Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Postscript on Conscription, a Clausewitzian Perspective

This is a postscript of a series of threads I did on conscription from a Clausewitzian perspective. Part I, Part II and Part III generated a good deal of well-thought out and presented comment and my view of this subject has developed over the course of this month. Simply the process of writing down one's half-formed ideas and seeing them in print is perhaps the first basic step to a dialectic, but being able to have them commented on, sifted through and expanded upon is something that the contributors to this blog are consistently able to do. So many other blogs dealing with national security issues simply become echo chambers of the prevalent group think, which is a danger for any forum such as this.
The conclusions mentioned in this postscript follow on from those listed in Part III, that is I have not significantly changed anything from that post. If anything those points have become only a bit more refined, as in the case of "Plattsburg". Which means that anyone reading only this postscript will not have the full picture, but rather one would need to look at all three parts and the commentary to follow the evolution of the discussion and how I got to where I am now.
To begin, let us return to the original definition of conscription used, that being "compulsory enlistment of citizens or residents of a political body for national service". This is NOT limited to military service, but could be used to deal with a variety of crises that a political community could face: in which as part of a larger solution mass mobilization would be seen. To achieve mass mobilization, a certain amount of moral and material cohesion within the political community is necessary. An amount of indirect coercion may be unavoidable, but should actual force become a means there is a great danger that the whole endeavor could lead to decline of moral and material cohesion within the group. On the other hand, history has shown us that conscription as in the case of Prussia in 1813 and the US in 1917 working within the context of an obvious national emergency can be used to actually increase the material cohesion of the state.
Following this, I would say that pre-modern moral cohesion becomes progressively weaker in relationship to modern moral cohesion through the process of mass mobilization directed by the state via material cohesion. Conscription divides the youth from their parents and grandparents as well as their local communities. Old pre-modern cohesive bonds are weakened and those associated with ideologies that is modern moral cohesion are strengthened. We thus see a strong connection between modern moral cohesion and material cohesion associated with the state. There is also a definite shift from values to interests, since while it is values (including traditions and prejudices) that more hold a community together, it is shared interests that more hold a society together.
At this point, I need to step back and highlight a certain basic Clausewitzian assumption. Strategic theory is based on political communities, all the various concepts, be it "strategy", "political purpose", "ends, means and purpose", "military aim", "operations", let alone "war", "victory" and "defeat", all refer to political collectives. Only in one specific form of "tactics" as in tactics of the individual soldier, do any of these basic concepts refer to the individual as such. There is an unavoidable tension, even to the level of incoherence in using strategic theory to organize or describe "strategies" to achieve individual, that is essentially individual materialist, goals. This due to the logic of the community being something quite different from that of narrow/self-centered individual interest.
In fact we cannot even define self-interest outside the community, since "justice" is what holds communities together, self-interest in the collective sense can thus be defined as when justice allows for the claims of the individual to be in line with the values/interests of the group. Those who fundamentally argue that conscription is "a waste of the individual's time" or claim to have "other priorities" (I'm thinking of Cheney's excuse during the Vietnam War) miss the whole point. It is not about the individual, that is narrow, self-centered, "what's in it for me?", interests or opportunities at all, but service to the group, as a member of the political community in question. This perspective in turn requires "a language", a specific set of concepts with distinct meanings able to communicate within the group or between like-minded groups.
We now start to see that a conversation which started about conscription actually sheds important light on more basic political questions and helps explain the nature of the changes we have seen in the US since at least 2000, but probably going back to the 1970s.
To shed some additional light on that, let us consider what the US governments response was regarding 9/11. A great wave of patriotic feeling was allowed to dissipate, the population was told to "go shopping", while the government would deal with what was projected as an existential threat. Also, contrary to past practice, no additional taxes to pay for the war were levied. As government expanded in the form of the Department of Homeland Security and other contributions to the expanding war on terror "industry" revenues were slashed.
Furthermore, a conscript force was the last thing the government seemingly wanted. That would have created additional material cohesion within the population with additional expectations as to what government could achieve for not so much individuals, but the political community as a whole. The dominate ideology operating in the US today is Right wing Liberalism which does not even recognize the existence of a viable political community, but rather sees society as a pack of lone wolves (among masses of sheep) responding to opportunities as they present themselves. It would seem that is the way that US government officials see their positions as well.
Finally, the effect of this on the ethos of our military is striking. We seem to be developing a military caste formed along family lines but with a diminishing sense of identity to the US political community as a whole. As implied in the Orwell article I presented, such a force is ideally suited as an imperial constabulary, but not the armed force of a republic.


  1. Seydlitz:

    Excellent summary, and spot on conclusion:

    such a force is ideally suited as an imperial constabulary, but not the armed force of a republic.

    But the important thing, from a domestic political standpoint is whether or not "the people" see the military as the armed force of the Republic, and hype, exceptionalism and wishful thinking have led them to think so. And what they think is what counts at the polling place. And fortunately, we don't face the threat of a peer force at the present or near future, so real military capability is irrelevant. Thus, we can don our Scarlet O"Hara dress and "think about that tomorrow"...........

    On a different note:

    " but could be used to deal with a variety of crises that a political community could face."

    From 1947 until 1967, the Draft had evolved into pretty much the every day means of how we staffed the military, crisis or not. You could say it was a tacit form of "national service", but since it never even approached a high level of the total fill for the military, while men were indeed "Draft Motivated", there was enough choice in that arena to take any perceived oppressive nature out of the equation.

    Had LBJ taken some simple steps to "de-politicize" the Draft, such as using Guard and Reserve Forces to bolster the Active Force, as was done in Korea, the Draft could have quite readily have survived. Rather, he created two very high profile means to avoid military service, the Reserve Components and a too easily gamed system of Draft deferments, although the latter simply delayed liability and didn't keep as many from ultimately serving as popular legend would claim.

    However, Nixon delivered the death blow in 1968, campaigning on a platform that said the Viet Nam War did not need conscripts for a successful outcome, even though he and Congress did not terminate the Draft until we were two months from withdrawing the last troops.

    In keeping with his campaign promise, Nixon did, on one or two occasions, cancel a month of Draft Calls, but in effect, that simply shifted the burden to the next cohort in the queue.

    I have said before, the Draft and any and all perceived inequities therein became synonymous with the "evils" of the Viet Nam war, and Nixon gave the Draft star billing by implying the Draft wasn't really necessary to begin with.

    I mention all this simply because the attitude towards conscription following WWII was a far sight different than during WWI and WWII, as it was accepted as a normal manning tool for other than "crisis" use. It was a "perfect Storm" of military and political ineptitude that fueled society to not only turn on the Draft, but the military as well. Note that major segments had their panties in a twist over any and all claims of "atrocities" (fueling anti military sentiment) during Viet Nam, yet Abu Ghraib and widespread suffering of innocents in Iraq hardly got more than a raised eyebrow, and in no way tarnished the image of the military. It would bet this difference is in a fair part due to the military really being "someone else", and thus generating no collective guilt.

    There's a lot more to the change than has been addressed, but there is really no valid method to go back in time to ask the questions that would sort out the public values and perceptions.

  2. "...a military caste formed along family lines but with a diminishing sense of identity to the US political community as a whole. As implied in the Orwell article I presented, such a force is ideally suited as an imperial constabulary..."

    I'd tend to agree among the officer corps and to a degree among the senior NCOs. Enlisted troops, maybe not so much; that's require long-service privates similar to what the U.S. Army and USMC had prior to 1941 and the British Army that Orwell was familiar with had until 1945. So in that sense we're heading "back to the future", almost in a way reconstituting the pre-WW2 Army and USMC that fought in the imperial expeditions in the Philippines and China and the banana wars of the Twenties and Thirties.

