Modern Military Readiness: War Against All

A former KGB agent who defected to the United States in the late 1970s once remarked that he broke from Moscow when he realized that the Soviet government was peddling the same disinformation to its citizens that it was planting abroad. It was, as the defector put it, "war against all" and he wanted no more part of it.

Much has been made of military readiness in the current political campaign, but the underlying change in this nation’s armed forces is cause for much greater alarm than a hypothetical situation of how the USA would respond to a sudden invasion by Upper Slobovia. As the founders of this country so greatly feared more than two centuries ago, the military establishment of the United States has been turned into a weapon used by the political classes to keep the citizens both of this country and overseas nations "in line." It is war against all, but this time the offenders wear an eagle, not a red star.

The changes have been subtle, of course. First, state militias were turned into units of the National Guard and made ultimately responsible to the directives of the President of the United States. Next, the Guard was called on to perform duties of law enforcement, mainly to quell riots or large civil disturbances.

Next, active units of the armed forces have been pressed into law enforcement service in the so-called War on Drugs. Furthermore, the armed forces of this country have been used to conduct experiments in social engineering, the latest outrage being the use of "unisex" toilets in the US Navy. Lastly, the armed forces have become a personal tool of the executive branch to carry out the foreign policy directives of the President. The results have been the loss of freedom for Americans and people elsewhere.

Theoretically, National Guard units are under the control of the governor of each state, but the Commander-in-Chief has final say regarding deployment of guardsmen. During the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson used National Guard troops to quell disturbances caused when the central government ordered desegregation of state facilities. In 1993, Bill Clinton would use federal troops in Waco to carry out the biggest US massacre since Wounded Knee in 1890 (when US soldiers killed more than 100 Indians, mostly women, the elderly, and children).

For example, in 1957, citizens of Little Rock, Arkansas, angrily protested an order by the federal government to integrate Central High School. Eisenhower called in National Guard troops to quell the disturbance, which earned him kudos among mainstream journalists and academics.

Whatever one may think of the protests, it was still a move in which the central government used force in order to enforce orders against the wishes of a state government. Eisenhower was following the example set by Abraham Lincoln, Rutherford B. Hayes, Grover Cleveland, and Franklin Roosevelt, all of whom used federal troops to put down rioters. At one time, the matters would have been handled either by local police or by state militias. However, as much as the southerners might have protested Eisenhower’s actions, such use of the standing army had become commonplace by then.

One of the most tragic domestic confrontations between soldiers and civilians came at Kent State University in May 1970 when students protested the US invasion of Cambodia. After rioters burned down the ROTC building on campus, Ohio’s governor called out the National Guard, which marched onto the campus. Unlike the federal troops in Little Rock 13 years earlier, these soldiers carried loaded weapons.

The confrontation turned ugly as the guardsmen and students faced off on a grassy commons. No one is sure what exactly happened next, but suddenly the soldiers opened fire, killing four students (only one of whom was a protester) and wounding many others. (Unfortunately, many "law and order" Americans supported the guardsmen. That reticence to protest violations of the Constitution has helped lead to the present sorry state of affairs.)

While using federal troops against US citizens has an unfortunate long history, using the armed forces for fighting undeclared wars has only been with us the last half century. Beginning in 1950, when Harry Truman deployed US forces in Korea as part of a United Nations force, troops from this nation have fought all over the world, not once in a declared war.

Although the Constitution clearly states that declaring war is an exclusive power of Congress, that august body has failed to exercise its duties and the results have been tragic. While one certainly can argue the morality of all of this nation’s declared wars (the War of Northern Aggression, of course, was undeclared), at least when those wars ended there were treaties and some sort of resolution.

Beginning with the Korean War, however, this nation has fought in a series of conflicts that have been mostly demoralizing to both soldiers and civilians alike. Vietnam is still an open sore, as the names of more than 58,000 American dead on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial so vividly attest. Hundreds of US Marines lost their lives in a suicide bomb attack in Beirut, Lebanon, when to satisfy the US State Department, their barracks were effectively left unguarded. The Gulf War, which was supposedly a US victory, has never been resolved as thousand of Iraqi children die each month because of economic sanctions placed on Iraq by the United States and Great Britain.

At present, US troops are deployed both in Europe and Asia, despite the fact that this nation supposedly is at peace. American bombs killed thousands of civilians and did untold property damage in Kosovo, while the presence of Americans in South Korea has almost certainly extended the state of conflict between the Korean nations. Elsewhere in Europe, US taxpayers shell out billions of dollars to support Army and Air Force bases that are there to "protect" European nations from the nonexistent Russian threat.

There exists no justification for having a huge standing army that is engaged in trouble spots around the globe. The idea that this nation should be ready at any instance to fight two and a half full-scale warsu2014the present Pentagon doctrine—is naïve at best and dishonest at worst. Unfortunately, the specter of Pearl Harbor is always invoked whenever someone questions massive military spending here.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is hardly justification for the United States to always be on the verge of war. Granted, the United States was horribly unprepared to fight a war when the attack came. However, the great loss of life at Pearl Harbor was due more to criminal neglect (and that is a charitable use of that word) from Roosevelt through the military chain of command than it was to the lack of a large military budget. And let us not forget that Pearl Harbor did not occur in a vacuum. By December 1941, the United States was already participating in World War II on the side of the British government at a level at which a declaration of war was the next logical step. And the Roosevelt administration’s participation in a total boycott of Japan, and intervention on the side of the Chinese in the Japan-China war, were acts of war themselves.

At present, the US Armed Forces are not only promoting murder and misery overseas, but are also engaging in the worst kind of social engineering. As numerous commentators have already pointed out, the Clinton Administration has demoralized many in the military ranks by promoting feminism and homosexuality in the armed services. The latest round of silliness comes with the recent revelation that the admiral in charge of the Pacific naval fleet wants to replace urinals with unisex toilets.

While one may laugh about male sailors being forced to sit down in order to urinate, the future of the armed forces is hardly a laughing matter. This administration — and no doubt future presidents — will not hesitate to turn the armed forces into a personal Praetorian Guard to enforce politically correct thinking upon the rest of us. It is time for us to reassess the value of having millions of heavily armed men and women in our midst who exist primarily to enforce the wrong-headed policies of whatever administration is in power.

William L. Anderson, Ph.D., is assistant professor of economics at North Greenville College in Tigerville, South Carolina. He is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.