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Monday, May 01, 2006

QOW: Should there be Another Armed Force in the US?

I've been thinking about this for a while now. Just what is the purpose of the US Military?

I mean, it used to be we had the services to defend the country. When there wasn't a war, we didn't have a War Department. Then, around 1880 or so, we had the armed services to "protect national interests." That meant keeping the sea lanes and ports open for commerce. But even then, in between wars we let the services run down a lot. We were lucky to have troops enough to get into WW II without losing the Pacific, and even that was really just poor planning on the part of the Japanese instead of anything we did.

Then we had to have DoD to fight the Russians. Now we have the war on terror. But something very unusual has happened along the way: we're paying more for less troops, and we've had massive mission creep.

Any more, you can see US forces delivering humanitarian aid, disaster relief, providing "peacekeeping" forces for governments who can't do it, or providing civil services to places all around the globe. These missions all require boots on the ground. Meanwhile, we're spending trillions (over time) in high tech gear to fight the Chinese some day -- or at least to deter the Chinese from acting stupid. The money is going for the gear, while the missions are spreading out all over the place for actual humans on the ground to complete.

It seems to me that having a definition of what you are trying to do is a pretty good way to measure how well you are doing. And just what is DoD trying to do? Can we put it in a sentence or two? I don't think so.

I think at the least we should have another branch of the armed forces for civilian work. Call it the "Civilian Corps" or something like that. You could try to make them non-combatants, but that would not work because of the need for military policemen and police/military operations. In either case, we do not need Marine units in the desert of Iraq performing civilian support roles. The Navy should not be tasking carrier groups to provide tsunami relief. It's not that these things are not important -- they're very important. They're just not what we're paying those guys to do.

So what do you think? Have we lost our way at the Department of Defense? Should we have a branch of service just for helping governments and people out, instead of blowing up things?


At 4:36 PM, Blogger B O B said...

Hi Daniel a very good question. The Iraqi war really points out to the vacuum that was not filled after the fall of Saddam.

Interestingly, you are right on several issues, but why the military is used in humanitarian and policing problems is because of their ability of do logistics. To build supply lines, to arrive quickly, and to at least provide food.

Navy Seabees have been very adept in rebuilding infrastructures. But then again this has not been their mission. The need you point to would be a combination to police, to provide logistics, and to provide humanitarian support.

We do have a fractured network that could do this if it was redesigned to work with the military. The Peace Corps However they do not have the logistics needed.

After the Iraqi we relied on private contracts to fill these gaps. And what a poor wasteful way they did it. The Peace Corps could have been and should be redesigned to fill these needs. And perhaps we should not overlook the Red Cross that has proved it logistic abilities over and over.

So as I see it, we need military for support and safety, perhaps a re-design of the Peace Corps, and the ability to use the Red Cross or similar organization to manage the humanitarian support.

At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Mappo said...

Yes, and Emporer Palpatine said the Clones were just for our own good as well. And we all know ow THAT turned out.

At 6:01 PM, Blogger DAN said...

I don't like the idea of a standing army Mappo, but it looks like we've got one whether we want it or not. If they all start looking the same, we'll have to be sure to take away their 3-D comm links.

Bob -- you brought up some good points too. Logistics is the key. The military does logistics better than anybody else (except maybe Wal-Mart) That's why I think this work still belongs inside DoD. I would want them to have their own logistics chain. The military also has a scalable command system, being able to handle really really small jobs and really really big jobs well. Plus if they're inside DoD they can use the other logistics capabilities of the services on an as-needed basis. And the radios will work together, and the uniformed members could transfer around, and if you had a draft you'd have someplace to put the huge number of non-combatants you would have in any conflict.

To me, it just makes the most sense organizationally to make them another branch of the armed services.


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