    But, as Al points out, the public "image" of the U.S. military is to a large degree skewed by the notion of a popular force of the sort constructed in the Draft era. We "support the troops" with our magnetic stickers and T-shirts while feeling no real connection to or responsibility for "the troops", who are relatively free to do things their grandfathers did to the Filipinos back when applying the water cure was just a form of tutelary democracy...

  3. Testing (mother loving firefox and motherloving google not getting alone)

  4. "As implied in the Orwell article I presented, such a force is ideally suited as an imperial constabulary, but not the armed force of a republic. "

    What do you think that we are, have and need?

  5. "Had LBJ taken some simple steps to "de-politicize" the Draft, such as using Guard and Reserve Forces to bolster the Active Force, ...."

    The whole point was to minimize the domestic political costs of the war for as long as possible. Mobilizing a few hundred thousand Guard and Reserve personnel would have imposed massive domestic political costs.

  6. Barry-

    The "political costs" of using the RC have been debated at great length. The communities sending the few RC units that were mobilized tended to end up being supportive of the troops, but by then (68-69) the tide of public opinion towards the military had turned.

    An acquaintance was at DA in 65-66. He presented a plan to use RC battalion rotations to beef up the force in VN. It would have looked far less like a "mobilization" than increasing the Draft, would have created community identification with the effort and caused much less personnel turbulence in the Active Army. MacNamara convinced LBJ that relying on the draft would not make it appear that we were mobilizing. And the rest is history.

  7. Al-

    "Thus, we can don our Scarlet O"Hara dress and "think about that tomorrow"..........."

    Unless of course we stumble into another strategically incoherent and unwinnable war, not like it hasn't happened before recently . . . I would ask are we not currently conducting military (drone) operations in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen as as well as Afghanistan? . . . where else exactly . . . ?

    Can someone tell us? . . . that would be useful.

    So, we fall into yet another stupid war, or . . .

    We really get caught with our pants down - for real - this time? . . . been reading a good bit about the drug cartels in Mexico . . . Now Sochi . . . Saudis no longer in the fold . . . Israelis looking for better deals . . . India? Brazil?

    Americanos ain't too popular at the moment from my perch . . .

    China . . . don't think about it . . .

    Interesting times for the US . . .

  8. seydlitz-

    There are a variety of approaches to tomorrow. Unfortunately, it tends to involve a bit of "fortune telling". The other alternative is to determine what we want to be able to react to, whether it is immediately probable or not. There is still the deeply embedded perception that we can "mobilize" faster than a threat can emerge, and the odds of a threat emerging are small.

    What concerns me more than our military prowess is, as you note, our diminishing economic, political or diplomatic prowess. Maybe the TeaBaggers are getting their wish, and we are returning to the same status on the world scene as we were in 1776 - minor players capable of mischief, but only on our own soil.

  9. FD Chief-

    Support for "the troops" comes down to clicking likes on Facebook. There's a demographic angle to this as well; I think about many of my contacts back home. Back in the late 1970s nobody was particularly interested in serving in the military and considered it a quaint thing to do. Now, long past the draft age they're regular fire breathers, essentially walking and talking yellow ribbons . . .

  10. Barry-

    The "empire" as we have allowed it to be constituted is unsustainable. I date this development back to 1992 and Cheney's "Defense Planning Guidance". The shift from a threat-based concept of defense to a capabilities-based one . . . Ever expanding capabilities without any specific political context, essentially maintenance of domination. As I have argued elsewhere, maintaining a state of dominance does not lend itself to a strategic theory approach, is in fact strategically incoherent, since the amount of power and resources available to the US could never maintain such a state indefinitely, given the myriad challenges such an empire would face. We see the unravelling of this whole scheme today . . .

    Then of course there is the amount of subterfuge involved which permeates our domestic political relations. Inside the beltway, there's lots of "empire" talk, but I ask my friends back home about the US as an "empire" and all I get is blank stares . . .

  11. seydlitz-

    The "capabilities based" idea arose from not having a "threat" to be better or stronger than. Since we didn't want to appear "weak", we had to redefine "strong". That's Dick Cheney's mentality - there has to be something to "win", even if it's a one horse race.

    At the same time, the USAR, for example, was frantically looking for potential missions to survive in competition with the NG, and they made a fitful attempt to define a domestic emergency response model that "one upped" the Guard by being able to operate across state borders. So they realigned their command and control functions along FEMA regions. The Governors simply said they would be more then happy to cooperate amongst themselves in such remote situations, and had in the past. One good thing did come out if the USAR plan - it eliminated a shitload of non-deployable 2 star HQs.

    The whole "weak" perception in the US is interesting, as I have yet to meet someone who can really define it. My 82 yr old brother-in-law took me to coffee with a bunch of his buddies in Calif last Nov. Total "set-up". No mention of what I had done for a living. The older codgers began bemoaning how Obama was "weak on defense". Brother-in-law gives me a wink and I ask, "What do you mean by weak? Compared to something or in an absolute sense?" Amazing how they threw out answers that were in no ways measures for defense strength or weakness. "What about Syria?", one said. I asked, "How would military strength solve that?" Answer: "If we weren't weak, they would have to listen to us." Question: "And if we were strong and they didn't listen, what would we do?" Answer: "We could make them listen." Try as I might, not one focused, relevant, concrete answer. We are "weak" by definition. So one shifted to the notion that Obama wouldn't let the military "win" in Afghanistan, and "the troops" want to "win". I asked, "Are you suggesting that our military should be independent and allowed to start and stop wars based on what they want to do? Or once the political arm of the government starts a war, only the military can be allowed to stop it?" That got "gee-whiz" looks.

    Finally, one guy said, I guess you are a "liberal". My brother-in-law stepped in and said, "Don't know his politics. I just think of him as a retired colonel." Subject got changed.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with a "capabilities" based military, as long as it doesn't get confused with national strategy. As Richard Armitage said at the Naval War College in 93, "We didn't really win the Cold War. We basically woke up one morning and the Soviet Union had collapsed of its own weight and was gone. Confused us at the time, and still does. We are now a nation desperately in search of a worthy foe, as we have, for the past half century, defined ourselves in terms of standing up to a couple of pretty powerful foes."

    As for me, I'm not sure we can redefine ourselves.

  12. Strategic incoherence is a feature and not a bug of American governance. You have all these semi-interacting policy creation and implementation groups (both inside and outside the government) all jostling for power and money.

    It is no accident that the result looks more like brownian motion than anything else.

    Unless you get something big and scary enough to threaten everyone's rice bowl you won't get any sort of actual coordination across the entire congressional military industrial establishment.

    Ie. working as intended.

  13. To all,
    i apologize for refraining from discussion on these fine threads, but i'm tied up with other matters.
    i hope to be back on station soon.

  14. All this bring back memories of my early days in uniform, when the "enemy" we were training to fight was known as "Aggressor". A complete history of the "Aggressor Nation", tactics, uniforms and insignia scheme had been developed by the Army. Aggressor also spoke Esperanto. Since the Corps used some Army doctrinal and training materials, became well acquainted with "Aggressor". There were later materials that depicted a mustached, swarthier looking "Aggressor",

    Why we weren't training to face the Warsaw Pact forces by name beats the hell out of me. Maybe we didn't want to offend them? What I do remember was the endless litany of "Aggressor" jokes that ran through the ranks, especially how the Army was being trained to face a fictitious enemy, while we in the Corps knew that it would be us that faced the Commies and other real ones.

