I was inspired by an editorial in the Washington Times yesterday to write this to their editorial page. Another example which I omitted for reason of available space was that of the Philippine Scouts regiments of the pre-World War Two US establishment in the islands. These were US Army Regular units manned with Filipino soldiers (who were enlisted as foreign) and led by a mixture of US and Filipino (naturalized to US) sergeants and officers. As usual, one of the main enducements to enlistments was the promise of US citizenship after an initial term of service.
These men served very well.
"Letters to the Editor
October 24, 2006
In service to America
The subject of recruiting foreign nationals for the U.S. armed forces is now being considered because of increasing pressure on existing U.S. military manpower ("The Lafayette brigades," Editorial, yesterday).
What seems to get lost in the discussion is the historical fact that the United States has often recruited foreigners to make up for shortfalls in citizen recruiting.
During the American Civil War, tens of thousands of Irish and English were recruited on British soil, put on American flag ships and then sworn into U.S. services when at sea.
In 1951, Congress passed the Lodge Act which specifically authorized the recruitment of non-U.S. persons from Eastern Europe for the purpose of manning U.S. Special Forces.
At any given time there are 35,000 to 50,000 foreigners in the armed forces who were recruited within the United States.
All of these soldiers were and are promised U.S. citizenship in return for faithful service.
Hardly anyone in the United States favors a return to the draft. Foreign recruiting is a partial answer to our present problems in recruiting as it was in the past.
W. PATRICK LANG
Pat you are right on foreign recruiting but the problem is that the children of our political and economic elite are unwilling to fulfill any of the obligations of citizenship – they will pay no price and bear no burden. They are freedom’s freeloaders – the ‘entitlement’ generation, brought to us by the conservatives in power. They are a damned disgrace.
Try to think this through and not send me rubbish about the “Hessians” and mercenaries and coups d’etat, etc. pl
That is one solution to the undocumented worker problem. A path to earned cititzenship.
There’s a lot of Hispanics in the Marine Corps. I see it in my area. The macho esprit de corps appeals to them.
One of the few possibly sensible things the Unitary Executive has supported in his six years in office was the “guest worker program” He (GStUE) mentioned as part of the immigration debate.
Perhaps the US should consider programs to recruit illegal immigrants into the US armed forces? Come forward and join up and all is forgiven?
Given that large percentages of illegal immigrants are from our neighbor to the south, and from Central and South America, some might argue (some might say!) that such a policy would alter the “ethnic profile” of the military. Probably. But according to the link below, Hispanics are underrepresented in the enlisted ranks.
By the way, I’ve never served in the military, but once spent nearly a year teaching college courses to sailors and Marines aboard US Navy ships as part of an at-sea college education program. I met several fine young lads from several fine Central American countries who were enthusiastically looking forward to citizenship in exchange for service.
I have given a draft a lot of thought since the begining of the Iraq war and I would favor a draft.
A draft would not prevent non citzens from joining the services and they should be given citizenship for doing so.
However, I think the burden of a war should be shared as “equally” as possible among every family in this country. Since the leading war hawks want us to believe we are in a endless terror “War” let’s have a draft for it and see how popular WWIII would be.
A military made up of a majority who had no other life options or viable opportunities or of solides for hire is too subject to being used politically for things other than the protection of the US. You can debate the value of a “professional” army and there is nothing wrong with having a core group of professionals.
But the bottom line is war has become a spectator sport and a video game for those who have nothing at stake. That needs to change.
Just a few years back, when we still had Clark AB and Subic Navy Base in the Philippines, Filipinos were allowed to enlist in the US armed forces in return for US citizenship. You still see plenty of filipino sailors and hear Tagalog frequently on US Navy installations. When I was a new missile maintenance officer at Minot AFB two decades ago, one of my new missile mechanics was a Filipino lad who just arrived from the islands. Man, was he surprised by how cold it got in the Great White North.
Pat – this might be the place to start a discussion on our all-volunteer Army? Don’t know, but let me give it a try. If you don’t agree please don’t post this.
