War Isn’t for Everyone

My first piece for The American Conservative, which they've titled "War Isn't for Everyone--The military needs civilian control, not citizen soldiers," is in the May issue.

My first piece for The American Conservative, which they’ve titled “War Isn’t for Everyone–The military needs civilian control, not citizen soldiers,” is in the May issue. It’s now available online under the title “Civilian Control, Not Citizen Soldiers.”

The impetus for the article (submitted February 2nd but delayed a month because of events in the Middle East) is that the recent hand-wringing by Bob Gates, Mike Mullen, and others that the military is bearing the brunt of our perpetual state of war while most of us  are blithely aware of their sacrifices misses the point.

Key excerpts:

  • America has traded a model in which a tiny cadre of professional soldiers was augmented with legions of amateurs during wartime for a large professional force augmented by a semi-professional reserve force. And, by most accounts, the result is a far superior fighting machine.
  • That most people don’t share in the sacrifice of war is no different than the fact that most of us don’t share in the sacrifice of fighting fires, rounding up criminals, slaughtering and processing meat, mining coal, or any number of other dirty, dangerous jobs that need doing.
  • We’ve gone from military service being something that was simply viewed as a man’s duty, to the ugly disdain for the military in some circles in the late Vietnam era, to a cult of worship where everyone who wears a uniform is viewed as a hero or part of a priesthood above questioning.
  • [T]hey have one unique attribute that distinguishes them from those in any other line of work: They’re not allowed to quit whenever they feel like it.

Originally posted March 24.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Military Affairs, National Security, Published Elsewhere
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. ponce says:

    If our current military is so superior to what we used to have why does it keep losing?

  2. sam says:

    “If our current military is so superior to what we used to have why does it keep losing?”

    That has to do, not with the competence of our military, but rather the kinds of wars it’s being asked to fight. The WWII total annihilation of the enemy model is not operative any more.

  3. john personna says:

    That’s pretty bizarre, ponce. We’ve head military victories, and then nation-building failures.

  4. ponce says:

    John,

    You’re not one of those sad sacks who thinks we really won Vietnam, are you?

  5. Andy says:

    ponce,

    You’re not one of those sad sacks who thinks today’s military is anything like what fought in Vietnam, are you?

  6. ponce says:

    We had the draft back then, Andy.

    The losses I was thinking of are in places like Somalia and Afghanistan.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    ponce:

    You aren’t this lacking in understanding.

    The military has won every war or quasi-war it’s been in since Vietnam. You can’t look at a single bad battle — Somalia — and call that a lost war, it’s absurd. A battle is not a war. And the beginnings and ends of wars are determined by politicians not by the military.

    As for Afghanistan we won the initial phase of the war — knocking out the Taliban. Now the military has been set the goal of nation building in a place that is not and never has been a nation. And they’ve been asked to do it while kindly not killing any civilians, or using any more men, or taking out cross-border sanctuatries.

    The fault for that lies with the former president and the current one, not the military. If you ask a man to do an impossible thing and he does his best and fails, it’s not his failure, it’s yours for asking the impossible to begin with.

  8. ponce says:

    “You can’t look at a single bad battle — Somalia — and call that a lost war, it’s absurd.”

    Michael,

    The U.S. military has been running dumbass operations against Somali for the past 15 years.

    See our large military base propping up the current government of Djibouti, the world’s leading sex slave traffickers.

  9. Wayne says:

    How can you claim that we lost in Somalia if we are still running operations there?

  10. michael reynolds says:

    Do you mean anti-piracy missions in Somalia? Is that also a “war?”

    As for Djibouti, is it your position that we should only have bases in places that meet the Vermont Town Meeting standard?

    You’re sounding rather campus radical circa 1968.

  11. ponce says:

    “Do you mean anti-piracy missions in Somalia? Is that also a “war?””

    Some of the missions are anti-pirate, some anti-terrorist, some just seem to entail flying AC-130 gunships over Somalia and randomly slaughtering any Somali unfortunate enough to be in range.

    “You’re sounding rather campus radical circa 1968.”

    Let’s just say I no longer believe the U.S. military is a force for good, Michael.

