• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

NY Times Editorial - "Americans and their military drifting apart"

rmc_wannabe

Sr. Member
Subscriber
Reaction score
177
Points
680
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/opinion/americans-and-their-military-drifting-apart.html

Americans and Their Military, Drifting Apart

By KARL W. EIKENBERRY and DAVID M. KENNEDY
Published: May 26, 2013 243 Comments
STANFORD, Calif. — AFTER fighting two wars in nearly 12 years, the United States military is at a turning point. So are the American people. The armed forces must rethink their mission. Though the nation has entered an era of fiscal constraint, and though President Obama last week effectively declared an end to the “global war on terror” that began on Sept. 11, 2001, the military remains determined to increase the gap between its war-fighting capabilities and those of any potential enemies. But the greatest challenge to our military is not from a foreign enemy — it’s the widening gap between the American people and their armed forces.

More on link

Interesting read. I see quite a few parallels within the CAF. With our decreased role in Afghanistan, will there be a return to the "Us & Them" mentality ? Thoughts?
 

The_Falcon

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
0
Points
0
I read an article in Star's and Stripes not to long ago discussing something similar, the growing "warrior" class in America, where by people who are serving now, were kids when 9/11 happened and they watched their parents go off to battle, and when they came of age, they joined them.  And how basically this multi-generational (some families have been involved in pretty much every conflict since the civil war a la Lt. Dan) family service makes up one of the largest demographics in the US Military.  And basically causes a disconnect from the rest of society, where history has shown nations don't fair well if they have a deep and entrenched "warrior" class. 
 

Jed

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
0
Points
410
Hatchet Man said:
I read an article in Star's and Stripes not to long ago discussing something similar, the growing "warrior" class in America, where by people who are serving now, were kids when 9/11 happened and they watched their parents go off to battle, and when they came of age, they joined them.  And how basically this multi-generational (some families have been involved in pretty much every conflict since the civil war a la Lt. Dan) family service makes up one of the largest demographics in the US Military.  And basically causes a disconnect from the rest of society, where history has shown nations don't fair well if they have a deep and entrenched "warrior" class.

Ok, I can buy that. Canada has the same thing occurring on a smaller scale and the timeline starts from the Boer War.
 

dimsum

Army.ca Fixture
Mentor
Reaction score
1,126
Points
940
One obvious problem I see with the recommendations made in the article is this; a draft (or draft lottery) would not go down well in the US again.  It's one thing for societies who have always had it (Israel, S. Korea, etc.) to have 18-year olds do it because "it's the thing that's always been done", but to go from a volunteer military to an even partially-conscripted one?  Any politician who tries to proposes that would be effectively committing political suicide.
 

Ostrozac

Sr. Member
Reaction score
153
Points
430
Jed said:
Ok, I can buy that. Canada has the same thing occurring on a smaller scale and the timeline starts from the Boer War.

Isn't this pretty much a side-effect of an all-volunteer professional force? The children of military personnel have more exposure to the forces, so more knowledge of the job conditions and opportunities, and so can be expected to volunteer for the military in greater numbers because they actually know about it. I would expect that same logic for a number of professions, if your dad is a policeman, maybe there's a greater chance that you'll be a policeman.  I don't have good statistics on that, though.

And in addition to the US and Canadian examples, hasn't this been the case in many families in the UK for something like 200 years? Except that they developed two warrior classes -- the children of NCO's becoming NCO's and the children of officers becoming officers, with limited movement between the two groups.

Is a bit of a hereditary warrior class, in some families, a necessary side-effect of a long-term professional army? Is this a feature, not a bug? The article seems pretty sentimental about conscription in the US, but peacetime conscription was an early Cold War blip -- the US has historically conscripted for major wars, and fought smaller ones with volunteers.
 

OldSolduer

Army.ca Legend
Reaction score
1,447
Points
910
When it comes to the military, the US and Canada view them differently. I think there is far more support for the US military among corporate America, and the general population. Ever notice who entertains the troops on overseas missions? The US sends bona fide stars: Canada sends.......who? Oh sorry, we did send some NHL stars and the Stanley Cup.

A wise man told me once "the Canadian public's support for the CF is a mile wide.....and an inch deep"

The public loves us now, but you can expect that to change.
 

2 Cdo

Sr. Member
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Jim Seggie said:
When it comes to the military, the US and Canada view them differently. I think there is far more support for the US military among corporate America, and the general population. Ever notice who entertains the troops on overseas missions? The US sends bona fide stars: Canada sends.......who? Oh sorry, we did send some NHL stars and the Stanley Cup.

A wise man told me once "the Canadian public's support for the CF is a mile wide.....and an inch deep"

The public loves us now, but you can expect that to change.

Well said Jim.
 

