Rights Invaded

“In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy so to do. It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparation for our defense.”

James Monroe

The Fifth President, the last of the “Virginia Dynasty”, the last Founding Father to become President, and residing during the “Era of Good Feelings”. All of those titles, and how many of you actually know about Monroe? You may recognize his name (albeit slightly less than the preceding James M.- Mr. Madison) Indeed Monroe, in his time was widely popular, thought to be very handsome, and for his first term presided over an era of expansion. Monroe ran virtually unopposed in 1820, and began his second term on a presidential level only matched by George Washington himself.

Monroe Was a military man, having fought during the Revolutionary War as a major, injured during the Battle of Trenton. Monroe understand that our country should strive for peace, yet be prepared for war, or as good ol’ Teddy Roosevelt put it, “Walk quietly and carry a big stick.” The Monroe Doctrine ironically an idea of Monroe’s successor, John Q Adams, has been one of America’s primary military, economic, and social strategies since it was written.

Here, with this quote, we see a somewhat “different” side of the Monroe Doctrine. It falls with George Washington’s warning not to “Get involved in entangling alliances” and Adams pressure not to fight on either side of the French Revolution. How does it affect us today though? I’m sure some people will assume I’ll take one side of the argument, a few may see this as my standing on the opposing side. The truth is I stand firmly with Monroe here, and in the middle of the US Military Debate.

Having been in the Navy myself, and currently a disabled veteran, I certainly have to say that there are many things our military does right. Offering education after service (though still going through reform solutions to perfect the process) is almost unheard of. Housing benefits, and benefits for spouses have become the most advanced in the world. Our military has the most up to date technology, and training unmatched in most military organizations. During the Constitutional Convention, there was a proposal to limit the US military to 5000 men, George Washington sarcastically suggested we also limit invading armies be limited to 3000. Military strength in the United States has always been a bone of contention. There are those who want us to have a small army, and those who push to increase our spending, and our presence worldwide.

There are lessons to be learned from history though. Certainly US history has a great many lessons we would be sorry to miss, but then we can learn lessons as a nation from elsewhere as well. Germany, after the First World War was given strict sanctions to follow. Their army was limited, not just in troop size, but also in Officer count. They were forced to give up many of their advancements in weaponry, including Tanks, Planes, and Gas. This was done by the French, and British along with heavy monetary payments out of hope that Germany would never again be able to start a war.

Yet they did.

Germany began World War Two with a list of battle successes, including the defeat of the French Army in a remarkably short span of time.  How they did so has had some academic study, but mostly it has been attributed to Blitzkrieg. The real question should be not how this occurred, but if Germany has no planes, or tanks how did they form strategy for Blitzkrieg?

After the first war, when the limitations of the Treaty of Versailles came into effect, Hans Von Seeckt took over as head of the German Army, his first goal was to study the way the war was fought, to find strategy from both sides that was successful, and implement this strategy. Certainly there were private armies in Germany which allowed Germany to bypass its limitations and when Hitler came into power most sanctions were ignored, but the truth is, the limit to Germany’s military was actually advantageous.

Without the limitations certainly Von Seeckt may have created the panels which studied how the war was fought, but the dead weight of over 100 years of Prussian Military theory would have hampered the innovations found. Of course there was still a great deal of Prussian strategy, but to be honest, that’s because they had successful strategy to begin with.

All of this leads to my point. In the United States our philosophy was one of isolation for 170 years, the wars we fought outside of our borders, in many way directly affected us. Many of our military engagements however, were fought on our own soil.  And most of the time, America was in a state of peace. Theodore Roosevelt, and James Madison both worked to ensure a strong military, but both presided over a period of peace.

Our military today could use strategic cutbacks. I’m not proposing we take apart our military or cut pay or benefits. I wouldn’t suggest a withdrawal from certain areas of engagement until stabilization has occurred. What I am suggesting is that the world police itself, the UN make decisions towards international security, and the US make decisions for our own security. I want our nation to be strong, but strength does not require the most men, it requires the best men. Let’s form committees to explore our successes and failures in Afghanistan, to explore our enemies’ successes and failures, let’s build a military which functions more for the 21st century and less like the 1940’s.