    And I used to be one of its biggest fans.

  12. JKB says:

    Inara Serra: I’ve just seen so many sides of you, I wanna make sure I know who I’m dealing with.
    Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: I start fightin’ a war, I guarantee, you’ll see somethin’ new.

    The United States Military hasn’t been released for a full war since 1945. The “wars” since have been tightly constrained as to what they could do in the conduct of the hostilities. We haven’t even declared war officially.

    Should we ever start fighting a war, you will see something new. Think back to the weeks after 9/11, the world held its collective breath in fear that the US military would be released unfettered. The world feared, George W. Bush would simply issue the order, “Get’em” and lest loose the might of American military power. Although, held in check, the US military dealt with Iraq and Afghanistan in short order. What people complain about as war in these places are operations to permit proper government to develop but operating under very limited permissible means. That we can do such operations without resorting to all out war is a tribute to the skill, professionalism and capabilities of the professional US military.

  13. mannning says:

    Our military model still includes the draft as the only way to raise a multi-million- man army in the event of a super war such as WWII, and even “Police Actions” such as Korea, and 500,000 men wars such as Vietnam. The mechanisms are still in place to institute the draft rather quickly if needed. The critical elements here are well-trained and experienced non-coms and officers around which to build a super-army when called for.

    That we have avoided the draft since Vietnam is perhaps because a super-army has simply not been needed, although many critiquers of the Iraq War cite the inability to put a truly overwhelming force into Iraq up front was a self-imposed error of great magnitude that cost us heavily in lives and resources.

    The root of this reluctance to gather overwhelming force is, of course, a political one, because of the public furor that would ensue if the draft were to be started again. So we pay the penalty of not having sufficient troops available on many occasions ( I would include Libya in this category) to man up to the proper levels, and the need for multiple tours and rotations in and out of our combat zones of today of both regulars and reservists. This becomes diffused anguish, and the disruptions it causes military families are not as appreciated by the public at large.

    On top of this stress of our military, we have politicians looking for a so-called “Peace Dividend” by reducing the force levels and hardware procurements as a money saver, witness Clinton’s reduction of the military by some 30% or so, and the inexplicable reluctance of Bush to raise the force levels back quickly.

    Typically, once we decide we need to reduce the military, along comes yet another war or “engagement” for which we are not really well-prepared. So we go to war with what we have, which has been successful far beyond informed expectations, if you look at the early projections of casualties for Iraq I and II, and Afghanistan. Fortunately, we have not been faced with any really serious military opposition–yet. Obviously, the bet is that we never will for the forseeable future.

    I would ask whether a crazed dictator might decide it is time to take South Korea by force on some balmy Spring day, which could trigger a major land war again, including China, and catch us with few troops to spare, thus canceling out the sacrifices of 50,000 men in Korea, during 1950-1953 or so? Or, do we follow the pacifist shrug of the shoulders that says give it to Kim if he wants it that badly, since we can’t respond effectively now without resorting to nuclear warfare; and, even then that is not necessarily a winning move?

    The bottom line is that we should maintain a substantial, well-equipped combat-ready force, perhaps even larger than today’s structure, and be prepared to employ reserves, guards, and draftees if necessary. This in spite of the financial difficulties we are in because of the profligate spending of our government over the past 10 years or more. We can and should afford to defend ourselves and honor our treaty commitments as well.

  14. Andy says:

    Let’s just say I no longer believe the U.S. military is a force for good, Michael.

    Then you don’t think the US government is a force for good. The military doesn’t make policy – it’s a tool for policymakers. If you don’t like how that tool is used then your problem isn’t with the military.

    Look at Libya. There wasn’t a senior military leader who thought this was a great idea and they said so in the necessary diplomatic language that subordinates must use. The good idea fairies running national security policy decided otherwise and now we find ourselves in this wonderfully stupid war. That’s the nature of the beast.

  15. sam says:

    @ Manning

    “The bottom line is that we should maintain a substantial, well-equipped combat-ready force, perhaps even larger than today’s structure, and be prepared to employ reserves, guards, and draftees if necessary. This in spite of the financial difficulties we are in because of the profligate spending of our government over the past 10 years or more. We can and should afford to defend ourselves and honor our treaty commitments as well.”

