Should standing armies be illegal?

There’s no one on this continent who can threaten us because WE HAVE THE MOST POWERFUL MILITARY IN THE WORLD.

First of all, our military was not “minimal” prior to WWII. It just wasn’t the most powerful.

Secondly, you are missing the entire point that there was more or less a treaty in place prior to WWII effectively limiting the size of Germany’s military. They went ahead and built a huge one anyway and conquered most of Europe before anyone could “ramp up” to stop them. Had France and Poland had more modern and effective standing armies, WWII might not have happened and 60 million people would not have been killed.

But we no longer need to have the MOST POWERFUL (and expensive) MILITARY IN THE WORLD!!! I doubt that we have needed the size of our military since WWII.

The Cold War has been proven to one of the greatest bluffs ever pulled. The Russians never had near enough offensive capability. The nuclear shield was more than sufficient. That is they could blow us to smithereens, and thus ensuring there own demise through either counterattacks or nuclear winter. The Russians could never have invaded Western Europe successfully. Nor did they ever intend to. They only wanted to ensure that they were never invaded again; invasions which had devastated their nation twice already.

And our entire military was approx. 450,000 in 1940, less than .5% of the population. And considering the amount of territory they had to protect, it sounds pretty minimal to me.

Today, we currently have three standing armies and 12 carrier battle groups, not including their logistical support and other branches of the military. Can anyone state why we need as large a military as we currently have?

I have always found this picture disturbing also. Is this SOP for all the major powers? We are the only military with bases on every continent with the intent to deploy an entire division anywhere within 24-48 hours. How are we the good guys?

But this is not to pick on the US alone, only that we represent the current example of overpowering and unnecessary military strength. I don’t believe any nation should have the capabilities we currently have. I don’t want to worry about another arms race with China and Buddha-knows-who-else.

And by standing army, I mean the capability to project one’s military outside their own borders. And all defense forces have to justified and subject to impartial observation. Any build up can be stopped by any means necessary.

The 20th century demonstrated the dilemma too well. Everyone increases their military and we end up with WWI. No one increases their military except for one and we end up with WWII. Everyone here seems willing to risk another WWI to avoid another WWII. I hope my scenario can show a third way.

But the policies of appeasement that led to WWII have shown their folly and I doubt they will be repeated, though the current non-enforcement of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not give me hope.

And our own government’s respect for international law scares me even more. (How exactly are we supposed to argue for the enforcement of the above treaty now?)

The whole point is to make getting those funds and equipment illegal. Regarding ICBMs, this is another area where we lose any moral high ground. We can missiles than can strike anywhere on the planet, and enough to strike every major city, but Og forbid any else have the same capability? Those should have been made illegal long ago.

The high-tech nature of the modern military just shows me that we need less men, not more, and definitely not enough to occupy another nation. No one has that right, and I do not see how anyone has that need.

That’s interesting. You do know that the Lusitania was shipping munitions that were suppose to be used in the war effort and that the Germans posted warnings in several cities that the Lusitania was a target, right? It might have outraged many people but the ship was a legitimate target.

Who do you expect to enforce this law? This is the kind of pie-in-the-sky thinking that gives us things like the Kellogg-Briande Pact that just aren’t going to work in the real world.

How many lives might have been saved if the Soviet Union, France, England, and the United States had already been prepared to stop the Germans before they achieved anschluss, occupied the DMZ, or took the Sudentenland?

Military War Dead WWII
Soviet Union 13.5 million
China 7.4 million
Poland 6 million
Germany 4.6 million
Japan 1.2 million
Britain and Commonwealth 430,000
United States 220,000

Perhaps the lesson learned is that we need a military that can project enough force to put out the hot spots before they blow up. You don’t project power with a Swiss like military which I understand you to believe is a good thing. I just don’t see what stops the other guy from amassing a huge army while you maintain a militia.

Can you tell me what the world will be like in 50 years?

The other guys have them is valid enough I think.


The lesson we learned from WWI and WWII was that as one of the world’s major powers we cannot stay uninvolved in the worlds major military conflicts. We tried isolationism and it didn’t work.

Since then, our policy has been to attempt to issolate and control low level conflicts before they expand. The reason this roll fell to us is simply that there was no one else to do it.

Oh, it could work – if, by agreement, there were only one organization, e.g., the UN (or something similar, etc.), allowed to have a standing army.


And the lessons we learned since the fall of the Berlin Wall was the old saw “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” The global integration of national economies has created an entirely different power structure than before. And the primary cause of major military conflicts then was major standing armies. The primary cause of any political conflict is now more often about economic control, not political or territorial domination.

