An Army of Good Americans (& Some Foreigners)

Many ideas about the U.S. military are outdated or just wrong. A Vietnam era stereotype says they are predominantly poor and/or minority, with the unspoken corollary that they are victims. In fact, the all-volunteer military has never been like that. Today’s military looks like America - just a little more southern and a little more rural - and every man and woman chose this job.

Unscrupulous politicians are playing off the stereotypes and prejudices in ways that are hurting our troops. Their opposition to the war has clouded their judgment. Let's just get over it and respect the choice these brave men and women have made.

The only group really not well represented in our military are immigrants. Immigrants make a growing percentage of our population but they are seriously underrepresented in of our military. Many immigrants obviously have the technical skills to do well in the military and even among the less skilled a significant number have a demonstrated ability to swim rivers, run across rough terrain, jump obstacles and conceal themselves.

Brookings has released a think piece on a military path to citizenship. It makes a lot of sense. Why not give foreigners greater opportunity to earn their place in our society. We have ample precedent and I am not talking only about Lafayette, Pulaski, Kosciusko and Von Steuben. During our Civil War, immigrants formed whole brigades, especially Irish and German. My wife's ancestor was marching south with a Wisconsin regiment right after he got off the boat from Norway. The U.S. cavalry that won the west was heavily foreign born. I have no doubt that many foreigners would jump at the opportunity to serve in the U.S. military and if we are going to accept large numbers of immigrants anyway, we should prioritize those who have demonstrated a commitment to our country. Beyond that, the training and benefits would help them assimilate into American society. Seems like a win all around.

Posted by Jack at October 27, 2006 9:46 PM
Comment #190951

Funny Jack, that so many of those behind the war in Iraq neither served in combat nor see their children serve in combat. Seems there’s a case of do as I say, not do as I do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go at you. I’m thinking primarily of politicians. I’m still marvelling that the current CIC didn’t serve in combat at a time when his country was at war and other kids were subject to the draft for combat service. As the French say, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose!

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at October 27, 2006 10:13 PM
Comment #190956

P.EU -
Many of our CIC’s didn’t serve in war. No points on that one. Sorry.

Jack -
One method of reducing the number of illegals trying to cross into USA: Round ‘em up. Draft them. Send ‘em to Iraq. Pay them half what our men and women make doing it. Solve three problems at once (illegals, Iraq, deficit).

If they want to be US citizens after they return, bump ‘em to the top of the list. If not, send ‘em home.

Posted by: Don at October 27, 2006 10:26 PM
Comment #190958


Paul I thought the French said “I surrender.”

Posted by: Keith at October 27, 2006 10:33 PM
Comment #190960

Jack, I am in the military and we do accept imigrants. I have served with Irish nationals, English, Egyptians, Bosnians, South Africans, Mexicans, chinese, and many other nationalities. They just need to be legal imigrants and they can serve which will speed up their citizenship.

Posted by: Earl in Missouri at October 27, 2006 10:37 PM
Comment #190963

Interesting. Ok, here’s what comes to mind, and before I say this, let me stress that I’m playing devil’s advocate. Isn’t there an inherent danger in having a military with large numbers of non-citizens? Armies require loyalty to the state; we can look at the Romans to see what happens when other loyalties come first. Also, it’s easy to conceive of situations where these immigrants could be abused. We know that often what is promised by military recruiters is not what is delivered. Ok, I’ll back off that last statement and just say I’ve heard over the years from people I trust stories about recruits being promised one thing and given another.

I’m not objecting, just thinking. I’d like to here 1LT B’s opinion.

Posted by: Trent at October 27, 2006 10:42 PM
Comment #190964

I wish I had read Earl’s comment before I posted my own. Here are some facts about immigrants in the U.S. military.

Posted by: Trent at October 27, 2006 10:45 PM
Comment #190979

Earl and Trent

Yes, but I think we could expand it a bit. It is not a panacea, but a good ideas.

According to Trents figures:

There are 60,000 immigrants in the U.S. military. They represent two percent of the total service personnel on active duty. About half are noncitizens, with 15,880 in the navy; of those, 5,046 are from the Philippines. More than 6,000 Marines are noncitizens, with the largest group, 1,452, from Mexico.

Immigrants represent about 11% of the U.S. population.


We have not had a mass army since WWII and it is no longer common for young men to have been in the military.

My point is not that most Americans have military experience. It is that the military is broadly representative of the U.S. population. The only large group really underrepresented are immigrants, hence the second part of my post.

Posted by: Jack at October 27, 2006 11:09 PM
Comment #190982

BTW - let me clear something up. I know that we will certainly have people saying that so-and-so never served. I have never been in the military. I tried to join in 1981, but because of what my doctor (mistakenly I think) said was an ulcer when I was 16 years old, they would not let me in. My job has brought me into close contact with active military. I have given lectures at the Army War College and consulted with military personnel in various places in Europe. I have friends and aquaintances serving in Iraq & Afghanistan.

