to the world without having to engage in either global policing or nation-building?
How do we restore order to a world that has never been orderly? Again, order isn't necessarily desirable in all environments. We might better ask how necessary change and disorder can be managed to minimize and contain harmful effects. This is not something we should be trying to do ourselves.


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3. Are their gaps and disconnects between what the United States says and what it does, how it wants to be perceived, and how it is perceived?
Yes. Big gaps.

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Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
4. What should be the United States military role in foreign policy?
Among others... when no actual conflict exists, to provide honest and straightforward counsel to policymakers on what military force can and cannot reasonably be expected to accomplish accomplish.

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Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
5. Outside of the United States mlitary, what other institutions MUST be fixed in order for the United States foreign policy to be successful?
It's tempting to say DoS, and certainly changes there are needed... but ultimately DoS is an implementer of policy, not a maker of policy, and what most needs fixing is the process of selecting and defining policy objectives, which takes place at the executive and legislative levels. Screw that up and everything else goes wrong.

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6. What reforms are needed within the United States military?
I'm not in a position to comment on that.
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Old 01-04-2012   #10
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Default Cross posted from the Blog with some modifications - and one addition.

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"1. ...how do we creatively engage the larger world so as to increase justice?"
That's a dangerous and leading question. How do we American xenophobes, insulated as we are, determine or even have the right to talk about increasing justice? Moot question. Our political system will provide answers (multiple) that not every one will like...US domestic political concerns rule and the players change constantly. That is by design and it generally works acceptably if not well for us. It almost never works well for the others in the world.
...

'Justice' elsewhere as envisioned by the question posed depends thus totally on US domestic politics and there will be no constantcy. All things considered, our mixed record on this score will continue and we will probably continue to do a bit more good than harm -- hopefully recalling that when we decide to do harm, we often get carried away. We just need to develop a bit of restraint...
Quote:
"2. What can the United States actually do to restore order to the world without having to engage in either global policing or nation-building?"
Aside from the raw arrogance of the question, from the fact that it is NOT our job to 'restore' such order -- I question that it has ever existed... -- and from the naivete disclosed by the question, it serves as an exemplar of why the answer to question 1 and particularly to question 3 are resigned chuckles. Unfortunately, that naivete is shared by far too many in the domestic political arena and in the Foreign Policy establishment -- not to mention the Armed Forces. That naivete combined with overlarge egos and arrogance in those establishments are the factors that drive us to inconsistency in many things, to dumb interventions we did not need to undertake and fuel resistance to changes in the budgeting system which cause us to stay off balance much of the time.

Who defines "order?" What are the parameters; what happens if it is achieved to the satisfaction of 'A' then 'B' dies and the system tilts to unstable...

A better question is 'What can the United States actually do to adapt to and mesh with the world without engaging in either global policing or nation-building?'

We can best adapt to the world if we get ourselves squared away -- for a variety of reasons, we need some changes in a good many respects and areas of endeavor. We can improve our capabilities and our image if we do that. We are perceived as hypocritical because we advocate sweetness and light and yet launch assaults here and there. We can do better. we can stop trying -- and trying is appropriate -- we do not do nation building or global policing, we do selective things along those lines that suit us and those not well...

We are big, we are powerful and we are truly our own worst enemy.Those are two things we do not do at all well, do not need to do and with which we continue to play even though both are proven inimical to our interests almost always. Again, that naivete and the budget process are along with egos the culprits.
Quote:
"3. Are their (sic) gaps and disconnects between what the United States says and what it does, how it wants to be perceived, and how it is perceived?"
Fuchs and Dayuhan have it right. We're a joke in the eyes of many...
...

That said, as noted in the comment on question 1, above, our political system is inimical to world norms today. I would not change it so I believe we have to accept we will always be perceived as reactionary, slow off the mark, prone to indecision and, as reality does not accord with the soaring rhetoric of our Politicians who tailor their speeches to the domestic audience and forget -- or ignore -- the potential misunderstanding of foreign audiences. I might add that I've had a number of foreign acquaintances over the years comment that our domestic media and entertainment industry are part of the problem. The portrayals and the media do not sit well with many and tend to make us look like a collection of clowns. There's a lot of misperception due to all those things and there's little we can do to fix it -- short of draconian political fixes and those are not going to happen.

We'll just have to keep plugging along and try to more good than harm -- most in the world will grudgingly admit we do that...
Quote:
"4. What should be the United States military role in foreign policy?"
To advise the NCA and DoS (and it incumbent upon those folks to listen to that advice. As an aside, they might be more prone to do so if we'd slow down our rotation of key personnel a bit).