    I see nothing in our current doctrine that is contrary to that. In Iraq, reserves and Guards were committed. All that was missing from your list was draftees.

    “this in spite of the financial difficulties we are in because of the profligate spending of our government over the past 10 years or more. ”

    I trust you will include Iraq in the “profligate spending”.

    @JKB

    “Although, held in check, the US military dealt with Iraq and Afghanistan in short order.”

    I’d revise that to, “the US military dealt with the regular Iragi Army in short order.” We certainly didn’t deal with Iraq in short order. Nor, evidently, Afghanistan.

    Our armed forces are not, as JKB mentioned, being used any more as an instrument of total war. They are more akin, I think, to the Roman legions of the early empire period.

  16. sam says:

    And while we at it, our armed forces won every battle in Vietnam. But as Gen Giap is supposed to have said, “So what?” They understood, as we did not, that it was not that kind of war.

  17. Steve Verdon says:

    Another thing that has changed is the media. During WWII the media image was much different than it is today. Now we see images of people dying, some even our own troops and Americans don’t like to look at it too long. That means a protracted war, one that is asymmetrical in nature is going to be hard for the U.S. military to fight. So while our military can probably out fight just about any other military, the PR side of things is where we don’t have much stomach for it, especially when the threat to the U.S. itself is often so nebulous.

  18. ponce says:

    “Look at Libya. ”

    Yes, look at Libya.

    We already took out every legitimate military target days ago,

    Now our heroes are down to the phony Israeli “dual-use” definition of legitimate targets.

    And then…

    There is nothing more dangeropus than a hot rod air force that has run out of real targets to kill.

  19. Andy says:

    There is nothing more dangeropus than a hot rod air force that has run out of real targets to kill.

    Yes, who knows, you may be next! One never knows what the Krazy jet jockeys will do!

  20. michael reynolds says:

    ponce:

    You’re sounding as hysterical as the various factions of right-wingers, each with their own fact-free rant of denunciation.

    The idea that Air Force pilots go around randomly picking out stuff to blow up in idiotic. Obviously the negative propaganda of hitting civilians is potentially hugely damaging. Obviously the military knows that as well as anyone. So your theory is that we actually seek those targets out? Or what, that we just sort of guess where we should send a million dollar cruise missile?

    Our military is driven by a desire to achieve an objective — if they randomly blow stuff up they aren’t achieving their objective. Which means that by their own definition, they would have failed. Is it your considered opinion that they are setting out each day looking to fail? Or is it your considered opinion that American pilots are hunting civilians from the air?

    Jesus H. Is no one capable of actually dealing with facts? Or must every event be reduced to paranoia, fantasies and phobias?

  21. ponce says:

    “Yes, who knows, you may be next! One never knows what the Krazy jet jockeys will do!”

    Something like this I imagine:

    “Last week, over 60 Afghan civilians lost their lives during NATO airstrikes on residential areas in the same province. ”

    http://www.presstv.ir/detail/167696.html

    “The idea that Air Force pilots go around randomly picking out stuff to blow up in idiotic.”

    Yet U.S. pilots have managed to kill quite a few civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Somalia and Yemen and Pakistan, etc., etc.).

    So what are we really deabting, Michael?

    Whether their hearts were in the right place when they dumped their payloads onto the children?.

  22. steve says:

    “Or, do we follow the pacifist shrug of the shoulders that says give it to Kim if he wants it that badly,”

    South Korea has twice the population of North Korea. It has many multiples of GDP. Why are we protecting them?

    Steve

  23. Unless our objective is unconditional surrender, it’s not really a war that anyone from WWII or before would recognize as such. It may be a police action, a kinetic event, a multilateral fishing expedition, or whatever else you want to call it, but it ain’t a war. If you are in a war winning it is imperative and bringin everything you have to bear on it is the only way to fight that respects the sacrifices you are asking the troops to make. Haven’t seen that imperative since WWII, except maybe Gulf War I until the leadership chickened out afraid of bad publicity from the road of death.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    So what are we really deabting, Michael?