So I believe I have a decent understanding of the military but as an outsider. I rely on the experience of others to inform my opinions.

Posted by: Jack at October 27, 2006 11:24 PM
Comment #190984

Why, Jack, Is this such a great idea? Are we in such dire need they we must have immigrants do our fightinhg for us. If they are legal immigrants cant they join the armed services if they choose to do so? If its illegal immigrants you are refering to my question is “is there anything the repubs wont outsource in their effort to destroy the middle class of this country”?

Posted by: j2t2 at October 27, 2006 11:29 PM
Comment #190987

j2t2 -

It’s not outsourcing, it’s adding to our coalition.

Posted by: Don at October 27, 2006 11:36 PM
Comment #190992
Unscrupulous politicians are playing off the stereotypes and prejudices in ways that are hurting our troops.

Where in the linked article (or anywhere else) is there evidence that politicians are hurting our troops? The article essentially states that some democrates are falsely accusing their opponents of hurting the troops, but here you are doing the same thing.

Posted by: switters at October 27, 2006 11:51 PM
Comment #190994

“The only group really not well represented in our military are immigrants.”

Oh, I think you are missing another group. The rich and the graduates of top universities are conspicuously absent from the military ranks.

That is a fact.

What do you think it means?

Posted by: phx8 at October 27, 2006 11:53 PM
Comment #191000


If you look at the figures, the rich are not missing, but you are right about the top (i.e. Ivy League) universities. Places like Harvard kicked ROTC off campus years ago. Other top universities make it difficult to recruit. I agree that is a terrible thing. I am glad that you are with me in this.

Posted by: Jack at October 28, 2006 12:32 AM
Comment #191011

I agree with Phx8 and Jack…More of those University kids from Harvard (and elsewhere) should be represented.

Posted by: Don at October 28, 2006 12:58 AM
Comment #191037

Serving in the military is something I favor. Some sort of mandatory service for two years would probably result in a positive outcome, even if it is civil service, something like the national guard, to complement the voluteer military. However, making changes will be nearly impossible until Iraq is over and done. A national consensu will first require us to re-learn the wisdom of the Powell Doctrine. Going to war needs to be a last resort and a matter of national security, a course of action which is manifestly obvious to nearly everyone.

Unfortunatley, it will be a very, very long time before that kind of trust in government will be seen. Who knows- maybe we are better off without it?

If everyone- and I mean everyone- served, I suspect the attitude towards going to war would change.

But this is a free country; there is admittedly something odious about compulsory service; and we hardly need to encourage militarism. There is a difference between military service and militarism. But like I said, it will be a long time before we can even begin to address the issue with any degree of national unanimity.

Posted by: phx8 at October 28, 2006 2:55 AM
Comment #191042

The previous comment by Vincent illustrates my point to perfection. The military is broken. It broke in Iraq. Given the poisonous political atmosphere, it will be very hard to significantly expand the pool of people willing to voluntarily serve, whether they are immigrants or the rich. Compulsory service will be even more difficult.

Posted by: phx8 at October 28, 2006 3:05 AM
Comment #191044

Jack said: “Let’s just get over it and respect the choice these brave men and women have made.”

I have to admit Jack, a $45,000. payment for one’s signature does buy a considerable amount of bravery from many a young person. No question about that!

I will hail the soldier that enlisted without a sign-up bonus before I will hail these who received a year’s pay or more for nothing more than agreeing to sign their name on the dotted line.

I understand many of today’s recruits would have signed up for country without the bonus, and no credit should be diminished for those. But, let’s face reality here, they wouldn’t be handing out $45,000 sign up bonuses if they could meet quotas without them. Which means, bravery and patriotism are not what is motivating a considerable number of today’s troops to enlist.

And this is, in part, just another variation on the draft. How many recruits signing up for the bonus can afford not to? Where else can they hire on and receive $45,000 just to hire in before they have done a single day’s work? That was the way of it with the draft. Not many could afford to circumvent the draft of 35 years ago.

One thing politicians in our government are very skillful at, is bribing its citizens to do its bidding.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 28, 2006 3:18 AM
Comment #191045


Glad to know I’m loved and missed. Your concerns are valid, but I think, a bit misplaced. We do indeed have many non-citizens in the military, in fact just a month or so ago we held a naturalization ceremony here at Camp Victory for several of them. First, while we do have many non-citizens, they’re spread throughout the services, not grouped together in one unit, so it would be far more difficult to foment some sort of rebellion. Also, the US has succeeded where the Romans did not in ensuring the subordination of the military to civilian control. We might feel a sense of loyalty to a general, but I doubt that even Patton or Eisenhower could ever induce an army to march on D.C. in the manner that Roman legions marched on their own capital.

That being said, from the immigrants in the military that I’ve seen, they take citizenship very seriously. They pay attention in civics classes, are very interested in politics, and probably have a better idea of how the government works than most citizens. Also, many come from nations where the rights and freedoms we sometimes take for granted don’t exist, and this creates a sense of love and loyalty to America that sometimes borders on fanaticism. From what I’ve seen, they are not abused and are treated the same as everybody else.

