The War is Over - No Country Needs a Military Presence Anymore

For some unspecified reason, all the countries in the world have agreed to a non-aggression pact and to run down all of their militaries.

Obviously, it’s not going to happen overnight - let’s say a decade to close down the Army, Airforce and Navy, and to stop building the hardware they use. For smaller countries, it would not be too difficult, but the Big players would have a hard problem: What to do with all the people and how best to redirect the money.

In the USA, it would mean $700billion less to spend, but potentially a couple of million redundant service personnel and ancillary workers.

What would be the best way to approach the problem?

Lost thread from 1992?

The word “problem” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. This would be the single most wonderful event in human history and world wealth would surge.

Uniformed service people don’t have to be laid off immediately; it’d take years to wind things down and many people could simply take on roles in civil defense. Imagine the benefits of just turning one or two Army or Marine divisions into a natural disaster task force.

Your scenario also only refers to “countries,” so I’m assuming there is still a need for the Coast Guard, some Navy assets to deter piracy, and stuff like that.

Certainly, police would be needed, and maybe some kind of militia to deal with serious civil unrest. When It comes to pirates, like the ones off Somalia, I suspect that some of the military budgets could be diverted to find a solution to the causes, rather than simple deterrent.

Keep as many of those people in service as possible, and turn them to public works projects. So there will be less of a savings (only 60%, if my maths is right), as they’ll still want paying, but their labour could be turned to the public good - clearing alien vegetation in national parks, fixing levees and rehabilitating barrier islands on the coast, building roads and public housing nationwide. And that’s just the brute manual labour aspect, quite a lot of those people have skills that could be put to use, like drivers and pilots and the like - much better rescue service coverage nationwide, that kind of thing.

Military personnel aren’t really trained in the skills needed for many public works projects. You’d be trying to put a square peg in a round hole. They should be using their skills in the private sector and separate organizations created and staffed for public works. The new WPA wouldn’t do very well with career military.

They should be employed beating swords into plowshares and merging lion cages with lamb pens.

I’d imagine that some portion of the world’s navies would still be required for stuff like piracy suppression (historically always a major mission for navies, FWIW), but that might be a handful of destroyers or frigates from each nation at most.

A few other assets like aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, etc… might be repurposed as disaster assistance ships- something like an amphibious transport dock (LPD - San Antonio class) might be a fantastic option- it’s got space for helicopters AND hovercraft, as well as a lot of hold space for heavy equipment and/or supplies. Keeping 3-4 of those around and stationed around the world might go a long way toward mitigating a lot of disasters.

In addition, militaries, especially the US military, have a LOT of field logistical capability that would be folly to just draw down. It’s the rare organization that has the ability to supply a force of tens, if not thousands of people thousands of miles away to fight a war for an unspecified period. Again, that could be a real asset for humanitarian purposes.

I would think that we could use the US national guard internal deployments as a guide as to what’s actually useful and effective as far as types of troops and what they’d need to do. In fact, maybe keep the national guard around for that purpose, and get rid of most of the active-duty component, except the naval ones.

This alone probably wouldn’t be sufficient to cause every country to decide to not have a military anymore. You’d need to get non-state actors to also decide they were going to go the non-violent route, as well as ensure that every nation on the planet would be good with their current borders with zero change going forward.

The non-state actors alone would preclude just getting rid of your entire military.

I don’t think that would be the major issue (I think the major issue would be justifying no military based on what you are saying here…there would have to be a lot more to it than simply a non-aggression pact). You are saying this wouldn’t happen overnight, but over a decade or more. So, that’s plenty of time for countries to wind down their military if they wanted to. The US could probably mothball most of its assets and basically, stop bringing in recruits and stop offering re-enlistments and drawdown just about everything in that time frame…assuming that we’d want to do that completely…and that we trust several other countries to actually do this (and they trust us to do it as well).

If you did it over a decade or so it wouldn’t be all that painful. You would really just stop recruiting so that would shut off new recruits coming into the pipeline at that end, then stop re-enlistments (or start with simply not having a bonus to re-enlist…which would draw down quite a few people right there). While you had the people still in the military you’d essentially mothball the equipment. If you REALLY wanted to ensure you would never have a military again I suppose you could try and scrap it all, or sell it all to private industry to dispose of.

Digging trenches and pulling up weeds? The kind of public works projects I’m most familiar with take a couple of days of training, a week at the most.

Are we to take the OP hypothetical to mean that human nature has fundamentally changed? In that case, divert all that military spending into education, healthcare, etc.

Or is it merely a tense, fraught-with-distrust-and-suspicion non-aggression pact? Sorry then, but a war is inevitable sooner or later. Some aggressor is going to see this as a prime opportunity to secretly re-arm and launch an attack on someone else. It’s vaguely akin to how Nazi Germany was furiously re-arming up again in secret prior to WWII, in violation of post-WWI rules.

