Thursday, October 19, 2006

Max Boot: The United States needs more cannon fodder

In a Washington Post op-ed, A Military Path to Citizenship, Max Boot and Michael O'Hanlon write:
Now is the time to consider a new chapter in the annals of American immigration. By inviting foreigners to join the U.S. armed forces in exchange for a promise of citizenship after a four-year tour of duty, we could continue to attract some of the world's most enterprising, selfless and talented individuals.
The presumption here is that foreigners willing to join the military are "some of the most enterprising and talented individuals". That's an assertion without proof. He could have just as easily said "inviting foreigners to work in the farms of the United States will attract some of the most enterprising individuals", but then he'd be run out of town on a rail by nativists.

Whatever. Boot's call for foreigners is to
... solve the No. 1 problem facing the Army and Marine Corps: the fact that these services need to grow to meet current commitments yet cannot easily do so (absent a draft) given the current recruiting environment.
Yet Boot won't call for a draft. Why not, if Iraq is such an important cause?

And there's this:
Not only would immigrants provide a valuable influx of highly motivated soldiers, they would also address one of America's key deficiencies in the battle against Islamist extremists: our lack of knowledge of the languages and mores in the lands where terrorists reside. Newly arrived Americans can help us avoid trampling on local sensitivities and thereby creating more enemies than we eliminate.
Really? Immigrants from Latin America, East Asia, Africa, and Europe will address the problem of lack of knowledge of the people in lands where terrorists reside? Talk about being confused. Boot apparently means to call for Iraqis and Afghanis to join the U.S. military. Why not cut the paperwork and elevate Muqtada al-Sadr to colonel, turn the Mahdi Army into a branch of the armed services, and have the rest of the troops go home?

Don't really want to get into the Hitler analogy, but Boot is proposing a modern-day equivalent of the Russian Liberation Army. Namely, an essentially foreign military force to augment a declining resource, and one that's familiar with the territory and culture where the fighting is going on. When you are proposing that sort of action, it's more than likely a sign that the game is lost.


The US military already has a substantial non-citizen component. I saw figures cited in 2005 of about 35,000 non citizens on active duty and another 12,000 reservists.

I don't think that I have any sort of moral issue with creating the US equivalent of the Légion Étrangère...that doesn't mean that I think it's a great idea to create a 90% foreign military though. You can't (or at least the French don't) count on those people for national defense, not to mention leadership positions, and our current military structure doesn't really fit terribly well with that.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 10/19/2006 11:38 AM  

Here's a variation on the "foreign soldier" idea from
_Charlie Wilson’s War_ by George Crile
(NY: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003)

(331-334) "For Avrakotos, 1985 was a year of right-wing craziness. About the same time [Senator Gordon] Humphrey surfaced as a menace, he was confronted with a far weirder and more threatening problem from inside the government. A band of well-placed anti-Communist enthusiasts in the administration had come up with a plan they believed would bring down the Red Army, if the CIA would only be willing to implement it.

"The leading advocates of this plan included Richard Perle at the Pentagon, so intense in his Cold War convictions that he was nicknamed 'the Prince of Darkness.' Oliver North also checked in briefly, but ht eman who set Avrakotos' teeth on edge most was Walt Raymond, another NSC staffer who had spent twenty years with the CIA as a propagandist.

"Their idea was to encourage Soviet officers and soldiers to defect to the mujahideen. As Avrakotos derisively describes it, 'The muj were supposed to set up loudspeakers in the mountains announcing such things as "Lay down your arms, there is a passage to the West and to freedom." Once news of this program made its way through the Red Army, it was argued, there would be a flood of defectors.

"This vision was based on Vlasov's army, a German-backed effort during World War II to persuade Communist soldiers to join an anti-Stalinist front. It had met with some success before collapsing, enough at least to excite the passionate efforts of its latter-day advocates. Andrew Eiva, not surprisingly, was deeply involved in this effort. He had gone to Pakistan in the early 1980s trying to find Russian prisoners to demonstrate how effective such a policy could be, but he had learned that the mujahideen did not have much interest in keeping prisoners alive. At a White House meeting, North and Perle told Avrakotos they wanted the Agency to spend millions on this program, expressing the belief that as many as ten thousand defectors could be expected to pour across the lines.

