Utterances.net edited by Jalel Harchaoui.

12 December 2012

After Vietnam began the privatization of U.S. forces
The U.S. Army Uses Only Volunteers and Mercenaries
by Jalel Harchaoui.
As the Vietnam war became unpopular in the late 1960s, Don Rumsfeld championed a Milton Friedman idea. It was better to take the general population out of the war-effort equation.
The U.S. Army Uses Only Volunteers and Mercenaries

Yale's Skull and Bones member John F. Kerry.

The British Empire was mainly run using mercenaries. Throughout its colonial history, London made sure it never relied on draftees. Compared to the size of India, a small number of British troops were deployed on the ground. To hold India, money largely sufficed. Local forces were hired from one oppressed area, and paid to go slaughter people in some other oppressed area (no tribal-solidarity risk). This method involved Sikh mercenaries; Mughal sepoys; brigade of Gurkhas (Nepalese soldiers); etc. That is also how Britain subjugated Afghanistan and Africa. Britain and France (Légion Étrangère; Harki; etc.) understood that facet, too. South Africa’s bantustans were policed by Black troops, the Whites being the muscle in the background. Present-day Tel Aviv, to keep the indigenous population of the West Bank in check, makes use of Assad’s Alawite mercenaries (again, no serious tribal-sympathy risk there).

In the history of large-scale international aggression, reliance on civilian soldiers is rare. To carry out murderous, colonial violence, an imperial power cannot depend on civilian draftees. That is a mistake that Washington made in Vietnam. Conscripts have a tendency to be reluctant to perpetrate atrocities. Moreover, when they come back to the homeland, they interact with the remainder of the population, divulge their experiences, contribute to bolstering social consciousness and mobilization in opposition to bloodshed. As a result, in contrast vs. ‘good wars’ such as WWII, it is difficult for pro-crime leaders to keep their country’s taxpayers out of touch with reality when civilians are drafted. It is preferable to keep the citizens insulated from the violent endeavors they fund.

Anti-war mobilization emerged three and a half years after President Kennedy attacked South Vietnam[1]. The number of draftees soared as “significant action against North Vietnam” began in 1965. The draft became a public-relations headache. As opinion about Vietnam shifted, the general population’s discontent focused greatly on conscription. Then-Congressman Don Rumsfeld of Illinois joined 29 other Republican members of the House in a demand for a congressional investigation of the Selective Service. The pretext used by the Princeton alumnus was that ‘bumbling bureaucracy’ was making a mess of the conscription program. Obviously, the latter bothered Rumsfeld on another level: patriotism, the nobility of serving one’s country, etc., those considerations failed to apply when it came to a criminal war of aggression.

Useful ideology was provided by the economist Milton Friedman, America’s leading the-privileged-must-be-free-to-choose’thinker at the time. (In 1976, after Friedman worked with Chile’s U.S.-backed Neo-Nazi dictator Pinochet, the Chicagoan received the Nobel Prize for his work on money supply.)

In Dec. 1966, Rumsfeld was one of several members of Congress attending a conference at the University of Chicago. There, Friedman presented a passionate argument against conscription, appealing to the free-markets doctrine. Impressed, Rumsfeld joined with Representative Robert Kastenmeier of Wisconsin in calling publicly for the abolition of the Military Draft. Future wars of aggression would require ‘volunteers and mercenaries only’ armed services. Years later, in 2004, Rumsfeld would recall the moment and write that Friedman “was such an enthusiast for the all-volunteer force that it was contagious. Everyone there seized the issue, myself included” (foreword to the book The All-Volunteer Force, Brassey’s).

Friedman’s idea was implemented at the end of the Vietnam war. The U.S. Army ceased to be a citizens’ army then.

In most regards, Friedman’s idea worked. The volunteer-only system has given rise to a mercenary army of the poor in America. For obvious economic-incentive reasons, solely uneducated, in-financial-straits sectors of the population are attracted. The disadvantaged enroll primarily in order to collect the ~$40,000 sign-on bonus (the latter can be received up to twice by the same individual). Another victory is that much less sympathy, solidarity—or even civic concern—can now be elicited from the general population. That ‘We Morally Support Our Troops’ indifference on the part of the taxpayers facilitates Washington’s war-of-aggression policies. Why mobilize for the well-being of volunteers: they went voluntarily. After completion of their deployment tour, soldiers go back into military bases and, there, remain separated from society. For instance, within the Fort Hood, Texas, base alone, over 10 veterans are rumored to commit suicide every month. Overall, one veteran commits suicide every day. Such figures are ignored by the public at large. Also, under the volunteers-only system, the chances of a military person bringing back to their fellow-Americans estimates-facts-figures and face being court-martialed, are slimmer. Lastly, torture chambers such as Bagram and Guantánamo are protected from any contact with non-professional staffers. Similarly, the medical profession as a whole has been cooperative. The physicians who help administer torture do so voluntarily; their colleagues, out of esprit de corps, thoughtfully refrain from denouncing them. Very generally speaking, when a person feels that the task requested of them falls within the context of their professional career, they display a strong inclination for obedience and silence. Regardless of what that task might consist in. No one messes with their long-term livelihood.

Those are the positives reaped from the change instituted in 1975. Big Power can indulge in belligerent adventurism while maintaining better control over the population that pays for it.

The negatives, meanwhile, are deemed minor. They include quirks such as the following. United States soldiers and Blackwater-Academi-Xe mercenaries, when fired at simultaneously by the enemy, do not work or coordinate together. U.S. Army troops are cognizant of how much better Blackwater-Academi-Xe operatives’ salaries are, compared to theirs. These inefficiencies on the line of duty are not considered a major problem. For reasons of cost, U.S. Army personnel is always sent in harm’s way first anyway.

Now, whether the volunteers-only program has managed to produce a professional-killer army in the great British or French tradition yet, is still debatable. If it turns out that it has not, reliance on opaque mercenary corporations such as Blackwater-Academi-Xe will be increased.

~ Jalel Harchaoui.

[1] The campaign was making the newspapers’ headlines, and the vast majority of the general population approved of it then.