It would have to be a fundamental change…and across the board. Not only would every nation-state need to fundamentally change, but all of the non-state actors and individuals would as well. Just as an example, you have groups like AQ and ISIS who are not part of any state yet wield real military power. They would have to stop. Then you’d need the various high-powered drug gangs to equally go non-violent, as in many South and Central American countries these actors often have parity wrt military power to the country they reside in…and in some cases, they are multi-national entities. Then you have the dispute between the CCP and Taiwan. Taiwan isn’t a formal and recognized nation-state. the CCP thinks that they are a breakaway province. The people of Taiwan do not want to be under the CCP’s governance So, how would such a situation be resolved wrt the OP? Does Taiwan give up its military as well as the CCP, and the dispute just goes away? And there are tons of other examples similar to this throughout the world. Border disputes abound. There are countries that currently occupy territory claimed by other countries. Israel springs to mind.

So, in order for every nation to get rid of its military, there would have to be a fundamental shift in human nature and on several different levels. Otherwise, it would just be the status quo.

Yes, a fundamental change,

Simply saying “divert all that military spending into education, healthcare, etc.” won’t do. Thousands of skilled and semi-skilled people would have no employment within their skill set. There would need to be a huge program to resettle these displaced workers

I don’t see that as a big issue, to be honest. Unless you were going to try and do this tomorrow (i.e. tell the military tonight that as of tomorrow we are closed for business), it shouldn’t be a major issue to transition things to non-military. Several posters have given possibilities for this, especially if we assume this is something that will happen gradually over the years and decades. Simply stop recruiting and start limiting re-enlistments and you are going to draw down on personnel. You could also change training for those already in the pipeline to non-military tasks that might be needed. This could also have the effect of drawing down on personnel.

The real long-term issue I see is, if you don’t transition your military to some other task you are going to have more young people who won’t have an option for what to do with their early lives to gain some training, experience, and such. That is something that would need to be seriously looked at going forward as it would be removing options from future young people wrt getting early experience and training as well as 3 hots and a cot and something to do.

I’d probably suggest a multi-pronged approach. Assuming a fundamental change in human nature / international society that indicates this is going to be a ‘fixed’ solution, but that non-governmental operators could still be a threat I’d start with

  1. As others suggested, stop re-enlistment bonus, and active recruiting, although I’d allow a vastly reduced enlistment option, say one office per million population, as I do envision a usage for a changed military.

  2. Transition 10% or so of the pre-War military (personnel and assets) to a permanent federal level nation-guard organization. Although I’d probably disproportionally favor non-combat MOS in favor of engineers and logistics. They’d be more easily customized for support for wildfires/flooding/etc for natural disasters, but with sufficient military force to otherwise deal with smaller scale national issues on borders and like (including humanitarian ones).

  3. In a world where the Non-government threats remain potent but national aggression is gone, time to give the UN some teeth, so suggest that the UN (with increased funding) can create it’s own military force for such purposes, and offer no-penalty transitions from the US military to the UN military. This will give at least some outlet for the combat trained and/or more aggressive elements to find a safe and legal outlet. I’d suggest a change in UN funding to balanced in part by contributions of a material nature - making use of a good portion of the military equipment we’d otherwise be mothballing.

  4. During the ‘turn down’ of a decade or so per the OP, use the money saved from defense procurement and research (keep the funding for pay/benefits/etc safe in the meantime) to maximize job training opportunities for those in the military interested in transitioning back to civilian life. A large portion of funds as the draw down continues is also going to be needed to rehabilitate and repurpose (or sell) local military bases, many of which have major environmental toxins that are going to take a large amount of time and $$$ to fix. Which will probably be the main non-emergency role of my Federal Guard for the next decade.

It’s not like this sort of thing hasn’t happened before. Allied nations had huge military wind-downs after 1945, on scales that they would not begin to approach today. They managed.

Except the vast majority of non-combat troops - something like 80% of all military personnel - have easily transferrable skill sets. The military is a large organization that in most ways is very similar to any other large company. It’s made out of drivers, mechanics, stockroom workers, clerks, cooks, electricians, computer techs, social workers, personal trainers, teachers, janitors… it’s only the combat troops that may have a problem finding new jobs, and I’m sure that the brave new world will still have need for people working security.

I suppose you could fold the Army Corps of Engineers into the already vast Dept of Agriculture, since that’s whose interest they mainly serve in the US west. As it gets drier out there, expect to see more of them.

Thirty years ago, my wife would go a mile under the Waianae range each night on Oahu and monitor chatter on the Indian/Chinese/Pakistan borders. Two years ago a coworker in the Air Force Reserve left for a month to go down the same tunnel to monitor malware pirates.

Only the dead have seen the end of war, but the living get to see the battlefields evolve.

Having thousands of bored trained killers running around is going to cause trouble unless you pour a lot of resources into mental health services.

There’s plenty of people available to do that. The folks in the military are much better trained and have more valuable skills. Besides, the WPA which was active during the Depression didn’t employ people mainly to dig trenches and pull up weeds. There were large, detailed construction projects, that involved 1000’s of workers each. There were art, music, theater and writing projects as well.

If all you want is people to pull weeds, there’s no need to repurpose the military. If you want to do significant construction and arts project, the military probably isn’t the right organization to repurpose.