The Best Defense

Goldich: A few words in defense of the National Guard, even its politicization

By Robert Goldich
Best Defense bureau of politico-military affairs

It's a mistake to look at the Guard/Reserve mix from a purely "analytical" -- that is, programmatic, costs, and tangible benefits, etc. -- point of view, due to the constitutionally-mandated and statutorily fleshed-out dual role of the Guard. The Guard is political because the Founders wanted the state militias to be political-or, more accurately, could not even envision that they would not be political-and they embodied that in the Constitution. Because the Guard has state power bases, the active Army and Air Force will never, ever be able to make large changes in it without taking state political considerations into account. 

Not only do I think this will never change, I do not think it should change. A country with such a huge population (our 317 million is exceeded only by China and India) and territory, and incredibly polyglot mix of racial, ethnic, religious, and foreign-country nationalities in it, cannot afford not to have a large, powerful force that can deploy in case of major civil disorder. The Guard enables us to have such a force without the danger of a highly bureaucratized and almost inevitably oppressive national paramilitary police force such as exists in other countries.

Deploying the Guard domestically also does not have the connotation of massive federal intervention that deploying the active Army does, because it is known to be a state force with local and state ties, despite the near-identical (to the layperson) uniforms, structure, equipment, and weapons. Interestingly, we have recently seen what happens in a country that has a small active army (relative to the population) and no force with any domestic operational capability other than local police forces -- Britain. Local police simply did not have the capability to deal with the humanitarian and infrastructure problems that recent massive floods created in Britain. The active army was small and there were constitutional (in the British unwritten sense) and statutory problems in deploying the army to deal with such domestic problems. In the United States, the Guard would have filled such a gap quickly and decisively.

Commissions and boards and study groups and analyses should focus on what can be done within the existing constitutional and political underpinning of the Guard, rather than calling for futile "rationalization" of their force structures -- which, in ignoring political factors, isn't even very rational.

Staff Sgt. Jerry Rushing/DVIDSHUB/Flickr

The Best Defense

Some misleading analogies about the Ukraine crisis: More to life than Munich

By Christopher J. Fettweis
Best Defense guest columnist

5) Putin is Hitler. And nothing good ever comes from appeasing dictators.
I doubt that anything is as depressing for observers of U.S. foreign policy as the rate at which the Munich analogy is rolled out to support one hawkish policy or another. There is no limit to its application, no topic for which it is inappropriate. Neoconservatives have long been incapable of making any point without reference to Hitler, but the crisis in the Ukraine has brought out the reference in a wide variety of people on the right and left, from Madeleine to Hillary Clinton to "experts" who ought to know better.

Just as there is no analogy more abused, there is no analogy more studied. Rather than repeat yet again just how inappropriate it is, perhaps it is instead worthwhile to consider its effects: Once the other becomes identified with Hitler, compromise is removed from the set of options. All possible resolutions that may be mutually beneficial become suspect; the only option is to thwart the designs of the latest Hitler, and crush him in the long run.

Putin is not Hitler. This does not mean he is trustworthy, or that he doesn't dream of re-establishing the Soviet empire. But nothing good can come of treating him like Hitler, no matter what he is really like.

Recognizing the mythology surrounding Ukraine that has arisen in the marketplace of ideas will not eliminate it, but it might help the rest of us resist its charms.

Fortunately, the don't-just-stand-there caucus has not yet been able to affect the general prudence of the American people, who stubbornly (so far) refuse to believe that much is at stake here, and insist that we stay out. But repeated pathological hyperbole might change that, if left unchallenged by reason.

(That's all folks.)

Christopher J. Fettweis is still associate professor of political science at Tulane University in New Orleans. The thoughts in this essay are extensions of his latest book, The Pathologies of Power: Fear, Honor, Glory and Hubris in U.S. Foreign Policy.