When the draft was eliminated in the 70’s, most of us who had served during Vietnam thought it the right step at that time. Now I am no longer so sure. I have soon-to-be draft-age kids who I would probably urge against serving in this particular war-of-choice. How far I’d counsel them to go if there were still a draft I’m not sure…
As with all decisions, the one that eliminated the draft led to unintended consequences. We now have a ruling civilian elite who have no concept of what it means to serve, and no understanding of the limitations of military force. Many of then and much of the public treats the military as if it were a video game…. On the other side of the coin, we now have a military elite without civilian roots, and this creates a separate set of concerns, I think. If you look at the objections to the Bush detainee/rendition policies coming out of the various service JAG’s, it’s because these units still have a large infusion of civilian trained and educated talent (only the medical units share this feature in today’s military). When I served in intelligence units in the 60’s our cadre was almost entirely made up of analysts and agents who would not have chosen service had there been a choice. And I think this created a sensible balance within the various branches between military and civilian needs.
I doubt that there is a simple solution to this, but I think it is a real concern as we go forward in this age of limited wars and military interventions. Andrew Bacevich (“The New American Militarism”) has written extensively on this topic. A former infantry colonel and West Point graduate, he has gone as far as to suggest we eliminate the service academies, replacing them by requiring officer candidates complete undergraduate programs at civilian universities. This would create an officer corps with civilian roots, which is what the Founding Fathers intended. Postgraduate work at the various War Colleges would continue as now.
Recruiting foreign nationals to the US army as PL states is not a new concept. Many countries do that – the French Foreign Legion, Gurkhas in the British Army come to mind.
There would be many who would welcome an opportunity to be part of a professional organization, gain citizenship and break out of the economic deprivation they suffer in their own country. The US military is probably the most egalitarian military in the world and will give these foreign nationals an opportunity that would be very meaningful for their future generations.
The benefit to the US is that it would increase the pool to recruit an all volunteer force and as a result probably could develop a larger and more motivated military. Additionally, it would bring in much needed language skills and cultural understanding that would enhance their ability to operate with better knowledge in hotspots around the world.
I’m in favor of it as both a way to add to the force structure and as an avenue to becomming citizens. I also feel strongly that some form of general service incumbent on all, military or other should be developed for the 18-22 crowd. We lack any clear way to develop a sense of ‘commonness’ and joint sacrifice today. It’s not just that it would affect all levels of society but more to the point it would us all equal, if only in misery, for a time at the beginnning of our careers. My experience with those who have become americans through military service carry a bonding woth this country which while different than mine is none the less deep and abiding. More so than many of the children of the elite and priviliged members of our society.
“a majority who had no other life options or viable opportunities or of solides for hire..”
Ah, you know my relatives. That’s us, “the scum of the earth enlisted for drink,” or as my dear old dad used to say we have been “too lazy to work and too afraid to steal” for about 200 years on this continent.
Do you have anyone in particular in mind to be drafted? pl
Hey Pat –
It seems a valid option to fill our military needs with these new citizens as well as getting citizens who have sacrificed for the title. As one of Fred’s ‘Damned Disgraces’, if I could change one thing in the past, it would have been to serve. Not only do I think it the right thing to do, but damned if I couldn’t have used a good ass kicking back when I was twenty!!!
I can appreciate the objections to the draft, but I still think, like Fred, that without some sacrifice for the privilege of citizenship we are watering down our democracy. Hell, would we be in Iraq if there was the possibility of a draft? If everyone had something immediately at stake, it might just weed out the rockheaded thinking… Eventually, heaven forbid, we may even get a better crop of politicians.
“Hardly anyone in the United States favors a return to the draft.”
“Hardy anyone” may be so but I believe the military is rapidly becoming a constituentcy of one political party. This time it is a Republican constituentcy but a Demecratic leaning military would be no better. Over time this unfortunate fact will become a dangerous force with the ability to sway public policy, if not, determine civilian rule.
I wish I could think of some other way to end this trend but cannot think of another means to keep our milatary repsentive of the country as a whole.
Thanks for your blog!
