Already Seen – Déjà Vu

Spring in the desert is invigorating.  A flood of flowers push up through rocks and sand to

Spring in the Sonoran Desert.

Spring in the Sonoran Desert.

provide a pink, red, purple, yellow, white and blue mosaic.  Critters by the thousands wake-up, get-up, and show-up or fly-in along migration routes.  Every living thing from birds to snakes dons new beautiful coats to commemorate the occasion.  The random noises of mating calls adds to the sights and smells of spring to fill the rest of the available space.

We, too, are participating in that time-honored spring ritual of moving.  Thinking and writing have been a challenge stuck in

Also Spring in the Sonoran Desert.

Also Spring in the Sonoran Desert.

among the packing and myriad decisions of the ‘move-the-household’ landscape.  Oh how I long for those government contracting days when moving meant setting up an appointment with the movers and walking away.  Instead the backbreaking labor of the move is all ours.  Now the POD is off to storage, the packing semi-completed, and the immediate decisions made (we will not be following the wildflowers up the Rockies as I hoped).

The spouse went to Florida to identify and secure a new base of operations, the boys are visiting friends and blowing off steam in Biosphere 2, Tucson’s Botanical Gardens, and various museums, and the cat is dreaming cat-dreams buried in a basket full of folded, clean laundry.  Now there is a respite; a time to reflect and think.  During these times I always return to the same question. Why do I write this blog?  A friend, Bill Casey who with his partner developed ELG, a premier leadership academy, originally asked me the question. When I responded, he said, “No, why do you really do it?”  Continue reading

The Cold War Oxymoron

Why did the Cold War (1947-1991) unfold? Wars are declared by states for one reason or another; self-protection, resources, or territorial expansion are a few of the reasons.  To fight

Cold War Exhibit Entry. The Ford Library

Cold War Exhibit Entry. The Ford Library

a war, however, a nation’s people must be inflamed and rallied around a noble cause, else the people required to fight the war might have to be chained in place.  WWII was declared in the West when Germany and Russia invaded Poland in 1939 and, in the Pacific, when the Empire of Japan invaded the Republic of China in 1937.  Democracy and the Western way-of-life was the noble idea in the U.S., but in Western Europe and Great Britain, the noble cause was protecting the physical shores or recapturing one’s country. WWI was declared following the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo, Bosnia by the ‘Black Hand’, a Serbian secret society. The noble idea was national pride.

The preceding is gross oversimplification.  To be sure, the learned have written volumes on each war throughout known history. And each tome was penned through the author’s particular analytical lens.  Every scholarly argument as to why and how a particular war began is stated, properly supported, and documented. However, if the observer is far enough away, the date of the war and the mechanism by which governments mobilize the citizenry to fight and die in it, are fairly discrete and unpretentious. On the receiving side mobilizing the citizenry is very simple; they fight to defend themselves or their culture from a perceived threat, or to help a friend do it. The Cold War, however, does not reduce to a reason and a noble idea. It is vexing.

The Cold War more closely resembles an economic construct; some weird and wonderful 6a00e551f080038834017d40ff1fa7970cKeynesian cycle whose bubble finally burst in 1991, when President Clinton declared the Cold War over. A British economist, civil servant, director of the British Eugenics Society, director of the Bank of England, part of the Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals, et cetera, John Maynard Keynes, is one of the founders of modern macroeconomics, and he greatly influenced the economic policies of western governments. Developed during the 1930s, Keynesian economics is a theory promoting government intervention in the marketplace and monetary policy as the best way to warrant economic growth and stability as well as level out the ‘boom and bust’ cycles[1].  In the U.S. in 2007, the intervention first by the Bush administration and continuing through the Obama administration to save the ‘too-big-to-fail’ companies through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, TARP, and the Federal Reserve’s $80 billion a month bond buying program are direct applications of Keynes’ theory.

Keynes theories were 180 degrees juxtaposed from the classical (or neo-classical) liberal economists who argued for a free market with the role of government being very small andHayek confined. Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, two such economists, argued that government should be as small as possible in order to allow the exercise of individual freedom. They maintained that free markets would, in the short to medium term, automatically provide full employment, as long as workers were flexible in their wage demands. Not surprisingly, almost all governments adopting or adapting Keynesian policy recommendations versus the classical liberal approach have resulted in the crony capitalism that is destroying personal freedom and the marketplace in today’s world.  For the record, my bias is to the classical liberal.  Continue reading

The Cold War Warrior – Evolution

April Fools’ Day 2013 marked the beginning of an adventure with the launch of the Cold War Warrior blog.   Spurred on by my oldest and best-loved friend, who believed others would

And the beat goes on...

