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The Military Doesn't Really Want To End The Forever War
Alexis de Tocqueville rightly notes that democratic armies crave war; the draft must be reinstituted in America in order to protect the Republic from this desire. Selective Service will achieve this by forcing the average American to re-engage with military policy and evaluate if our current wars are worth their lives or those of their loved ones.
Buried near the end of Alexis de Tocqueville’s masterpiece, Democracy in America, lies a chapter entitled, “Why Democratic Nations Are Naturally Desirous of Peace, and Democratic Armies of War.” Seventeen years into the Long War—or the War on Terror—and Tocqueville’s insight seems especially relevant for America.
According to Tocqueville, civilians in a democracy naturally desire peace because military service would prevent them from pursuing their own economic interests. These citizens have—or are striving to accumulate—property and wealth that military service and war could jeopardize. Thus, there is a great resistance to war in this class of citizens.
On the other hand, military officers in a democracy tend to naturally desire war. In a democratic military, any service member has the potential to become an officer and rise to the top of the rank structure. There is an almost insatiable desire for promotion in such a military because, as Tocqueville points out, the rank of an officer in a democratic military establishes his or her wealth and status in society.
This desire for promotion becomes an issue for the Republic when one considers, as Tocqueville did, that promotions are notoriously slow in democratic militaries in peacetime because the force shrinks and there are few opportunities to rise above competitors through valorous deeds or especially proficient combat leadership. During war, on the other hand, the military expands, more officers receive promotions, and there is more opportunity to gain the experience or accolades that will earn one promotion faster. Therefore, military officers associate armed conflict with greater prospects for wealth, status, and prosperity. It should also be noted, however, that this martial ambition is not all bad. This author—a former active duty, now reserve Army officer—recognizes that this martial zeal can be a very good and virtuous thing in the right circumstances. But this zeal needs its proper counterbalance.
Throughout much of American history, the military establishment’s desire for war has been tempered by society’s desire for peace. In 1864, the public believed that casualties were too high and that the Civil War had dragged on for too long. Only Sherman’s timely victory at Atlanta prevented peace-seeking George B. McClellan from ousting Abraham Lincoln from the White House and ending the war with an independent Confederacy. During the Vietnam War, society succeeded by preventing LBJ from seeking re-election, ultimately winding down the war. While there are admittedly dangers of a public with too much influence on military policy, it is worrying that this natural check on martial ambition is so tempered in America today.
The Long War is now in its seventeenth year and there seems to be very little outcry from American society (anymore) to end it. This is because the Long War only affects the all-volunteer military community, which is naturally desirous of war for the aforementioned reasons.
Society needs to re-engage. According to the CATO Institute, the costs of the Long War have far outweighed the benefits, and the interventions have actually increased instances of terrorism without making Americans safer at home. This is because American (and Allied) military operations inevitably invite blowback; whenever a terrorist—or an innocent bystander—is killed, others rise to avenge them. This explains why, according to Stanford University, there were around 30,000 fighters in Islamist-inspired foreign terrorist organizations in 2000, but nearly 110,000 such fighters in 2015.
Over a year into this new administration, and it looks like America is doubling down on the Long War. Troops levels have risen in Afghanistan, Americans are fighting in Syria, and the conflict has spread to Niger and beyond. Tocqueville was right; the military has little interest in ending this war. The American public must be forced to re-engage, and a draft will make it do so.
Bryan Baker throws down the history at Veritas Preparatory Academy, a classical liberal arts academy, but soon will be dropping the hits at another venue. He also is an Intelligence Officer in the US Army Reserve. Bryan is pursuing a M.A. in International Security Studies through the University of Arizona. His previous articles have been featured in Small Wars Journal and Real Clear Defense. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone; they do not reflect the positions of any organization with which the author is affiliated.
An Austrian soldier was apparently killed by two military working dogs that he was charged with feeding, the Austrian Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday.
She's photographed every major war of the last 20 years. Marine Corps boot camp was something else entirely
Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario has seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya, and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.
Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.
The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.
Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead
"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
Federal court judge Reggie Walton in Washington D.C. has ruled Hoda Muthana, a young woman who left her family in Hoover, Alabama, to join ISIS, is not a U.S. citizen, her attorneys told AL.com Thursday.
The ruling means the government does not recognize her a citizen of the United States, even though she was born in the U.S.
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Marine Corps could train as many as eight co-ed companies at boot camp each year, and the general overseeing the effort is hitting back against those complaining that the move is lowering training standards.
"Get over it," Maj. Gen. William Mullen, the head of Training and Education Command told Military.com on Thursday. "We're still making Marines like we used to. That has not changed."
Mullen, a career infantry officer who has led troops in combat — including in Fallujah, Iraq — said Marines have likely been complaining about falling standards since 1775.
"I'm assuming that the second Marine walking into Tun Tavern was like 'You know ... our standards have gone down. They're just not the same as it they used to be,'" Mullen said, referring to the service's famous birthplace. "That has always been going on in the history of the Marine Corps."