China is learning to play this new game extraordinarily well. Previously, if China invaded Taiwan, it would cost them to much money and power. The shoe may soon be on the other foot. If they launched an attack, any counterattack would decimated the global economy, not just Chinas.

In WWII, bombing factories in Germany meant bombing German factories (even if some had been built by or for multinational subsidaries.) Bombing factories in China now means bombing the world’s factories.

But I doubt China is in any hurry to grab Taiwan. History will play itself out, and Taiwan will ask to be let back in. Right now it is just sabre-rattling to justify the money and manpower wasted.

Demobilizing armies everywhere would force everyone to pursue diplomatic solutions, and heaven-forbid, compromises, instead of the Mexican standoffs prevalent.

If that has been our policy, then we have failed* miserably at it, and it might be time to start considering a new one. And if we want to control low level conflicts, then maybe we should STOP SELLING THEM GUNS, and showing them how to use them. Oh, I forgot, “if we don’t sell it to them, someone else will.” Then fucking let them. If our economy is so damned dependent on arms sales, then we royally fucked up somewhere along the way.

And the roll did not fall to us, we picked it up and ran. The whole point of creating the UN after WWII was for it to become the global police force. It was supposed to be the job of UN Peacekeepers to isolate and control conflicts, but we insisted on running the show.

I agree with you, and even then I hope it could be a transitional stage until even they are no longer needed. Unfortunately, I think the largest stumbling block right now is the United States more than anyone else. I think even China would rather invest in technology that might benefit the military, instead of the opposite, which is the US model, i.e. invest in the military that might benefit technology.

*Somalia, Yugoslavia, Liberia, Rwanda, Zaire, Sudan…

I’d dearly love to see some kind of proof that “the primary cause of major military conflicts then was major standing armies.”


Well, military bombing today is far different than it was in the 1940s. At any rate, China’s not the only place with factories providing stuff to the world.

China’s in a hurry to not let Taiwan declare itself independent of China. That’s part and parcel of the One Cina–Two Systems theory. Taiwan, on the other hand, has major political entities that seem to want the de facto case be recognized as de jure, if you will. And these are people who no longer seem to see themselves as having any realistic ties with mainland China.

And if one nation does not demilitarize? Then you have one nation which can run roughshod over the whole world.


Malarkey. The whole point of creating the United Nations after World War II was to have a diplomatic venue where nations could discuss their disagreements on the world stage. It was not created as a police force.

I grant that is part hyperbole, but why did Japan attack China and the US in WWII? They needed natural resources to feed their war machine. The Great War started for countless reasons, but once the orders for mobilization were given, there was no stopping it, and militarism in general created the status quo that enabled the war.

Before it would have cost China too much; now, or soon will, it will cost us too much. And while “China’s not the only place providing stuff”, I’d say it’s the most important place at the moment.

Taiwan also has major parties that want reunification. And every Taiwanese I’ve met still consider themselves culturally Chinese. The argument was mostly who was the legitimate government, not the territory itself. And, I have not seen any deadline issued by either side.

I doubt anyone expected to the PRC to take control of Hong Kong and Macao peacefully in the '50’s, or the peaceful reunification of Germany for that matter. Again, history will play itself out, so why try to force the issue.

I’ve addressed this point. Have one international force to monitor and enforce compliance, and every nation can still have defense forces. And right now there is one nation that can run roughshod near everywhere. It’s effectiveness as a conquering and occupying force is being tested severely at the moment also. Our world is too vast to be conquered by one nation. No nation has the resources to maintain that control.

From the UN Charter: Article 42
*Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations. * Being the police force was one of its roles. It definitely did not allow for the unilateral actions that the US has taken.

The United Nations did not when it was established and does not now have armed forces of its own. It has in the past requested member nations to deploy their own armed forces.

Now, exactly, where do you expect those trained armed forces to come from if there is no standing military?

The same place most of our military comes from - national guard and reserve units. Isn’t that the point behind the Army Reserve? To create citizen-soldiers and lessen the need for a standing army? So why not take it all the way? Maintain the institutional army, but demobilize the operational army.

Who monitors this international force and more importantly who is in direct control of the only military on Earth capable of projecting power? I seriously doubt China, France, Great Britan, Iran, or Russia are going to jump on the bandwagon and scrap their military in favor of an international military force they can’t control. What need would we have for a defensive force of any kind if standing armies were outlawed? What constitutes a standing army anyway? If I’ve got a core of officers and enlisted men who are career military that’s a standing army no matter which way you cut it.