And the beat goes on…

enjoy my tales, I delved into the Internet and found a detailed ‘how-to’ blog manual and began to learn.  Armed only with a deep conviction that the legacy of the Cold War was the world we live with today, and an untold admiration of the warriors of all shapes and that toiled in that 66-year mist, the writing began.  There was no business plan, goal, or path, only tales to tell by people ‘privileged’ to dance on the Cold War stage.  The Cold War, you see, was not cold and it is not over.   The beat goes on.

Although there were no expectations as to number of readers, I was hoping for hundreds.  The 160,000 page views to date blow my mind and provide wind under my story-telling wings.   My profound thanks for taking the time to read and comment!   You keep me going.   Maturing the disciplines of research, analyzing, writing and honing my craft has been and continues to be exciting, and only progressed through the forbearance of long-time colleagues and friends.  The Cold War Warrior quest has been every bit as exciting as The Hobbit’s adventure.   It has been an honor to include some wonderful writers; Steve Traywick, John Malch, Gus Myers, and Dan Jackson.  Thank you for your stories.  I am looking forward to reading more and watching the cabal grow over the next year!

The support the Cold War Warrior blog has received from many others is an adventure unto itself.  If you follow the links, I believe you will enjoy these resources as much as I have.

FULL SPECTRUM DOMINANCE

Full Spectrum Dominance is a news docking station, which follows the geopolitical winds of globe3d-puzzlechange.  The site is updated throughout the day.  Checking in with this site regularly will keep a body in tune with the rhythms of change in a volatile world.  The site is, generally, three to five days ahead of most other media.  The webmaster, has been very supportive of the Cold War Warrior blog; directly and through continuing dialog and discussion.  It’s impressive how inclusive folks on the Internet are.  The ‘Net’ is still a forum of individual liberty and voluntary action.  Refreshing!

EXPLORER’S FOUNDATION

Founder, Leif Smith, is an advocate of freeorder.  He describes freeorder as one word, made by welding together free and order. Explorers Foundation uses freeorder to state our

I see freeorder lighting hope through interesting patterns around the globe.

I see freeorder lighting hope through interesting patterns around the globe.

conviction that orders arising from freedom work best for people intent on using their full powers of imagination, reason, and action in pursuit of their own happiness, and in service to people and things they love.  The Explorer’s Foundation has supported numerous feeorder projects including the James C. Bennett & Michael J. Lotus book, America 3.0 released by Encounter Books, May 2013.   The Explorers Foundation has assembled an impressive library of Glyphs that represent freeorder in the world around us; they are a terrific resource.

Leif Smith and the people he brings to freeorder forges are amazing.  He has read and commented on many of my pieces of purple prose.  Sometimes, his belief in me bridges the ‘abandon hope all ye who enter here’ gorge that I can dive into on occasion.

America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century—Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come

This is a book whose authors, James C. Bennett and Michael Lotus, offer hope in a turbulent sea of geopolitical unrest.  It helped place the Cold War Legacy in perspective for a hopeful future.  Before their December interview with John B. Wells, I wrote:

Some decades ago, the U.S. marked a sea change of ideas. I write about the legacy of the Cold War because I lived it and, right or wrong, contributed to its propagation.  The Cold War was the implementation of the ideas perpetrated during the time that Bennett and Lotus call America 2.0.  The ideas and their implementation have led the American people down a garden path of debt, socialism, massive central government, a standing military, loss of individual rights, and entitlement.  They have achieved what Frédéric Bastiat described as a Complete Perversion of The Law in the late 1840s:

The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense.

There is a restlessness, an uneasiness among the population that is palpable.  The federal government’s response has been one of fear.  The government gets more abusive as it becomes increasingly fearful.  The tide will change. The people will rebel at the ballot box and in the picket line but then what? What is the plan?  Voices decry the current situation but few offer solutions.  America 3.0 is the right idea presented at the right time. 

EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP GROUP, INC.

