December 13, 2007

The Rise of the Purple Warriors

MichaelP.Murphy.jpgIN A SOFTENING AMERICA, war is something most of us let the best of us pursue. Robert D. Kaplan examines the likely outcomes in "On Forgetting the Obvious" @ The American Interest

Kaplan is the author of the astute Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos (Random House, 2001), a book I found to be both inspiring and illuminating. In this article Kaplan sees the fundamental split in America today, and the shape of the America to come:

Without a draft or a revitalized Reserve and National Guard that ties the military closer to civilian society, in the decades ahead American troops may become less soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen, and more purple warriors -- in essence a guild in which the profession of combat-arms is passed down from father to son. It is striking how many troops I know whose parents and other relatives had also been in the service, especially among the units whose members face the highest level of personal risk. Contrast this with the fact that, at the 2006 Stanford commencement ceremony, Maj. General Lehnert, whose son was the lone graduating student from a military family, was struck by how many of the other parents had never even met a member of the military before he introduced himself.
Highly recommended.
[Pictured: Michael P. Murphy, Navy Seal. Most recent member of the Armed Forces to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. Awarded posthumously for action above and beyond the call of duty in Afghanistan, 2005]

Posted by Vanderleun at December 13, 2007 5:27 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

The only possible outcome of the trends and patterns discussed by Mr. Kaplan is a military coup d'etat. When this will happen is conjecture, but a good bet would be that if Hillary is elected it would be during her first term.

Posted by: Bob at December 14, 2007 6:17 AM

This same theme has been worrying many of us for some time. Even the "main stream media" have caught on to the problem, if not to the solution:

Posted by: Kevin at December 14, 2007 9:14 AM

Our veterans of the past who were draftees at least understand what military service is like, both the good and bad. That knowledge is literally dying out.

How can we defend ourselves adequately or even make decent defense decisions without this knowledge being more widespread in society?

Democracy depends on the civilian soldier because those citizens are not likely to become a self- interested, inborn group that stands apart from other citizens. Such a group is more likely to use force to stage a coups.

IMO the only answer is a universal national service system much like the Swiss universal military system. Those unqualified physically for military training and service would go into a service somewhat like the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was in the 1930s. Everyone, except severely handicapped people, would serve in some fashion.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at December 14, 2007 10:30 AM

... "Without a draft or a revitalized Reserve and National Guard that ties the military closer to civilian society, in the decades ahead American troops may become less soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen, and more purple warriors -- in essence a guild in which the profession of combat-arms is passed down from father to son." ...

These two phrases seem disjointed to me, as a Navy Officer. In current military parlance, the term "purple" refers to the jointness of the several armed services operating together, and most especially to an individual leader shifting mindset from the service-oriented point of view (Army Green, Marine Corps Red, Air Force or Navy Blue,...) to an all-services (Joint, or Purple) point of view. I have _never_ seen the term purple used to mean any kind of passing on of profession to one's child.

Now, whether that second phrase is a reasonable prediction, I am not debating here.

Posted by: Chris at December 14, 2007 10:36 AM

Heinlein had it right - as long as the service requirement he envisaged does not mean exclusively military service. There are those whose professions are just as dangerous as the military - firefighters and combat team (SWAT etc.) police officers come to mind - who ought to be included.

The USA was founded on the principle of "no taxation without representation". That's fine and I can't argue with it. But there are those in society - the US is probably less troubled with this than is the UK - who don't pay tax, never have paid tax and probably never will pay tax, have never done anything for the people around them or for society in general and are in some cases actively damaging to society; and still, despite all this, have full voting rights.

This issue, in the form of a poll tax, brought down the best leader that the UK has had since Churchill. The argument, stripped of the usual political BS, was this: "Fine. You are at liberty to elect any bunch of economically illiterate spendthrift idiots you like into local office - but if you do you are flaming well going to pay for it." Taxation without representation is bad, but representation without taxation is worse.

Have politicians elected by people who know that sooner or later they are going to have to pay, one way or another, for electing an idiot - and you won't need a military coup.

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at December 15, 2007 5:48 AM

In American history the regular military has been a very small force. The militia, for the bulk of that history, were of little use except as a parade group and a social network. The vast draft military of the 1940's and the Cold War was unusual, it wasn't the norm.

If we wish for that back, then the military must request that Congress budget for the increase in forces, but as far as I know that request has not been made.

What the general's son experienced was more a failure of class - those with the most resources, those who had the most to be thankful for not giving back to the society. Unless a way can be found to change the intellectual poison that has seeped into this country over the last forty years, then I don't know how you are going to get the blessed ingrates to join up.

Posted by: Mikey NTH at December 15, 2007 2:14 PM


Funny you should mention the militia. In it's original incarnation, service in the militia was mandatory for all able-bodied male citizens aged 17-45 (see Militia Act of 1792). As in jury duty, you had to show up under pain of legal penalty, and the militia member had to bring his own, functional, military grade rifle, ammo, etc. AND you could be called into service by the Governor of your state or when the Congress authorized, by the President as commander in chief. What now exists in Switzerland is not terribly different than this model.

If we as Americans want to, we can fairly straightforwardly re-institute this system. The legal underpinnings are still in place (see 10 USC 311, last revised in 1956). This presents several problems to the government, which is why they don't do it.

First, our current government doesn't trust the citizens. Why do I say this? Because they don't want citizens to have modern military weapons. And yes in some states it's possible to own a select fire or full auto weapon. BUT, you can't buy any made after 1986 and that is federal law (FOPA of 1986). Why is it that they don't trust us with powerful modern arms? Good question. I could speculate, but not here, OK?

Second, our foreign policy requires an army, not a militia. Professional forces can be deployed overseas. It is questionable if militia forces can be (constitutionally that is, see Article 1 Section 8).

Third a functional militia would cost money. Money which would otherwise be spent on the Army. Having a militia would, on the other hand, bring all Americans into our national defense in a real and personal way. All classes of persons would be legally required to serve and train.

Unfortunately this is unlikely to happen, because the politicians don't like the idea of millions of Americans having the tools to resist the government's will. Yeah the army's got airplanes and bombs. The citizens have the numbers. Look at what a few die-hards in Iraq and Afghanistan can do to our professional military. AND if the military was doing something awful to our own people, how much internal resistance would there be? I dare say a lot.

The government (and by extension our country) does have a problem with the creation of a military class which is less than representative of the society as a whole. The solution is straightforward, if not without cost tradeoffs. However, as in the the fix to illegal immigration, there are vested interests at stake, who cannot tolerate the solution.

For my part, I think with the right Supreme Court decision on Heller vs. DC, there is an opportunity to help fix this. We need to eliminate most (90+%) gun laws and get the average citizen back into the habit of owning modern weapons. I like how George Orwell put it...

“That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.”

Posted by: RKV at December 16, 2007 7:03 AM