Your statement about recruiters is somewhat justified, more so for the Army than for the Navy or Air Force. Because the Army is so much larger, they can’t be as selective and the needs of the Army take precedence over the needs of individual Soldiers. The Army will try and put people in the career fields they want, but if they need more infantrymen, than your doctorate in particle physics might not do you any good.

Mark your calendar, because this may be the first and only time I have something good to say about the French military. The Foreign Legion is a good idea, we might try the same thing. An 8 or 10 year term of service with guaranteed citizenship provided good behavior worthy of an honorable discharge could probably draw good people from a variety of foreign lands and give us the advantage of having more bi-lingual speakers, reducing the need for local interpreters. We would need to screen this very carefully, but I think it can be done.

As far as children of the rich go, we do have some but they are underrepresented. Further, most are in the officer side of the house and many come from families with a military tradition. I’m a bit conflicted about a draft. Part of me would love to see one as I do think that the idea of responsibility has been divorced from rights and I do feel that an all volunteer military contributes to this. On the other hand, having an all volunteer force gives us more motivated and better Soldiers, so what is good for the country might not be as good for the Army. I’d recommend the book The New American Militarism. It deals with this subject and how we came to be where we are today in some depth, and it’s a very good read.

Posted by: 1LT B at October 28, 2006 3:19 AM
Comment #191049

The military is supported by us. We spend too much money on it already. Are you proposing getting foreigners to come here so we can pay them to fight our wars? This will just lead to more wars, and anyway, the idea makes me uncomfortable for obvious reasons.

Tell me we couldn’t be spending our money better….

We’ve squandered our money on the military. Talking just 1 or 2 percent of that money and intelligently investing instead in education would be better.

Posted by: Max at October 28, 2006 4:21 AM
Comment #191055

Max, excellant post!!


Most military personnel come from middle America, agreed. I have some difficulty with some of the stats in this study however.

It seems to me they’ve gone to great pains selecting data to prove their original premise.Using comparisons that seem to select for the ideas they want to promote.

I also have a problem with assumptions made about income level based on zip codes. In my zip code there is a wide variation in income levels. Basing a study on individuals or selected groups based on a mean would likely be very misleading.

I also noticed that some of the data didn’t seem to add up. In one chart I noticed whites remained at 73% while blacks declined a couple percent. Mysteriously the other category disapeared. I fone group declined while al the others stayed the same percentage wise, doesn’t seem to make mathematicla sense. I didn’t delve into attempting to analyze it mathematically, but it just makes me wonder.

I don’t doubt that a volunteer military is largely middleclass, or that even a draft military would be. The point I think most people make is that economics does play a role in the opportunities available to youth, and the military is more an option to those of lower economic position. I don’t think this study diputes that.

Posted by: gergle at October 28, 2006 6:07 AM
Comment #191063

We use lumber to build our fort. Everyday we get attacked and we have to repair and rebuild our fort. The teacher complains that we are using up too much of our lumber supplies and dont have enough to produce more books and paper for her students. The children have to share books, and even these are in a bad condition and are out dated. Why cant she have more lumber. Is it because we are war-mongerers or could it be because we hate children (gasp).
Lets make this clear. M1 tanks cost several million dollars a piece and we have thousands of them, but without the proper defense we dont have a country.

Posted by: JoeRWC at October 28, 2006 8:02 AM
Comment #191064

Saying that only the poor and minorities are the only ones to join the military is just more racist, divisive bullspit from the neo-libs. In truth, the military is a microcosm of our country. You find everyone there, including immigrants. What better way to show loyalty to your new country than to proudly serve right off the bat.
In the military there are also fast-track go- getters and there are guys just looking for that easy paycheck. There are clerks in the military that are just as obstinate and rude as in any other government beauracracy, such as the DMV.
However, just like the USA, the military is not defined by neer-do-wells, but by the whole. Simply put, it is the best. Young soldiers have more training than officers in other countries. And our special forces make foreign dictators quiver.
Iknow the neo-libs think they are better than everyone else and have to help the challenged like us, but people are seeing them for what they are and the Dems cant win elections.

Posted by: JoeRWC at October 28, 2006 8:18 AM
Comment #191065

1LT B,

Thanks for the insight and info. Yeah, foreigners fighting for Rome had their own auxiliaries and own leaders and, if I remember correctly, were paid less. At any rate, it seems as if what we are doing now with immigrants in the militar is working. A link I posted earlier said, though, that the United States has frozen immigrant enlistment for the time being.


Nice post. I agree with you in principle, too, about some sort of required service, whether it is in the military or something else. (Would a choice about what kind of service help preseve some of the benefits that 1LT B lists about an all-volunteer military?) Your comments about militarism I think are justified, While I am past the age at which anyone would want to draft me (things would have to be very desparate for me to look like a good recruit), I have an eight-year-old daughter, and the idea that she might be drafted to perhaps die in a foolish war is obviously disturbing. Fighting for a good cause is one thing; how we got into the current war is quite another. (I don’t intend to start that debate here; it’s been and will be debated ad naseum on other threads. I’m just giving my gut reactions to a draft, now.)