    Gentlemen, meet the Aggressor

  15. Al-

    Funny enough I do remember circle trigon forces. They were still "active" in Army ROTC in the mid 1970s. We had some uniforms and those weird helmets in stock . . . Consider that when I started our university ROTC still had a stock of fully functional M-14s which were later replaced with de-militarized M-1903s (what a lousy trade!) I would compare your film with this one that portrays more the actual situation. Some great footage of Berlin btw . . .


  16. Here's a slightly different take on the "Aggressors", though; in the Eighties we had a bunch of training aids that showed Soviet uniforms and equipment. So I think there was SOME acceptance that the Big Bad was the men who wore the Red Star...

    And I think part of the problem with "redefining" ourselves is wrapped up in all the empire-not-empire business. We the People are either desperately trying, or succeeding, to act politically as though the U.S. isn't a de-facto "empire" in the sense that it has both the capability and the intent of using its power - including military power - to enforce its norms and dicta to the degree that it can on those less physically powerful (which includes about 99.8% of the globe at this point...).

    But at the same time denying the obvious fact that the U.S. is an "imperial" power makes those political choices increasingly fraught. We tend to do dumb things because we ACT like imperial without thinking about the imperial consequences of our acts...

    And, like Al, I don't see how this changes without a pretty ugly upheaval...

  17. Chief

    Could it possibly be that Americans want to be the equivalent of an imperial power but just don't know how to do it in a "socially acceptable" manner, if even such a manner does exist? There is more to "world leadership" than power. Many who decry the negative impacts of the "coercive" nature of the draft fail to see any negative impact of coercive foreign policy.

    Similarly, we have discussed how political parties have gerrymandered and use legislative procedural rules to pervert the "popular will". The Right champions "democratic process", yet in no way is willing to accede to the will of the majority. Is it any wonder that when we promote "democracy at gunpoint", the results are just as fucked up as they are at home?

    How the hell do you have a military force with a totally scrambled mindset such as ours?

    Funny that we say that "government of the people, by the people and for the people" is what we are about, yet are very selective as to it is "of, by and for". We are willing to partake of the fruits (but not equitably), but not the burden of producing those fruits. Not sure it is a sustainable social model.

  18. Thinking about it, I wonder if "Circle trigon" was not an attempt to avoid the obvious. Was not supposedly one of the lessons of the First World War that the various players had pre-gamed the coming conflict to the extent that all sides considered it unavoidable/inevitable?
    In addition, circle trigon does include a threat from within the Western hemisphere (starting in Cuba pre-Castro!) with very much an "internal" element . . . as in who exactly is the enemy? Played together with the film about Germany I linked one gets a very complex, yet subtle picture . . .

    Far more refined than the rantings of Mr. Clapper . . . (shouldn't he have a title of something, "Duke"? "Prince"? "Marquis"? since we can't seem to get rid of him . . .)


    Having latched on to Islamofabulism to promote the war on terror industry they can't let go . . . in spite of the fact that the US government was ready to intervene in Syria last August effectively supporting these same groups . . . as I've mentioned before the official strategic narrative has effectively turned on itself.

  19. seydlitz-

    As is the case in all revised US history, The Big Picture does not mention JCS 1067 (Morganthau Plan) imposition of suffering on the German people from May 45 through Jul 47. Equally misrepresented is the confiscation of industrial equipment by the Soviets, as all Allies did so as part of Germany's war reparations determined at Yalta. At the time, there wasn't much else of value to collect, other than land, patents, copyrights, trademarks and a few million people impressed into forced labor by all the Allies. In short, following May 1945, Germany was stripped of vast non-cash assets by the Allies.

    Kinda funny that something like The Big Picture did not return to the scene in the AVF years. Perhaps the Army was trying to show the benefits of a conscript Army? I remember my family faithfully watching it in the 1950s.

  20. Please note that what follows is based upon the national policy of maintaining a "standing Army". Whether that is "right" or "wrong" is a different issue. Confusing the issues being addressed is in no way productive and intellectually questionable.

    My personal opinion of the Post WWII Draft was that it effectively provided more manpower and sociological benefit than detriment. We were able to maintain a standing military of sufficient human quality without excessive personnel dollar costs. It maintained a "connection" between the military and the general population. It stirred a notion of "civic duty" throughout the general population. What it could not do, of course, was promote support for an ill prosecuted war. But then, ginning up popular support for political decisions and managing military manpower are two unrelated arenas. By allowing, either through omission or commission, the Draft to become the proxy for the Viet Nam War, relegated the notion of conscription to being a "last chance emergency measure", and there it remains.

    While America's "Call to Arms" in WWII has been highly romanticized, there is no question that a fair portion of the Draft eligible males sought out draft deferred occupations, and "fatherhood" (another source of deferment) increased by some 12% following 1941, and stayed at that level through to the end of the War, even though there were several fewer males available to inseminate the female population. Since the War was causing major aberrations in the economy and labor markets, it's hard to determine the true general attitude towards military accession means after Pearl Harbor. However, prior to 7 Dec 41, it was very clear that the first round of conscripts and federalized NG troops wanted to go home when their year was up, completely in tune with the general isolationist trend of the time.

  21. You can't talk about sociological benefits of the draft without talking about the sociological costs caused by enforced servitude of a segment of the population. The issues don't separate that way.

  22. Which is why I said:

    "more manpower and sociological benefit than detriment"

    And :

    "What it could not do, of course, was promote support for an ill prosecuted war. But then, ginning up popular support for political decisions and managing military manpower are two unrelated arenas."

    I am not convinced that the current relationship (or lack thereof) between the general American population and the troops they either send or allow to be sent to war is "healthy". As one of the troops in Iraq commented to the press, "America is not at war, the Army is."

  23. Rightness and wrongness is fundamental to justice. Perceived and actual injustice is a tremendous motivating factor to both individuals and groups.

    You can't fairly tally up the costs and benefits of the draft without tackingly its rightness or wrongness.

  24. Ael- Within the construct of a so-called democratic society, could you define "rightness and wrongness" as well as justice? Or does the society define it on their own? If one chooses to be a member of a society, do any responsibilities arise from taking of the benefits of that society, or do only rights arise?

    Is conscription any less "justice" than forcing a redneck to have to allow blacks to eat in his restaurant or allowing a Catholic employer to deny his employees health care coverage that includes contraception?

    In 1964, my uncle said, "The named that law improperly. It should be the Civil Rights and Responsibilities Act. You can't afford another a right without taking the responsibility involved in allowing that person to exercise that right." It took a while for the subtle message of his statement to sink in. Societies abridge individual freedom in the name of "Rights" regularly and routinely. If they didn't, they would be anarchies. "Rightness, wrongness and justice" are societal constructs, not some universal, external truths. All "justice" is perceived, not actual, except in the eyes of those who define it.

    I have no issue with a society defending it's sovereignty. If a society chooses to suppress a group, I will speak up strongly to convince them of what I see as the error of their ways. I have grave reservations when the argument used by one society to convince another society is the muzzle of a weapon.

    If a society chooses conscription to man it's military, that's a societal decision. How that society uses their military is a whole other issue. The AVF may be more "right" in some eyes, but the "justness" of it's employment since 9/11 has been highly questionable. But then, at least to me, it still would be questionable if conscription were practiced.

    There is a fundamental factor that explains mob violence. Individual perception of individual responsibility is severely diminished, even for the individual's own acts. Similarly, the American public senses little or no responsibility for the impact of our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our emphasis on "rights" over "responsibility" diminishes any individual or collective sense of liability, and that makes us a very dangerous society in our dealings with others.