Having spent years within the military-industrial complex working for a select group of companies, I could write a book about management by insanity.  Do not misconstrue this to mean that I did not completely enjoy my journey, because I had a great time.  What success I had was because of my open, agile, management style.  The teams that I had the privilege to support grew out of bloody, fragmented arenas. They became sustained, high performance teams that returned excellent profits to our employers.  It was my little niche and I thought I was pretty much alone.  Little did I know that very smart people were way ahead of me.

Bill Casey and Wendy Peck run what I consider to be a dream company.  From their website:

        • We do what we do because we love it. We’re not gutting it out until retirement. We think we’re making the world a better place, and we find it exciting to solve organizational problems such as:
      • Getting a senior team on the same page, so they can cooperate with each other and all move in the same direction. (This is one of our favorites.)
      • Designing end-to-end processes that ensure high efficiency and maximum value delivery.
      • Obtaining “ground truth” on challenges and opportunities in order to effectively inform strategic change while building buy-in for achieving desired results.
      • Engineering collaborative problem solving and innovation among organizations experiencing tensions, which may be “natural tensions” or otherwise.
      • Designing education and training curricula, so that new skill sets (a) respond to the organization’s needs, and (b) actually show up on the job. (We also deliver executive education on a variety of leadership topics.) This includes everything from project management to strategic thinking.
      • Designing organizations. This includes installing matrix organization structures (yes, they do work, if set up properly), usually with the goal of ensuring that subject matter experts get the care and feeding they need from über-experts, while working for other leaders who are trying to get work done that requires different types of expertise.

Bill Casey has, from time-to-time, constructively commented on one thing or another I have written.  Without knowing it, he’s provided just the right words at just the right time to keep me going.  One of his best questions was “Why are you doing this?”  Someday I intend to seek them out to say thanks.

GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVES

This is one of my most frequent and first go-to site for the research I do.  I love all of their sites, which include Unredacted and the Nuclear Vault.  On February 3, 2014, Julia Blase wrote about a service I did not even know existed:

First off, did you know that the Archive not only collects documents received from the government via FOIA and MDR request, but also accepts archival donations from analysts and researchers in the foreign policy field? The Archive has around 4,400 boxes of archival items, stored off-site, most of which can be accessed by researcher request for viewing in the on-site reading room. I found it difficult to link to the catalog search from the Archive’s webpage, but can tell you how to do it via the George Washington University Gelman library webpage: from the landing page, go to the “Research” tab on the top left of the navigation bar. When you hold the pointer over this tab, you’ll see a list appear; click on the “Classic Catalog” option. This link takes you to the WRLC research page. In the search box, type “National Security Archive,” change “keyword” to “author name,” and hit search. The corporate name, National Security Archive, will appear at the top of your search results with a hyperlinked number next to it. Click on that number and you’ll see all of their physical collections. Or, for now, just click here! [ed note: Julia’s working to help us get these collections displayed more prominently!] 

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE)

I visit FEE probably ten times a week, reading, learning and researching the Cold War Legacy issues buzzing in today’s world.  “FEE, one of the oldest free-market organizations in the United States, was founded in 1946 by Leonard E. Read to study and advance the freedom philosophy.”  Some months ago, the old Cold War Warrior was thrilled and honored to win the Thorpe-Freeman Blog Contest for The Borg Generation.

AN OPEN INVITATION

Research for the Cold War Warrior takes place all over the U.S. and abroad.  It occurs in the form of personal interviews, presidential libraries, the Library of Congress, government departmental archives, and site visits.  In 2014, I look forward to visiting at least the Redstone Arsenal, Savannah River, several NASA sites in the southeast, and Warner Robbins AFB.   History lives through us all. Please accept this as an invitation to contribute to the conversation with a story or a post.  Together we can save the planet and solve its problems, one person and one issue at a time.

The Monster Meetings of 1968

Monster meeting is a quaint, old-fashioned term describing protests and demonstrationsprotest_monster_meeting and 1968 was a vintage year.  Lately I’ve been thinking about the incredible impacts of the 1968 demonstrations and musing about my time in Australia where I spent that fateful year.  Maybe it was the January 30th anniversary of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam or, perhaps, it was the recently released National Security Archive cautionary tale of the Tlatelolco Massacre before the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico.[1]   Mostly, however, it is the recent homeschool-driven, in-depth study of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,[2] which protects the right of ‘people peaceably to assemble’.  Around today’s world, including in the U.S. where the citizen’s rights are supposed to be protected, demonstrations by the people are being met with terrible violence.  In Australia, a bastion of several great experiments in democracy, at least one politician wants to “place the power to decide what is ‘legitimate protest’ in the hands of police”.[3]  Monster meetings are important catalysts of change.  They spark fierce debates that tear at a country’s soul and may change its direction for better or worse.  If proof is required, the protests of 1968 stand now in mute testimony.