Posted by: Trent at October 28, 2006 8:25 AM
Comment #191069

This is a good topic. Let me add the following:

1. Foreigners mercenaries have been a feature of the military at least since the Romans. As 1LT wrote, the Romans had foreign auxiliary units attached (usually cavalry)from almost the beginning. They were paid less than the regulars, but had the possibility of obtaining Roman citizneship after long service. However, from the III Century onwards, the Roman legions were increasingly made up of foreigners; a mixtue of immigrants, citizens of foreign extraction and outright foreign mercenaries.

2. The US military also recruited foreigners, usually immigrants, in large numbers from the very beginning. A large proportion of the cavalry in the West after the Civil War consisted of first generation immigrants.

3. When there was a draft (Civil War, WWI, WWII and thereafter) immigrants were liable to be called, but in WWI and II proportionately fewer were called up because for variuous reasons they were not as fit as the rest of the population. I don’t know about the Civil War, but medical examinations were less comprehensive then, and many immigrants and foreign volunteers did serve in the Union forces due to idealism, i.e. the abolition of slavery.

3. If there are now 10000 non-citizen immigrants now on active duty then they make up at least 4% of the active duty forces (this would include about 100K of NG and reserves on active duty), and possibly more. If we were to include naturalised first-generation immigrants then the number and proportion would be higher.

4. My impression is that the proportion of immigrants on active duty is lower than in the XIX Century, but about the same as after WWII.

5. We have a volunteer Army (as usual in American history)and that means that only those will join who would like to be soldiers. Since 1975, this approach has produced a diverse and competent force. I don’t think it matters much if some groups are over or under represented, although I do find it regrettable that so few politicians have served on active duty. The lack of Ivy League graduates is an interesting sociological point, but given what’s going on at those univerisities, I am not sure if they would add much to the Army.

If you have read this far, thank you for your time.

Charles Kovacs

Posted by: Charles Kovacs at October 28, 2006 9:26 AM
Comment #191072


I forgot the last part of my thought. The last sentence should read, With idiotic “Won’t it be nice when the Air Force has to have a bake sale to fund its bombers” attitudes like yours, an “intelligent investment” is to teach our children Arabic or Mandarin Chinese, the better to serve thier future conquerors.


The Romans had a slightly different system than you describe. Auxilliary forces were the forces of client kings and other vassal nations that fought alongside the Roman Army under Rome’s command. They were typically specialty troops such as cavalry or archers that acted as support to the Roman staple, legions of heavy infantry. They did indeed have non-citizens in the Army, these served with the legions and would be rewarded with citizenship and land after thier terms, which were for 22 years. This was a good idea then and I think the military is on the wrong track by limiting the numbers of immigrants in the service as the article you linked says.

Posted by: 1LT B at October 28, 2006 9:59 AM
Comment #191075

Just a quick comment on the $45,000 - That is for school, as there is no extention of the GI bill (education). The money cannot be used for booze or busness. You are also wrong about not getting money for joining other orginizations. My daughter got $20,000 to sign on to a hospital for 2 years. If she stays past the 2 years they give her $2000 every six months and pay for her continuing edication and gives her time to work on her PhD. My x-wife makes $100,000 a year plus $2000 a month bonus to stay working at her medical unit. Both are intensive care nurses, The X travels to places where she is needed and often does airlifts of intensive care.
Law firms offer bonuses and pirks to lawyers who sign on. Oil riggers get bonuses and “combat” pay. Cops get perks in many cities. Even us lowly preventive med people get bonuses to sign on with companies or goverments who need help - we often get paid after the job.
Harvard and Ivy league schools not represented? There are some, few and far between. Never really saw them in Nam either, in spite of the draft. The idea of the draft in an armed force that is required to attain a level of proficiency can’t be done - unless we go back to a level of warfare that requires massive input because of massive casualties. The levels of technology are too high for a 2 year man.
Take the special forces medic. Even in the Viet-nam era it was difficult to produce a medic that attained the year of training after basic, AIT, jump school, ranger training and basic special forces training. Then there were post medical training: scuba, ski, weapons, ordinance, communication and intel problems. In all a man had to spend about 2 years before going to a specialized unit. Understand that SF schools are not like college classes. They were and are 14 to 16 hrs a day 7 days a week. Plus failure to attain an 85% average each week could find you cut from the program. Today the SF medic gets better than 2 years of medical training after working in the military as a medic for a minimum of 4 years. There are no specializations. The SF medic has to know how to treat man and beast. He has to be able to be a health inspector one day and a combat medic the next. Often SF medics are College graduates before entering the army, not always. They also have the highest apptitude scores around. ( for Physical fitness the highest score is 500, the average SF trainee attains 430. For Mental abilities the highest score is 500 and the trainee scores about 420. My scores were 550 and 585) Then you have to have a secondary MOS, generally Weapons and explosives. Yes I got a re-enlistment bonus of $10,000 - almost a years pay back then,
Did I join for any thing. As an enlistee I could chose my field, provided I made the grade. As a Draftee there are no choices. Today, in spite of the “high” death count, it is not the war where 1000 are lost in a day - let alone D-day where several thousand were dead before the hit the beach. While every death is a regreatable loss - death and wounded are the cost of war and the cost of your freedom to B-TCH.

