Magazine article The American Conservative

New Model Army

Magazine article The American Conservative

New Model Army

Article excerpt

Our tour d'horizon of what America's armed forces should look like with a tightly controlled defense budget comes next to the Army. Just as our geography dictates we be a maritime power, so it promises we need not be a land power. We do not and will not face a land threat from another state. A large standing Army is a strategic luxury we cannot afford.

But to say we will not face a land threat from another state is not to say we will face no danger by land. Fourth Generation war--decentralized, postnational warfare--is already pouring over our southern border. Gangs of various origins and loyalties are one manifestation. So are terrorists, foreign or domestic in origin.

A standing Army is of no use against any of these. The Army National Guard is another matter. We are accustomed to thinking of the National Guard supporting the active-duty Army. But in the Fourth Generation, the roles reverse. The main mission of the active Army is to support the National Guard.

Because Fourth Generation war is above all a contest for legitimacy, it is to the state's advantage to treat conflict as a law-enforcement problem for as long as possible. The National Guard has long accepted a role in law enforcement as backup for the police in the face of major disorder. Using active-duty Army units for law enforcement, while not unprecedented, is not something friends of liberty should wish to see.

The key to defending against Fourth Generation threats is prevention. Despite all the cant we hear about "first responders," any response is too late. By the time the state is responding, the peace has been broken, which means the attacker has won.

Prevention starts, and should always stop, locally. Prevention depends on local knowledge, which Guardsmen have because the Guard is a community-based organization. That also gives the Guard legitimacy. Legitimacy and local residence combine to bring information.

Because National Guard units report to the state governor rather than Washington, we can turn to them for help without handing more power to Big Brother. Here we need be wary: as Fourth Generation war spreads on American soil, the federal government will try to use it, as it uses everything else, to aggrandize itself. Washington may attempt to federalize the Guard on a semi-permanent basis. Congress should act to stop that game before it starts, perhaps by requiring a majority of both Houses to approve federalization within 30 days, with renewals at six-month intervals. …

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