Forty-six years ago (January, 1968), I was sweating in a blue bungalow in a new housing tract Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt with US President Lyndon Johnson.in Adelaide, South Australia reflecting on my immigration adventure and contemplating a beach day, when news of the Tet offensive in Vietnam flashed across the airwaves and through the radio to which I was half-listening.  Vietnam seemed much closer in Adelaide; just an island’s hop, skip and jump away.  Australia’s political and military establishments supported the U.S., but lately its people were beginning to rebel.  I recalled the late Prime Minister Harold Holt’s battle cry, ‘All the way with LBJ’, and now wondered how this latest escalation would sit with Australians.  The month before, December 1967, Harold Holt had apparently drowned while swimming and Australia was in a political uproar.  Conspiracy theories surrounding his death were spawning like mushroom spore and growing in the same medium.  Australia’s political system was in turmoil as each political persuasion posited its ideas for Holt’s replacement and the newspapers were experiencing a windfall of storylines.

I immigrated to Australia from Africa for £ 10, and when I arrived in Sydney the government sent me to Adelaide, South Australia.  There I joined thousands of other immigrants from

Advertisement for Australian immigration

Advertisement for Australian immigration

England, the Ukraine, Europe and Colonial Africa.  Times were tough in the 1968 Australian trenches.  A disagreement between Holt’s Liberal government and the agricultural community had driven produce prices through the roof and the legacy was a terrible inflation.  During this period, my neighbors and I paid $1.00 (Australian) for a potato and shared the cost of inexpensive cuts of mutton to feed our families.  I do hope I never have to eat mutton again.   Meeting the challenges of daily life in Adelaide was not without its rewards, however.  We were a collection of immigrants who brought our recipes and our cultures to the neighborhood table.  Somehow there was always plenty of red wine and laughter, while we chased our neighbor’s escape-artist wallaby or took turns buying the local newspaper for a community read.  Maybe in Sydney, they would protest, but in Adelaide the game of survival was being played in earnest.

Continue reading

Cold War Economics – That Demmed, Elusive Pimpernel

As chief spy-catcher Chauvelin chased that demmed,[1] elusive Scarlet Pimpernel to no availThe Scarlet Pimpernel Book Club 20116 in 1793, I have gone to great lengths to understand the legacy of Cold War Economics.  Until recently, Chauvelin and I were vying for first place in the ‘we-don’t-get-it’ category.  That “Aha” moment was not accompanied by a drumroll or lightning bolt, it quietly unfolded in Peter J. Boettke’s The Mystery of the Mundane  in the November issue of The Freeman Magazine.  In Boettke’s words, I was outfitted with the right lens to be amazed by the mystery of the mundane.

Cold War economics in the U.S. was a coup d’état played out over sixty years in slow motion.

Lieutenant General Walter Krueger, Commanding General, U.S. Sixth Army (left), General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Allied Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, and General George C. Marshall,  Chief of Staff, U.S. Army (right)  At a field headquarters in the Southwest Pacific Area, late 1943. (Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Photo #: SC 183951)

Lieutenant General Walter Krueger, Commanding General, U.S. Sixth Army (left), General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Allied Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, and General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army (right) At a field headquarters in the Southwest Pacific Area, late 1943. (Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Photo #: SC 183951)

The government toppled the people.  Using a cycle of fear and legislation, the federal government consolidated power in an ever increasing spiral over time.  General Douglas MacArthur, in his book A Soldier Speaks, said it best, “Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear—kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor—with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.”

