Let’s Individualize War!

The most emotional debates in politics are about the question whether or not military should be deployed in some hellhole somewhere far away. Political debates are fought over TV, radio, the internet, magazines and journals. The information battle space becomes toxic. The decision-making follows our common, yet difficult process which we have crafted for all government affairs. It is designed to find compromises between changing interests of conflicting factions of our own population.


The matter of warfare is different. Decisions have to be made fast. People who decide about it are unlikely to be affected by it. The public debate is carried by people who work in civil jobs, have no time and can’t quite find the country on the map that is tyrannized by this Muhababala … whatever his name is. On top of it all the hellhole speaks gibberish. You can’t verify anything the news anchor tells you, but from experience you know that he is lying. At some point the crying child picture comes up and you are asked if you have a heart of stone or if you agree that the villain of the news agencies is the villain of the conflict. This is the moment when half of your friends, family and acquaintances will outcast you if you fail to share their opinion. Ultimately the decision whether or not to go to war is made by maybe thirty terrified people in politics.


To cover up for their insecurity our elites try to act in groups. All military efforts are now done in ‘missions’, which comprise a gazillion countries that have nothing to do with the conflict and that don’t understand it.


Wouldn’t it be better to give soldiers more responsibility to decide in which war they want to fight? To some extend our society seems to be capable of doing just that. When civilians joined the Kurdish forces to push back against ISIS the overwhelming reaction from elites and ordinary people alike was positive. However, the matter is hardly recognized legally. German law, for instance, does not stop you from joining foreign forces as long as they are not hostile to Germany or her allies, but you may not advertise joining them.


Because almost all military actions come in multinational ‘missions’ and training manoeuvres are held with befriended nations, the traditional link between army and love for one’s own nation is weakening. People fight for good causes.


The French were the first to recognize that the inclusion of foreign fighters into the military could be beneficial and they formed their now infamous Foreign Legion. Few other countries allow foreigners to serve in their ranks. Often the requisites are nonsensical. Israel only accepts people with at least one Jewish grand parent. Bahrain only accepts Sunni Muslims.


We hardly have state on state wars anymore. Modern warfare is about fighting terrorists and militias.  The villains are often funded by states, but the ground work is the loosely organized street fight. Yet, the huge military structures are designed for wars between countries. Isn’t it time now for soldiers who until now are used to cooperate in poorly assembled ‘missions’ to come together on their own terms?


Of course, this needs to be organized as well. Our militaries should run a system in which soldiers can apply for an engagement in another country’s army. For obvious reasons the other country would then be allowed to vet and accept/deny the offer. Each participating country should be able to register demand for troops and offer training session vacations that come with an obligation of readiness for the partaking soldier. Maybe some computer system should be created in which militaries can register some planned training programs and invite interested parties into it.


The sovereign should not lose complete control over the military obviously. The main purpose will always be the defence of the nation. All troops who are abroad must immediately return on request. A government must decide which armies and militias are free to join. A potential infiltration of our forces that could turn them against our interests must be prevented by compiling a list of amicable forces. But given the lack of knowledge and interest of the masses in the wider population and the nefarious interests of our elites, I plead that the discussions about this list of joinable forces should really replace most debates about military intervention. Politicians should avoid sending own troops for all but the most obviously defensive causes.


This also tempers the drive of our elites to lie about the situation in foreign countries. The public would sooner realize how something is not our business when it isn’t. We would expect our soldier friends to debate which conflicts are worth engaging in, not our politicians. The media would be tempted to rather report than to manipulate which would improve the decision-making of our soldiers.


There is one major objection to liberalizing the forces. It would make everything more flexible and could save a lot of money. Let’s not forget: The military is part of the government! Instead of maintaining military gimmicks for deserts and the sea, landlocked countries without deserts can just send their personnel over to countries with these natural conditions. In return they would receive soldiers back who are trained to operate in these unusual settings or even battle hardened. Governments could pride themselves with the numbers of soldiers who supported other nations. Security would be a truly international effort without the usual concentration of power and its abuse. The resistance to such a proposal if it were ever uttered in public would be enormous.


Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 4, 2017 - 2:01pm
I'm aware that the title should read 'Let's Individualize Warfare'. Not catchy enough ;-).
Tamara Wilhite Added Nov 4, 2017 - 8:39pm
The downside - you're enabling militias and terrorism that easily gets out of control. Look at ISIS enabled by Clinton to take down Assad then taking over parts of Iraq and Syria.
Maureen Foster Added Nov 4, 2017 - 9:02pm
Wouldn’t it be better to give soldiers more responsibility to decide in which war they want to fight?
Yes it would be better but it’s also totally impractical.  You may like to demean them by referring to them in a derogative manner as “elites” but someone at the top needs to decide when war is the last resort.  When the decision is made, our military apparatus must be engaged and that means some people who thought they wouldn’t have to serve or don’t want to serve, will be called on to serve. Thankfully, most people in the military are there voluntarily, so they are happy to defend the country when the elites call on them to do so. 
I would also add that very infrequently war is declared.  Most of the time our military is put into harm’s way is to keep the peace or take part in some mission like the one that killed bin Laden.  I fail to see how “missions” lead to lack of love for one’s country.  I’m quite confident every person that was involved in the killing of bin Laden was proud of what they did and would claim they did it for love of country.   Same with Just about every other mission.  
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 4, 2017 - 9:20pm
I think there wouldn't even have been a civil war in Syria. The regime was not very harsh. The reason it was vilified and the CIA got involved - as we now know because Trump stopped their program to arm militias - was that Syria was closer to Moscow than to Washington. It was about expanding the sphere of influence for our elites. I think that ordinary soldiers discussing it would not have concluded that toppling Assad was a reasonable thing to do.
We also see now how ISIS is rolled back after the Democrats are out of the White House. If the public were used to discussing only the list of forces that can be joined, government protection of villain groups would be impossible. ISIS would have been taken out in no time.
It also opens the door to debate cutting down on intelligence agencies. They should only collect information about groups that target America. Other militaries can base their actions on own intelligence information. Our soldiers can take part in carrying out these actions without exposure to sensitive intelligence material.
Some of what I discuss in the previous section should already be discussed today. In Cambodia a whitchhunt is on because the opposition is accused of having taken money from the CIA. I believe that the accusation is probably even true (though it is only an excuse for the persecution). Should the intelligence services ever do anything else than collect information? Can we force our government to pass laws that stop them from doing anything else?
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 4, 2017 - 9:57pm
Maureen: I think less and less military deployments already today are properly declared wars (Congress hardly gets involved). I think opinions differ wildly whether all these missions are sensible. The public has no oversight anyway.They are so many.
If people can sort it out, it is the military people who would participate. Everybody else is too busy with other things.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 5, 2017 - 6:26am
So I see this post as nothing more than advocacy for a reduced role of national militaries.
It is! You observe so much dirty warfare today because national militaries are designed to tackle one another. To engage countries resort to dirty tricks now. They fund militias which can't be tackled by national forces. Unless they attracked enough resources to take out the militias. That's why I think 'borrowing' military personnel should be easier. It would descourage countries from building up rogue militias in other countries in the first place.  
The mercenary thing is the reason why i suggest it. It is obvious that we see a rise in mercenaries because the challenge of modern warfare can't be addressed with giant, rigid, national militaries any longer. My proposal is the alternative.
The French Foreign Legion is different from engaging mercenaries. The soldiers clearly fight under the banner of their unit. That's closer to what i have in mind.
I am also against clandistinely handing out weaponry. As I wrote in an earlier comment, secret services should collect information and nothing else. At the moment we handle modern warfare by proliferating weapons without oversight. I think that is very problematic. We need a different way to engage.
Dino Manalis Added Nov 5, 2017 - 8:11am
War is never individualized, we need peace through strength to minimize wars, while foreign policy has to aim for peace; stability; and prosperity worldwide, because it's better for consumer and business sentiment and spending to sustain economic expansion.
George N Romey Added Nov 5, 2017 - 10:16am
Congress should be approving any military action. The US should not be involved in nation building. However none of this will stop until the US becomes a financially strapped backwater.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 5, 2017 - 10:26am
Romey: Yes, Congress declares war, but the truth is that it isn't doing this for years now. We only have muddy warfare. I think Congress should rather compile the lists of forces in which the military personnel can engage. It will also stop the anti-American shaming.
Katharine Otto Added Nov 5, 2017 - 11:04am
What about those of us who oppose war in any context?  My attitude is, "If you want war, go, but pay your own way, in advance."  
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 5, 2017 - 11:06am
Katherine Otto: You get away from it cheeper!
Bill Caciene Added Nov 5, 2017 - 5:59pm
Great comment Maureen.  I don’t know what it is with people and their animosity for “elites.”  When someone becomes an “elite” they should be commended for getting the top.  So from the CEO of the major corporations to those at the top of the political ladder to our four start generals, they’re likely elite because they’re the best.  These elite members of society probably also have children that they’d like to see grow old and assets which they don’t want to see ravaged by war.  So their interests and desires are very much aligned with your interests and desires, which means they desire for there to be peace. 