GR66

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
227
Points
710
I don't think it's an abnormal or even a horrible thing that public love of the military fades outside times of conflict.  We live in a society that in general abhors violence and prefers to find peaceful solutions to our problems.  Look at the way we've allowed our military to wither after every major conflict in our history.  When the time comes again that the Canadian public sees the need to stand up and fight for a cause I think they will rally behind the military once more. 

Perhaps this general..."discomfort?" (not sure what the best description would be...it's not a hatred) that the public has for the military is a good thing in that it prevents our governments from turning to military solutions as the default course of action in times of difficulty.  If we were a more martial society perhaps there would be a greater tendency for us to use our military because our leaders would know our people would support their use. 

The difficulty for our military in an age of an increasingly complex battlefield is to be able to maintain an expensive to equip and support military that is CAPABLE of effectively responding when the Canadian public decides it's time to fight.  In the past, mobilization was more about signing up recruits and ramping up military production in order to face our threats.  That's no longer the case and the public must now bear the financial burden of a high-tech and well-trained fighting force that it really would prefer NOT to have to use. 

Hopefully the "warrior class" will be able to sustain our strength in times of peace and our military leaders will be able to secure enough of the national treasure to give them enough tools to fight effectively.  Things like peacekeeping and humanitarian relief may not be the real purpose of the military but sometimes they are effective roles to play in order to loosen the purse strings of a liberal-minded, peace loving public.
 

FJAG

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
1,474
Points
1,040
I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
    O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
    But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

Tommy - Rudyard Kipling, 1892

So what's new?

Actually I think this phenomenon is more a characteristic of a standing professional army as opposed to a citizens' army and goes right back to the Marian reforms of the Roman army.

Prior to Marius, Roman armies came from the landed citizen class (both Roman and Italian allies)--small plot farmers--who owned their own armour and weapons and were called out when danger threatened and disbanded back to their farms when danger had passed.

After Marius, Roman armies were recruited from the unemployed masses and kept with the eagles for much longer, typically twenty years, before being pensioned off to a plot of land. Those armies became first an expense and secondly a threat to the state (much of the last century of the Republic was characterised by civil war between various Roman factions)

In the past it had been quite normal in most countries to spend very little money on armies when there is no conflict; generally by having a low cost reserve or draft army which is called to the colours when threats emerge. Concurrently at that time national financial resources are diverted or ramped up to meet that threat with an expectation that after the threat has passed there is a return to a status quo ante.

The problem nowadays is that our modern military (Canada, the UK, and to a lesser degree the US) firmly believes that only a fully trained professional standing army will do the job. Reserve forces are kept deliberately low in numbers. The military leadership expects that national resources be poured into defence spendings unabated even when no viable threat to the nation exists. In effect the traditional model has been stood on its head.

The point is that the pay and pension packages for professional armies are simply enormous but notwithstanding that the military leadership has fought tooth and nail throughout the Cold War and beyond to preserve the existing model.

It's little wonder then that politicians and citizens in general question why we need to spend over $20 Billion each year to put a single battle group and a few ships into a conflict on the other side of the world.

I served from '65 to '09 and quite frankly the Defence budget math hasn't made a lot of sense to me for a very long time. (Don't even try to do a cost/benefit analysis for the last ten years) I can see why civilians and politicians, who have never served, can become a little standoffish in the face of this continuing drain on national resources.

:slapfight:
 

daftandbarmy

Army.ca Relic
Reaction score
3,564
Points
1,060
An interesting difference between the 'North American' militaries and their European counter-parts, from what I have seen and experienced, is that in Europe (and I include the UK in that) a military profession has a solid place in the social pecking order.

Based on my unscientific observations, it seems to be somewhere between accountant (not to diss the ol' accountants) and the various levels of the aristocracy/ landed gentry.

The over all effect is to make it 'OK' for anyone who is smart and socially/professionally upwardly mobile to pursue a military career for the short, or long term. In the UK, they recognize this through the Short Service Commission, where you can (if you're good enough) pass out of Sandhurst, serve with the Old Man's/ Girl's regiment for 3 years, get the stripey tie, then graduate to a job managing the world's money in a Bank in London. Or, you can stay until retirement, and still hang out with the muli-millionaires on a regular basis and still be accepted as 'part of the in crowd'.

As we all know, Britain's royal family members all perform military service of some kind, which is an excellent example of 'leadership by example'. When was the last time we saw a prominent Canadian's son or daughter join an infantry regiment etc? I can't think of one... but then again I've been accused of not thinking - period - before.  ;D

This all means that you get an interesting mix of backgrounds, particularly at the officer level, from 'the son/daughter of the village cobbler' to the kid whose dad owns the Bank of Scotland. Therefore a broad cross section of society has an understanding and awareness of the military to a far greater breadth and depth than we do in Canada, for example, I would say.