  25. I have to chuckle, cynically, albeit, about the perception of "right, wrong and just".

    De Jure policy of USMACV included the Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP), Civilian War Casualty Program and the general Civic Action Program (CAP). MEDCAP and CAP involved both dedicated assets and volunteer activities from US forces. Involvement in CAP down to the company level was mandatory in 1st Aviation Brigade, and our company provided labor, clothing, supplies and foodstuffs to a local orphanage and a local leprosarium. Far, far more acts of charity to "babies" than "baby-killing" took place, yet the folk image was that of "baby killing".

    The Post WWII Army of Occupation is painted as kind and gentle, yet the De Jure (JCS 1067) policy until Jul 1947 that starvation, disease and civil unrest were only to be kept below such levels where they would not pose a danger to the troops of occupation, probably cost the lives of more babies than all the combined "atrocities" of Viet Nam.

    Just a matter of "perception".

  26. "Right" and "Wrong" are value assessments made by individuals. Sometimes individuals cooperate to form a group value assessment which is often used as a proxy for an individual value assessment. Since individuals can belong to more than one group these proxy assessments can conflict with each other.

    Justice is the assignment of outcomes to a value assessment.

    I think we agree that maintaining an army and using an army are mostly different issues (although you can't use an army that you don't maintain)

    I also think we agree that issues of right/wrong/justice need to be applied when judging the costs and benefits of either maintaining or using an army.

    Canada has almost come apart twice over the issue of temporarily enslaving a segment of our young male population, Thus it is pretty mainstream that conscription is "wrong". Likewise, Canada has few pretensions of being a first rate power, so the resulting smaller army has not really cramped our style. (although our Air Force sure liked having buckets of sunshine under their wings while we had em.).

    Finally, Vietnam lost about 2 million civilians during their war. I don't know how many of them were babies but I would suspect that the number would be *lots*. I know the Soviets didn't treat their occupied zone very nicely, but did the western allied areas also stack up the babies similarly?

  27. Ael-

    Your estimate of civilian deaths comes from from where? The reliable figures I have seen are more like 200 - 400 thousand South Vietnamese civilians and 50 - 60,000 North Vietnamese civilians, with well over one half attributable directly to the VC and NVA. Doesn't lessen the carnage, but does put it a bit more into perspective.

    There was, indeed a war going on in Viet Nam, whereas the vast number of preventable deaths due to JCS 1067 were not "collateral damage" arising from military operations, but an intentional, punitive, published policy of the conquering nation(s) towards an entire civilian population after hostilities had ended.

  28. The government of Vietnam's estimates are 2 million civilians.

    They have an axe to grind, but so does everyone else and I figure that they are in the best position to know.

    Yes there was a war on and yes people on both sides were behaving accordingly. I have no way to estimate how many babies were killed "collaterally" versus "punitively".

    I know that the western Allied occupation forces were not especially kind in the beginning, but I don't know much about it. So I was surprised and curious that the count of dead babies were comparable.

  29. Ael-

    Essentially, "community is dead"? That seems to be your argument. I would simply state that our entire series of posts is to the contrary . . .

    Speaking from a strategic theory perspective for myself of course . . .

  30. No, seydlitz.

    I did not say nor infer that "community is dead". Communities may change, but they still exist in a form, and that form can and has included dysfunction.

    There was "resistance" in the population towards "supporting the war effort" during WWII, just as there was during Viet Nam. It simply wasn't sufficient to sway overall support away from the prosecution of the War. Organized labor conducted over 3,000 strikes in 1941, in 1942, 4.1 million labor days were lost to strikes, 1943, 13.5 million labor days and in 1944, 3950 strikes were called. The railroads and soft coal mines had to be seized by the federal government to avoid shutdowns and get labor back to work. Just as JCS 1067 wasn't a shining period in our history, the people on "the home front" didn't always rise to the occasion. Corporations built huge factories to land war contracts, but neglected to support housing for the thousands of out of area workers necessary to operate the factories. Absenteeism in war industry was at about 7%, and turnover in excess of 100%. It wasn't all roses by any means.


    German child mortality rates in 1946 were 10 times that in 1939. Does that qualify as "a lot of dead babies"? Read up on JCS 1067 and it's underlying basis, "The Morganthau Plan". It's pretty brutal, was decided upon long before the end of the War and was agreed upon as policy at meetings of the Allied Leaders.

  31. Al-

    I'm not addressing your comments, but Ael's . . . In fact I'm including ours together . . . it that's Ok colonel . . .

  32. Great threads and comments all. Here are my thoughts:

    I think a lot depends on how one views the relationship between conscription and cohesion in society. I expressed skepticism in an earlier thread regarding Dana Milbanks’ argument that conscription is essentially social engineering tool to change society in order to put “country over party and self interest.” This is a popular notion shared by many and it is one I think puts the causality backward. In a democratic society, at least, a high level of cohesion in society must exist in order for that society to accept conscription. In other words, it is cohesion that brings about conscription and not the other way around. Once a society reaches a level of cohesion that allows conscription, then it’s possible that conscription could enhance cohesion or, perhaps, simply lessen or slow its decline.

    Milbank (who I use here as a simple shorthand for those who share his view of conscription) explicitly argues the opposite – that conscription will “save America.” By Milbank’s calculus, Saddam’s Iraq, Yugoslavia and the USSR should all have had societies that put “country” over other interests given their high levels of conscription and required national service. If Milbank is right, then then end of conscription through most of Europe should cause a decline in cohesion there. Time will tell, but in my view, this argument is wrong. Conscription is not the fifth element to build a harmonious and cohesive society because conscription is, in democracies, a consequence of cohesion and not a cause. The exceptions are authoritarian regimes who use conscription as a means of state control over a population. As we have seen many times, this use of conscription does not build long-term cohesion in a society.

    The US, as a diverse federal republic, we have always had a lower average level of cohesion than a nation state. Cohesion only rose to a level able to support national conscription and national service during severe crises: The Civil War, WWI and then the trifecta of the Great Depression , WWII and the Cold War. Absent such crises, cohesion in the US dropped below the threshold to sustain the political support necessary to maintain conscription and national service. Thus I think the mid-20th century period was the exception and not the rule – it only lasted as long as it did because the crises were so severe, proximate and lasting. The generations that were shaped by them are dying and so is the cohesion they maintained. Their political is already eclipsed by the following generations, the boomers in particular. I commented about the difference in political values between the boomers and earlier generations in another thread.

    So, in my view, absent a clear and present national crisis which forces petty differences aside and forces the ascendant generation to deal with the crisis as a whole, I think we are in for a return to a low-level of national cohesion – the status quo ante for the US. In this context Milbank’s idea of national service as the agent for building cohesion in the present environment is both laughable and scary – laughable because it does not and will not garner political support; and scary because of the undercurrent of paternal authoritarianism in his argument.

  33. Pt. 2:

    Returning to Seydlitz’s concluding post, I am skeptical that conscription after 9/11 “would have created additional material cohesion within the population.” Despite the best efforts of certain propagandists (particularly in the neocon camp), 9/11 and the “threat” posed by Iraq were never crises of sufficient magnitude to bring society up to a level that would allow conscription. Additionally, unlike previous crises, we had a large legacy military force, even after the 1990’s drawdown, with a high level of readiness and capability that was able to accomplish its operational military objectives quickly. Any support for conscription in late 2001 would have quickly faded as the Taliban were completely routed by early 2002.

    Additionally, I think we need to be careful of hindsight bias. The Afghan and Iraq campaigns were expected to be resolved quickly – given the time lag inherent in mustering a conscript force, very few people thought conscription was necessary at the time. So I don’t think conscription would have created additional cohesion because there was never enough cohesion to enable conscription to begin with.