Dear Col. Lang,
I appreciate your mention of the Filipino soldiers who certainly did serve valiantly. Sadly, not enough people know. Great letter to the editor.
As it happened, my father was a troop first sergeant in the 26th Cavalry Regiment (PS) in the late twenties.
That was before he was seconded to the Philippine Constabulary as an officer. pl
The exchange of citizenship for soldiering is at least as old as the Roman Empire.
The downside of the use of this particular drug is that it is both addictive and harmful if taken in large quantities.
The well known dangers include:
1. Decreasing conditions for the average soldier to the point where only foriegners will take on the task (like illegal aliens filling low paid jobs).
2. The temptation for units to be selected for missions according to their racial profile and the generation of considerable friction as a result. (read N. Schwartzkopfs account of his days with MACV)
3. The potential for disciplinary problems in really stressful combat (as in the famous punchline of the Lone Ranger joke….” What do you mean we have a problem, paleface?”, or as demonstrated, in Iraq.
4. Alienation of the American people from “their” army.
Provided its done in small amounts, there is no problem, but making it a policy choice for large scale recruitment is setting the services up for a Roman epic of a failure.
If the military (read: Leadership) decides to remain shackled to the Republican albatross after the two more years of assured Sturm und Drang and tactical reverses, not to mention maybe a late sixties, early seventies type of enlisted revolt, seasoned with a dash of racial unrest … Then they deserve to be disbanded, with the generals to be trundled off to the nearest guillotine.
Perhaps outsourcing to Bangalore would not yield more meager results
I was going to attach this to follies but it seems relevant here too.
Iraq is of course a very different war to Vietnam. The long civil war in Vietnam that the US got gradually entangled in had much more marketable goals; it could be sold as a crusade against Godless Communism and had a natural base of support given the context of the Cold War.
Iraq was for most Americans an understandable act of rage in response to 9-11; its goals are adrift.
Vietnam was a popular war with the US public until its last few years. Crucially it wasn’t subject to the degree of strategic dissent that OIF immediately encountered from the diplomatic, intelligence and military folk even in the US.
Unlike Vietnam ordinary civilians have been spared the risks and costs in this war indeed they have been instructed to dedicate themselves to credit fueled consumerism. There has been no hike in taxes, no serious expansion of much needed combat troops, the Pentagon has continued to lard pork out to US industry and a draft has barely been considered.
Many people did oppose the Vietnam war based on conscience, the same has been true of Iraq. But opposition to the Iraq war while passionate in a Europe ineptly handled by DC has been feeble in the US.
I suspect much of the passionate opposition to Vietnam was based in a simple outrage at the prospect of being press-ganged into a dangerous environment that then got dressed up in the more respectable garb of anti-colonialism or pacifism. The mood cannot have been helped by the avoidance of service by a large section of the eligible elite.
This is not unique. New Yorkers rioted savagely against the draft in the Civil War. Catholic Ireland in 1918 switched from a people Home Rule seeking shilling takers ready to lynch IRA men to a rather suddenly patriotic nation set on independence when threatened by London with being conscripted like the folk on the adjacent island to die as cattle in the mud of Flanders.
The Iraq war and its aftermath may last much longer than Vietnam. If things go badly the stakes will be US pre-eminence and an American prosperity that is taken for granted. It may lead to heavier commitments to sacrifice as realpolitik assert itself. This won’t be on a scale that can be made by a failing all volunteer army from what is now an heavily indebted nation. In the end will US youth serve or shirk having been sold the odd idea that wars are crusades for freedom rather than the normal business of states? Let’s get real, they won’t.
The English, who have a genius for understanding their own inadequacies as talents, always relied on the Scots the Welsh and the Irish to police and administer their empire. The curry eating British army of today draws from a wide variety of nations and is better for it. Historic units like the Gurkahs have long history and well deserved reputation for insane bravery, loyalty and effectiveness.
Having already out-sourced perhaps a fifth of the Iraqi occupation to ineffective mercenary companies perhaps its time to consider more realistic solutions. Giving a Tajik, a Pusthun, Punjabi or Chechen a Greencard at a modest risk to life may be the only answer. They’ll find their salt elsewhere otherwise.