Get the CoComs out of the arena. They are overly involved in foreign policy because Goldwater-Nichols gave them the ability to do that and our totally dysfunctional budgeting system so beloved of Congress to buy votes force feeds them more money than they need and it is to their advantage to enhance that flow. There's a bit of hyperbole in that but just a tiny bit.
Quote:
"5. Outside of the United States mlitary (sic), what other institutions MUST be fixed in order for the United States foreign policy to be successful?
The US electorate.
Quote:
6. What reforms are needed within the United States military?
That they can control: More selectivity in accessions for fewer but better quality people; Improve initial entry training, Officer and Enlisted, all services; work with Congress to improve the personnel system, reduce grade creep, refine pay, stop allowances, vest retirement earlier, encourage active and reserve crossover service, slow the rotation cycles; reduce the stifling bureaucracy; relearn how to trust and delegate -- we seem to have forgotten how to do those things...

The Armed Forces of the US basically know everything I just wrote. The question should be why aren't they doing something to correct the wrongs of which they are generally aware...

ADDED for this post on the Council:

I strongly disagree with American Pride's responses to questions 5/6. National Service is a terrible idea. Aside from the questions of involuntary servitude and 'addressing problems' that are generally transitory, the complexity and cost of administering such a program in peacetime and with lack of an existential threat is monumental. The Armed Forces need to be smaller, not larger...
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Old 01-04-2012   #11
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I strongly disagree with American Pride's responses to questions 5/6. National Service is a terrible idea. Aside from the questions of involuntary servitude and 'addressing problems' that are generally transitory, the complexity and cost of administering such a program in peacetime and with lack of an existential threat is monumental. The Armed Forces need to be smaller, not larger...
Couldn't agree more. National Service has always been a historical "blip" for the US. Our Army has historically been a small, volunteer force. Where things started to go seriously south (personnel system, for example) can be tied almost directly to the creation of a conscript army to fight large overseas wars. We went further off the rails when we tried to maintain a conscript-size army without conscription.
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Old 01-04-2012   #12
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The military is dying institution.

First, the chief problem with the military is economic. It is not the size of the force, which is constantly shrinking (that in itself will become a problem in the future in the current trend), but the cost per man/unit to train, equip, and maintain, which continues to balloon. There is substantial literature describing the gross inefficiencies of the defense economy. The knee-jerk reaction currently flooding the literature in light of this libertarian kick America's right-wing seems to be on is to simply reduce the size of the force and its budget and retreat into a make believe return of isolationism. That is treating the symptoms, not the causes. And, quite frankly, in order for the US to maintain its privileged economic and political position in the world, it requires a large, well-equipped force capable of operating anywhere in the the world under complex conditions. America's strategic focus will continue to shift towards East and Southeast Asia and Africa; environments which will require completely different approaches and assets.

Second, and this problem is partly related to the first, the politicization of the military continues to undermine its objectivity and focus on strategic priorities and global security trends. The military is itself invested in the outcomes and relationships of the inefficient defense economy, and therefore corrupts the policy-making process. This also has produced an acquiescent military leadership that is incapable of challenging its own assumptions. The self-selecting recruitment, evaluation, and promotion process will preserve this problem to the bitter end.

Third, the military is becoming increasingly isolated from the culture it defends and (claims to) represent. This is partly due to the self-selecting recruiting, but also because its the shrinking middle class that is picking up more of the service burden. There is also the problem of public perception, which to some degree views the military as automatons incapable of independent thought. And this is not helped when the military culture actively promotes itself as the nation's top 1%, etc despite higher rates of suicide, domestic violence, divorce, drug abuse, and so on.

Quickly, to recap, the military is becoming more expensive to maintain for a lesser amount of combat power, the leadership has no incentive to change course, and it is having a great strain on military personnel and the public's relationship with them. This will lead to military, and perhaps political, disaster.

None of these issues are "transitory". They are structural and permanent and are trending downwards.

Why is national service a viable answer? It will force reformation of the defense economy and legitimation of political decisions to use force by creating an immediate and direct stake in those decisions for every single American. It will also infuse the military with the diverse skills and backgrounds of the American people. This will become increasingly necessary in a complex, Eastern-izing world. Lastly, it will re-focus American energy and innovation on nation-building at home, where education, healthcare, and infrastructure continue to decline.

National service is a part of the American tradition; from the original colonies into the 20th century. It should not be the right or obligation of a tiny minority to contribute to this nation's defense and prosperity.
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Old 01-04-2012   #13
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Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
The military is dying institution.
What was it Mark Twain said..
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First, the chief problem with the military is economic.... the cost per man/unit to train, equip, and maintain, which continues to balloon.
And IMO should be perhaps a bit higher per person if anything. The problem is not what's spent per capita but is instead that on which it is spent. Our priorities are terribly skewed. Partly the fault of the military, no question -- but even more the fault of Congress.