    Finally, regarding your last paragraph, I think it is an inaccurate characterization. On one hand, the military is running away from the “imperial constabulary” mode of operation as fast as it can. Note how the few Coindinistas left are loudly complaining that the military is throwing away all knowledge about warfare among peoples that it supposedly learned over the last decade. On the other hand, I believe the “diminishing sense of identity to the US political community” is destined to decline because its primary cause is going away – the burden disparity between the military and the society it. The inevitable budget cuts are already here and will grow and then there is the inevitable turnover that will bring things to a more familiar status quo. Orwell’s description is quite far from where the US military is today and any similarity will only decline in the future.

  34. On the babies debate, how many babies did the allies kill firebombing and then nuking German and Japanese cities? That is a level of mass barbarity that hasn't yet repeated.

  35. seydlitz- my OOOPPPSSS


    I was in no way ignoring the fire bombing. I was simply illustrating one national policy which has been carefully rewritten (or more accurately, perhaps "unwritten").

    Andy: "In other words, it is cohesion that brings about conscription and not the other way around."

    Heart of the matter in 20 words or less. I would add that it not only "brings about", but supports continuing such a policy decision. Actually, if one looks at support for conscription a a measure of cohesion, the high point of American social cohesion would probably be 1948 - 1965, as conscription was accepted as a general civic duty with significantly less resistance or evasion that at other times.

    I am not sure if the gap between the military and society will lessen, however, as there are insufficient socially unifying forces to do so, and, for example, the perceived "injustices" arising out of military personnel budget cuts ain't gonna stir a spirit of mutual sacrifice and warm joining of hands.

    I had a conversation a while back with a neighbor about "social indicators". Interestingly he drew a significant difference between voter suppression and "vote buying" that I had not though of. In effect, all votes are "bought", he said. You vote for Candidate A because he promises to deliver something you want or end something you don't want. In short, the actors gather in the marketplace and policies and programs are offered in exchange for votes. It's a "buyers" market, and the voter is the "buyer".

    With voter suppression, he said, the objective is for certain vendors to create a monopoly not by controlling what can be sold, but who can buy, and the "inflated value" of allowed votes.

    Speaking of voter suppression, it was interesting to read in Klein's book, that during WWII "conservatives" (GOP and Dixiecrats) fought any legislation giving troops access to absentee ballots. The GOP in fear that the vast numbers of conscripts were skewed towards "New Dealer", and the Dixiecrats were fearful of black votes, which they had effectively been suppressing via poll taxes and physical intimidation. And now the worm has turned? Perhaps that's an insight into the relationship between the military population and the general population?

    After all is said and done, I would be hard pressed to say that social cohesion has represented a "strong force" in post Civil War America, if ever. We have only "pulled together" when it was really a matter of perceived general survival. Racial, religious, political and gender divides define us far more than any common ground. America has created more independent "Christian" denominations in the past 75 years (20,000+), for example, than the rest of the world combined. We don't seek common ground, we seek to dominate the available ground. Our internal "coalitions", in the greater course of history, are very transitory. Thus, you see people like Milbanks seeking tools to cause subordination to a desired (at least by him) social manifestation. The Declaration of Independence proclaimed a nation based on self interest (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness), not the liberty, fraternity, equality expressed in other societies throwing off rulers they saw as oppressive.

  36. Ael-

    I spent enough time living on the US/Canadian border, and read enough of Pierre Burton's amazing works to somewhat understand and appreciate the difference between Canadian and US culture. Of the two, my admiration tends towards Canada, and before we discovered our present home, coastal British Columbia and the Islands was singing its siren song to us quite effectively.

    However, I trust you are not falling to the Canadian version of "American Exceptionalism". IMHO, every "society" has its right to be different, as long as they afford that right to every other "society", and particularly don't try to impose their culture across sovereign borders. That is one "right" I hold inviolable, even though I suspect the bulk of my fellow Americans don't.

    In recent years, all too many Americans believe that values should be imposed, not freely adopted, and behave like fools when such a worldview fails. "Will" can be imposed, not values. And that is what worries me about an alleged "world power" having a professional military that is apart from the general population. The general population can employ that military to impose their "values" on others at little or no risk, and in most recent times, no inconvenience. Thus, there is not only a lack of moral risk in attempting to impose cultural values on others, but a lack of a perceived collective and individual risk.

    But back to a society's "right to choose" how it regulates itself. If a relatively free society chooses conscription as a manpower management tool, then I see no "evil" in that. It is consistent with the value that the individual is, at times, subordinate to the general well being. Is that so far afield from Canada's approach to regulating immigration for the greater good of Canada, not simply the individual benefit of millions of potential individual? That's a far contrast from the American myth that immigration to the US exists primarily for the benefit of the immigrant.

    But back to the subject at hand - conscription. seydlitz has addressed some of the sociological aspects, and I have tried, against all kind of temptations to be drawn elsewhere, to address the "technocratic", or manpower management side. The one sociological aspect I have addressed, and lived through, is that when a relatively cohesive and "democratic" society chooses conscription, there is a greater bond between the military and the general population, because the ranks do not risk becoming "others". The first person plural, "We", one of society's most oft used words, can be inclusive and it can be exclusive. The "We" in "We The People" expressed in the Preamble to the US Constitution was patently exclusive, as it excluded Blacks and Native Americans totally, and women from suffrage.

    Kind of reminds of the old joke:

    Lone Ranger: Well, Tonto, my old friend, it looks like we are surrounded by Navaho warriors screaming for our scalps. We have been through a lot together, but it looks like we have finally run of of luck.

    Tonto: What do mean by "we", white man?

  37. Andy-

    Thanks for your comments, insightful and well presented as always . . .

    First, Milbank for me represents what "Plattsburg" has come to rather than the US Progressive view of 1917. It's much more about people accepting "their place in society" and maintaining the status quo than any supposed Progressive agenda or anything to do with "fairness". I'm not saying that you're arguing either way here, but to make clearer my own view.

    To say that "cohesion brings about conscription and not the other way around" is I think a truism. The question for me is what type of cohesion are we talking about? The Prussian reformers in 1813 relied on pre-modern cohesion to mobilize the citizenry for partisan warfare (Parteigängerkrieg) whereas they relied on ever increasing levels of modern moral and material cohesion to institute and later maintain conscription. As conscription institutionalized this in turn led to increasing levels of modern moral and material cohesion, but at the expense of pre-modern, or communal, moral cohesion. I have made the argument that much the same happened in the US after 1917. I would add that this development was in line with what I call Clausewitz's theory of politics as laid out in Book VIII, Chapter 3B of On War.

    The aftermath of 9/11 offers mostly contrasts as I have mentioned before. Had Al Qaida actually been the existential threat it was said to be then conscription would have been a proper response which I think would have met with popular support. The truth of the matter is that the US government did not wish to increase material cohesion, but at the same time did expand government power and the ability to exert force/coercion, as in the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, institution of total surveillance, torture as state policy, domestic military IOs in support of the war effort . . . So we see an extensive use of subterfuge by the government here highly influenced by what I have described as Right Wing Liberal ideology. Also from a strategic theory perspective, the implied political purpose in both Afghanistan and Iraq were quite radical requiring extensive and long-term commitment of moral and material resources to achieve, essentially the creation of new, imposed political identities on both political communities . . . Finally the Neo-con agenda was not to end with Iraq . . . The levels of political subterfuge at home coupled with this irrational wishlist of policy goals to be achieved through instrumental violence/notions of US exceptionalism, for me more than anything else reflect the levels of political dysfunction rampant in the US today . . .

