greg (grysar) wrote,

Their War

Great article in the Post: Their War: Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population serves in our military. In a time of war, what should that mean to the rest of us?

One stat I found remarkable was the relationship between veterans in the Congress and America's bellicosity. "Peter Feaver and Richard Kohn, editors of Soldiers and Civilians: The Civil-Military Gap and American National Security,conclude from their research, 'At least as far back as 1816, the more veterans there are in the national political elite, the less likely the United States is to initiate the use of force in the international arena.'" (Sen. Hagel falls into this pattern, Sen. McCain is a definite exception). That said, from the polling I've seen of the military, those in service tend to be more supportive of the Iraq war than the population at large. My guess is that a 'don't start fights but do finish them' might have something to do with it. To test that theory, I'd be interested in seeing data on the relationship between the number of vets and the willingness to withdrawal troops.

On that note, just folowing the war in Iraq has definitely made me far less bellicose. I had once been more willing to call for heavy use of force on various humanitarian missions. Now I tend to think that restricting Kosovo to air operations was a good idea (although I would support more use of helicopters) and that any U.S. military intervention in Darfur should be a no-fly zone and logistical support to the African Union troops. I was ambivalent-supportive on Iraq when I should have been strongly opposed. I do definitely still support defending Taiwan if China makes an unprovoked attack,, but I certainly wouldn't support sending ground troops back to China.

To my pleasure, the article went on to discuss the relative weakness of civilian counterparts to the services.

The State Department doesn't just suffer from limited budgets and limited numbers of people. Experts point out that it also has no way to get its people where they need to be on short notice, and in any case can't force them to go if they don't want to. As Hagel knows, war is dirty work even at its edges. Says Sewall: "Civilians who join the Foreign Service at State and the Agency for International Developmentdon't want to be part of a regime-changing paradigm. They say, 'I'm in this work to do good, thank you very much.'" Only the military has the power to order people to go. Only the military has ships and planes to move large numbers of those people to remote areas around the world and the logistics systems to keep them equipped and fed once they get there.

Echoing Hagel's notion of national service, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni has proposed a deployable State Department force of economists,judges and other nation-building experts. Like military reservists,they would hold regular civilian jobs but could be called up and deployed as needed.

I tend to think Zinni is right. I do think the current generation of State recruits is more amenable to this. They've often volunteered for assignments in Iraq. But a large bulk of rebuilding has been done by contractors, not U.S. government personnel. Moreover we do need a constabulary force. That force could theoretically be under the military, but only if it substantially changes the military's culture. The military could potentially sustain such changes. George Packer has a good article in the New Yorker on how the Iraq war is pushing greater military-academic cooperation. However, like Matt Yglesias, I fear that as with Vietnam we'll end up with a military refocused on conventional operations.
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