Dan has stated on occasion that he is not a historian, and I freely admit that I know less about history than he does. This is especially true about military history, which I have not actively studied since I was in high school (other than research into specific events) making me that much more removed from the ranks of historians than Dan is. Even lacking Historian credentials, I think I can say that there is a difference between what something is intended to do, and what gets done.
The Army isn’t supposed to exist in peacetime. On the other hand, there’s been very little true peace in American history. If there wasn’t natives to fight, there has always been some foreign dragon to slay. Those who profit from providing war materials to the government have always found excuses to get us involved in another conflict.
However, the military looks significantly different today than it did prior to WWI. The existence of the Air Force alone, much less the impact of other mechanized forces on the other services proves this. The war department was an ongoing temporary affair until 1943 when the Pentagon was finished (which was strangely about the same time as the creation of the Joint Chiefs) creating the permanent military structure we have now.
Prior to WWI (in spite of Lincoln’s unprecedented conscription service during the Civil War) you have a military that understood the truly temporary nature of its mandate. After WWII, the military sees itself as justifying its own existence; that taking the people’s money to pay for weapons we don’t really need and forces we can’t really use somehow makes sense in the scheme of things.
And so we engage in ever more frequent bouts of military adventurism in order to justify the expense of maintaining the military; creating enemies to fight (Saddam, Osama; perhaps even funding the USSR depending on whose tin foil hat views you want to give credence to) when we couldn’t find a home grown bad guy to flex military muscle on.
Given where we are now, I’ll take the temporary military that we had prior to WWI, whether it was really temporary or not. How many times are we going to fall for this type of subterfuge? The Maine and the Spanish American War? the Lusitania and WWI? Pearl Harbor and WWII? Gulf of Tonkin? 9/11 and our new permanent War on Terror? Hear the bell and salivate. Good dog.
Logic dictates that if you keep paying for a large military, a standing army will be used to do what armies do, kill people and blow things up. If that isn’t acceptable, killing people as a justification for the existence of the military alone, then what is being proposed is a welfare program that we must contribute to because not letting our military go adventuring is going to hurt our economy. Burning women, kids, houses and villages because our boys need some paying work to do. I have never seen soldiers as being some part of a welfare program. “We don’t really need you to serve, but we know you need the money?” I doubt that most of them would be honored to serve, willing to serve, under those conditions.
Is it going to be a radical change in government policy to take this action, to end the existence of a standing US army? Not as much as it would have been 10 years ago. The debt keeps piling up, and we have to pay it down eventually; slashing military spending would go a long way towards correcting the problem. The cure will not be as bad as the disease.
Editor’s note. Dan Carlin having bowed to the inevitable and deleting his forums and the archives (The Wayback Machine has some of the content archived) I am glad that I saved so many of the arguments that I engaged in there. Here is another one of those I’ve published retroactively on the date I saved it to the blog for republishing.