Peace-Warrior Idea Twists Military's Role

By Gaffney, Frank, Jr. | Insight on the News, February 19, 1996 | Go to article overview

Peace-Warrior Idea Twists Military's Role


Gaffney, Frank, Jr., Insight on the News


With three words and a flying photo opportunity in Bosnia, President Clinton put into sharp relief his ominous agenda for the U.S. military.

His reference to the troops he had sent there as "warriors for peace" nicely captured this president's determination to mutate the U.S. armed forces from first-class war-fighting machines and instruments of national-power projection into something altogether different - a sort of armed AmeriCorps. To his administration, the military's most legitimate, if not principal, mission would be that of a glorified constabulary, available to monitor Solomonic peace agreements wherever they can be fashioned around the world.

This sort of mutation fits the "counterculture" mind-set of the 1960s that proved such a profound influence on the outlook of this president and many of his subordinates. Indeed, as the president moved through carefully choreographed camera angles amid the troops in Tuzla, one might have been forgiven for expecting him to start placing flowers in the barrels of their M-16s!

If one believes - as contemporary critics of the Vietnam War, like Clinton, are inclined to do - that excessive American power makes the United States a menace to world peace, then it follows that diminishing that power will reduce the likelihood that future Vietnams will occur. Defense-budget cuts greatly reducing force structure and deferring needed military-modernization programs represent an important ingredient in such a stratagem.

Other changes directed by what might be called the "counterculturalist in chief" that are affecting the character and the use made of remaining national-security assets also are noteworthy. These include:

* Adopting a doctrine (codified in secret annexes to Presidential Decision Directive 25) that makes the order of the day an approach even prominent friend-of-Bill Michael Mandelbaum ridiculed as "Foreign Policy as Social Work."

* Placing a premium on service in peacekeeping operations in determining career-advancement opportunities for military officers.

* Giving priority to training for peacekeeping rather than war-fighting operations, compromising military readiness for traditional missions.

* Intelligence-sharing with notoriously insecure agencies such as the United Nations, risking in the process sources and methods of collecting sensitive information that have been acquired over time and at great cost to taxpayers.

* Marginalizing the Congress in decisions concerning the deployment of U.S. forces while promoting the influence and authority of the United Nations on such decisions.

With respect to the last point, Congress bears some responsibility for this unhappy state of affairs. After all, the legislative branch inevitably will become irrelevant when it buys the Clinton administration's argument that it is "Premature" to discuss deployments of U. …

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