Not making a difference since 2006. Blog motto: Always be sincere whether you mean it or not.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Peace Studies at the voice of humility

Stephen Browne of Rants and Raves has commented on Congressman Charles Rangel's call for a draft. Stephen is agin it. He notes the generals do not want or need conscription. Recruitment is meeting goals, etc. He is right as far as it goes, though I've read the quality of new recruits is declining. Not unexpected in a military that sells itself as a gateway to college. Why enlist if that dream may not come true?

Anyway, as Clemenceau said, "War is too important to be left to the generals." Unless, we are going to give it all over to the military, we have to understand that this is so, for good and ill.* We also have to understand some aspects of our current problems. The generals did not want the wars. Remember Madeline Albright saying, "What good is it having the most powerful military in the world if you don’t use it?" It was civilians who pushed Iraq. The Generals are happy to build the machine, but do not want to risk it and see it suffer the inevitable degradation of real operations. Oh, a Delta Force raid here and there maybe to test the toys, but, saints preserve us from a long war. This is something about democratic armies that de Tocqueville touched on. Sooner or later, the politicians are going to want to use it.

So, how do you have an army and not have a war. Let us cast about for an example of a democracy that does not start wars and does not get invaded. And the winner is; Switzerland. Now, I do not know what the congressman from NYC was proposing in detail, but if it was the system in place previously, that is not what will work. That system of deferments insured that few from even slightly privileged backgrounds ever woke up at the reception station.

No, in Switzerland, everyone (male) goes. No deferral for someone just because he got 750 verbal. Everyone goes.** If that were so here, attitudes might change. Say, if Glenn Reynolds had to have learned the pleasures of low crawling, would he have backed sending others to die. And if his unit were being called up? Indeed! I am also serene in the knowledge that such a national militia will never happen and there will be more stupid adventures in the future.

So the Swiss know that they will all be called up in an emergency. That has the effect of limiting the number of emergencies that Swiss politicians find it necessary to respond to. Especially as the politicians will be donning their uniforms as well.

As someone who is somewhat libertarian, conscription is not something I endorse, but if you don't want war, this is one way to avoid it. Still, everyone, and I mean everyone, going to defend the nation in a real emergency is far less odious to me than the facist national service proposals that the Dems are always floating.

I grant Mr. Browne's point about the military having a better army with volunteers. It is possible universal service may be the ruin of the army as our youth appear to be self absorbed and semi-literate. Still, I am as willing to risk it as Bill Bennett, JPod, Frank Gaffney, Max Boot et al were willing to risk the lives of men not their sons.

Lest anyone think that the thought of actually facing service in a real war made the Switzers a bunch of wimps, one only need to glimpse the general order issued by their leader, General Henri Guisan during World War II when they might have faced invasion, ''Everywhere, where the order is to hold, it is the duty of conscience of each fighter, even if he depends on himself alone, to fight at his assigned position. The riflemen, if overtaken or surrounded, fight in their position until no more ammunition exists. Then cold steel is next. ... The machine gunners, the cannoneers of heavy weapons, the artillerymen, if in the bunker or on the field, do not abandon or destroy their weapons, or allow the enemy to seize them. Then the crews fight further like riflemen. As long as a man has another cartridge or hand weapons to use, he does not yield. ..." The order also commanded the men to consider a government broadcast of surrender as enemy propaganda. Would the nation stand to the end? Apparently, the Germans thought so.

*I say this as a civilian whose military service ended only 11 promotions shy of general.

**One can bring up the case of Israel where everyone goes and there is a lot of war. The arguments pro and con are for another day. I recommend Defending Israel by Martin Van Creveld.

1 comment:

Black Sea said...

Switzerland is quite an example of what can happen when people take the concept of self-governance a bit seriously.

Despite its small size, power is decentralized among the 26 cantons. In some parts of Switzerland, a foreigner seeking citizenship must be "voted in" by his fellow townsmen.

Tom Friedman (whose mind is apparently flat) once berated the Swiss for their xenophobia, i.e. the value that they place on their country and their citizenship. He then cleverly drove home his point by asking, "What did they ever invent, other than the cukoo clock?" (Hat tip to Orson Welles?)

By the way, Tom, their per capita income is significantly higher than ours.

As you point out, if the Swiss decide that their security demands killing and dying, every family is going to have to contribute its share of blood. If the people balk, it's probably not worth the fight.

In the late 90s, I stayed with a friend in Switzerland. At that time, the government and most of the news media were castigating the rock-headed Swiss farmers for blocking EU membership.

In 2004, while my wife and I were visiting the same friend, I asked about the EU issue. Our hostess laughed and said that now the country was thanking God for those same stubborn farmers.

My kind of people.