Part 4. Re-Forming the Well-Regulated Militia


As we have seen, standing armies create perverse incentives not only to engage in warfare, but also to permanently divert part of the productive capacity of a nation towards the perpetual preparation for war, leading to the rise and dominance of a military-industrial-complex. Further, the militarism and exceptionalism that arises from these circumstances erode at the foundations of liberty and the expediency of war-time powers become coveted objects sought after by all sorts of policy makers, leading to the militarization of more and more problems. This is what helps create the various “wars” on what are essentially societal problems such as the personal use of narcotics. While a well-regulated militia is by no means enough to really roll back the rampant militarism of the last half century, it is a very strong step in the right direction.

A well-regulated militia, as conceived herein, entails the coming together of the body-politic, armed with appropriate weaponry, trained in the art of war, and organized in such a way as to be efficient and effective in the defense of the constitution from internal and external threats. In contrast to a standing army of professional soldiers, the militia is composed of citizens who while capable of acting as an effective fighting force, nonetheless dedicate themselves primarily to activities other than war or the preparation for war. In order that service in the militia and war in general is seen as a harsh burden and solemn duty rather than a chance for personal gain, honor, or fame; it must be universal to all able bodied citizens. Secondly, in order to prevent the militia for being used as a tool of centralized tyranny, it must be organized and generally led by each individual state, albeit with a structure that allows for a coordinated defense of the whole nation in times of war.  Furthermore, in order to prevent an elite political class from serving the interests of groups other than the citizens as a whole in regards to the possibility of any armed conflict, all national representatives should also serve in their respective state militias as officers. Thus if the legislature ever declares war or authorizes the use of force in any circumstance, it will be they who must lead such an effort and potentially risk their own lives in the process. I would argue that even the President should have some combat related role in the event of a war that would in some way place their life at risk. This is not to jeopardize the office of the presidency, but rather to ensure that those who take us to war are so sure of the righteousness of the cause, that they are willing to sacrifice their own lives for it.   

In terms of the effectiveness of such a military force, there are of course some objections and I will do my best to counter them carefully. It might be argued for example, that citizens who only have part-time training and experience in military matters, would be far less effective than a professional fighting force. This is probably true in terms of immediate tactical proficiency, as this comes usually with tough and constant training. Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors spend countless hours every day in the course of their duties training in their respective drills to become the most effective force possible, and indeed when measured with most other militaries of the world, they are perhaps the best. Yet as the Germans in World War Two showed, tactical proficiency is no guarantee of strategic victory. The Germans were beaten by the combined forces of the Soviet Union, United States, and the UK. These were essentially composed of citizen soldiers, many of whom were fighting the far better trained Germans who had often far better technology, and winning; with only a few months of basic training behind them.

The reason for this odd victory can be seen in everything from morale, to superior industrial and economic capacity, to better strategic vision. The point is though, that given the complexity of war and all the factors that contribute to victory, having a professional military only contributes marginally to success and switching to a part-time force would not necessarily put the country in danger. Further, in the event of a true war of necessity, where the very life of the nation is threatened, it will probably be necessary to call upon as much of the citizenry as possible anyway. Thus the only real use for a full-time, professional military and the industrial complex that serves it; is to carry out wars of choice far from the shores of the nation itself, wars which are often carried out in pursuit of the interests of special groups rather than the country as a whole.

Another objection that might be raised concerns the Navy and Air Force, which as currently structured provide the primary deterrence from hostile nations wanting to commit belligerent acts against the country. Knowing that there is a Navy that can bring aircraft carriers and Marines to bear with relatively short notice, as well as an Air Force that can strike anywhere on earth within hours, provides at least a moment of pause for nations thinking of threatening US interests outright. Further, the Navy, along with the navies of other nations, helps protect important shipping lanes from pirates, thus securing the free flow of goods so critical to our economy. If we were to switch to a part-time universal force, these two branches of the armed forces could no longer function in this way.

A way to resolve this problem is by altering the service structure for the militia in regards to permanent defensive structures such as nuclear missile bases, quick response aircraft, and routine naval patrols. Instead of serving a few days a month throughout the whole year and during longer annual training, as would be appropriate for the Army, some of those who serve in the Navy, Marines and Air Force could do tours of one year every five years or so. This would ensure that there is always a defensive force capable of responding to immediate threats, while at the same time preserving the idea that no citizen should make a career out of war or the preparation for war.  Further, in order to ensure technical capability in areas such as aviation and nuclear propulsion, the ranks for these positions would be drawn from those who dedicate themselves to similar professions in the civilian world such as airline pilots and nuclear engineers. Finally, in regards to the fielding of advanced weapon systems, only a few dedicated systems would be necessarily, while contingency plans for any full scale conflict would be predicated on the use of converting off-the-shelf civilian technologies for military use, as was done during World War Two. This would also prevent large corporations from obtaining an inordinate amount of their profits from military contracts and thus reducing or perhaps eliminating the incentive to lobby congress on behalf of expensive weapons systems that don’t work or we don’t need.

Of course, these are all ideas and musings concerning how such a militia system would work as opposed to our current department of defense and all of the foreign adventurism, excesses and corruption that have been so corrosive to liberty since its inception after World War Two. The actual details of implementing a militia system more in line with the constitution and what the founders intended could be very different than what I have proposed. What is clear though is that something must change in regards to how we go about defending the country. While the threat of the Soviet Union might have justified the national security state and DOD as it is structured (and even that is debatable), we now face no such similar threat and would actually counter the threats we do face with a more decentralized and adaptable system that relies on the readiness of the people to defend the country rather than a few specialized groups from using war as an excuse to fulfill their own aims.

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