The 21st Century Military


       Thanks for your most recent entry.
       Let me first respond to the points you raised in your note and then raise some additional questions about The Minuteman.
       First, you argue that the danger of the current all-volunteer force is “to the already eroding notion of the obligations and responsibilities of citizenship.” Did the erosion begin in 1973 when the draft ended? Even when the United States relied primarily on the National Guard and reserves (the Minutemen) for defense, service in these units was voluntary. Not everyone joined and, of course, women were not eligible. Were the men who did not join–and the women who could not–less responsible citizens?
       Second, your “modern Minuteman” (National Guard and reserve force) would also be composed of volunteers who would be motivated by “educational grants, training opportunities, basic pay, and other benefits.” Might not these volunteers be motivated more by the benefits than patriotism and citizenship? What about the millions who will not volunteer? How will we stop their “erosion”?
       Third, if the United States were to acquire more strategic lift (something that is only given lip service in the Pentagon), would not your argument for more reliance on the Army Guard be undermined?
       Fourth, you argue that since your are advocating a return to the philosophy that characterized U.S. policy and belief from 1787 to 1948, the burden is on those who want to continue the status quo. Not necessarily. The international system and the U.S. role in it is much different than in those 161 years. For example, it was the British navy that enforced the Monroe Doctrine because it was in Great Britain’s interest to prevent any continental European power from dominating this hemisphere. I believe the burden is on you to show how a Minuteman force can help the United States play its appropriate role in the 21st century.
       Fifth, you take the total Air Force as your model for successful integration of regular and reserve combat forces. I agree that the Air Force is the most successful but not because of the fact that it has “more interesting toys” or “better educated people” or a better attitude, etc., etc. The reason is that flying planes depends more on individual skills than group skills, such as the combined arms of ground units. Reserve ground combat units at the brigade level and above cannot be maintained at any reasonable level of readiness on a part-time basis because of the complexity of combined arms. If the Army National Guard wants to increase its combat role, it must be willing (as the Marine Corps Reserve is) to be mobilized at the battalion level or below.
       I look forward to our next exchange.