On War #131
August 24, 2005
By William S. Lind
[The views expressed in this article are those of Mr. Lind, writing in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the opinions or policy positions of the Free Congress Foundation, its officers, board or employees, or those of Kettle Creek Corporation.]
My two columns on the idea of a national militia as the best response to the Fourth Generation threat generated some responses that are worth thinking about. We will take a look at some of them here.
Let me first clarify one point: the militia we are talking about is a public, not a private militia. It is funded by government, and it reports to government (it is adcon to Congress and, unless mobilized, opcon to the county sheriff). Our working group thought it was important to keep the militia away from the federal executive branch as much as possible, because the executive branch will try either to destroy it or to turn it into a tool for Big Brother. But this militia is not just a bunch of guys running around in the woods. It is a state armed service, just like the four we now have — the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard.
Now, some responses:
Myke asks, “I assume that by reporting to Congress he means that the militias would become tools of their particular representatives … Isn’t this the very sign of state collapse that van Creveld warned us of?” Our working group never envisioned the militia reporting to their local Congressman. Unless mobilized, it would report to the county sheriff; if mobilized, to a state governor or a CINC. As to whether it might contribute to the decline of the state, that depends on what kind of state we envision. The militia does represent decentralization away from Washington. But I think America’s current over-centralization is itself a factor in the state’s crisis of legitimacy. Both here and generally, it seems to me that decentralization and citizen involvement may help restore legitimacy to the state.
Two readers, Marion and Herbert, asked whether the Swiss militia model might be relevant. The answer is clearly yes. Switzerland’s defense has been based on a militia for a very long time, and it has enabled Switzerland to preserve its neutrality, maintain its liberties and decentralized political system (real power lies at the cantonal, not the federal level of government) and keep its defense expenditures down. The Swiss militia is an ideal basis for defending Switzerland from 4GW. In fact, Switzerland already has an arrangement other countries will need to move to in a 4GW world: the regular armed services support the militia, instead of the other way around.
Keith asks, “Is Mr. Lind expecting the militia force he refers to, to replace existing 'standing armies?' … I could not imagine such a force being suitably equipped (or trained) for expeditionary warfare … how can we do without modern, professional armed forces?” Our working group, and some though not all others at Col. Wyly’s conference, saw the current armed forces as “legacy” forces. They represent a way of war that is passing, war between states. As we see in Iraq and Afghanistan, they do not succeed very well in Fourth Generation wars. We thought the first-line militia companies we envision would be better suited to 4GW, in large part because they would be trained to de-escalate confrontations, rather than call in F-18s to drop 2000 pound bombs in urban neighborhoods. The winding down of the legacy forces would come gradually, but the combination of their vast cost and declining utility means they are passing into history.
Dee noted that not all urban areas have sheriffs. If the militia there reported to the mayor, directly or through the police chief, they could become dangerously politicized. I agree. Does anyone know how many places lack sheriffs?
Thomas noted that in addition to the example of volunteer fire departments, we can point to three other militia-type organizations already in existence: the Civil Air Patrol, the Coast Guard Auxiliary and some state militias that remain separate from the National Guard. Karl pointed out that 10 U.S.C. 330 already provides legal authorization for an “Unorganized Militia” and a “Select Militia.” He notes, “This Code is still in effect, just ignored …” Nathan adds that since 1988, many counties have had “Local Emergency Planning Committees.” He adds, “The LEPCs could, by working with the sheriff (most do, closely, anyway today) be the coordinating catalyst to transform or spin off the militia companies.”
These are all useful questions or ideas. The militia concept still needs a lot of work if it is to become viable. And the larger question still remains: is a militia the best answer to the question of what kind of state armed service America needs to defend against Fourth Generation threats?
The difference between the people who wrote responses to my columns and Washington is that the former are thinking about that question.
Word document available upon request.
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