Because so few serving in politics have worn their country’s uniform, they have collectively forgotten how to put country before party and self-interest. They have forgotten a “cause greater than self,” and they have lost the knowledge of how to make compromises for the good of the country. Without a history of sacrifice and service, they’ve turned politics into war.Robert Scales was not impressed with Milbank's argument at all for practical military reasons:
The perversion of the draft laws was tragic for those of us who had to lead these men in combat. The most difficult task in war is to fight close to the enemy. It takes extraordinary strength, endurance, skill and an intuitive sense of a soldier’s surroundings. Yet in my father’s war, thanks to a corrupt draft, infantry came from the lowest mental categories and were universally smaller and weaker than soldiers drafted for non-combat specialties. Thus it should surprise no one that better trained and acculturated German soldiers had a field day killing Americans with great skill in the hedgerows of Normandy. The same can be said for my Vietnam generation where the ranks of infantry units were too often filled with young men who hated the fact that they lost the lottery. They were too poor or too disadvantaged for their parents to get them deferred or into the National Guard.Milibank's argument comes down essentially to conscription as a means of instilling material cohesion and an acceptance of the status quo, what I refer to in a 1917 context as "Plattsburg". The fit here is snug. I would add that Plattsburg merged rather seamlessly with what was referred to in the 1920s as "Americanism" or "Fordism". Scales on the other hand assumes that the "fog" of modern moral and material cohesion that are Milibank's goal dissipates quickly once the shooting starts and middle class parents rush to get their kids in preferred positions of little danger. This could remind some of the attitude of an anti-reformist Prussian officer of 1813, exclaiming upon seeing a group of new conscripts, "And what am I to do with this rabble?" Personally I find much more to it than that. Besides viewing the army as the small professional elite of highly skilled and adaptable soldiers, it is essentially the argument that the US lacks the degree of moral cohesion necessary for national service in war, let alone for strategy which is by definition about collectives . . . For conscription to work, the individual has to be willing to put one's own interests second, or even last, to those of the family/community/society, which of course is counter to the whole ethos of the age, which is all about maximizing individual advantage/profit. According to this pessimistic view, the majority of the citizenry in this country is simply a mass shapeless group of self-focused individuals maximizing their own aims to the exclusion of everyone else, what I would refer to as Right-wing Liberalism. "Conservatives" would find my label perplexing, since they prefer to place all the guilt for this decline of national spirit on the "Leftists" supposedly winning the culture wars of the 1960s. They find this argument appealing, but they are confused regarding the distinct between the various types of cohesion, and forget what our recent history has done at the same time to material cohesion. Trust in state institutions is at an all time low and for good reason. There is a wide-spread view that the state works to the betterment of the few, the 1%, rather than of the people, which is obviously highly corrosive to material cohesion. Scales's is perhaps a sound argument, but the example he gives in Normandy is of one conscript force fighting against another. The World Wars are unthinkable in fact without conscription, since as presented in Parts I and II it was the mobilization of the people through pre- and modern moral cohesion supplanted by ever growing material cohesion of the state which allowed for war to be waged on such a scale. Personally I find Scales to be a thoughtful commentator at times, who utilizes Clausewitzian strategic theory effectively as far as he goes. The problem is that he never seems to get beyond the operational and never questions whether the political purpose in Iraq for instance was attainable by military means. Sometimes films provide us with an expression which reflects the types of social cohesion I am referring to all present together, that is pre-modern and modern moral cohesion and the sliding scale of material cohesion. Why consider the First World War in this case? First, it was a "war of choice" decided upon by an arrogant and ambitious executive who had bi-partisan support along with a following of murky industrial/corporate/financial interests. Second, it ushered in the beginning of close government and corporate collusion which has reached its most extreme forms today. Third, it required an extensive and sustained modern propaganda campaign to "sell". Fourth, it was, unlike Korea and Vietnam, not part of a larger struggle which provided the war in question with a necessary context. It is highly improbable that either Korea or Vietnam would have attracted decisive US commitment outside the context of the Cold War. Fifth, given the time, we see a much clearer distinction between pre-modern and modern moral cohesion and material cohesion working separately and together, the moral cohesion actually providing the basis for the expansion of material cohesion at the time of the war and especially after. Sixth, and linked to the fifth, the link of conscription to the rise of material cohesion has become something of a national myth, usually left unstated. Finally, the war was a political failure in terms of its original policy purpose, but at the same time produced wide ranging negative effects which lingered on, at the least. So we see very interesting parallels in terms of our own current political relations. While the mechanics of conscription were more or less a success during 1917-18, the political result in the end was a failure due to Woodrow Wilson's inability to manage US participation into a compromise peace. What saved the country from an even worse result was the relatively short duration of hostilities, this of course ignoring any of the direct aftermath. The country was able to leave the mess behind. On the other hand the (unintended) "sociological" affects of the war and mobilization (including specifically conscription) are seen by many historians today as being fundamental to US development for the rest of the 20th Century. Powerful centralization of government and business institutions, emergence of a class of professional and effective managers, the establishment of a true national market and mass consumer culture were all greatly influenced or even kick-started by this shared experience. As with the Civil War and World War II twenty years