  38. seydlitz- In much less elegant words, might I paraphrase and summarize what you said as:

    The Right Wing Liberals are fighting for a return to the exclusive "We" of the Constitution, but more exclusively so.

  39. I don't understand the earlier "community is dead" line of comments. I must lack some context.

    As for conscription itself, I would regard it as something to be used only in the most desperate of circumstances. We have laws that prevent enforced servitude as well as laws that prevent discrimination based on sex or age. They are good laws and in normal times gutting them would be a mistake.

    Furthermore, should conscription be necessary, I would expect it to be a part of a more national mobilization where the entire nation focuses on the crisis at hand (thus the hardship gets spread around the whole of society, albeit in different ways).

    Looking out the window, I don't see any current requisite threats and so conscription is a bad idea.

  40. Ael-

    Every nation has laws, has the right to enact their own laws, and should be granted the respect to do same. Where is the line between your lofty view of your laws' superiority and Americans who feel that Sharia law adopted by a society should be overturned. Or even closer to home, those Americans who hold that Canada's laws allowing same sex marriage are dead wrong? Or other groups' issues with Canadian law and social culture:



    I accept that cultures are different. I try to refrain from establishing myself as an authority on whether one or another is superior.

  41. Ael-

    You commented:

    -- "Right" and "Wrong" are value assessments made by individuals. Sometimes individuals cooperate to form a group value assessment which is often used as a proxy for an individual value assessment. Since individuals can belong to more than one group these proxy assessments can conflict with each other.

    Justice is the assignment of outcomes to a value assessment. --

    This is what prompted my comment which was presented as a question. This would be the opposite of a "community" as in a social organization bound by pre-modern moral cohesion and essentially "monotheistic". I start with the individual as well, but that individual has a whole variety of non-instrumental social action motivations and constrictions on their perspective/decisions/actions, not to mention that membership in a community is rarely one of choice but of context.

    Responsibility and duty seem to have no place in your formulation but they are fundamental to social cohesion regardless of the type.

    I'm not criticizing this view, but rather simply pointing out that this whole series of posts by both Al and myself, are imo contrary to this view . . .

  42. Ah, I understand. I was responding to the question about right and wrong. Note that I did not discuss how individuals end up attaching "right" and "wrong" value assessment.

    Concepts such as duty, community, loyalty also exist in people's minds and have influences on value assessments. When many people view a set of circumstances and make the same value assessment I rather suspect that it increases the group cohesion (and no doubt increases the pressure for group members to conform on the next value assessment).

    I don't see how this is contrary to what you and Al have been saying.

  43. How would you define community?

    Now that's no small task. Way back when, I remember a social psychologist friend talking about "proximity groups" versus "organizations", and finding it interesting that the two are quite similar in externals, yet function differently as a group.

    One Organizational Behavior prof offered a church congregation at Sunday services as an example of diverse motives and objectives at play while the manifest behavior could easily be seen otherwise. He offered something along these lines:

    Picture 200 people from the neighborhood, all gathered together for an hour, singing hymns, listening to a sermon, putting money in the "plate" and the like. Now ask why they are there, and among the reasons will most surely be:

    My parents require me to be here
    To make a good impression on my boss
    I like singing
    I am an outside musician paid to play the organ
    Lots of cute girls here
    Lots of cute boys here
    And so on

    What the prof was getting at is that even in organizations with the most theoretically "noble" of objectives, members are not necessarily "members" to achieve those specific objectives. They are there to achieve their own objectives, based on their own perceived needs. As long as achieving the organization's objectives also satisfies the member's objectives, a relatively productive relationship is possible. Thus the age old, stereotypical tension between "management" and "labor", wherein divergent objectives can either be productive or actually become destructive - remember Eastern Airlines?

    "Community" is equally slippery, and very dependent on cultural norms. There is "what's in it for me", and "what's in it for us" and combinations of the two. And that's just openers. Again, the first person plural has no set level of inclusiveness.

  44. Al-

    A basic and necessary question, but not an easy question . . . which we have addressed before . . .


  45. Andy-

    This is how you concluded your last point in your comment to me:

    --Orwell’s description is quite far from where the US military is today and any similarity will only decline in the future.--

    I've been thinking about the best response to this for a last couple of days. I think you are correct about the military's attitude regarding COIN, but the military doesn't get to decide on the question of war or no war. There is still a lot of noise regarding Syria and Iran which could still involve US military action . . . my point is the US political elite make the final call and given the dysfunctional state of our domestic political relations . . .

    Then there's the "wild card" which today may not be so wild. Looking out my window I see lots of nasty and violent storms. The Atlantic is particularly rough of late and we've had a couple of exclusive restaurants located (and seemingly firmly planted I may add) on rocks overlooking the ocean simply washed away. So a crisis due to weather or a social crisis, or both as in say a food shortage (the current drought in California?) occurs and the military is called out to "restore order" and the government panics and calls for "extreme measures" . . . what would follow . . . given the current state of our moral/material social cohesion . . . ?

  46. Looked at another way, I think that community is basically about a shared narrative. Traditionally, and this still accounts for most of the world, humans are born into a community which provides them in turn with a narrative which gives meaning/context to their actions and relationships. In the US especially, but also in the West to a large degree, but varying greatly among Western countries, we have the notion that we actually create our own narratives, or if you are a fan of psycho-analysis, "discover" them . . . This is actually a poor substitute for what is a fundamental human trait.

    I suppose I was lucky growing up where I did when I did. My sense of community (small town Southern) and family (both in the US and Europe) are quite strong. My shared narrative encompasses a lot of people both from where I grew up and relatives today. Give me two weeks back home and my mind is fitting back within those familiar grooves.

    Friends I've made as an adult play a supporting role here, and may have even been chosen/retained based on how well they fit within that larger narrative (say for instance in terms of shared values, similar outlooks). There exists a division in my community today due to the current US political relations, essentially we're operating with a divided narrative at present which very much influences not only how I see things, but also how I present them . . .

  47. Seydlitz,

    I think the pendulum has swung the other way, at least for now. There is little public appetite for another war whether it's Iran or Syria. The administration couldn't even get buy-in for a limited strike against Syria. They had to sell the Libya operation as a "Time Limited, Scope Limited, Military Action." Iran? Bush refused to give into Cheney and the Obama administration seems even less inclined to start a shooting conflict there. AIPAC's efforts to scuttle the talks with Iran via Congressional sanctions appears to be failing. The noise is just noise. That could change (and probably will) in the future, of course, but I think it will take a while for that pendulum to swing back absent some kind of black swan.

  48. Andy" but I think it will take a while for that pendulum to swing back absent some kind of black swan.

    "A while" can be a very short time in the swings of contemporary America, a land immune to history's lessons.

  49. I guess it depends on what is a "short time." I think the pendulum will stay on the side it is for a decade or two. By that time, with all our economic problems, we'll have to see if the US still has the capability to intervene on a global scale.

  50. Andy: Not sure if the U.S. public is really "against" foreign adventuring. "Indifferent" seems to me a better description. I don't think there was a lot of concern generally about either Libya or Syria (or Iran, for that matter). There's a small energized "anti-war" community on the Left and a slightly larger "pro-war" public on the Right, but I see the vast lumpen Middle as not really giving a shit; as Al and Seydlitz have pointed out, to give a shit there would a) have to be a sense of larger national community and b) that community would have to include anyone liable to go into harm's way in such enterprises. The current social arrangements in the U.S. provides litte of either one.

    What I got was that nearly all the pushback against Libya was from Obama's political enemies on the Right as well as a scattering of no-war lefties. Syria was even more of a mess, since no one outside of John McCain's head could picture what hammering Damascus would do to "help" any sort of actual U.S. interest there...