One should not forget that the US armed Forces are a reflection of the society from which they come and that the Congress controls -- often hidden -- strings that reach everywhere.
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The knee-jerk reaction currently flooding the literature in light of this libertarian kick America's right-wing seems to be on is to simply reduce the size of the force and its budget and retreat into a make believe return of isolationism.
That's a long recurring thread in the American polity; it generaly works out okay. Only the Left gets upset when the Right slews that way. Later, when the left does the same thing as they did in the 80s, for example -- the Right can get upset. We are an equal opportunity upsetter...
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And, quite frankly, in order for the US to maintain its privileged economic and political position in the world, it requires a large, well-equipped force capable of operating anywhere in the the world under complex conditions.
I agree with all but the 'large.'

I'll also point out that 'large' is difficult to transport and supply and will likely not do well under complex conditions if history is any guide. Been there, done that...
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America's strategic focus will continue to shift towards East and Southeast Asia and Africa; environments which will require completely different approaches and assets.
Quite true and also a correct focus for us at this time. Consider that large forces we could field in that area will never be able to mach others there quantitatively...
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Second, and this problem is partly related to the first, the politicization of the military continues to undermine its objectivity and focus on strategic priorities and global security trends ... The self-selecting recruitment, evaluation, and promotion process will preserve this problem to the bitter end.
I broadly agree but likely differ considerably on specifics. Regardless, it is a problem and the Forces need to grapple with it.
Quote:
Third, the military is becoming increasingly isolated from the culture it defends and (claims to) represent ... And this is not helped when the military culture actively promotes itself as the nation's top 1%, etc despite higher rates of suicide, domestic violence, divorce, drug abuse, and so on.
Agree with the last part. The first is correct as a statement but I've seen that isolation far more pronounced in earlier times. I do not see it as an earth shaker unless someone wishes to make it so for domestic political purposes.
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Quickly, to recap, the military is becoming more expensive to maintain for a lesser amount of combat power, the leadership has no incentive to change course, and it is having a great strain on military personnel and the public's relationship with them. This will lead to military, and perhaps political, disaster.
A little hyperbolic but not much. I totally agree the leadership must change its focus or things will get worse, not better.
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None of these issues are "transitory". They are structural and permanent and are trending downwards.
Agree with the trend, do not agree that they aren't transitory. I've seen all the things that concern you in far worse shapes than they are today. The year 1958 was not a good one even with the then extant national service...

And 1949 was far worse...
Quote:
Why is national service a viable answer? It will force reformation of the defense economy and legitimation of political decisions to use force by creating an immediate and direct stake in those decisions for every single American
Interesting theory. It did not hold true in earlier times when we drafted -- recall also that the vaunted post WW II Mil-Industrail complex got going while that draft existed. Big forces drew big bucks -- and provided big bucks...
Quote:
It will also infuse the military with the diverse skills and backgrounds of the American people. This will become increasingly necessary in a complex, Eastern-izing world. Lastly, it will re-focus American energy and innovation on nation-building at home, where education, healthcare, and infrastructure continue to decline.
We had those diverse skills and background aboard in earlier times. I recall no significant advantage, perhaps this time could be different but I'm skeptical. I will note that those who are concerned about our state of training should be wary of a decline if national service persons are inducted into the Armed Forces. Mother's of volunteers may complain about conditions and treatment; Mothers of inductees WILL complain.

And Congress will listen...

Nor do I see where there will be a "re-focus" -- unless you propose that some national service persons will be involved in all those areas admittedly in decline. If so, could you tell me how they will integrate and work with the AFT / NEA and various college faculty associations...

Also interesting would be who, precisely, in this Federal Republic with its government / commercial mix of services would employ, administer and direct the Health Care and Infrastructure workers.

Oh, and where will they sleep?
Quote:
National service is a part of the American tradition; from the original colonies into the 20th century. It should not be the right or obligation of a tiny minority to contribute to this nation's defense and prosperity.
That "tradition" bit is not totally correct as you well know. As for the right and / or obligation of the 1% (±), we successfully navigated the world for 190 plus of our ~ 230 years (depending on when one starts the counts) with that approximate percentage of voluntary service persons. I see no major problem in continuing that until there's a need for national service in an existential situation.

I think that means the odds are not on your side...