Robert Higgs’ research article, The Cold War Economy; Opportunity Costs, Ideology, and the Politics of Crisis published in 1994 illustrates how the Cold War forever changed the cost and use of the military.  Higgs states that:

“Before World War II the allocation of resources to military purposes remained at token levels, typically no more than one percent of GNP, except during actual warfare, which occurred infrequently. Wartime and peacetime were distinct, and during peacetime—that is, nearly all the time—the societal opportunity cost of “guns” was nearly nil. The old regime ended in 1939. The massive mobilization of the early 1940s drove the military share of GNP to more than 41 percent at its peak in 1943-44.   Despite an enormous demobilization after 1944, the military sector in 1947, at the postwar trough, still accounted for 4.3 percent of GNP, three times the 1939 share.” Continue reading

Hummingbirds and Life as We Know It

The dawn’s humid air pressed down on all living beings; its vice-like grip intensifying in the

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

heat of the rising sun this morning. With dew points in the seventies, the ‘dry’ heat of the southwestern deserts fades into mythology. Irrespective of the weather, I insist on witnessing each rising sun so at 0500 hours I hauled my body and a mug of coffee to the yard. The morning ritual at the hummingbird feeder reminds me of a Keystone Cops slapstick comedy filmed with a flickering 8-mm camera or a miniature WWII era dogfight; hummingbirds make me laugh out loud. No matter the number of feeding stations, the battles for control proceed unabated. Blackchins, Broadbills, Anas, Costas, Lucifers, and Rufus are just a few of the hummers we support along the north-south migration route between Canada and Mexico.

While calculating the number of decades we’ve been feeding these wee, feisty, fighting fools, I wonder if they are all related to the original individuals who tentatively showed up when we began our journey here in the southwest about thirty five years ago. A little over twenty map-buenos-aires01years ago the Nature Conservancy purchased more than 500,000 acres of land adjoining our puny holdings. The Nature Conservancy[1] used donated funds from the American people to procure the land then sold the land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that paid for it with funds received from American taxpayers.  The bonus was that the Nature Conservancy made a tidy profit. In short, the American taxpayer paid twice for the same hunk of ground.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tore down the ranches, eliminated the stock tanks, and, in general, reduced the life-giving surface water available all critters. The hummingbirds, which for generations had migrated over this land, suddenly were without watering holes and the oases that grew up around them. Migrating hummingbirds found themselves dependent on humans that hung feeders in trees. No longer a treat, the humans’ faux flower nectar became a way of life. Does this sound familiar?

Historically, the story of the U.S. citizens’ metamorphosis from fiercely independent individualists to prize-winning, pet cash cows began shortly after the formation of the country. Until the New Deal[2] in the 1930s, however, it was a pitched battle. Those who

The New Deal

The New Deal

longed for liberty, accountability and independence vigorously fought those who felt the masses were somehow inferior beings that, not understanding the basics of life, required guidance. The Great Depression handed the advantage to the progressives. The people needed saving whether they wanted it or not. The Supreme Court was realigned to support the executive branch with a reinterpreted ‘living’ Constitution and the legislation began to flow. At this point let us not forget to include the crony capitalists. They vied, wielding donations and influence, for the lucrative jobs of milking, feeding, cleaning up after, and slaughtering the pet cash cows.

The progressives’ New Deal melted into fear induced by the escalating Cold War (1947-1991), which was re-energized by the surreal events that unfolded after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. So many generations have passed that the citizens have become accustomed to the new way of living. History, economics, ethics, and the humanities were dropped from the education system. The context of the American dream was lost. Victims were identified, raised up, and placed on pedestals for victimhood worship. Hispanics, blacks, poor, addicted, teased/bullied, and, the latest, Muslims were taught to blame rather than strive. Modeling on the Cold War, the federal government invented a new definition for diversity and declared wars on hunger, poverty and drugs. Trillions were and are being spent on these federal rice bowls with little gain. Meanwhile, the pet cash cows mill quietly and without complaint in the feed lots. They receive their grooming, watering, food and safety with gratitude as they wait for the cattle trucks to take the next batch to slaughter for the good of the herd.

Me, I love the hummingbirds. These are the people who cast off the cloaks that label them. Pride and exhilaration surge through my veins as they raise their voices and express their self-taught philosophies in a rising chorus for liberty. Brightly colored bits of beauty in motion, they course across the fields of life in search of their own flowers. Their voices are diverse but their music rings through the spheres of our universe. These hummingbirds argue and battle with agility and skill but, in the end, they strive for the same objectives; liberty, life, and property.[3] Their song, demanding respect for the law that protects these natural rights, is not discordant; it is not a cacophony. It is a symphony of hope.

