Should the US Army be stripped down to special forces and reserves?

Rather than hijack the thread on the Marine Corps further, I’ll put my thoughts here.

Sounds like Rummy Rumsfeld’s rummy ideas.

The fact is, even a vast reserve force is seen a vast exploitable force by those with dreams of empire.

What we ended up with in Iraq was trying to manage a foreign occupation with forces that were neither trained for nor recruited for that mission. Our reservists have jobs back home–some as police or firemen–that were left unstaffed for 18-month rotations, & the reservists then had to police a foreign country where they had no language nor vested interest. There were huge failures of mission, in that we ended up causing more civilian casualties than the tyrant we replaced.

If we’re throwing out cockamamie theories to discourage imperialism, it would make as much sense to outlaw both the reserves & conscription. That way a war dept. would have to work with what it had on hand, without thinking it had more manpower than it did.

What’s that you say? The war dept. would try to make its standing army as large as possible? What do you think it’s doing with the reserves now? Throwing missions onto the reserves wasn’t a clever way to discourage adventurism, it was at best an attempt to discourage rich chickens from avoiding overseas service in the reserves.

Well, that’s fine if all military operations are go in, break stuff, leave.

Only if all our international political ambitions are circumscribed sufficiently that such a small and operationally limited force would be sufficient to accomplish them. I still think a National Guard would be necessary, and perhaps a ready reserve of trained professional soldiers.

I personally think that would be an excellent plan. I have little confidence that our current power structure would even pretend to want such a thing.


Dear all

I think US Army should not be stripped down to special forces and reserves?

becuase so many job aspirants will not be happy with this decision, they won’t be more interested in this

It’s now very obv. a country that spends comfortably over 50% of the entire planet’s military budget still cannot control a population of 35 million (Vietnam 1960), 25 million (Iraq 2001) or even a population largely still in the Stone Age (Afghanistan).

If the occupied population don’t want you, there is nothing you can do - except bleed and keep looking for IEDs.

What size population can you control with a budget exceeding 50% of total military expenditure – Luxemburg, maybe?

Also, isn’t it really the case now that the real enemy of the people is within - that there really needs to be a ‘War on Corporations’; the terrorist’s bankers and money launderers, the institutional liars who claim a product is good for children when it isn’t, the culture of financial crime, of Enron scale abuses, of eccessive profiteering and cartels, of enviromental crimes … . and their lobbyist and political representatives.

These are the enemies of working people, imo - not some desperately poor family in Fallujah or Hellmand.

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Oh, I’m sure we could - we just aren’t willing to pay the price in casualties, pride and reputation. We keep trying to play Colonial Overlord without being willing to soak up the casualties or to indulge in the utterly ruthless behavior the old-time European imperialists did. If we killed off 90% or so of the population of Iraq and resettled the place with our own people like our ancestors would have, we could no doubt control the survivors or just finish the job of killing them. But if we did that, not even we could convince ourselves that we were the noble heroes riding to the rescue, and to say the least the international reaction would be extreme. For that matter we could just sit on the present population indefinitely - if we we willing to spend the resources and take the constant flow of casualties indefinitely; old time imperial powers kept control by staying there, they didn’t try to convince themselves that their conquests would love them and they could just conquer and leave.

Since we aren’t willing to do anything like that and aren’t willing to just turn to economic/political/diplomatic means of getting our way, we instead behave in a way best described as half-assed. We act too brutal and aggressive to win people to our side, but not ruthlessly & brutally enough to terrorize and slaughter them into submission like an effective tyrant or conqueror would. Instead we inflict just enough misery, suffering and death to enrage people and manufacture enemies.

Tell that to Fallujah.

Which was one city, and is an example of our tendency to do just enough to enrage people. As opposed to the genocidal conquest of the Native Americans, where nearly all of them were exterminated over time.

Good thread. I agree, mass armies are a thing of the past. That said, we ought to review the last 10 years, and learn some lessons.
Fat chance of THAT happening!

In many ways, it already is. Something like 50-60% of the combat battalions of the US Army are actually National Guard battalions, and ISTR that the noncombat units are even better represented in the Reserves and National Guard.

I think that the assumption that everyone who’s been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq is Regular Army is flawed- a lot of them (majority?) were National Guard and Reservists.

I think there’ll always be a need for a standing army of some sort outside of the Marines, since the Army and Marine missions are so different. The big question is really the ratio of Active to Reserve troops that we should have, and the mix of those troops.
It’s unlikely that there’ll be a day when there isn’t a tin-pot dictator somewhere who doesn’t need a beat-down, and we won’t be able to accomplish that in a timely fashion with light infantry and special ops forces. We’ll need heavy forces to do that, and relatively rapidly deployable heavy forces, and the National Guard doesn’t quite work like that.

Another thing to consider is that the National Guard is really a set of state forces that get brought into Federal service from time to time. You couldn’t really dismantle that system- the states would just raise their own militias anyway.

The lesson that the invasion of Iraq was a clusterfuck because there weren’t enough troops? The lesson that Afghanistan got out of control in part because the West had pitifully few troops there for most of a decade, which also had effects like letting Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora a decade ago because of insufficient ground forces?

If you’re saying that the lessons of the last 10 years lead you to the conclusion that armies are obsolete, I contend that you have learned the opposite lesson of pretty much anyone else who has thought about the question for ten minutes.

You cannot beat an idea, and the idea is to repel from the motherland the invader/the infidel - how many decades of this shit has the USA been though, and still you don’t get it: “Hell, lets throw more troops at it. That’ll work! They want to be like us really, they just don’t know it yet”

The smooth operation of our Armed Forces requires consistent and persistent training to achieve. The days when you can muster 100,000 men, stick a rifle in their hands and tell them to go attack those guys over there have been over for more than 100 years.

The operation of a complex organism like an Aircraft Carrier requires daily maintenance and training of skills. You can’t park the damned thing with a skeleton crew for a couple of years and then muster up 5,000 guys who have gotten a couple of weekends of training every year and expect the process to work - AT ALL.

Now I’ll leave out the debate about why we keep using our armed forces at the drop of every hat on the planet, that’s another thing entirely. I’m only addressing the idea that we can live off a small core of highly trained troops and then have ‘reserves’ for every other function.

That isn’t what I’m saying. I opposed the Iraq war from day one, but it doesn’t take a war supporter to point out that the whole invasion was screwed up because there weren’t enough troops. The idea that the 2003 invasion is a model for our military strategy is obscene. Whether a particular war is morally justified or not is a completely separate topic.

Perhaps this (re) raises an interesting idea; we know that democracies don’t wage war on democracies (so far!) - even if that might be a function of free markets in conjunction with democracy (imo), but how about the limits on democracies waging war against non-democracies … The USA is the first empire of the universal suffrage age - so, for example, would WW1 have carried on in its obscene form had all or either side have enjoyed universal suffrage in 1914 …

Perhaps the willingness (or not) of a population enjoying universal suffrage to war deaths defines the ambitions of the war leaders. I presume that’s why we’re headed to the privatisation of war …

Democracies do wage war on democracies. India/Pakistan and Turkey/Cyprus, for example. They just do it less often.

You’re well named.