Last edited by Ken White; 01-05-2012 at 02:18 AM. Reason: Add a /
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Old 01-04-2012   #14
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I would contend that the Army today is much less political than it was in the period after the Civil War (say 1870 through 1890 or so). If you look at service publications (and the Army and Navy Journal) from that time you'll find any number of political rants, fears about worker uprisings, and other bits and bobs. The Army also found itself entangled in a number of civil uses during that time (riot control and the like) that would not be tolerated today. The Army of that time also recruited from what were considered the "dregs of society," with a fair percentage of the enlisted ranks being of foreign birth (Irish and German mostly, but with a good sample of the other waves of immigrants from that time). It was also physically and socially isolated from American society of the time, and often (at least in the officer ranks) believed that it was superior to that society in terms of conduct, morals, and general bearing. What we're seeing could be taken in some ways as the Army (unwittingly, perhaps) returning to its real roots.

National service is not part of the national tradition by any means. It's always been viewed as a desperation or crisis measure. I think you may be confusing the state troops or militia movements with national service. Those were in theory mandatory but in practice were usually anything but. And in any case, it was always expected that a standing military would exist to provide officer cadre and other support to any "minute man" army. Conscript armies might have been part of the national landscape during the early Cold War and through Vietnam, but they have never been a part of the nation's history on a larger scale. To suggest otherwise really misses the point and leads to a tragic misstatement of the US's military history.
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Old 01-04-2012   #15
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Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
The knee-jerk reaction currently flooding the literature in light of this libertarian kick America's right-wing seems to be on is to simply reduce the size of the force and its budget and retreat into a make believe return of isolationism.
A reduction in military force does not necessarily equate to a retreat into isolationism: there are all kinds of options for engagement that do not involve military force.

How large a force do we really need? For the last few years our forces have been stretched, but they've been stretched in wars of choice: Iraq was purely a war of choice, and while our initial engagement in Afghanistan was arguably necessary, it also did not involve large force commitments. Those came with the decision to occupy, which was entirely a choice.

If our military is being stretched to capacity in wars of choice, do we need more force or better choices?
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Old 01-05-2012   #16
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Originally Posted by Dayuhan
If our military is being stretched to capacity in wars of choice, do we need more force or better choices?
That is the origin of the problem. Despite increased military spending, the output has sharply declined. Estimates of the War on Terrorism range from three trillion dollars up to eight trillion (if we are to include annual defense budgets, homeland security expenditures, etc). In comparison, the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan cost the United States 3.5 trillion dollars (when adjusted for inflation). The inability to produce favorable outcomes in so-called "small" wars (the costs and consequences are anything but) is a clear indicator of institutional failure. The usual obsession with training quality and high-tech weapons systems dismisses the failure to properly identify threats and trends, leverage the appropriate resources, and implement an effective strategy. The military is being "stretched to capacity" because it is declining in strategic effectiveness despite the nearly asymmetric advantage in tactical capabilities. America is disarming itself because the defense economy is consuming the country's fiscal health.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dayahun
How large a force do we really need?
A military is not useful in only destroying and deterring enemies, but depending on the circumstances, can be effective in building national capacity and engaging in the domestic economy. On a small scale, this is true for the National Guard and the Corps of Engineers. My point here is not to offer a specific number, but instead to suggest that there are multiple internal advantages in addition to the obvious external uses of a military. The problem is not defense participation in economic activities, but the presumption that governments must operate like businesses or households. The military can potentially train people in valuable skills in trades or services, promote education, provide widespread employment, and coalesce increasingly fractured elements of society.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Blair
I would contend that the Army today is much less political than it was in the period after the Civil War (say 1870 through 1890 or so). If you look at service publications (and the Army and Navy Journal) from that time you'll find any number of political rants, fears about worker uprisings, and other bits and bobs. The Army also found itself entangled in a number of civil uses during that time (riot control and the like) that would not be tolerated today. The Army of that time also recruited from what were considered the "dregs of society," with a fair percentage of the enlisted ranks being of foreign birth (Irish and German mostly, but with a good sample of the other waves of immigrants from that time). It was also physically and socially isolated from American society of the time, and often (at least in the officer ranks) believed that it was superior to that society in terms of conduct, morals, and general bearing. What we're seeing could be taken in some ways as the Army (unwittingly, perhaps) returning to its real roots.
I would offer that the military has never been as quite apolitical as presumed by the general public, and although in the past military leadership has been more outspoken, today such public display is not practical nor desirable. Defense assets constitute approximately 70% of all federal property. We all know the immense size of the budget and the profit (and waste) of defense companies. Both parties are a part of this system. Prominent members of Congress have millions invested into these contractors. Senior leaders often retire to join the ranks of these companies as consultants and advisers. What need is there for a public display of politics when the military is complicit in the biggest play in town? Politicking and profiteering might be tolerable were it not directly resulting in the slow decline of America's ability to defend itself.