later, the First World was fiscal revolution in terms of government revenues and spending. This also began the expansion of the Federal Reserve System's power. Some have even described it as the birth of "American Nationalism" since prior to this regional affinity or ethnicity were key determiners of political identity, that is modern moral cohesion . . . an ideology in turn interacting with increasing material cohesion of the state and society. Also modern notions of American exceptionalism date from this time. Americans would only truly support the war, John Dewey (one of the great Progressive intellectuals of the time) wrote, when the Allied effort was at a higher moral level, "for our terms of democracy and civilization". The war was not so much about defending the country, but of not only consolidating Americanism at home but in spreading it abroad. It is important to remember that Wilson and his supporters saw Wilson as the standard bearer of not only Liberalism as seen by the Progressives, but of the Left in general. His hope of gaining the followers on the Left were dashed by the call of the Petrograd Soviet in May 1917 for an international Socialist conference in neutral Stockholm to end the war. Wilson who was now supporting a military solution, refused to issue the American socialist delegation passports. American labor leaders were sent to Britain and France to shore up support for "the knock-out blow", hopelessly compromising what support Wilson may have received from the Socialists. US distrust of the Russian socialists and seeing them as competitors in international support thus predates the Bolshevik revolution, and included even the Provisional Government. While the radical socialists supported revolution, so did Wilson in his attempts to ferment revolt in Germany. We see here once again the preference for violence as a political instrument so favored by US policy makers in our own time as well, but at the same time their blindness regarding the possible negative consequences . . . Turning now to the actual history of conscription in the US during World War I, the debate regarding Universal Military Training or UMT dated from 1914. Initially it was simply seen as a way to provide men for the nation's armed forces in an emergency. Quickly though it became a political and even reform issue with UMT seen as a way of "Americanizing" large numbers of foreign born immigrants, or quelling class unrest and inspiring the nation's manhood with the concept of "service". Service was a big word in 1917. By some of the reformers, France was seen as the example to follow as they had used this institution of conscription to weld the various classes together in total support of the nation. We see here the same argument by the French radicals of 1793, that is "the army as the school of the nation". This from the Progressives who were willing to follow Woodrow Wilson into war. The conservatives and monied interests supported UMT as well, but for different reasons. Instead of "school of the nation", it was "regimentation of the mind", promoting an acceptance of US society as it existed, the necessity of subordination of the individual to the group and proper deference to authority, the perfect antidote to the "plague" of trade unionism and unwarranted demands of those who did not understand their place in the overall system. Let's refer to this perspective as "Plattsburg" after the first Ivy League military training camp established. Here we see a striking similarity with the view of the Prussian reaction after 1815 in terms of supporting the status quo. Initially conscription seemed all just planning. Many of those politicians who supported US entry into the war thought the US would simply supply the Allies with weapons, munitions and foodstuffs. There would be no need to ship a large army to France and there did not exist the available shipping in any case. Army General Tasker Bliss recommended that the Army be prepared at home for two full years before being sent to France. In the Spring of 1917, the war of course was not expected to last that long. By Wall Street, it was all seen as a great commercial enterprise with a massive expansion of the economy as well as new areas of production open due to the confiscation of German industrial patents (the US chemical industry essentially started during this period). US exports to Latin America and elsewhere would displace not only German, but Allied competition . . . What a splendid war it was going to be! A cakewalk even! Political events in Russia and military events in Italy as well as on the Western Front changed the situation. The Allies were now calling for large numbers of US troops, although expecting to incorporate them into British and French formations rather then have a separate US field army. To these military concerns we have the ambition of Woodrow Wilson who needed to have a large representation of US military strength to enable him to act effectively during the planned peace negotiations. Amalgamation was a possibility, but here enters the ambition of a second American, the commander of the AEF in France, General John J. Pershing. For Pershing it was not simply that amalgamation would have left him a general without an army, but that he distrusted the British and French to use the US troops properly. His basic strategy was a massive head-on assault of the main German force on the Western Front, a great battle of annihilation; the individual infantryman with his rifle being the decisive element of battle not massed artillery which represented "attrition warfare" rather than the decisive "war of movement". There was also initially the question of whether conscription would be necessary at all. Would there not be an ample number of volunteers? Theodore Roosevelt had presented himself as America's first volunteer and planned to lead at first a division and later an entire corps of US volunteers. Preference would be given to volunteers from Ivy League schools and TR even planned to have a regiment consisting solely of German-Americans and another of African-Americans, although officered by whites. The prospect of this must have horrified Wilson since the image of TR as warrior chieftain would have been exploited ruthlessly by the GOP. In the final draft legislation, volunteers were allowed into the Regular Army and Navy as well as National Guard, but not the new "National Army of the United States" which would be manned through conscription, the new administrative organization named the Selective Service System. Conscription would eventually provide 77% of the four million who served, half of that number making it to France before the Armistice. The first step was registration of all able-bodied men between the ages of 21 and 30, but how to do it? Get the men to register themselves by means of a massive public relations campaign . . .