Posted by: Kuzriel at October 28, 2006 10:05 AM
Comment #191078

1 LT, good post, as for the responses from the left, what would you expect. One point I would make is that the so called Ivy League is not necessarily as elete today as in previous years. Yes there education cost are exorbitant but there are Universities other than the Ivy League which are in the top 10 of the best schools that have viable ROTC programs, ie. Duke, UNC, MIT etc. Service in todays military takes a special kind of individual and I am proud to say we still have those kind of indivuals willing to serve. As to David, he will be on the extreme side of any post. Although he stated once that he had an Honorbale Discharge, he never stated how long he served or what rank he obtained. With this information, one can ponder his insights on our military. A recent Fox Poll showed that 68% of Republicans would incourage service in or military while only approximately 23 or 28 % of Dems, so given this, one could assume, that Republicans support the military more so than the Dems, go figure. Non-the-less, we have one of the greatest militaries ever assembled and it is thanks to fine men and women like 1 LT that make it so. So 1 LT thank for your service from a 30+ year vetrean who served 21 months in combat and held every rank from PV1-SFC to 1LT-LTC.

Posted by: Lacy at October 28, 2006 10:22 AM
Comment #191082
1. Foreigners mercenaries have been a feature of the military at least since the Romans. As 1LT wrote, the Romans had foreign auxiliary units attached (usually cavalry)from almost the beginning. They were paid less than the regulars, but had the possibility of obtaining Roman citizneship after long service. However, from the III Century onwards, the Roman legions were increasingly made up of foreigners; a mixtue of immigrants, citizens of foreign extraction and outright foreign mercenaries.

This is generally considered to be the primary reason for the fall of Rome! We’re looking to emulate this model???

Posted by: Max at October 28, 2006 10:54 AM
Comment #191086

1LT B, Your comment: “With idiotic “Won’t it be nice when the Air Force has to have a bake sale to fund its bombers” attitudes like yours,” violates our rules for participation. DO NOT critique our visitor’s attitudes, intelligence, etc. Critique the points they make and the words they use to make them, but, please leave their person out of it.

Posted by: Watchblog Managing Editor at October 28, 2006 11:11 AM
Comment #191089

Lacy, Jun 72 to Dec. 75, E1 to E5 in less than 4 years. Platoon sergeant for AIT cycles, trained as a combat medic and psychiatric technician, and worked my last year and a half at Chamber’s Pavilion, BAMC, Ft. Sam Houston. Hope that helps clarify your wanderings.

Not that it has any bearing on anything. It’s my lack of support for your party that your comments appear to have a problem with, not my military history. And no, I won’t send you my DD-214. You’ll just have to take my word for it, or search the Defense Dept’s records under the FOIA.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 28, 2006 11:20 AM
Comment #191102


Not to speak for 1LT B, but it’s clear to me from other comments that he supports including immigrants, spreading ethnic groups across our forces, and not making any particular group vastly disportionate in numbers to others. That’s not the same thing that occurred in the latter stages of the Western Roman Empire.

Now if we ever headed to the point were immigrants made up a large, disportionate number of military personnel, I think that would be cause for concern. Anyway, under the Roman system, troops often felt loyalty more to their commander than to the state. I don’t see that as a danger now.

Lacy, for the most part, we are having a polite, non-polemic discussion. Is there any need to toss around the partisan characterization of liberals? For the record, I have no problem whatsover with a $45,000 signing bonus. These people are putting their lives at risk, and I don’t have to be conservative to understand that.

Posted by: Trent at October 28, 2006 11:38 AM
Comment #191104

Don, Potato, Potato,
Max, Good link, Ben makes a valid point. It seems even with that reduction in spending he speaks of we will still out spend the rest of the world on our military. When is enough enough?

Posted by: j2t2 at October 28, 2006 11:51 AM
Comment #191112


So if the Army is America then Bush is responsible for killing, raping, and bankrupting (financially and morally) America. I couldn’t agree more.

Posted by: Dave1-20-09 at October 28, 2006 12:13 PM
Comment #191116


Apparently I was over the line with a comment I made about an earlier post of yours, and for that I apologize. I feel your views are short sighted in light of the dangers we face in todays world, but I should have been more civil. Trent pretty much did a good job of addressing your other post, and I concur with his post.