As the recent atrocity in Woolwich demonstrated, British regiments tend to be stationed in fairly metropolitan areas too, so people routinely interact with the 'common soldiery' on a regular basis. Sometimes this is not such a good thing, as the occasional bar fight will prove, but in general it means that people get a good look at their troops on a regular basis and at least can identify them, if not WITH them.

Having said that, I find it odd that here I am in Victoria and if you see a sailor walking down the street it's a complete novelty. For some reason, in Canada, we like to hunker down in our little fiefdoms, pull up the drawbridge, and gaze out at all the civvies wondering why they don't 'get' us.



 

rmc_wannabe

Sr. Member
Subscriber
Reaction score
177
Points
680
daftandbarmy said:
As the recent atrocity in Woolwich demonstrated, British regiments tend to be stationed in fairly metropolitan areas too, so people routinely interact with the 'common soldiery' on a regular basis. Sometimes this is not such a good thing, as the occasional bar fight will prove, but in general it means that people get a good look at their troops on a regular basis and at least can identify them, if not WITH them.

Having said that, I find it odd that here I am in Victoria and if you see a sailor walking down the street it's a complete novelty. For some reason, in Canada, we like to hunker down in our little fiefdoms, pull up the drawbridge, and gaze out at all the civvies wondering why they don't 'get' us.

Sins from the past I guess. The Liberal Party liked to keep the guard dog in the back yard while they were entertaining the population with social reforms.
 

dimsum

Army.ca Fixture
Mentor
Reaction score
1,126
Points
940
rmc_wannabe said:
Sins from the past I guess. The Liberal Party liked to keep the guard dog in the back yard while they were entertaining the population with social reforms.

When I was posted to Victoria, I would never have thought to wear my uniform out unless it was either Remembrance Day or there was some unforseen reason.  I think the whole "hippie military-hating" stereotype, rightly or wrongly, in Victoria has caused most people to wear civies to/from work, thus making people forget that there's a significant military presence....etc.

I agree with DnB that having the military posted to metro areas is a good thing, if nothing else than visibility (warts and all).  I don't think CFB Edmonton, for example, has really had a backlash against the military.  Ditto with CFB Kingston. 
 

GR66

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
227
Points
710
FJAG said:
I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
    O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
    But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

Tommy - Rudyard Kipling, 1892

So what's new?

Actually I think this phenomenon is more a characteristic of a standing professional army as opposed to a citizens' army and goes right back to the Marian reforms of the Roman army.

Prior to Marius, Roman armies came from the landed citizen class (both Roman and Italian allies)--small plot farmers--who owned their own armour and weapons and were called out when danger threatened and disbanded back to their farms when danger had passed.

After Marius, Roman armies were recruited from the unemployed masses and kept with the eagles for much longer, typically twenty years, before being pensioned off to a plot of land. Those armies became first an expense and secondly a threat to the state (much of the last century of the Republic was characterised by civil war between various Roman factions)

In the past it had been quite normal in most countries to spend very little money on armies when there is no conflict; generally by having a low cost reserve or draft army which is called to the colours when threats emerge. Concurrently at that time national financial resources are diverted or ramped up to meet that threat with an expectation that after the threat has passed there is a return to a status quo ante.

The problem nowadays is that our modern military (Canada, the UK, and to a lesser degree the US) firmly believes that only a fully trained professional standing army will do the job. Reserve forces are kept deliberately low in numbers. The military leadership expects that national resources be poured into defence spendings unabated even when no viable threat to the nation exists. In effect the traditional model has been stood on its head.

The point is that the pay and pension packages for professional armies are simply enormous but notwithstanding that the military leadership has fought tooth and nail throughout the Cold War and beyond to preserve the existing model.

It's little wonder then that politicians and citizens in general question why we need to spend over $20 Billion each year to put a single battle group and a few ships into a conflict on the other side of the world.

I served from '65 to '09 and quite frankly the Defence budget math hasn't made a lot of sense to me for a very long time. (Don't even try to do a cost/benefit analysis for the last ten years) I can see why civilians and politicians, who have never served, can become a little standoffish in the face of this continuing drain on national resources.

:slapfight:

This is an interesting point I think.  I've always held the belief that modern technical warfare is in some ways fundamentally different than the wars we've faced in the past.  With the complexity and lead time required to make modern weapon systems (ships, aircraft, armoured vehicles, guided munitions, etc. as well as the need to train "specialist" soldiers in their use and maintenance), I've seen any future war as a "come as you are" affair.  If war were to break out in North Korea or Iran (or wherever we might face an organized military with reasonably modern equipment) would we be physically capable of scaling up a primarily reservist military in time to be able to make a meaningful contribution?

Do we maintain a large and expensive standing professional army because it really is the only way to fight a high intensity war against near peers, or have we simply "drunk the Kool-Aide" provided by the defence industry and our military leaders?  Is there a fundamentally different model on which we could base our military that would be significantly cheaper but also remain effective?
 