Governors, mayors, chambers of commerce, and state councils of defense joined in concerted patriotic incantation to urge young men to registration places on June 5. Wilson himself struck the keynote of this gigantic propaganda exercise when he proclaimed, somewhat disingenuously, that the draft was not really a draft at all, but a 'selection from a nation which has volunteered in mass'. But just to be sure that this mass volunteering went smoothly, the president requested 'every man, whether he is himself to be registered or not, to see to it that the name of every male person of the designated ages is written on these lists of honor.' David M. Kennedy, Over Here, p 150Lots of small local organizations made up the movement supporting the war. These represent a wide-range of pre-modern moral cohesion nodes working together for an ideological goal, that this towards modern moral cohesion. The fact that the goal, a far off foreign war, is against many of the values of pre-modern moral cohesion is ignored, obscured, overwhelmed by the passion of the moment. It is this passion that moral cohesion generates. Consider the obvious assumption that the "elders", those men over 30 who are not personally subject to the draft will nevertheless exert influence on the younger men to "do their bit", a clear assumption regarding pre-modern moral cohesion. We also see here a very eventful exercise in extensive government propaganda mixing the themes of fear, hatred and patriotism but also with a the concern that too much emotion by the masses might be difficult to control, that is graduated material cohesion entering the mix. The June 5th registration was a success with almost 10 million men reporting with each man assessed as simply eligible or exempt. On July 20, 1917 Secretary of War Newton Baker pulled the first draft number from a huge glass bowl. Throughout the rest of that day additional numbers were pulled and telegraphed to draft boards across the country. The first draftees arrived in their training camps by September. Deferment was by occupation or having dependents, but many men felt pressured not to apply for an exemption since that would imply their unwillingness to serve. Over the course of the war conscription became more thorough and extended, the draft ages being expanded to 18 to 45 in August 1918 and various categories of those eligible for service introduced. The first IQ tests became part of the screening as well. September 1918 saw the last big conscription push to get the estimated 13 million men under the age of 21 and over 30 registered who had suddenly become liable for call up. Thirty thousand Four-minute men gave speeches, newspapers ran large reminders, preachers gave sermons. There was coercion as well. By mid-1918 the Justice Department had instituted "slacker raids" to net any man who had not registered for the draft. These became increasingly violent with time with the last ones consisting of armed soldiers and sailors. In New Jersey alone, 13,000 men were found to have avoided registration in a series of raids. All told it is estimated that 337,000 men avoided the draft, with half receiving some sort of punishment. Inequalities existed of course and the attitudes and prejudices of the local draft board represented the same as those present in the community at large. The increasing demands for manpower pressured local draft boards to take another look at exemptions and inevitably some were revoked. The system was already showing signs of strain on the home front by the early Fall of 1918 and had Pershing's demand of 100 divisions by June of 1919 become a reality, we can assume that coercion would have replaced volunteerism to a large extent. As far as the military effectiveness, conscription is a mixed bag:
Pershing had wanted his men to have six months of training in the States, two months in France, and one month in a quiet sector before being exposed to battle. That standard had been roughly maintained until the accelerated troop shipments began in mid-1918. Then the rush to France sucked men ever faster through the camps, across the sea, and into the line. The average doughboy at the Meuse-Argonne had seen perhaps four months of training in camp. Many had seen but a few weeks. Some had been cycled so swiftly from induction center to the war zone that they had never handled a rifle and had to be given a quick ten-day course of instruction upon arrival in France. Over Here, pp 198-99Conclusions from all three posts/threads: First, what I refer to as Clausewitz's theory of political development adequately describes the development of modern conscription during the period of 1793 to the present. The various attitudes in the Prussian case of 1812-15 adequately applying to the case of the US in 1917-18 as well. The comparison of Prussia in 1815 and the US in 1917 to the US of today is more a question of contrasts. Second, to be effective, conscription relies on specific political conditions within the community/society in question. Adequate amounts of moral cohesion and a minimal amount of material cohesion (at the onset) being required. The purpose behind the mobilization needs to be self evident to all. Propaganda only goes so far and its effects only last so long before people start doubting the official narrative. The resort to force by the state to impose conscription would only hasten the collapse of public support. The obvious state of emergency is not limited to a defensive war, but could include other types of national emergencies as well, such as economic collapse, pandemics or environmental catastrophe. In effect we are talking about great challenges facing a political community where mobilized collective action is seen as a necessary response. Third, following the second above, states/political communities in dissolution would not be able to implement conscription effectively. Wide-spread