I’m confused. Not very long ago, the Bush adminstration was slammed for not having enough armor for troops and vehicles. This armor is expensive. Even now, Bush is getting slammed because we’ve lost about 3,000 Soldiers. What do you think will happen if we get into a real war like WWII? Our military is lavishly equipped because we have determined that it is better to have a well equipped and trained but numerically small professional military than to have a massive conscripted army with more numerous but qualitatively inferior systems. This costs money. Would you prefer that the US be subject to threats from other militaries?

Our largest advantage over other nations is the fact that we are so technologically ahead of other nations. We can project power worldwide at the times and places of our choosing. No other nation can even begin to do this. In order for us to maintain this edge, we need to continue our spending to ensure we are able to fight our enemies at the time and place of our choosing with a reasonable expectation of victory. Yes, we do spend a huge amount of money on the military, but we spend less than many other nations as a percentage of our GDP, but because our GDP is so great, we still spend far more in absolute terms. Our military power is one of the foundations of our economic power, and the two support each other. Knocking funding away from the military will leave us vulnerable and probably not help the economy either.

Posted by: 1LT B at October 28, 2006 12:24 PM
Comment #191119


I agree absolutely “military power is one of the foundations of our economic power, and the two support each other” Do you feel Bush has put us on the roper course when it comes to continuing this advantage?

Posted by: Dave1-20-09 at October 28, 2006 12:41 PM
Comment #191120

roper = proper, sometimes

Posted by: Dave1-20-09 at October 28, 2006 12:42 PM
Comment #191123

Dave 1

Don’t you ever just write something that does not hate Bush? What are you going to do when you do not have him to blame for everything?

Posted by: Jack at October 28, 2006 1:01 PM
Comment #191132


There are different issues to be considered when you talk about the effect of the Iraq war on the military. On one hand, it is said that the power of an army can never be known until it is blooded. In this case, almost everybody in the active Army has served at least once in either Iraq or Afghanistan. This means our military is now battle hardened and less likely to suffer undue or needless casualties in the first battles. Also, we are managing to keep large numbers of people in the military on the enlisted side. The officer corps may be another story. We have more than enough 2nd and 1st LTs and lieutenant colonels and colonels, but are short on captains and majors. The main reason for this is that promotion to captain corresponds to when most officers will hit the end of thier mandatory service time. This is the point when most officers get out. In the same manner, there is a large demand for majors, but less for LTCs and COLs. There may be a shortage of these officers, but the demand for them is still there. Sadly, this means that many CPTs and MAJs don’t get the year minimum between deployments but get sent back into combat zones with less than a year to recover from a previous tour. This very cycle of nearly perpetual deployments means that more and more middle ranking officers will get out as soon as they can, further exacerbating the problem, forcing shorter times between these deployments etc.

Beyond this problem is one of the future of the Army’s officer corps. Before the war began, officers would be chaptered out if they were passed over for promotion twice. This kept unqualified officers from advancing and helped keep careerism out of the Army. Now, pretty much any officer will get promoted, barring some form of really major screw up, promotion to 1LT and CPT and even MAJ is now almost a given and promotion times have been shortened, making it more likely that young junior officers without much experience will be put into positions of more responsibility than they are ready for.

Posted by: 1LT B at October 28, 2006 1:47 PM
Comment #191149

Funny Paul, that so many of those against the war in Iraq neither served in combat nor see their children serve in combat.

Posted by: J SMith at October 28, 2006 3:05 PM
Comment #191155
Dave 1; Don’t you ever just write something that does not hate Bush? What are you going to do when you do not have him to blame for everything?Posted by: Jack at October 28, 2006 01:01 PM
(a) Yes I do. (b) I’ll act like a Republican. I.e. Just as they still blame Clinton 6 years later, I should be able to get 20 years or more out of the chimps failures.

Thanks for the lesson (really). I would interpret your concerns to be primarily the attrition of qualified officers as a result of this war. I still believe the purpose of the military is to never have to be used.

J Smith,

Aren’t you describing the administration? They have 0 years of military experience (Bushie’s limited and early excused attendence at NG is very questionable), 0 years of combat between them, and 0 chance that their kids would even be touched by any draft, much less voluntary service.

Posted by: Dave1-20-09 at October 28, 2006 3:29 PM
Comment #191166

Let’s quit that serving in combat thing. Lincoln never served in combat. I do not think Wilson or FDR did either. Even many people who served in the military never actually fired a shot in anger (i.e. Bush and Gore)

Most Americans have never participated in a war. My guess is most people have never even been punched in the nose very hard.

I think we need to respect those who have actually been involved in fighting. It gives them a special perspective. But other perspectives might also be required and not everyone reacts the same way to experience.

Nobody has been drafted since 1973. That means that nobody under the age of 50 has ANY experience with consciption. Anybody under the age of 40 has no memory of it at all.

So let’s not pretend this is 1944 or even 1968.

Posted by: Jack at October 28, 2006 4:00 PM
Comment #191167

Dave 1

“…the purpose of the military is to never have to be used.”

