Saturday, September 30, 2006


"If it moves, salute it; if it doesn't move, pick it up; and if you can't pick it up, paint it."
-Anonymous (WW2 saying)

Soldier Helping out
Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. The four branches of the US military, reknown around the world for their prowess in combat. The US military was not always so good, in fact it was pretty woeful against the British – the finest military in the world at the time. But by the 1st World War, the United States had proven it’s worth, and by this time none are finer at what they do.

But are they enough to do the job today? Modern military is more than the ability to defeat the enemy, more than simply a tool to “break things and kill people” as some have said. When the United States defeats an enemy, it has developed a pretty clear pattern: rebuild the nation at our expense and guard it later if the nation so desires.

Each branch of the existing military is highly skilled and capable at what they do, but what they do has little to do with occupying, pacifying, rebuilding, and winning over a nation once it is defeated. And why should they be? That’s not their job. We have four branches to fight, and I propose we need a fifth branch to finish the job.

Air Force
When the plane was invented and rapidly perfected in the early 20th century, it was immediately viewed as a possible military device. But at first the airplane was primarily thought of as a reconnaissance platform, something to fly over the battlefield and get pictures and eyewitness views of enemy concentrations, artillery emplacements, command centers, supply lines, and so forth. Certainly planes were good at this, but so were blimps, which were considerably safer to fly and required less training. But soon these pilots took to bringing small bombs and grenades on their planes to drop on targets on the ground, and a weapon was mounted on them.

The Army was where these machines were first used, and they were very lightly funded and staffed. On August 1, 1907, the US Army Signal Corps established a small Aeronautical Division to take "charge of all matters pertaining to military ballooning, air machines, and all kindred subjects." When the US joined the Great War (later known as World War I), the Army Air Service had 24 squadrons, but only one fully staffed and equipped.

By the end of the First World War, air combat was forever part of military operations, even glorified as modern day knights jousting in a three dimensional tilting ground and saluting each other. But there still as no Air Force, and not until after World War II was there any separate branch, instead they were known primarily as the Army Air Corps. It was on July 26, 1947 that The National Security Act created the Department of the Air Force, which has developed and prospered to this day.

ArmyThe United States Army was not formed until 1775, although military units from America were formed to serve in the British army as early as 1747. April of 1775 is when the War for Independence began, but no official army was formed until June of that year with the Continental Army led by George Washington. Until then it was small bands of local militias, fighting a guerilla battle against the world's best infantry. In 1789 the War Department was formed, using the army to defend settlers and protect them in their travel west to find a new home.

In 1812 the fledgling US Army faced it's biggest challenge since being truly independent; the British, again. Although the nation's capitol was sacked and the Army failed to capture any of Canada, they did have a few victories, protecting Baltimore and New Orleans. The United States' first war on foreign soil was the Mexican War of 1848-1849, which won Texas and many southwestern states. This was the first time the US had to deal with occupying foreign soil and dealing with uprisings and attacks while pacifying a region.

The US Army has since that point done very well in any conflict it has faced. No battle was ever lost in Vietnam, although politically the war was lost. World War 1 and 2 were triumphs for the US army, and Korea was a war fought to hold an enemy out of a given territory with success. And as proven in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the US Army is a force to be reckoned with.

MarinesThe US Marines were formed at the same time as the Continental Army, but it was not until 1778 that the US Marine Corps was officially created. In 1805, Marines land in Tripoli to attack the Dey's palace and end the war on Piracy that began in 1801, and in 1847, Marines help seize fortress of Chapultepec, occupying the Nation Place, built on site of the Halls of Montezuma - thus setting the groundwork for the Marine Hymn.

Since those days, the US Marines are famous for their tough, combative nature, their ability to face incredible difficulty and odds, their willingness to go in first and face the worst of enemy fire, and thus earn the greatest glory.

NavyThe US Navy was also founded in the War of Independence, with the Continental Congress purchasing two armed vessels in October of 1775. The Continental Navy was disbanded in 1784, but was recreated in 1798 to combat the Barbary Pirates. Although the Navy's successes were limited until Captain Decatur's work against the Barbary Pirates, in the War of 1812, yankee ingenuity in building frigates and excellent leadership by captains proved more than a match for the supreme navy of the time, the British. But their smaller numbers were overwhelmed by the British presence and eventually locked into harbors by blockades.