GAP

Army.ca Legend
Donor
Mentor
Reaction score
8
Points
380
Does not Switzerland have a small standing army and a large armed populous reserve?
 

Canadian.Trucker

Sr. Member
Mentor
Reaction score
0
Points
0
FJAG said:
I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
    O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
    But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

Tommy - Rudyard Kipling, 1892

So what's new?

Actually I think this phenomenon is more a characteristic of a standing professional army as opposed to a citizens' army and goes right back to the Marian reforms of the Roman army.

Prior to Marius, Roman armies came from the landed citizen class (both Roman and Italian allies)--small plot farmers--who owned their own armour and weapons and were called out when danger threatened and disbanded back to their farms when danger had passed.

After Marius, Roman armies were recruited from the unemployed masses and kept with the eagles for much longer, typically twenty years, before being pensioned off to a plot of land. Those armies became first an expense and secondly a threat to the state (much of the last century of the Republic was characterised by civil war between various Roman factions)

In the past it had been quite normal in most countries to spend very little money on armies when there is no conflict; generally by having a low cost reserve or draft army which is called to the colours when threats emerge. Concurrently at that time national financial resources are diverted or ramped up to meet that threat with an expectation that after the threat has passed there is a return to a status quo ante.

The problem nowadays is that our modern military (Canada, the UK, and to a lesser degree the US) firmly believes that only a fully trained professional standing army will do the job. Reserve forces are kept deliberately low in numbers. The military leadership expects that national resources be poured into defence spendings unabated even when no viable threat to the nation exists. In effect the traditional model has been stood on its head.

The point is that the pay and pension packages for professional armies are simply enormous but notwithstanding that the military leadership has fought tooth and nail throughout the Cold War and beyond to preserve the existing model.

It's little wonder then that politicians and citizens in general question why we need to spend over $20 Billion each year to put a single battle group and a few ships into a conflict on the other side of the world.

I served from '65 to '09 and quite frankly the Defence budget math hasn't made a lot of sense to me for a very long time. (Don't even try to do a cost/benefit analysis for the last ten years) I can see why civilians and politicians, who have never served, can become a little standoffish in the face of this continuing drain on national resources.

:slapfight:
Very good points, but I would argue that one of the reasons a case is made to have a large(er) standing army that is well trained and equipped is due to the fact that the days of trading space for time is gone when referring to your own back yard.  Warfare can move at such a rapid pace in this day and age that things such as a winter season or having months to build up a fighting force do not exist anymore.
 

GR66

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
227
Points
710
GAP said:
Does not Switzerland have a small standing army and a large armed populous reserve?

I guess it's a possible alternative model but you'd have to adopt their isolationist foreign policy to go along with it.  I personally don't think that's an option for Canada.
 

FJAG

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
1,474
Points
1,040
Just as a follow on. I'm not necessarily advocating a change to a reserve model army. I think that the jury is out on that and it would require a very detailed study to determine if it can be done, how it should be done and what are the savings.

What I am quite definite on is that IMHO we are caught in the full grip of what Dwight D Eisenhower coined in 1961 as the Military Industrial Complex.

Our military leadership (by which I include the civilian leadership of DND and the civil service in general) has a vested interest to keep to the status quo because their financial compensation and their career paths depend on it.

An example in its simplest form is rank inflation. How many generals, colonels and CWOs and their civilian equivalents does it really take to run the Forces. Or are we just giving jobs people so that they can serve out their time to retirement at what they consider to be a reasonable salary?

At every element within DND their is a colossal waste of resources because we have built structures and policies that demand large amounts of overhead and their consequential costs. Simplification would be difficult even if there was a will to do it.

The trouble is that all anyone is prepared to do is to tweak the system rather than examine it in detail from the ground up.

That said, I also firmly believe that in their minds they honestly believe that the system isn't fundamentally broken and can be enhanced/fixed with tweaking.

Unfortunately, because we have very few civilian leaders with either the knowledge or the courage to question those things that they are told by the existing bureaucrats (civilian or military). Their only way to deal with escalating costs is with across the board budget cuts. This is a blunt tool at best and will only produce a smaller less efficient force that still has the same model and overheads.

Anyway. Just  :deadhorse:
 

daftandbarmy

Army.ca Relic
Reaction score
3,564
Points
1,060
GR66 said:
I guess it's a possible alternative model but you'd have to adopt their isolationist foreign policy to go along with it.  I personally don't think that's an option for Canada.

And conscription. We could never make that work, unless you're in the last year of a global war (and even then it didn't work well the last two times we tried it).
 

OldSolduer

Army.ca Legend
Reaction score
1,447
Points
910
Correct me please, but are the Swiss required to keep a weapon in their home?


That would NEVER fly here.
 
Top