I can just picture it now. Canada decides to build an aircraft carrier to patrol the north west passage (created by global warming) and the international police force tells them it’s in violation of the no standing army clause. Canada says “fuck off, we need this to protect our water ways so piss off” (they’ve become a lot less polite in the future) and the international police force decides t go into action. The United States, Great Britian, and France happen to like Canada a lot and prevent any efforts by the UN to punish Canada through economic sanctions and make it clear that none of their citizens will take part in any military campaigns against the Maple loving people of the Great White North. Pie in the sky fantasy certainly but what’s one more?

The UN is not a global protogovernment, because it includes just about every state in the world, including various totalitarian dictatorships.

It’s a good thing to have a forum where every country is recognized, and can attempt to hash out their differences regardless of whether one country is a liberal democracy and the other is a brutal theocratic nightmare straight from the imagination of George Orwell. The UN was created as a talking shop, pure and simple. This is why the great powers were given Security Council vetoes, because it was recognized that the great powers would just withdraw any time the UN tried to go against their interests. The Soviet Union certainly wasn’t going to allow the UN to dictate anything to them. The UN can only work when all great powers agree on a course of action. And the US, UK, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Australia, and such certainly aren’t going to roll over just because the Soviets mustered up some votes from a bunch of third world dictatorships.

No sane country would put itself under the power of a group of dictatorships. No sane country would give up its sovereignty to Burma, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Iran, and such. Neither will these countries allow any interference from the liberal democracies.

The UN was envisioned as a place where deadly enemies could negotiate with each other. To do otherwise means that we’d have to kick out the countries that don’t pass muster. And then we’d have to start a brand new talking shop where we could negotiate with our deadly enemies.

If you believe that global governence is a good thing, then fine. But the correct way to go about that is to encourage liberal democratic governments to create supranational agreements and treaties that they all agree to. Like NATO, the EU, NAFTA, the G8, and such.

Creating an EU military, and encouraging the member states to disband their national militaries in favor of the supranational EU military makes sense. Asking the US to disarm and make Burma and Sudan and Libya and Syria in a position to put a gun to our heads is crazy talk.

And your definition of a standing army as one that can project power beyond a nation’s borders is just as silly. Japan doesn’t have an army or navy, they have a “self defense force” that by law cannot be used aggressively. Except the self defense force is indistiguishable from a conventional army and navy, and any time the Japanese decide they’re up for Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere v2 the “self defense force” can turn into “invading horde” in a matter of minutes. What makes that impossible isn’t the structure of Japan’s military, what makes it impossible is that the Japanese people don’t want to invade anybody nowadays.

Costa Rica famously doesn’t have a military. Except they have a police force that fulfils the same function that the military does in neighboring poor Central American countries. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.

Where did I ever say that the UN was a global government, proto or otherwise? It is an umbrella organization for several agencies that do have governmental functions, but any authority it claims is limited to international affairs. And how does the fact that dictatorships are members decrease its authority? Does a corrupt senator invalidate Congress’ power?

It was not created to be only a talking shop. If its goal was only diplomacy, then why does it have UN peacekeepers? Why does it have a Security Council? Why would the UN ever bother issuing sanctions?

How is any of that relevant to the debate? Where did I state anyone had to give up sovereignty?

That is exactly what I am hoping for. How else would standing armies become illegal? Unless nations are willing to consider the possibility and begin negotiations, it will never happen. And do I honestly expect this to happen in my lifetime? Unfortunately no. Do I think that it will happen eventually? Yes. I do hope to see within my lifetime the knowledge that militarism is a dead end and has no place at the table of foreign relations.

I doubt anyone in the 1600’s ever considered that slavery would be abolished and made illegal either. But we are almost there. Someday in the future, our descendants will wonder how we tolerated so much warfare, the same way we question those that practiced slavery.


Huh? Police forces and military forces have completely different functions. The first group enforces the law, investigates crime, and other internal security functions. They do not maintain armored units, artillery, or safeguard national defense against external threats - that is the military’s role. Can you give a cite where any police force has a pure military role?

In reality, there are no UN Peacekeepers. They are simply soldiers from various countries that act under the flag of the UN and of their own country. If no country is willing to pony up its own soldiers, there are no peacekeepers.

Technically, that is correct. But the blue helmet and UN patch gives them a greater authority, and greater responsibility, than they would ever have on their own. And when the shits hits the fan, or scandals break out, it the UN that gets the blame, not the components troops. Either way, the UN was intended to have the overall responsibility, not the member states.

And who trains them? Oh, yes. That’s right. It’s the standing army; you know, the one you think shouldn’t exist.

Military police force with armored units…

That count?

Military police? Would that not be military?

The United States Coast Guard?