To many, the trend is leading inevitably to the next ‘revolution’ or complete turn. The first revolution turned the world. It was the declaration that man, by virtue of being a homo sapien, was born with the natural right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (the right to use his faculties to produce products from the resources at hand). No longer, said the founding brothers, was there a ‘better’ class of person that could rule the sub-human masses fit only to serve. The founding brothers felt that governments did well when laws protected these natural rights and did poorly when they did not. As a result of the first turn, the U.S. sprang from nothing to lead the world in less than 200 years.

The next turn reinstates a ruling class that believes it is an evolutionary step above mere mortals. This superior class of human knows best and regulates it undaunted by its history of failure. The superior ruling class know what you should eat, how you should use your land, how to raise and educate your children, what supplements you should take, and with whom and how you should be communicating. Granted, the assault is strong and from many directions but all is not lost.

The U.S. has been to the brink of self-destruction before. Great leaders rose before the onslaught and turned the tide. Were the great tide-turners unique, one-off leaders or were they the tip of a spear backed by the lashings and a strong cane of ideas generated by a multitude raising a hue and cry?  The longer I live and learn, the more evidence I find that great leaders rise because of their unique talent to navigate political waters. These are the gifted statesmen: Franklin, Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, and Gandhi to name a few. The navigation aids and motive power for their leadership, however, came from the thinkers, doers, and warriors that elevated the need, generated the ideas, and provided the maps to avoid the shoals. The first turn gave the world its greatest country. There is much left to accomplish and the time for a second turn has not yet arrived.



[1] University of Arizona; Nature Conservancy in Arizona records, 1884-1999; Collection Number: MS 408; http://www.azarchivesonline.org/xtf/view?docId=ead/uoa/UAMS408.xml&doc.view=print;chunk.id=0

The Tyranny of a Standing Military

In 1787, while addressing the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on his view of aJAMES-MADISON-550x439 standing military, James Madison said, “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”  He wasn’t alone. Well before James Madison addressed the Constitutional Convention, Samuel Adams admonished, in 1776, that a standing military was “always dangerous to the Liberties of the People.”  The first standing military in the history of the United States is a legacy of the Cold War (1947-1991) and it is now time to revisit the ‘buzz’ from the 1700s.

Madison, a proponent of a strong central government, is the last person I would have

even Years War - The Battle of Wilhelmstahl, 24th June 1762, in North West Germany

even Years War – The Battle of Wilhelmstahl, 24th June 1762, in North West Germany

suspected of opposing a standing army. What I lacked, of course, was context; the Revolutionary War. The British Monarchy was forced to double its debt to finance the Seven Years’ War. Sounding familiar? During the late 1760s, over half of the British tax revenue generated was dedicated to pay the interest on that debt. The Dutch bankers who financed the war smiled, but the people of Great Britain were taxed to the limit; they were enslaved by the cost of war. Living on less than half of the tax revenues generated was painful for Parliament so they began to pursue other sources of income. Hu-umm, the colonies in the New World were far away and could certainly foot part of the tax bill and ease the burden at home. Over a ten year period, Parliament passed a series of acts to increase tax revenues to maintain the standing military (in the opinion of the revolutionaries). To add insult to injury, The Quartering Act meant that the colonists had to provision and house the very troops that enforced the king’s policies at the end of a bayonet[1]. The new taxes and the coarse, profane drunkards that filled the ranks of the regular (standing) British Army in the colonies enraged a vocal, active minority and voilà, the American Revolution was born.

To their credit, Monroe and the other authors of The Constitution attempted to prohibit a standing military, other than the Navy. The Navy was supposed to protect commerce byNavy keeping the sea lanes open and free of pirates. That more or less worked for about 170 years. Armies were raised, wars were fought, and the armies stood down. It almost worked at the end of the WWII hostilities. The demobilization in 1947 resulted in a postwar low of $10 billion in real military spending. Enjoy that number, it is the last time you will see it! The Cold War was about to start and, with it, the beginning of the standing military and the enslavement of the American people.