    I think the U.S. public has a fairly bottomless willingness to stand around and cheer faintly for farkling about in foreign lands so long as some talking head assures them that the brown people are dying for FREEDOM! and that no animals or U.S. troops were harmed in making the film footage...

  51. By that time, with all our economic problems, we'll have to see if the US still has the capability to intervene on a global scale.

    But as the Romans and the Soviets proved, military force is easy. Running a civil society is hard. I suspect that a neofeudalist U.S. could manage to project power for a good long time after our economy and civil society "collapsed", at least for the bulk of Americans outside the gated communities...

  52. After all is said and done, I would be hard pressed to say that social cohesion has represented a "strong force" in post Civil War America, if ever. We have only "pulled together" when it was really a matter of perceived general survival. Racial, religious, political and gender divides define us far more than any common ground.


    As a matter of fact, I'd argue that part of the problem with the way those of us look at the U.S. today is that we kinda have our "post-WW2-beer-goggles" on. Mainstream U.S. society - that is, white, middle-class-and-working-class U.S. society - enjoyed a period of unprecedented social cohesion between 1945 and about 1970. Those of us who grew up then, I think, tend to think "Gee, that's how the U.S. is..." when, as Al points out, the current U.S. social and political landscape is more like it "usually was" before that time.

    I do agree with Seydlitz that the emergence of the Radical Right - the Teabaggers and their ilk - is a phenomenon we haven't seen since before the Civil War; a coherent subset of the U.S. public who would happily see the country fail rather than see it run on terms other than their own. They're not an utterly unprecedented thing but they're something that has been missing from the U.S. political landscape for over a century which, as Al also points out, means that they might as well be completely novel, since our sense of history extends as far back as last week...

    Still...the emergence of this group IS an anomaly in the social contract that developed out of the Great Depression/WW2/Cold War period, and so far as I can see there is no counterbalancing force.

    So where the wingnut nihilists can drive this country? I have no idea. But nowhere good, I suspect...

  53. Chief,

    I dunno, it seems pretty clear to me the public is a lot more skeptical regarding the use of military force. The patina of US invincibility is gone and promises of quick and easy wars are treated with much more skepticism. The arguments of those opposed to war cannot easily be dismissed. The Congressional hearings with the CJCS and Sec. Kerry on Syria were, I think, rather revealing and stand in stark contrast to 2002.

  54. Andy-

    Not too sure of the public's view on the use of military force from this far away. Saner heads in government saved us from Syria, not necessarily public opinion.


    Back to Plattsburg- That was a time when the "elite" saw public service as a responsibility. Since then, the very nature of the "elite" has changed, no less their propensity for public service. Back then, the "elite" saw military training and service as beneficial to themselves in their personal development, and thought it prudent to have the less fortunate receive the same benefit. Today's "elite" would be more accurately characterized as seeing no personal benefit from military service, and even if they did, they are not prone to encouraging others to share in any benefit they enjoy.

  55. I'm with Al on this one, Andy. While I agree that the "public" (again, less the 15-20% who still had a "favorable" opinion of Dick Cheney by 2008 - those folks would "support the troops" if a U.S. President proposed an invasion and occupation of Hell) opinion has soured in general on the notion of farkling about in foreign climes the actual willingness of the "public" to actually do anything about that - from writing/calling their Congresscritters on up - seems to be lacking.

    I think that ties in to the larger theme that seydlitz is hammering on here; that the long-term project that the "conservative" U.S. social, political, and economic elites have been working on...well, pretty much since the Thirties...is coming to fruition. The U.S. public is increasingly becoming a spectator of its democracy, full of cynicism and skepticism that their votes - or anything else thay do - actually "matters".

    Meanwhile, as Al points out above, those elites have effectively abandoned the older "noblesse oblige" traditions that were, to some extent, still around in the Thirties. There is no longer any vestige of the old feudal sense that the local JP, the squire, the social, economic, and political leader(s) of the town, village, county, or city would automatically become the military leaders in wartime. The purely economic nature of "leadership" reflects the disconnect between the CEO/CFO and the shop floor. Jamie Dimon feels no more obligation to risk his expensive ass as colonel of the regiment his workers volunteer to form when the call goes out for la patrie en danger any more than those workers feel the need to form that regiment. The military relationship now reflects the social, economic, and political reality of the U.S. circa 2014: we're all "entrepreneurs", and I have no obligation to worry about or look to you if you fail, any more than I feel the need to help you out if I succeed. After all - "I built that" - my success and your failure are due to our individual virtues or vices, not who our parents were or any other external factors...

  56. I think Andy's right in regards to the public's attitude towards new wars, but as I've said given the current dynamics public opinion doesn't seem to enter into it. Another "outrage" and we're back to following the bloody shirt . . .

    I agree wholeheartedly with Al's description of what has become of Plattsburg and I think this very much a primary cause of our current political dysfunction . . .

    On Chief's view I disagree in that this is something new to US politics. This is NOT a replay of anything we've had before due to the evolution of Plattsburg and, perhaps more importantly, the negative dynamics of the current Right Wing Liberal ideology which pretty much disputes the existence of a political community (of values, not interests) . . .

    The Tea Party represents first of all fundamental confusion imo. They talk values but are actually focused on their own narrow interests which come down to their hysterical obsession that some dark skinned person will take away some of even all of their "stuff". They do not constitute modern, let alone pre-modern social cohesion, but rather basic fear in a materialistic sense, that is they act more like a "herd" operating in the device paradigm. For this reason they are easily manipulated . . . and constitute no political movement, but rather a crude materialistic reaction. Recognizing that they actually support the same oligarchical tendencies that are bleeding them dry is beyond their powers of understanding. For me they constitute nothing more than useful idiots for the war/imperialist party . . .

  57. seydlitz- seydlitz- "and constitute no political movement, but rather a crude materialistic reaction."

    A while back, a friend in the US offered a similar view in that American bedrock social institutions (education, healthcare, religion, etc) were becoming more the domain of "economic actors" than "social actors". He said that massive "ancillary support industries" have grown up around these social institutions.

    Food for thought.

  58. Here's what David Brian, Entertainment Properties Trust president & CEO, says about the "investment value" of tax supported charter schools.

    Question: Charter schools have become very popular as parents seek more choice in educating their children. But are charter schools a wise addition to your investment portfolio? Well let’s ask David Brain, President and CEO of Entertainment Properties Trust. David, why would I want to add charter schools into my portfolio?

    Answer: Well I think it’s a very stable business, very recession-resistant. It’s a high-demand product. There’s 400,000 kids on waiting lists for charter schools, the industry’s growing about 12-14% a year. So it’s a high-growth, very stable, recession-resistant business. It’s a public payer, the state is the payer on this category, and if you do business with states with solid treasuries then it’s a very solid business.

    Watch the whole interview
    and see how tax funded education can be a good investment - at least financially.

    If that isn't an example of "economic actors" taking over the direction of social institutions, I don't know what is.

  59. Al-

    I think this perspective of economic actors taking over social institutions deserves its own thread . . . are we finished with conscription?

  60. My bad. Just expanding on the change in "community" and society since Plattsburg.

  61. I would imagine that a major question about conscription is the view of the relationship between the individual and society. S.O. and Ael have expressed one view, that conscription is "forced labor" - one segment of society imposing its will on another. Another view would be that conscription is a individual's contribution to the society's well being (defense). And a third would be that it is a particular societal obligation. And of course, all of this is entwined with the society's form of rule.