The Navy's role changed and grew over the years, adding amphibious assaults and aircraft carriers which extended its reach from merely the oceans and seas to land and air. Although some question the worth of vulnerable, slow ships in today's military, there is no question that a naval presence brings tremendous power to an area, and no other system can move so much equipment and so many men.

What’s needed now is a fifth military branch, a force comprised of soldiers who can fight, but are primarily used to guard, to hold prisoners, to pacify troubled areas, but more than that. This new branch would be the rebuilding army, the navy that brings supplies and food, the air force that drops goods and brings in emergency supplies, the marines who are first on the battlefield of disease, disaster, and emergency.

Iraq is one example, a nation torn by war with Iran for years is then held by a cruel tyrant who abuses his people and under sanctions instead of getting needed supplies, medicine, and food, instead brokers deals with corrupt nations for what he wants, for arms, for luxuries. The people suffer terribly, the infrastructure collapses, and Hussein blames the US for it all. Now after a brief war with the coalition nations, Iraq is in it’s fourth year of rebuilding, fixing the minor damage by the invasion and the significant damage of over a decade of neglect and brutality by it’s government.

In this process, the soldiers must take on roles they are unprepared for, unfamiliar with, untrained to face, roles they should not need to. A corps of dedicated soldiers who are trained to fight, but also trained to deal with other peoples, to rebuild damaged infrastructure, to win hearts and minds as well as hold and control a defeated nation. Lessons learned in Iraq should be used to develop this branch of the military.

TsunamiThe Boxing Day Tsunami of 2005 is another example. A horrible series of waves crashes into the shores of areas largely wracked with poverty and rarely ready for any such catastrophe. Tens of thousands of people die in eleven countries across Southeast Asia.

In this disaster, the only force on earth able to respond rapidly enough and rich enough to supply their needs is the United States military. Air Craft Carriers, little more than floating cities, bring medical and engineering, mechanic and building power to the site. Military boats, planes, and trucks supply the nations with necessities, helping in rebuilding.

But again, the military is not designed for this task, it is an added – if welcome – change of pace, a chance to save rather than take lives. If we had a force dedicated to this kind of work, then we could have quick, effective response as well as men trained to do the work and do it well.

Such a fifth branch of the US military would be better trained in diplomacy, in various cultures, in languages, and in the skills and tasks of rebuilding shattered nations. Whether settling a tribal dispute or finding a home for orphans, building airports, sewers, schools, hospitals, and roads, or dealing with "insurgents," death squads, and rebels, this force would take the burden off the shoulders of the present military, and put them where they belong: fighting our enemies and training future soldiers.

The time has come for a new branch in the military. I don’t know what it would be called, but such a force would work closely with all four existing branches, side by side as they move in whatever capacity is required. This force would add to our ability to not only wage wars, but wage peace and stability once we’ve achieved victory.

Because unlike almost every military force in the history of mankind, the US is not interested in territory, riches, empire, or subjection of the enemy. All we want is for everyone to be as rich, healthy, free, and happy as we are.
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jj mollo said...

You may be interested in Thomas P. Barnett's concept, which he calls the SysAdmin. Its purpose lies somewhere between police and military, with maybe a Peace Corps flavor. Barnett is the author of The Pentagon's New Map.

Wikipedia's description of SysAdmin: The SysAdmin's purpose is to wage peace: peacekeeping, nation building, strengthening weak governments, etc. The SysAdmin force is primarily staffed by older, more experienced personnel, though not entirely (he would put the Marines in SysAdmin as the " Mini-me Leviathan"). The sys Admin force would work best as a Core-wide phenomenon.

lance said...

I like your thoughts here CT. I think in a perfect world the role of rebuilder and the other things should be filled by the United Nations forces. But since we dont have a perfect world I do not see that happening anytime soon.

Jetgirl said...

I agree with Lance, this should be the baliwick of the United Nations, but who knows what they're up to these days, and they certianly don't seem to be capable of providing the unagressive yet impenatible coordinated peacekeeping and rebuilding force needed.

Anonymous said...

um I don't know what you're talking about but there definitely is a fifth branch of the military. It's called the Coast Guard...

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Christopher Taylor said...

The Coast Guard and National Guard aren't really full military branches; they are under the command of individual governors and are intended for US national defense rather than an overseas force.

I guess if you added the Air Guard, National Guard, and Coast guard, there are technically seven branches of the military.