March 04, 2005

The Army We Want

Ah, originally this space was to be filled with a "no comment" post that linked to Robert Kaplan's New York Times op-ed today. Or maybe a slight comment about how Kaplan's rightly uplifting, the military really does a lot of good in the world despite all the (justified) criticism it gets, and let's give them a hand. Or something. But Steve Clemons unsettled everything with a good post, saying: Just because Kaplan's right and the military is getting much better at carrying out humanitarian missions in places like Indonesia, that doesn't mean they should be carrying out such missions. The military shouldn't be a surrogate for the State Department.

Right. In a related vein, I know I've said this before, but now that certain highbrow opinion magazines are talking about bringing back the draft, it's time to say it again. Before we start expanding and retooling our military and all that fancy jazz, can we please, please, ask what our military is actually for? Do we want to continue the two-war doctrine? Do we want the capability to intervene in small hotspots of instability, ala Somalia and Haiti. Or do we just want to the capability to support such interventions? Do we want to deter countries from invading each other? Do we want to invade more countries? Do we want to prepare for a conflict with China? Do we want to continue using the military to conduct diplomacy? Really, what's this big military contraption for, anyway?

Many people wil say that's the point, we can't predict. Instead, we should worry that we might get caught in a situation where we have a military inadequate to the task, whatever the task might be. As the Boy Scouts say, be prepared. Okay, but I think the reverse is true too. The type of military we have can end up defining our foreign policy goals. If we actually had a military that was very good at peacekeeping, for instance, then it stands to reason that we would find ourselves embroiled in a lot more peacekeeping operations than we do now. Similarly, the mere fact that we have a high-tech army capable of quickly toppling Third World regimes no doubt led, in part, to the subtle shift in rhetoric in early 2002 from hunting down terrorists to tackling rogue states. You go to war with the Army you have, sure, but sometimes you go to war because of the Army you have.
-- Brad Plumer 3:15 AM || ||