I don’t think there’s any problems with this policy, even long term and on relatively large scale, provided it’s handled intellegently. As long as dicipline is kept at the same level as units composed primarily of American citizens and the primary inducement for joining is citizenship and not financial rewards such units are unlikely to run into the problems typically encountered with mercenary armies.
As for the Roman example, it seems to me that their problems had more to do with a general collapse of dicipline in the legions, coupled with a breakdown of the political system that supported them than specifically with reliying on foriegn auxilliaries and enlistees.
Frankly I see the millitary’s political power and involvement and it’s taste for outsourcing support functions to be a much greater threat to it’s effectiveness than where it’s getting its recruits.
Way, way back as a young man I wanted to fight in Vietnam but the problem was how to do this as a Brit when the UK was not a party to the conflict. I looked into joining the US forces via the Embassy in London. It turned out that that route had just been closed down as the UK had been reminded of its obligations under the Geneva Accords. No naked recruiting at Grosvenor Square.
I had two choices: go to the States and join up or sign up in Vietnam itself. The deal was that you could serve as an enlisted man and could work your way through the non-commissioned ranks, officers were American citizens. The former course of joining Stateside, I was told, would not guarantee me Vietnem though there was a high chance I would get there. I really did not want to join the US Army only to find myself in West Germany.
I ended up with a letter of introduction from a USAF Colonel in England and headed for Danang. I got as far as Singapore where my Uncle, who lived there, told me that I should go to Australia as they also fought in Vietnam and I would stand a higher chance of fighting and surviving than serving in the US Army (which was then getting a very bad press and seemed quite dysfunctional). So I turned right rather than left and ended up in the Australian Army and served not only with Aussies but also with Brits, Canadians and various others from around the Commonwealth. Great guys.
Indeed, at that time the British Army was sloughing off a large number of officers as it downsized. The Australians recruited a number of these men at Captain and Major level as a way of making up numbers and getting well trained personnel up front (the peculiarities of the Australian-British relationship made all this quite easy).
There is no problem with foreign troops serving in an army if you maintain high standards and are prepared to treat them without barriers. A force that self-segregates between nationals and non-nationals would, I think, be a huge mistake. I believe it right that officers should be citizens but a path should be made to allow the best of the foreign enlistees to make it to citizen and to officer ranks.
Not sure what you had in mind when you asked “Do you have anyone in particular in mind to be drafted?”
Why not the same way they did in WWII? Except this time the women go as well.
Hey, people want the Empire….
In my 26 years with the Navy and Navy Reserve I served with people from the Philippines, U. K., Canada, Cuba, Jamaica, Vietnam, Mexico and Panama. I understand that several people who have been killed in Iraq were non-citizens, so it isn’t as if non-citizens are prevented from enlisting now. While I agree that actively recruiting foreigners might be a good idea when there is a special relationship between the U.S. and a particular country (i.e., Philippines), when a particular set of skills are needed (i.e., recruiting Eastern Europeans into Special Forces) or to augment what is essentially full mobilization on the part of your own population (i.e., the Civil War)I do not think it is a particularly good idea to actively recruit large numbers of foreigners to augment a volunteer force in time of war. Where are we going to set up the recruiting offices – Stockholm, Paris, Berlin and London? or Mexico City, Monrovia, and Dacca?
I realize that there will be standards as far as education, physical health, etc. (although our enlistment standards seem to be slipping more and more these days)but I have to believe that it will appeal to the more desperate. And I guess it would also be targeted at those people who were illegally brought to this country as children by their parents and who are thoroughly assimilated.
Quite honestly, we wouldn’t be having this discussion at all if it were not for Iraq. The other day, I heard a commentary on NPR’s “All Things Considered” where a Navy veteran now attending Yale Law School was on the usual tear about how his “elite” classmates “refuse to serve.” I really do not think that they “refuse to serve.” They certainly didn’t during WWII. Give people a war worth fighting – or even one that is being managed with some competence – and they will serve.