Wrong! The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things. The question is whether we should or shouldn’t have them do so.

Posted by: Don at October 28, 2006 4:05 PM
Comment #191169

1LTB, Do you honestly think the armor issue was related to $ or preparation and planning? Of course no one would want our Country to be subject to threats from other militaries. Does that excuse mismanagment of funds. By far the largest amount spenton military yet we cant seem to turn the corner in Iraq, yet the underfunded insurgency seems to do just fine. Is it to much to ask that we get results from the military in proporation to the amount spent or does that grand privatization theory espoused by the neo cons apply only to others? As far as the perceived threat we project to others, does the outlet in capital to project this threat justify the costs toproject the threat. Are we using our resources to our best advantage or doing ourselves a disservice by thinking we are? IF we shifted our financial resources to other needs and raised our expectation level of the DoD to do more with less, to choose what programs deserve funding and which dont would we be better served? I dont know the answer 1LTB, perhaps you do.

Posted by: j2t2 at October 28, 2006 4:11 PM
Comment #191187


Idisagree; their capability is to kill, etc… Their purpose needs to be prevention. War is never a good thing.

Posted by: Dave1-20-09 at October 28, 2006 5:32 PM
Comment #191216

Funny Paul, that so many of those against the war in Iraq neither served in combat nor see their children serve in combat.
Posted by: J SMith at October 28, 2006 03:05 PM

Don’t you think at least there’s a certain consistency there? On the other hand, those who were gung ho for attacking Iraq in your Govt didn’t serve themselves when your country was at war in Vietnam. They are of course happy to see other peoples children serve in combat zones. Hardly consistent.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at October 28, 2006 8:03 PM
Comment #191265


Re Rome: The increasing proportion of foreigners in the legion was a symptom and not the cause of the fall of Rome. As Rome expanded, the citizen model of Republican Rome could not be maintained due to the distances to whichever provinces were at war and the time required to get there, in spite of the good roads. Ergo, legions far from home had to recruit locally, and as most of the people there were foreigners, they were the ones recruited. At least that is how it started.

It’s an interesting question what would have happened if Rome had had a more liberal attitude towards granting citizenship, but then Rome would not have been the Rome we know, although I think it would have survived longer and might never have fallen.

Charles Kovacs

Posted by: Charles Kovacs at October 29, 2006 1:54 AM
Comment #191270


According to the Democrats, the armor issue was related to spending and preparation and was used as a club to bludgeon Bush and Rumsfeld. The fact that Clinton cut military spending was conveniently left out. With regards to our military, what we have now was designed to fight the massed armored formations of the Soviet Union on the plains of Europe. It also works well against the massed armored formations of Iraq, but I think we have a false sense of our superiority with regards to our weapons systems.

The Abrams tank is a good example. Depending on which expert you ask, the Abrams is either the best or second best tank in the world, with the German Leopard II upgraded model as close competition. Other tanks that might give it a run for quality are the British Challenger, French LeClerc, and Israeli Merkeva. With all of these tanks, we probably won’t be fighting them as they are our allies, and even if we did we have a massive numbers advantage. Russian tanks, which are licensed out to many other nations such as China, are not qualitatively as good, but are far more numerous. An Abrams has never been lost to enemy tank fire, but its important to remember a few things. First, the Abrams has never squared off with a top of the line Soviet tank, such as a T-80. Second, the Iraqi Army was nothing near as competent as the Soviets would’ve been. Third, the Iraqis were using an outdated tank, the T-72, and they compounded this by using inferior anti-tank rounds made of steel instead of tungsten or depleted uranium and to top it off, they were only using about a quarter of the charge that the Soviet produced 125mm tank gun can handle. So while we did indeed thrash the Iraqi Army, we are probably not as far ahead as we would like to think.

To compound this, the Army is in a difficult time. As we fight this war, we are also reorganizing and in the middle of a modernization cycle. Even worse, systems that make sense for fighting an insurgency, such as larger numbers of SF, ships designed to fight in littoral waters etc, are not as applicable for fighting industrial war against a threat such as China or Iran or North Korea.

In the middle of fighting an insurgency, we also need to keep our technological edge against enemies that have a massive numerical advantage. For us to do this, we must continue to fund research, new systems, and training. Our technological edge is most pronounced with the Air Force and Navy. The Army and Marines have a technological edge, but its mostly our superior training that’s kept casualties as low as they have been. Before anybody bashes me about that last statement, please recall that we’ve lost less Soldiers in over three years in Iraq than we did in literally minutes of some Civil War battles and a day in some WWII battles. It isn’t cheap, but have you ever worried about Russian or Chinese paratroopers coming out of the sky (except, of course, when watching that stupid Patrick Swayze movie whose name escapes me)? Would it be nice to see money spent more wisely? Yes. Is it worth losing our edge just to cull some programs that might or might not pan out? I really doubt it.