By 1947, under the Truman administration, the seeds of the cold war were sewn. The American people, however, had other priorities. There appeared to be a growing awareness of Soviet aggressiveness, according to the polls of the time. Those same polls also reflected that most Americans were still not ready for another major overseas venture like opposing Russia. In November 1946, the Republicans gained control of Congress by promising a return to the good old days.. “We are not the British Empire” said they[2]. A crisis was needed to justify additional money for defense and the 1947 clashes over Greece and Turkey just didn’t cut it. Britain was close to bankruptcy and requested that the U.S. assume its role with the two countries.  At that time Truman, in accordance with the Truman doctrine, wanted to keep Greece and Turkey out of the hands of the Soviets by sending aid for military spending.  Greece was in the middle of a nasty civil war so was particularly vulnerable to communism, in Truman’s opinion. Truman argued that, because of the historic rivalry between the two nations, both nations had to be funded equally. Eventually, the Republican congress sent $400 million but no military support.

Luckily, a crisis availed itself when the Communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948.

Communists takeover Czechoslovakia in 1948

Communists takeover Czechoslovakia in 1948

Lieutenant General Lucius Clay, military governor of the U.S. Zone in Germany, fanned the fire with his telegram warning that war between the United States and the Soviet Union might occur “with dramatic suddenness”. Congress was quick to approve over $3 billion when President Truman called for a supplemental defense appropriation. Truman’s re-election speech denouncing the Soviets for their “ruthless action” and their “clear design” to dominate Europe was the opening salvo of the Cold War, a state of permanent national emergency and military readiness. The standing military was here to stay. Just in case we, the people, needed reminding of how bad things were in the world, the Berlin crisis began in mid-1948, NATO was formed in 1949, and, in 1950, the outbreak of the Korean conflict kept the need for military spending at the forefront. By 1952, military spending authorization was over $180 million normalized to 1982 dollars.

In 1965, Vietnam ramped up, supported by the domino theory. By 1973, Viet Nam was not

In this Sept. 21, 1966 file photo, U.S. Marines emerge from their muddy foxholes at sunrise after a third night of fighting against continued attacks of north Vietnamese 324 B division troops during the Vietnam War.  AP / Henri Huet

In this Sept. 21, 1966 file photo, U.S. Marines emerge from their muddy foxholes at sunrise after a third night of fighting against continued attacks of north Vietnamese 324 B division troops during the Vietnam War. AP / Henri Huet

sustainable, but by then we’d spent $1.6 trillion and lost countless lives. There were down-sizing of forces after both Korea and Viet Nam but the military was, in both cases, left standing. The Cold War was declared over in 1991 and, yet, the military stands. In 2012, the military budget, which funds Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, now reporting to the Department of Homeland Security, was $553 billion[3]. The conflicts in Iran and Afghanistan were funded through other appropriations with a 2011 estimated cost of approximately $3.7 trillion[4] and more lives lost.  We are being enslaved by the debt of a standing military.

Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, and Iran are examples of conflicts that could not have happened, how they happened, without a standing military. These conflicts fall under Madison’s characterization of Rome’s use of its standing military, “…Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended...”.  When the military must be ‘called-up’, the Prescient and Congress are forced to air the issue during the light of day and the citizens have the opportunity to express their opinion. That is as it should be.

Mother and Father, Mary and Frank Moore before deployment in 1942

Mother and Father, Mary and Frank Moore before deployment in 1942

I can sit here and write this piece today because my father and mother, along with 16.1 million[5] others fought in WWII. My relatives, along with yours, have fought in every war and conflict this nation, the U.S., chose to engage, including both sides of the Civil War. It is not about the individual soldiers who left their homes and family to fight and, sometimes die, at the behest of their government. It is not about whether or not there is a draft or an all-volunteer force. It is about whether or not those soldiers get to put down their weapons and return home to their families. Since a standing military became the norm in the U.S., the government has enforced its will on all nations it touches through direct or indirect threat. We, the people who pay the bills, are not immune from the explicit or implicit threat of the military machine. Throughout history a standing military has become too seductive for power brokers to resist, today is no exception. While I understand that The Constitution has become an emotional icon, the ideas are fresh. The U.S. was great once, it could be again but not as long as there is a standing military and an advancing empire. If nothing else, the cost will consume the nation’s creative energy and still its motive power.

 


[1] The historical novel Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins Forbes is well-researched and provides an interesting view of the pre-revolutionary period through the opening salvos.

[2] Stephen E. Ambrose, Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy since 1938, 4th rev. ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 1985), pp. 71, 79-82, 93-94.

[3] Department of Defense; Fiscal Year 2012; http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/factsheet_department_defense

[4] Trotta, Daniel (29 June 2011). “Cost of war at least $3.7 trillion and counting”. Reuters.