    Conscription is subject to totally different interpretation from within a society versus from the outside. Even the most beneficent of societies could view conscription to maintain a standing military intended solely for self defense as a normal obligation of that society. Every society has "strategic considerations" to deal with, not just those capable of projecting force abroad. It is how each society sees the role and obligation of its members that will drive the train.

    It be frank, seydlitz, I'm not sure if social cohesion has to be differentiated into moral or material factors. Rather, I would offer that social cohesion is more clearly measured in terms of how willing individuals are to defer to the general well being under all circumstances, not just times of stress or existential threat. Is there a "societal awareness" or just "individuals operating in synchrony"? Who determines when my contribution is needed, me or society in general? Given high enough wages and benefits, seasoned with liberal doses of adulation, and even a very non-cohesive society can field a military force as individuals seek personal gain in uniform not available elsewhere.

    The Tragedy of the Commons pertains to more than just material resources. Perhaps "national service" (not necessarily "universal service") is just another form of tending to the social "Commons"? Whether or not a given size military force is "necessary", how a society chooses to maintain that military says volumes about that society's perception of individual responsibility within that society. However, in the US, at least, it appears that as our force has become smaller, the general social responsibility to personally contribute to that force has decreased exponentially.

    It's a very complex interaction.

  62. "...basic fear in a materialistic sense, that is they act more like a "herd" operating in the device paradigm. For this reason they are easily manipulated . . . and constitute no political movement, but rather a crude materialistic reaction. Recognizing that they actually support the same oligarchical tendencies that are bleeding them dry is beyond their powers of understanding."

    I'll agree with this, but my question would be "how does this differ significantly from the pro-slavery lower- and lower-middle classes in the 1840s and 50s?" In that case you had a fairly sizeable group that were energized by fear-propaganda and a fundamental ignorance of what were the actual benefits and costs of the policies they were jiggered into supporting.

    All I'm saying is that this isn't "new" in the absolute sense. In the relative sense, though - in the political memory of the American public - it IS "new". We haven't seen this sort of intractable political idiocy since before 1860, and (though there is no shortage of people warning us about the danger of all this talk of "nullification" and anti-government agitation) we have, most of us, forgotten the almost-unavoidable result of the challenge it presents to a republic.

    I would argue that there is ALWAYS a pressure on public institutions from powerful/wealthy institutions, Al. Think National Guard used to break up strikes, Taft-Hartley...pretty much the whole of the Gilded Age and the early 20th Century up to 1929 is a history of how wealth can be used to loot the public treasury; the Harding and Grant Administration were just the only ones so greedy that people started paying attention...

    Again, I think our view is skewed by having grown to adulthood in a period of remarkably/unusually quiescent grifting between the Thirties and the Eighties. The sort of crony-capitalism you're describing was pretty routine in the late 19th Century and the Ragtime Era. It was only the unusual Progressive alliance and the Crash that kicked that sort of public-private grifting out of U.S. politics, and the real "Reagan Revolution" was to roll back a lot of the rules the had been built to prevent that.

    And IMO these public-private schools are the most relatively benign form of grifting; the private prison/private probation systems are even worse, resurrecting the "debtor's prisons" of the 18th Century:


  63. Al-

    Of course it is a very complex interaction in reality, no doubt about that.

    My purpose here was to provide a Clausewitzian analysis of conscription through what I have described as Clausewitz's theory of political development. I introduced this interpretation of Clausewitz in a paper that is available (although badly in need of a re-write) on Professor Bassford's Clausewitz Homepage . . .


    So my task here was to use these Clausewitzian concepts of pre-modern moral, modern moral and modern material cohesion to analyze the institution of conscription in three distinct cases: Prussia 1813, US 1917 and the US post 9/11. This is the first time that I know of that these concepts have actually been laid out and then used . . . and the result is what we see here in these four threads, which to me approach the institution in a useful and adequate way, from a strategic theory perspective of course.

    You've taken a different and equally valid approach to this institution and I've found that the two actually complement each other. But I wonder as to whether your "technocratic" approach can cover Ael's and SO's "individualist"? perspective . . .

    So I have limited purpose and conclusions. The reality of all the complex social perspectives, relations, struggles, confusions, and whatever we might care to add is beyond what strategic theory can provide which is very much about power relationships between/within political communities. So from this perspective, focusing on the desires of the individual as a loose member (or whatever term one wishes to choose) of a larger group is incoherent since the individual as an individual does not rise beyond the level of "tactics" or rather simply egotism.

    Which is way Right wing Liberalism although having a political purpose is incoherent from a strategic theory perspective . . .

  64. FD Chief-

    -- I'll agree with this, but my question would be "how does this differ significantly from the pro-slavery lower- and lower-middle classes in the 1840s and 50s?" --

    Communities with a high level of pre-modern moral cohesion as opposed to a society in dissolution would be my first response. Been reading John Jay Chapman's book "William Lloyd Garrison" and it is difficult not to see the abolition movement as the triumph of (predominately pre-modern) moral cohesion over economic interest, especially in the Northeast.

  65. seydlitz, " But I wonder as to whether your "technocratic" approach can cover Ael's and SO's "individualist"? perspective . . . "

    Definitely not. I was just separating the "technocratic" from the "sociological". My approach was simply to challenge the notion that the AVF somehow produces a "better" force, a claim which generally goes unchallenged, or uses questionable metrics to reinforce the basis for such a decision. I was pleased that S.O. referred to the Gates Commission Report, as the very first words state that the goal was not in any way to achieve the best manning process for the military, but to make a decision to end the Draft a workable one.

    However, no society is bound to the notion of accepting a solution based primarily on technical merit, even though they will mobilize all sorts of ex post facto arguments to claim such decision making was employed.

    The larger question is whether any modern society perceives strategic needs that require the social cohesion supportive of conscription, when economic imperialism is an increasingly effective tool.

  66. seydlitz wroye: " It is not about the individual, that is narrow, self-centered, "what's in it for me?", interests or opportunities at all, but service to the group, as a member of the political community in question. "

    I have 'felt" a disconnect in all of this, and the above stimulated a thought.

    Is the "political community" the same as the "social community"? Or, is the "political" the actions/interests of the "sovereign", which may be influenced by the society, yet not necessarily reflect, at given points in time, the values of the society?

    To offer an example from a non-strategic arena, the "sovereign" enacted the 14th Amendment nearly 150 years ago. 96 years later, the society's performance in actually granting "equal rights" was so lacking that the "sovereign" again had to pass landmark legislation towards ensuring such rights. Another 54 years have passed, and all sorts of racial, gender, religious and gender prejudice are normative in the society.

    Thus, are we on firm ground in trying to equate the actions of the "sovereign" with the values of the society that accepts that "sovereign"? Are we confusing "tolerance" of the sovereign with "embracing" it?

  67. Al-

    First comment disappeared so let's try it again . . .

    I see a clear distinction between "political community" and "social community".

    The political community is about power relationships between or within the group, simply who gets what, when, where and how. It's about the actual structure of power and who controls or manipulates them. Politics is basically coercion, the state retaining the monopoly of "legitimate" violence within a recognized territory. All the power of the state/political community flows from that basic concept.

    Sovereignty could be described in various ways. According to the constitution the citizenry is sovereign through their elected/appointed representatives operating within a system of "checks and balances". I would argue that this has become subverted and that the citizenry is no longer sovereign, but that's my view. The point here is that while the political community exists with the concept of the sovereign, who or what exactly fulfills that function at a specific point in time need not even be addressed . . . Carl Schmitt wrote that the sovereign is that element that decides who the "enemy" in fact is, retains the power to declare and wage war, without this power there is no sovereign.

    "Social community" on the other hand would include the full range of modern social interactions along with "culture" which would include all meaning-fulled human expression . . .