13 July 2010

History of the Citizen Army

More evidence that change is not always bad...

"While the thinkers of the Enlightenment were destroying the intellectual justification for standing armies, the technological advances of the age were making it increasingly difficult for untrained noblemen to justify their possession of the officer corps.
That from Stephen Ambrose' Duty, Honor, Country: a History of West Point. To extrapolate from his point, one could say that changes in society and culture often undermine our assumptions about how to best organize an army.

Armed Forces are usually very well suited to fight yesterday's wars. This makes perfect sense-- battle-tested warriors go on to train the next generation. In most organizations, said generation usually infuses its own personality and approaches into achieving organizational goals.

In the Army, that is much harder to do. Mores are codified, norms regulated.

But we should beware of too much reliance on tradition, especially in war fighting. Ambrose goes on to explain that the armies of the French Revolution (1790s) were more successful than their adversaries.

This point has been made by many historians before. Some claim there was no logical explanation. Ambrose asserts that the revolutionary armies were superior because they were larger and made up of the citizenry-- taken from the ranks of the middle class.

I agree. It was the Europeanization of the American militia model, which contributed to the defeat of the British land forces during the American War of Independence.

Our modern forces are so superior because their ranks comprise citizens who volunteer to lend their skills to the defense of a common good. Every U.S. Soldier freely takes upon himself an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies.

Particularly powerful are those militia forces-- now known as the National Guard-- who work in their communities, serve them in uniform, and often deploy to fight for them abroad.

These forces bring a much more practical skill set to the fight. They represent the oldest component of our Armed Forces, and they demonstrate that change and adaptation is a trait that Americans display proudly, and with great success.

1 comment:

  1. I don't always agree with you, but in this case I concur and appreciate the sacrifices Citizen Soldiers make in order to protect the country they love.

    I really like this post.