Frankly, I don’t understand what you’re trying to advocate as it relates to our military.  The military often hires people from the outside to fight our battles. Perhaps they should do more, perhaps they should do less, I trust them a lot more than you as it relates to the best way to wage war and protect this country. 
Katharine Otto Added Nov 5, 2017 - 8:08pm
I contend they are not "our" battles.  They are other people's battles, yet I'm forced to pay for them in countless direct and indirect ways.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 6, 2017 - 10:34am
K Otto: Fair enough! I think, however, that people still won't like to see preventable murders to happen. Generally we want to be humanitarian (I assume that you are libertarian - I can't figure the moral standards of the left).
I also want a much smaller military and much what we see is a self-serving military-industrial complex and an intelligence community that is more obsessed with collecting information on citizens and leaking compromising material (and probably blackmailing) elected politicians rather than to find the hideouts of terrorists.
Much must be sized down and it will only happen when responsibilities are clearer defined. Who needs a military base in Japan while the Nigerian army is hardly supported in fighting Boko Haram? I think if military operatives of all ranks have a greater say in where they get involved the economics will clearly shift to the areas where they are needed.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 6, 2017 - 3:22pm
You may be against clandestinely handing out weaponry but that doesn’t mean our enemies won’t be doing it. 
So what now? Shall we do what our enemies do? Putin handed weapons to rebels in Ukraine. 
I wanted to give a more detailed answer, but all this 'I trust all authorities no matter their record is' thing stops me in the lane. Why discuss politics in the first place if generals and politicians are always right?
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 6, 2017 - 3:35pm
Sorry, I don't want to sound mean. So I continue...
I think the soldiers represent the side they are fighting for. We don't have to be secretive about how many people are fighting in which force. There would be a valuable layer of abstractions. The military people will have made the decisions which leaves the relationships between the countries and their governments unburdened. As you can check out for yourself, there is no war between two countries anymore - officially.
Let's take the Ukraine example. If the Ukraine military would have summoned soldiers from Germany, France, Great Britain and so on, this conflict would have stopped before it started. The Ukraine forces would have amassed the necessary human ressources in no time.
In the long run a country that behaves ethical is more likely to attract military personnel and is better at defending itself. It gives an incentive for countries like Turkey to behave better.
The problem is the long decision making. You can send UN soldiers everywhere. They are doing the same trick. They abstract from government responsibility of the sending countries. But you have to ask the governments to send the troops. The politicians will then have to defend the decision against an uninformed electorate. Until the UN mission is assembled the enemy has gained a lot of ground and can hardly be pushed back against.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 6, 2017 - 3:51pm
You can't separate these areas. Military is politics. Everything has pros and cons this is no argument in itself. I am even much more sure about what I think of handing out guns. The [fill in swearword] who decided to hand out weapons to topple Assad was a criminal who killed at least half a million people for no reason. The expert.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 6, 2017 - 3:55pm
BTW you shouldn't accept my guidance. Maybe you go back to my post that I ended in anger. Are you a child? You can form your own opinions, can't you?
Dave Volek Added Nov 6, 2017 - 4:28pm
Interesting article and interesting discussion.
I sympathize with world leaders trying their best for what they think is right for the world at the same time as trying to remain elected in their home country. It is a tough balancing act. And often it is hard to predict the results of Action A or Action B or no action at all. For those us armchair quarterbacks on foreign affairs, we really are not better than our elected political leaders.
I think we are going to continue to blunder our way through good and bad decisions until we change our system of governance.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 6, 2017 - 4:36pm
Dave: Take my inspirations while you keep working on it! Thanks for your compliments!
Tubularsock Added Nov 6, 2017 - 7:13pm
Now here is a funny concept to consider, let’s stop starting wars.
The major country in the world today that has attacked other countries is not Russia, is not China but the United States. IT IS CALLED AGGRESSION!
The number one country in the world today that sells war making equipment to the world is not Russia, is not China but the United States.
The number one country in the world today that has the most military bases throughout the world is not Russia, is not China but the United States.
If the United States would STOP STARTING WARS the world would definitely be more peaceful.
Vietnam is a great example. We attacked Vietnam which caused hundreds of millions of people to die and today that same United States that was SO AFRAID of Vietnam is now selling arms to them.
So just maybe if the United States would stop warmongering then things on the war front would shift.
Billy Roper Added Nov 7, 2017 - 11:18am
The best way to individualize war is to bring back duels.
Dave Volek Added Nov 8, 2017 - 11:38am
The only trouble with the USA no longer sticking its nose where it doesn't belong is that other foreign powers will look at this move as an open door to stick their noses where they don't belong. 
If nothing else, the USA will inflict less damage than the other guys (in my opinion). At least there is a working democracy to rein in the political leaders if they stick their nose too far.
It's a complicated world. I feel sorry for those political leaders trying to make foreign policy decisions while trying to stay elected. It's almost like a chess game but the rules change: "Q: When is a rook not a rook? A: When it is a bishop!"

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