Don, Dave1,

You are both correct to an extent. The purpose of the Army is indeed to break shit and kill people. However, the greater goal in that is to make conflict so costly to your opponent that surrender is preferable to a continued state of war, which really is just diplomacy by other means as Clausewitz said. An intelligent leader who can use the threat of violence effectively can indeed prevent war. The problem with this that it requires a reasonable enemy. Deterrence was effective against the Soviets because they were reasonable and also predictable due to the fact that they did not answer to their own people. America’s somewhat fickle policy used to drive the Soviets mad, but we were also reasonable so deterrence worked. However, if you do not have a reasonable enemy, than violence often is the only recourse. To me, Saddam Hussien, the Ayatollah, and Kim Jung Il are prime examples of unreasonable enemies.

Posted by: 1LT B at October 29, 2006 3:14 AM
Comment #191309


I think Sadaam was a “reasonable” enemy. He did his stupid trip into Kuwait and got slapped. He kept his posturing going and half assed efforts at WMDs to maintain control over his empire. Both rational choices, albeit not in our interests. To me, definately not enough of a reason to go to war. As for Abinajubi and Iran, their opportunity at influence expansion is a direct result of our foray into Iraq. They were contained by Sadaam and they are a religious theocratic pseudo democracy. Fairly predictable in their actions, for example, their nuke program. As for NK, we agree 100%. A Stalinistic closed society with a seemingly irrational hereditary dictator at the button. That is #1 on the nut parade.

Posted by: Dave1-20-09 at October 29, 2006 10:58 AM
Comment #191324


I tend to disagree about Saddam’s reasonableness post Desert Storm, but I concur with your assessment about Iran. In a very long form of hindsight, I tend to think more and more that the first Gulf War was a strategic mistake. We’ve been willing to tolerate bloody dictators in the past, and Iraq and Kuwait combined would have almost as much oil as Saudi. We could have played the Iraqis and the Saudis against each other for cheaper oil. Also, imagine 140,000 American Soldiers in Iraq not trying to occupy it but lined up on the Iranian border awaiting Iran to back down from its nuke ambitions.

Posted by: 1LT B at October 29, 2006 12:38 PM
Comment #191358


Make that 200,000 allied troops at the border and we have a deal…

Posted by: Dave1-20-09 at October 29, 2006 6:19 PM
Comment #191363


Hmmm. Well, Roman expansion was essentially complete by the early 2nd Century A.D., and the empire in the West persisted for another 350 or so years. In 212 AD, all free inhabitants of the Empire were granted citizenship by Marcus Aurelias. Before that, in general, citizenship was only granted to inhabitants of Italia, though there were a number of exceptions. Most inhabitants of the provinces had at best limited or second-class citizenship (Latin Rights, for example).

Posted by: Trent at October 29, 2006 8:05 PM
Comment #191412


Thank you for the reminder about 212AD. Still, most sources state that the proportion of foreigners (however defined) increased in the Roman forces. Inter alia, this led to increasing regionalism and added to the succession problem of the Emperors: multiple claimants to the throne from different regions, etc. Perhaps this was natural, given the size of the Roman Empire and the difficulty in exerting control from the center with the communications systems then available.

In any case, with regards to the original issue, I think it’s pretty clear that foreigners have had a role in the armed forces of most nations for a very long time, and also that their role has been positive. This has been also true of the US, and immigrants have not been freeloaders in term of their presence in the US military. Of course, being an immigrant and a veteran, I may be biased on this score.

On another topic: tanks, may I note the following:

The M1 Abrams had a bad start, but that was decades ago. Since then we have had the M1A1 and M1A2, both much better. Effectiveness in tank to tank engagement is not merely a question of gun and ammunition, but also of fire control systems. I am not an expert on this, but my impression is that the current version of the US FC system in the M1A2 is the best in the world. Any thoughts?

Charles Kovacs

Posted by: Charles Kovacs at October 30, 2006 5:32 AM
Comment #191451

Charles Kovacs,

The M1A1/A2/A2 SEP does indeed have probably the best fire control system in the world. I wasn’t arguing that the Abram’s was not the best, just that the level of superiority we thing we have may not be as prononced as we think. However, even if an Abrams has less of an advantage on a tank for tank basis than we believe, several other systems give us an advantage. Probably the biggest in simple Army terms is our superior communications and command and control structure. The Army has almost completely fielded several different systems that give each vehicle’s location on a screen. This both helps prevent fratricide and also gives unparalelled situational awareness. Beyond this, our military will fight under a neutral sky at worst. The superiority of our Air Force over any other in the world pretty much guarantees that if any nation is stupid enough to show a hair of its army’s ass in a massed formation, it will probably get bombed into ineffectiveness and mopped up by our own forces. Our ability to rapidly apply massive firepower to key targets at the time of our choosing basically turns enemy armies into targets.

Posted by: 1LT B at October 30, 2006 11:00 AM
Comment #197915

I would like to join the US army

Posted by: JACKSON MBUGUA MWAURA at December 6, 2006 4:47 AM
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