    Whether their hearts were in the right place when they dumped their payloads onto the children

    Do you dismiss motivation? Do you hold that the bank robber who kills a teller and the cop who tries to stop him and accidentally kills a bystander are equally at fault?

    I asked you a question in another thread that you may have missed, or chose not to answer. It’s this: It’s 1944, you can drop bombs that will stop the trains to Auschwitz, but you’re certain to kill a dozen German civilians. Do you take the shot?

    Life comes with complex moral equations. It’s not black and white. So how do you answer the above?

  25. mannning says:

    @sam

    You are correct as far as doctrine is concerned. But when it comes to budgeting and appropriations we will most likely fail to meet the force levels and standards I suggest is needed. But that is merely my opinion, of course. One small vote for strength in numbers.

    I have been very critical of how things went in Iraq from the beginning. Not that we went in, but that the whole military and reconstruction approach was not right, which sent billions and billions of dollars down a rat hole, and took us far too many years and far too many casualties to reach a kind of stability.

    My idea has ever been to go in with overwhelming force and really saturate the entire combat zone. Yes, an up front surge, if you will. Clean out the insurgents that pop up, and start the rebuilding of the local army under “new” management immediately. Give the former army troops something to do. Forget about reconstruction in the large and fix some of those things we broke. Help them to set up their new government, make certain that we control who gets oil contracts there, then get out of the way. We should not have been squeemish about getting the oil contracts under our control, so long as the main profits go to Iraq and some to us as repayment for the job we did.

    Forget about us democratizing an Islamic nation; we don’t do that; only they can, their way. If Iraq had been done that way, it would have been far faster finished for us, far fewer casualties, and a boatload of dollars cheaper. The one thing we should have done is to set up and man permanent bases in Iraq, especially in the East and South, maybe a bit out in the desert and away from the main population, sort of like we did in Kuwait. Pointedly aimed at Iran, of course, and secondarily to ensure things stay stable.

    All of which was political dynamite then.

    But, of course, the mantra then was “we are not conquerers, we are liberators.” which I say was the wrong theme and it was totally ineffective.

    Oh well, so much for the past.

  26. anjin-san says:

    > Let’s just say I no longer believe the U.S. military is a force for good

    It was never intended to be a “force for good”. The military’s job is to fight battles and wars – kill people. Take territory & hold it as long as necessary. It has a larger role, that it is sufficiently intimidating, we can avoid fights. People just wont want to screw with us. That obviously does not always work, but it is a pretty effective strategy.

    Doing good, or not? That is decided by policy makers in DC, as it should be. That the U.S. has sometimes used its military forces for good is highly unusual in history, and to our credit as a nation.

  27. ponce says:

    “So how do you answer the above?”

    If only our pilots were killing civilians for anything as noble as that, Michael.

    Our WWII pilots killed far more German, Italian and Japanese civilians than soldiers.

    And they were ordered to kill those civilians…no pretending it was an “accident.”

    But killing or not killing civilians isn’t about morals, it’s about winning.

    In WWII, nobody cared about dead civilians…but now:

    Here’s two Afghan civilians who were killed just today because our pilots were too lazy to notice who was walking by their target…what was the rush?

    What was the urgency?

  28. ponce says:

    Oops…the link: http://tinyurl.com/5tjr4dr

  29. michael reynolds says:

    ponce:

    You’re using nitpicky arguments to sidestep a discussion on fundamental moral issues.

  30. ponce says:

    “You’re using nitpicky arguments to sidestep a discussion on fundamental moral issues.”

    I don’t see the “moral” issue, Michael.

    Killing civilians when it helps you win is distasteful.

    Killing civilians when it helps you lose is obscene.

  31. john personna says:

    Getting back to James’ assertion, i’m going to disagree. I don’t think there is anything wrong with me saying I dislike wars, active drafts discourage wars, and so I prefer an active draft. It is a pragmatic position.

  32. anjin-san says:

    Killing civilians when it helps you win is distasteful.

    Killing civilians when it helps you lose is obscene.

