Return of the Soldier-Farmer
The armies that set twentieth-century standards have been instruments of decision informed by a dynamic of closure. They have been intended to win wars as quickly as possible, and with minimal suffering to the states and societies that created them. In the twenty-first century military effectiveness may best be achieved by cultivating a sense of the long duration, evaluating results in a context of not merely years but decades. This would be a fundamental attitude adjustment.
But though military cultures have their own rituals and their own ways of doing things—often quite different from the national culture to which they belong—these are not immutable. The frameworks of warmaking are instrumental and customary, sustained by a mixture of pragmatism, habit, and fear of the consequences of change. Postmodern war will eventually produce postmodern armies whose exteriors might remain familiar, but whose internal dynamics will reflect the new challenges they face.
Dennis E. Showalter via War and Game
The all-Volunteer Army is for all sense and purposes an all-elite force. National practitioners such as the USA expects its troops to be highly skilled in all manner of arms, very near the “Hybrid Warrior” so needed in this day and age. Then there is the problem that these immaculately trained “perfect soldiers” are most often called on for sundry occupation duties, foot patrols, presence, nation building, even disaster relief in some of the most impoverished places on earth, where their intense skills are often wasted, though the need is still there.
The American Volunteer Army models its own training and tactics in large part on those of the Israeli Army, at least from the 1970s. Ironically, the Israeli’s do not possess a Volunteer force, save in some of its elite units, and is a conscript army which can mobilize most of the population in an emergency. The US Army, like the British are true volunteers, depending on its Reserve “Base Force” for many support functions, though not wholly. In other words, the reserve is not its heart and soul. With this you get one of the world’s best, most expensive, and very stretched and overworked armies.
The Roman model, specifically the Byzantine, and also the fyrd as deployed by Alfred the Great way back in the 9th Century has me thinking on some solutions to the problem of deploying troops in an age of austerity. An article I read concerning the German armed forces made me realize the imperative of finding a more cost-effective way of deploying more personnel. This was in the Faster Times:
“Three proposals to shrink the armed forces have reportedly been tabled: the least severe would involve downsizing the force to 200,000 and keeping a degree of conscription in place; the “nuclear” option would be to cut the Bundeswehr to 150,000 troops and dispense with the practice of conscription completely. The middle proposal involves reducing the armed forces to 170,000 personnel and substitute conscription with an undetermined form of short-service volunteers.
The idea of trimming the armed forces resonates greatly inside the German MoD for the simple reason that just over half of the defense budget (EUR16.33 billion in 2010) is consumed by personnel costs.”
Just note that last sentence and realize the cost of training and deploying 21st century Hybrid Warriors to face myriad threats is getting worse, not better. So cut the number of regular elite troops, save them for the dire circumstances and fill out numbers for peacekeeping and standard missions with part-time warriors. Though this might seem a strange way to deploy forces in the age where the Blitzkrieg led by tank and airpower for the most part still reigns supreme, it beats extinction and as we say there is much historical precedent.
One problem the West is discovering in attempts to increase manpower is the immense cost of supporting and sustaining a single recruit. In just the past decade alone the price has increased shockingly, and seems to be rising in conjunction with the out of control prices of weapons systems. Here is David Wood, Chief Military Correspondent at Politics Daily:
The military’s “all volunteer force” concept, which replaced the draft in 1973, has been a resounding success, but at a resounding cost. In the past decade, the Army’s personnel costs have more than doubled, from $27.7 billion in 2001 to a projected $59.1 billion for 2011 — with an additional $11.9 billion in projected wartime personnel costs for next year.
Why? One reason is pay. Since 2002, military pay has risen 42 percent, while civilian pay grew by 32 percent.
America has used an all-volunteer army to fight a protracted war overseas, something unheard in its history as far as I recall (The Philippine Insurrection?). The funds now going for reenlistment bonuses and death/wounded insurances are phenomenal and frankly I think unsustainable for a large nation dependent on large numbers of troops. Below are a few solutions which I think are not only possible but also historical:
- Selectively recruit from naturally combative populations, sportsmen, hunters, etc. In place of monetary compensation, why not excuse them from the high taxes induced on the population as a whole, or perhaps grants of property in exchange for service, or rights of citizenship in exchange for military service.
- The US might foot the bill for the upkeep of European special troops, now endangered from extinction because of ongoing defense cuts by our allies. I think it would be a tragedy of the West to lose the capabilities of many of the ancient regiments now falling under the knife, which have fought and secured freedom around the world for centuries.
- Accept lower quality troops, from reserve and militia forces. Note that such types are the backbone of Third World nations and are naturally adept, plus easier to train in irregular warfare. These are the types of troops giving the world’s best conventional armies the trial of their careers currently in the Middle East. It is more costly to put down insurgencies that it is to ferment one, so we should take advantage of such economical troops. Historically though, the US Military has always consisted of such forces, recalling the Minutemen of yesteryear.
- A national draft is not an alternative as our country just doesn’t have the temperate for that. Plus it can easily be used for political purposes. What I would suggest is a greater dependence on militia. This would entail expecting a reduced quality of personnel, which currently is an outrageous idea to modern planners. They seem to think that all our forces must be highly trained, to the point of elite status, but historically this is far from normal.
The 21st century army would be composed of Regular Forces, as normal, but in smaller numbers and only deployed at strategic spots such as our nation’s capital and providing the core of overseas deployments. The rest would consist of soldier-farmers, who are not paid regular in money, but allowed to live in military colonies, placed on our border or other hot-spots. They could also be deployed overseas if only for short terms, as compensation for their enhanced rights and for free land, health care, etc.
Perhaps these military colonies might be the basis of a renewing of fellowship in our country, as a compromise between the arch-liberal and arch-conservative who increasingly can’t get along with one another. Learning to tolerate each’s particular belief’s like the Left’s socialism and the Right’s freedom of religion, bearing arms, etc., could be mutually beneficial and temper some of the more radical notions of revolution which are rising noticeably.