Walrus already pointed out some downsides to large-scale recruitment of foreigners, but for an actual example from our own history, look at the example of a unit that has always fascinated me. That is the San Patricio battalion, an artillery unit of the Mexican Army during the U.S.-Mexican War. It was made up entirely of native Irish, German, French and Swiss deserters from the U.S. Army and was led by a former U.S. Army seargent named John Reilly. They were extremely brave and top-notch soldiers, but they hated the anti-Catholic nativist sentiment rampant in the U.S. at the time and the capricious, brutal discipline of the U.S. Army.
the joke as I heard it was
“Tonto to Lone Ranger
What do you mean we, Kimo Sabe?”
The Roman term of enlistment was twenty long years. A lot of the late West Roman Empire Commanders were German origin or as they were called then Goths. The commander of the battle of Chalons where Attila the Hun was vanquished, Flavius Aëtius was at least part Goth.
“a majority who had no other life options or viable opportunities or of solides for hire..”
Ah, you know my relatives. That’s us, “the scum of the earth enlisted for drink,” or as my dear old dad used to say we have been “too lazy to work and too afraid to steal” for about 200 years on this continent.
You probably got ancestors back there that soldiered with Maitland in 1815.
Keep writing , Pat!
I have no problem with men and women from other countries obtaining US citizenship by serving in our armed services, however there is just something about this that rubs me the wrong way. I have a 22 year old son, so I don’t really want the draft brought back. However my husband is from Israel and at 17 proudly served in the war of 67. I just cringe at the idea of getting young men from poor countries to serve when our own young men and women don’t want to. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve always felt we should never go to war unless we are willing for our own children to die. War should be that important, that needful. However, I’m a women with 4 daughters and 1 son. It is is probably true that I do not think as men do.
If you open up entry into the US army to anyone in the world, how’re you going to keep al-Qaeda out?
The problem with enlisting foreign legions is that then you end up with a military comprised of people with values and loyalties not that of the nation supposedly hiring them. The mercenaries supplant the natives because they are willing to work more cheaply. But if your military is primarily made up of foreign mercenaries, what is to prevent them from turning their eyes upon Rome err Washington D.C. and deciding that they might as well have the whole hog for themselves?
In the final 100 years of the Western Roman Empire, Rome’s “armies” were 100% foreigners, and spent their time wrangling over which one of theirs was going to be put on the throne, until Odoacer finally quit with the pretense and formally put the Western Empire out of its misery. That is the inevitable outcome of reliance upon foreign mercenaries to fight one’s wars…
“The mercenaries supplant the natives because they are willing to work more cheaply.”
What’s the evidence for that in the US other than that the Union Army payed Black soldiers less than whites?
What evidence is there for that? Can you show that servicemen who did the same job in the same grade were not paid the same? pl
Presumably there will be screening before you give anyone a sensitive job, as there has always been.
I suppose I will now hear about the Egyptian at Fort Bragg a few years ago. He did not have a sensitive job. pl
Some good Marines that I served with in Nam were Canadian, French, Hungarian, Dominican, Nicaraguan, and Mexican nationals. So I have no problem with Colonel Lang’s proposal.
However, I believe as Walrus does that we should take that proposal with a grain of salt and be careful of how it is implemented. Let’s keep a limit on it: no more than 10%(??), mixed units only (i.e. no foreign legion), all officers must be citizens.
At the risk of being labeled another grad student wannabee, I have to point to another historical precedent. When Baghdad ruled the Muslim world 1200 years ago, the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad was brought to its knees by relying too much on foreign troops. They brought into Iraq many Khurasanis (from modern day western Afghanistan and eastern Iran) and Turks. That resulted in civil unrest, blackmail by the generals, and the eventual overthrow of the dynasty.
Carroll – No draft without a formal declaration of war by congress.
JD – Maitland? A famous name that, are we talking John, Thomas, or Peregrine??
Here in Wisconsin, we have a large community of Hmong in the Appleton area busy being assimilated. Guess how they got here.