cynicism and corruption would condemn any effort almost at the onset. A society that considered itself nothing but a group of atomized individuals all striving for personal gain and "fulfillment" would not lend itself to conscription. The state would then be required to drop the whole project or resort to force which would dissolve what material cohesion remained. Fourth, since conscription requires a self-evident threat/danger/need as well as requiring time for its effects to be evident, it is best established before the actual crisis occurs. Prussia/Germany had an effective conscription system after 1814 due to the fact that the people recognized its need. The history of 1793-1815 was all that was necessary for this. This developed over generations and became "traditional" in terms of social action. The high level of pre-modern cohesion in the communities was transferred to the local reserve units which reflected the local population exactly, while the ideology of nationalism provided the united, "German" identity to the extent that the country was able to hold together under great pressure. This gave Germany, but not only Germany, the ability to mobilize millions quickly after August 1914. Had the US instituted conscription at the onset of the crisis, that is in 1914, this would have given the country an extra two and half years to more effectively mobilize and train their conscript army. Fifth, while Plattsburg is linked in terms of politics to the Prussian reaction after 1815, the Progressives who supported Wilson's war are linked in the same way to the original Prussian reformers of 1813 and were also overwhelmed by the reaction which followed. As 1813 marks the highwater mark of Prussian reformism, 1914 marks the highwater mark of US Progressivism. It is interesting to consider that the actual break between Plattsburg and the Progressives (what passes for the Left in US politics) only occurred during the Vietnam War. Here we see two different and opposing modes of modern moral cohesion while both sides operated under the same material cohesion assumptions (the institutions "worked" or were "reformable"). That is the anti-war movement during the Vietnam war actually reflected a high level of both moral and material cohesion. It was rather imo about whether authority should be questioned (a very basic political question) as well as support for a costly war, which seemed to be increasingly unwinable. Sixth, and very much related to political relations, we can organize political parties along pre-modern/modern moral and material cohesion lines. Conservatives are actually easy to recognize. They represent the complexus of pre-modern moral cohesive values present in a society, the values and traditions of the community over those of abstract entities or ideology. Progressives (whether left, right or center) represent modern moral cohesion, the ideologies of progress focused on the individual achieving self-realization within the group, society as organic, growing, prospering, or the opposite. In both cases the focus is on values. In terms of material cohesion, we have the two separate flavors of US Liberalism . . . Right-wing Liberalism (think of Ayn Rand); and Leftist Liberalism, also know as "socialist" (although it is obviously not), and whatever else all bunched into one. These are the two options in terms of material cohesion, which are held together solely by interest. It's all about the glorification of the individual, all power to the individual, the corporation as an individual, society as an endless sequence of self-enhancing opportunities. It has nothing to do with community or society as the conservatives or progressives would conceive them, since neither actually exist, outside of some vague scam to fool the suckers. For Right-wing Liberals, individuals who are unable to game their own opportunities into material success are "losers" and justly deserve their fate. For Leftist Liberals they are "victims" who deserve individual compensation. Both extremes believe that the Market provides the answers and collective action in terms of government are misguided. What government support exists goes to deserving "corporate partners" (more for the Right) or "victimized individuals" (more for the Left). With such a perspective we see how the initial spur to the Enlightenment and its focus on the individual reaches full development (or decay). Such a radical form of material cohesion instead of leading to higher levels of capacity for the society, actually leads to its dissolution and theoretically eventual collapse. So where does this leave us? As mentioned above the situation in the US post 9/11 is one of contrasts not comparisons with what happened in the past. Given the dynamics of not only conscription, but government mobilization and of moral and material cohesion one would have expected a very different sequence of US government actions than what actually occurred. According to the US government's version of events, Al Qaida, a non-state terrorist entity acting alone orquestrated the most effective and lethal terrorist attack in history, catching US government defenses effectively with their pants down and bringing down not only the twin towers, but accomplishing an attack on the Pentagon and an additional failed attack as well. Given the obvious organizational capability of this entity, the level of the threat, a strong military response was justified, or so it seemed at the time (I was one of those arguing for exactly this in October 2001). It seemed that Al Qaida had strong support/influence in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and elsewhere. Afghanistan was obviously the first target since that was where bin Laden was. Had the president called for volunteers to fill say 10 new light infantry divisions for service in the Middle East and Central Asia, what would have been the response?