"Avrakotos thought North and Perle were 'cuckoos of the Far Right,' and he soon felt quite certain that Raymond, the man who seemed to be the intellectual ringleader, was truly detached form reality. 'What Russian in his right mind would defect to those fuckers all armed to the teeth?' Avrakotos said in frustration. 'To begin with, anyone defecting to the Dushman would have to be a crook, a thief, or someone who wanted to get cornholed every day, because nine out of ten prisoners were dead within twenty-four hours and they were always turned into concubines by the mujahideen. I felt so sorry for them I wanted to have them all shot.'

"The meeting went very badly indeed. Gust accused North and Perle of being idiots. Larry Penn, Gust's consigliere, actually giggled in their faces. Avrakotos said to Walt Raymond, 'You know, Walt, you're just a fucking asshole, you're irrelevant.'

"Avrakotos thought that would be the end of the Vlasov idea, but he greatly underestimated the political power and determination of this group, who went directly to Bill Casey to angrily protest Avrakotos's insulting manner. The director complained to Clair George, who responded by forbidding Avrakotos to attend any more interagency meeting without a CIA nanny present. George gave the job to his executive assistant, Norm Gardner, who worked out a system so that whenever Gust started to feel the anger coming from his toes he would tap Gardner and let the more diplomatic officer do the talking. But Gardner, who shared Avrakotos's frustrations with the Vlasov business, would often sit back and let his charge have at least a preliminary run at Raymond and the others.

"At one point Avrakotos arrived for one of these White House sessions armed with five huge photographic blowups. Before unveiling them he explained that they would provide a useful understanding of the kind of experience a Soviet soldier could expect to have should he surrender to the mujihadeen. One of them showed two Russian sergeants being used as concubines. Another had a Russian hanging from the turret of a tank with a vital part of his anatomy removed. Another showed a mujahid approaching a Soviet with a dagger in his hands. 'If you were a sane fucking Russian, would you defect to these people/?' he had demanded of Perle.

"In spite of the angry complaints, Claire George and everyone else on the seventh floor agreed with Avrakotos's position. He says that Director Casey even privately told him, 'I think your point is quite valid. What asshole would want to defect to those animals?'

"But the issue wouldn't go away. Perle, Raymond, and the others continued to insist that the Agency find and send back to the United States the many Russian defectors they seemed to believe, despite Avrakotos's denials, the mujahideen were harboring. They had visions of a great publicity campaign once these men reached America. As soon as their stories were known, others would defect. They refused to believe Avrakotos's claim that there were no defectors.

"Avrrkotos describes what happened next with the kind of pleasure he feels only upon achieving revenge. It had been almost impossible to locate two prisoners, much less two defectors. The CIA found itself in the preposterous position of having to pony up $50,000 to bribe the Afghans to deliver two live ones. 'These two guys were basket cases,' says Avrakotos. 'One had been fucked so many times he didn't know what was going on. The other was an alcoholic. We brought them back to the United States and I said to Walt Raymond, "Do you what me to give them your telephone number? They're yours now."'

"Finally, Avrakotos turned the Soviets over to Ludmilla Thorne at Freedom House. 'One guy had hallucinations of the KGB murdering him. The other started fucking with boys.' At that point, Avrakotos says, he went to Perle to announce the good news that the Agency had twelve more willing to come over. 'I turned the tables on them and demanded they take them all. And they didn't want to. That was the new Vlasov's army. In all I think we brought three or four mroe over. One guy ended up robbing a 7-Eleven in Vienna, Virginia.'"

By Blogger gmoke, at 10/19/2006 5:06 PM  

I expect crap like this from Max Boot but why would O'Hanlon join warrior Max who never put his boots on the ground. O'Hanlon must scrape the bottoms of his boots to get rid of Max's stench before regaining credibility.

By Blogger Shag from Brookline, at 10/20/2006 6:57 AM  

Hasn't having foreign troops fight for you always backfired?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/20/2006 5:03 PM  

The US wouldn't exist if not for foriegn troops. I'm not the only one with Hessians in his family tree.

However, enlisting foreign mercenaries to overthrow an entrenched but non-native military hegemony centered half a world away and enlisting them to guard your borders are two very different things.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 10/23/2006 7:38 AM  

Sort of like "Starship Troopers" except only for foreigners.

By Anonymous e. nonee moose, at 10/23/2006 11:26 AM  

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