Tags: Presidential History | conscription | founders | switzerland

With Army Abolished, Would US Defenses Strengthen?

With Army Abolished, Would US Defenses Strengthen?
(Debra Millet/Dreamstime)

Tuesday, 20 February 2018 05:27 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Given the mess made by our expensive military activities during the last quarter century, the U.S. needs to develop a foreign policy that protects our national interests better and costs a lot less.

A good start would be to abandon ambitions to dominate globally, to overthrow repressive regimes, and "make the world safe for democracy." While our armies can overthrow repressive regimes, these are replaced by worse ones or by weak governments allowing terrorists to proliferate. The world will never be safe for democracy anyway since, as we have noticed recently, democracies can be gamed and don't always remain democracies.

Sad American military experience in Iraq and Afghanistan proves that armed local citizens can mount a formidable defense against occupiers. This experience suggests a strategy that we could put to our own use.

A previous column showed how to save bushels of money, without reducing military capabilities. Moving to a non-imperialistic policy could save a lot more. It would allow us to abolish nearly all of our army, while retaining adequate air and naval forces for nuclear deterrence and to frustrate would-be invaders.

This might not be a good idea, since major changes in complex systems sometimes causes serious unexpected side effects, but it's still worth thinking about.

George Washington, whos urged us to avoid getting mixed up in other countries' troubles, would be pleased. Our ancestors, who feared standing armies, would be pleased. Their fears helped produce the Second and Third Amendments. The Second Amendment's "well-regulated militia" was considered a bulwark against tyranny, not because weapons would allow people to overthrow the government if it went bad, but to prevent it from going bad in the first place. Armed citizens were considered an alternative to a standing army that might fall into the clutches of a tyrant.

The Third Amendment, "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law," is nearly a dead letter, but it too probably reflected fear of standing armies.

Naturally we must be able to repel invaders. Our Founders thought armed citizens could handle this. After 1812 and the torching of the White House, second generation leaders decided we needed an army after all. But today's communication technology could enable a small corps of career military officers — perhaps at the state National Guard level — to organize American civilians into an effective defense force. Meanwhile, greatly reducing, or even abolishing, our large standing army and our foreign military bases would save tens of billions of dollars annually.

Before rejecting out of hand a military designed only to defend our homeland, we should remember how much trouble vastly smaller numbers of local people have given our military forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere. And unlike the U.S., these countries didn't have navies and air forces hindering our ability to send in occupiers.

We should also remember Switzerland , which relies on armed citizens — led by a tiny professional army — for national defense. Switzerland has deterred would-be invaders for centuries, including during World War I and World War II.

The U.S. should not copy Switzerland uncritically. The Swiss have used military conscription to provide universal military training for men. As President Nixon's Commission On An All-Volunteer Armed Force reported in 1970, "[The draft] has weakened the political fabric of our society and impaired the delicate web of shared values that alone enables a free society to exist." Training would be important, but should be completely voluntary and organized to allow continuing civilian employment.

A renewed draft would be "involuntary servitude," properly prohibited, along with slavery, by the Thirteenth Amendment. Although the Supreme Court once held the draft is not involuntary servitude, this was during the wartime hysteria of World War I. Understandably unable to find even bad reasoning to support its decision, it gave none at all.

Unlike many military strategies, forces designed only to defend our territory would work even better if other countries copied us. Some of our savings could be spent promoting anti-draft movements and telling foreign taxpayers how much they could save by moving to a territorial defense.

Since we would no longer have the ground forces needed to occupy other countries, their governments could not claim that we were just trying to con them into weakening their defenses.

This reform might be catching!

President Trump recently expressed interest in a big military parade in Washington, D.C. The last big parade, in 1991, celebrated victory in the first Gulf War. Why not stage a new parade to recognize the past contributions of our army and to celebrate its virtual abolition?

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published 1981 and his most recent book is "The Case of the Racist Choir Conductor: Struggling With America's Original Sin." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Before rejecting out of hand a military designed only to defend our homeland, we should remember how much trouble vastly smaller numbers of local people have given our military forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere.
conscription, founders, switzerland
Tuesday, 20 February 2018 05:27 PM
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