Sunday, August 2, 2015

A 'Chasm' Between Civilians and Their Military?

Review by Bill Doughty

Is the gap between the military and civilians growing? What are the lessons of wars in Korea and Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan? What are the changing roles for women in combat? What is the nature of future warfare?

David M. Kennedy and more than a dozen contributors explore these questions and others in "The Modern American Military" (Oxford University Press, 2013), a volume of scholarly essays that looks into the All Volunteer Force and the history of evolving conflict in the world.

"The dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended World War II but ushered in an entirely new form of conflict that came to be called the Cold War." That's how the foreword to the book by former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry begins.

Perry notes:
"The security dangers we face today must be dealt with at least as much with political, social, and economic strength (soft power) as with military strength (hard power). Our need to exert military power can no longer be met by the large conventional forces used during World War II, or the large nuclear forces accumulated during the Cold War. Today, our armed forces have been reconfiguring to meet these new demands, but many more changes are required ... Our naval forces should continue to focus on their mission of establishing sea control that can be projected worldwide on relatively short notice. Also, all our military services must become more proficient in operating in an environment of cyber threats to military technologies."
William Perry (left) and Kennedy (center) at Stanford in 2010. (L.A. Cicero)
Setting the stage for the essays that follow, Perry concludes:
"The world has been changing in very important ways since the end of the Cold War, and new and dangerous threats are emerging every day. But, against all odds, the world has not had a nuclear bomb used in anger since World War II; there has not been, nor is there likely to be, a World War III; and the average standard of living worldwide has increased since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. military has played an important role in these positive results and will be called upon to continue to play that positive role in the future. In order to do this, the U.S. military will have to adapt to economic, political, technological, and social changes, as well as evolve to meet the changing global threat environment."
David M. Kennedy
This insightful book, which zeroes in on the All Volunteer Force, is edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Kennedy. He assembles contributions by such distinguished thinkers as Perry, Lawrence J. Korb, Karl W. Eikenberry, Mady Wechsler Segal, Renée de Nevers, and others.

Much of this book examines the AVF, established in 1973, and its effects on society and the military, with reference to such standout personalities in military history as Gen. George C. Marshall, Gen. Creighton Abrams, Gen. Charles Krulak, Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Adm. Mike Mullen.

In a chapter titled "Manning and Financing the Twenty-First-Century All-Volunteer Force," David R. Segal and Lawrence J. Korb outline the "undue strain" placed on people and systems since 9/11.
"Despite the fact that the George W. Bush administration deployed more than two hundred thousand people on a continuous basis in Iraq and Afghanistan, and although Congress approved these conflicts, our political and military leaders did not have the courage to activate the draft. Many of the volunteers in the active and reserve ground forces were abused, physically and psychologically, while Americans went shopping. The military and the nation will pay the costs of this moral failure for a long time. Let us hope that the next time we engage in large campaigns, political and military leaders will not again forget their obligations to the country and those who serve it."
Adm. Mike Mullen (right) congratulates 2nd Lt. Erin Anthony at West Point. (Tommy Gilligan)
Kennedy has been focusing on years on the dilemma of a military being at war while the nation is not. He quotes Mullen, former CNO and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in an address to West Point graduates in May 2011: "I fear they [civilian Americans] do not know us. I fear they do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry ... We're also fairly insular, speaking our own language of sorts, living within our own unique culture."

From the abstract to an essay called "American Military Culture from Colony to Empire":
"In the midst of a civilian society that is increasingly pacifistic, easygoing and well adjusted, the Army (career and non-career soldiers alike) remains flinty, harshly results oriented, and emotionally extreme. The inevitable and necessary civil-military gap has become a chasm."
While readers may wince, many of the authors' conclusions are often backed up by strong research in the costs over the past 15 years – financial, physical and psychological.

But despite the problems presented here about the AVF, there are no calls for an immediate return to the draft.

North Korean soldier conscripts.
In fact, balancing the argument for conscription is the situation in North Korea, as described by James Sheehan in "The Future of Conscription":
"In Kim Jong Un's first public appearance following his father's death, the new leader reaffirmed Kim Jong Il's emphasis on the military: it was, he declared, his government's 'first, second, and third' priority. With terms of active duty from five to twelve years and reserve obligations up to the age of sixty, North Korea has what is perhaps the world's most extensive and socially intrusive system of conscription."
Sheehan also describes historical and comparative use of conscription in Europe and other regions and countries over the past century.

This book is recommended by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who lauds the exploration of use of contractors in war zones and new technologies that are changing the nature or warfare. "We owe it to our servicemen and women and to those who command them to examine critically and debate the state of military affairs," Rice writes. "This book is a significant contribution to that cause."

The size of the gap or "chasm" between the U.S. military and the civilian society it serves is debatable. According to Kennedy, "This volume aims not only to measure the range of that distance, but to help close it."

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