We have enough room to give entire communities citizenship, nevermind individual soldiers.
My Dear Colonel,
The problem I can see with the usual screening is that the average American is ill-equipped to tell the difference between a good Arab and a bad Arab. You certainly can. I think I can. But this blog is a haven, to me, for people who really do understand the issues. For me, going back to reading the average news site or board is dealing with a large step down in comprehension. My fear is that the average screener is more likely to be someone from “out there” rather than from “in here.” In general, this also speaks to our already present immense need for people who really do understand the Arab culture.
As you know, I understand your argument.
Nevertheless, as a pragmatist I have to ask you if conscription is realistic prospect.
You sound like my father. He despised civilians and wanted to always have a draft because otherwise the civilians and “their” government could not be trusted not to throw away the Regulars. pl
Pat, this is Max Boot’s idea also; and Boot, along with Michael Halloran, had an op-ed in the Post espousing the idea.
With the exceptions you have noted, the enlistment of foreigners has been the province of empires who need forces to carry out colonial ventures which are unappealing to the citizenry who may be willing to fight if their country is attacked, but unwilling to die for an adventurist foreign military policy that does not seem crucial to the eternal interests of the country.
The Bush administration has been, so far, able to use the all-volunteer army to fight an adventurist war in Iraq to establish a protectorate in that country because there has been absolutely no pain and shared sacrifice for the American public writ large. The broad American public gets tax cuts and the sacrifices are made by the lower middle class, many of whom are Hispanics and the fabled Scotch-Irish from Appalachia, and their descendants.
If war is important enough to preserve important American interests, then the burden should not be outsourced to foreigners; it should be borne by Americans.
I fear that your proposal, however nobly intended and argued, would just be another way of by-passing the democractic process to wage wars demanded by a “Max Boot” foreign policy.
The posting has already gone stale, but the issue is still with us. Washington Times today (11/1) carried an article on the front page about the decline of the French Foreign Legion now that France no longer has an Empire or a conscript army. On page A18, one Col Raschle makes the case for a foreign legion populated by foreigners because “it will politically always be easier to dispatch foreigners than French soliders to such distant places.”
The very reason why the service for citizenship idea is problematic is that it would enable US Presidents to slip the political constraints and more easily commit US troops to fight in foreign wars where it would be more difficult to make such commitments if American have to send their own children to fight and die on foreign soil.
My grandfather obtained his US citizenship by enlisting during WWI (he was already here in the States at the time) and while serving in the naval reserve I’ve run across many fine squids from all over the world (Filipinos, Latin Americans, and Europeans).
At some gut level, however, I find the existence of such a program troubling — with a population of 300 million and a military much smaller than during the Cold War, why can’t we fill our ranks with native born citizens? Have we become so slack as a country?
1. A non-citizen soldier, with no ties to the the USA except his paycheck, would be more likely to follow an order to pull the trigger against American citizens in quelling a domestic uprising than would a native born American;
2. Why do we spare the children of the wealthy elite in this country the hazards of defending the nation, or in the case of the current war, the opportunity of hands-on advancement of the interests and power of the multinational corporations from where their families derive their wealth?
Bring back the draft.
It is really a libel to think or write that a foreign soldier in the US Army has “no tie” to the United States other than his paycheck. Have you ever been a soldier?
Just FYI, the late Edward Said, public intellectual and famous Palestinian-American, born in the Middle East (Jerusalem or Cairo – I’d have to look it up – the family lived both places) – was also born an American citizen. His father had emigrated to the US in the early 20th century after serving as a dragoman in Jerusalem. While in the USA the father enlisted in the American army, served in World War I, and was given citizenship. He returned to the Middle East to start a successful business and a family; his children however inherited American citizenship from him. So later when Edward Said went to prep school in Massachusetts, he was already a citizen although he’d never lived here.
One of those interesting historical tangents…
Yes, US Army Fort Bragg, NC 1976-79. Thanks or asking. Sorry, it’s not libel. A foreign soldier is more likely not to think twice before pulling the trigger. A US born soldier will.