The military is in need of substantial reform. I believe that inviting the participation of the American public in that reform would deliver the most desirable outcomes. The current trends are not sustainable and the poor outcomes and high costs during the War on Terrorism are severely negative indicators of our declining military capabilities. I do not think it is because Americans can't "do" counter-insurgency, but that the structure in place is incapable of adapting to meet pressing national security requirements.
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Old 01-05-2012   #17
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Default How timely a comic is today's Dilbert.


As others have noted, the underlying assumptions of the survey exemplify overweening pride, aka hubris. Dilbert's pointy-haired boss has a lot in common with what seems to undergird the subject survey's questions.

I'd also like to remark on the following:
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Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
National service is a part of the American tradition; from the original colonies into the 20th century. It should not be the right or obligation of a tiny minority to contribute to this nation's defense and prosperity.
The idea of national service as a duty of citizenship is fundamentally at odds with the principles that led to the formation of America, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. That document identified rights as fundamental, not duties. If the nation's principle value set is based on rights, which logically implies that one is free (not obliged), then obligatory national service is fundamentally unfair and unjust. I make this last assertion because 1. an obligation limits one's rights to life, liberty, and pursuing happiness, and 2. justice and fairness define each other.

Fortunately for the US of A, enough of its residents seem to believe and act on the the concept that "freedom isn't free," that sometimes obligations are more important than permissions. I fear that the pool of folks who hold this belief may be shrinking too quickly, fueled by the rise in entitlements that started with the spoils system of Andrew Jackson's administration, built up a massive head of steam with the New Deal, and has continued to mushroom since the Kennedy administration.
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Old 01-05-2012   #18
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WM,

To add to your post, I think the best thing at SWJ for me has been Ken's wisdom reminding us that these things come in cycles
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Old 01-05-2012   #19
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Originally Posted by wm
The idea of national service as a duty of citizenship is fundamentally at odds with the principles that led to the formation of America, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. That document identified rights as fundamental, not duties. If the nation's principle value set is based on rights, which logically implies that one is free (not obliged), then obligatory national service is fundamentally unfair and unjust. I make this last assertion because 1. an obligation limits one's rights to life, liberty, and pursuing happiness, and 2. justice and fairness define each other.
I think freedom is frequently inaccurately equated with choice. In essence, freedom is the absence of coercion and fraud. While I agree that rights are natural and inalienable, this acknowledgement comes with implicit understandings. We accept traffic laws to enable freedom of travel on America's roads. We accept regulations on goods and services to protect consumers against fraud and criminal conduct. This is not a reduction of freedom because no man is endowed with a right to endanger or defraud others, which are forms of coercion. Rights are endowed, but freedom is empowered. And this is accomplished through the proper construction of government. It is not an obligation to obey the moral laws of a legitimate political authority. It is through such obedience that freedom is practiced because the citizen refrains from coercive and fraudulent activities against others. Without law, there would be anarchy. By consequence, anarchy becomes rule of the strong through coercion and fraud, and hence dictatorship. Law and obedience to it is the foundation of liberty. National service is just as well not an obligation, but an exercise in freedom.
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Old 01-05-2012   #20
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I would offer that the military has never been as quite apolitical as presumed by the general public, and although in the past military leadership has been more outspoken, today such public display is not practical nor desirable. Defense assets constitute approximately 70% of all federal property. We all know the immense size of the budget and the profit (and waste) of defense companies. Both parties are a part of this system. Prominent members of Congress have millions invested into these contractors. Senior leaders often retire to join the ranks of these companies as consultants and advisers. What need is there for a public display of politics when the military is complicit in the biggest play in town? Politicking and profiteering might be tolerable were it not directly resulting in the slow decline of America's ability to defend itself.

The military is in need of substantial reform. I believe that inviting the participation of the American public in that reform would deliver the most desirable outcomes. The current trends are not sustainable and the poor outcomes and high costs during the War on Terrorism are severely negative indicators of our declining military capabilities. I do not think it is because Americans can't "do" counter-insurgency, but that the structure in place is incapable of adapting to meet pressing national security requirements.
And again none of this is new. Military officers commonly transitioned into profitable slots before the rise of Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex" (which was in no small part a direct outcome of HIS defense policies), and I could name any number of "outbreaks" and "outrages" on the Frontier during that period that were either manufactured or exaggerated by locals who wanted to profit from a military presence in their region. Contracting graft is nothing new.

If you broaden your horizon from a Cold War focus, you start to see just how many cycles there are in American history.
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