    Actually it is always obscene. Sometimes necessary, but always obscene. “Distasteful”? You should take a hard look in the mirror before you get all high and mighty with anyone about moral issues.

  33. ponce says:

    It’s not the morals of the modern U.S. military I question, Anjin, I question its competence.

    James says its superior to our WWII-era military.

    I’d ask, by what measure?

    Certainly not the talent of the troops or its record of success.

  34. Andy says:

    ponce,

    The idea that there can be a clean war where only the bad guys die and no good guys die is a fantasy. Even under the best circumstances with the best of intentions mistakes will always be made – in every war – that results in innocents getting killed. The goal of perfect battlefield intelligence, perfect weapon systems and, most of all, perfect humans who make no mistakes or errors of judgment is one that we will never reach.

    The point being, if one is not prepared to deal with that – if one is not prepared for our forces or the enemy forces to kill innocents, even when we don’t intend to – then one shouldn’t go to war in the first place.

    James says its superior to our WWII-era military.

    I’d ask, by what measure?

    Certainly not the talent of the troops or its record of success.

    That, I think, is a legitimate question and actually a complex one since the circumstances are so much different today. Still, the military today is clearly superior in terms of lethality against conventional military forces. The military isn’t very good, IMO, at the “armed social work” types of missions it too-often gets tasked with. There’s actually some debate within military and defense circles on whether it would be a good idea to create specialized forces for those mission. Personally, I would rather see policymakers limit their tendency to use the military to try to solve difficult policy problems.

  35. Rick DeMent says:

    Ironically the notion of the citizen soldier that formed the core of our original fighting force and also was the soul reason the 2nd amendment was included in the bill of rights is now an anachronism. If those that believe that original intent is the primary basis on which to interpret the constitution, they would be upholding almost any challenge to the 2nd because we no longer rely on the citizen soldier for anything at all.

    But I guess some intentions of the founders are not as important as others, especially where the gun lobby friendly reinterpretation of the 2nd is concerned.

  36. Ole Sarge says:

    Mr. Michael Reynolds, Andy and manning; {salute], thank-you.

    Mr. James Joyner, read the piece you wrote, {salute}, and thank-you.

  37. michael reynolds says:

    Sarge:

    Army brat, here, so I’ve spent too much time around soldiers, old and young, to believe they’re saints, or to believe for a minute that they go around looking for civilians to kill. Is there a small subset that lose it and cross the line? No doubt. But that’s not what the United States military is about.

  38. How about kinetic military actions?

  39. mannning says:

    @Rick D.

    Sorry to disabuse you, but we still rely on civilians in case of all out war by way of the draft, and it is far preferable that they come to the army already proficient in firearms and able to hit targets smaller than the side of a barn at 300 yards or more. A few weeks of training does not substitute for the years of hunting, target practice and plinking that many young men and boys do regularly today, often with their Fathers as the guide.

    It must be a horrible revelation to you also that the sport of target shooting on ranges is such a popular one, both for hand guns and rifles here in the US, with well-attended meets established all over the nation on a regular basis.

    Then too, hunting itself is still a very popular activity in just about every state.

    Another factor is home security, where an average of 3 million criminal events per year are reported where the victims were able to thwart the criminals with their home defense weapons, thus preventing many crimes up front. It is impossible to tell how many of these criminal events could have resulted in serious injury, rape or murder, but a best estimate is on the order of 0.5 to 2.0%, or about 15,000 to 60,000 serious injury or death events. This alone is quite adequate justification for having guns in the hands of the civilian population for their protection and use.

    Perhaps that helps to account for the 60 to 80 million people that own well over 200 million guns here in the US today according to the NRA.

  40. sam says:

    “A few weeks of training does not substitute for the years of hunting, target practice and plinking that many young men and boys do regularly today, often with their Fathers as the guide.”

    You obviously have never gone through Marine Corps rifle training.

  41. mannning says:

    @sam

    Correct. I learned to shoot accurately in military prep school over four years, their rifle team as Captain in my last year, and then in the Air Force and their sharpshooter school in TX. Are you saying that your Marines can make a 7.62mm sharpshooter at 300 yards on iron sights in a matter of two weeks from a zero weapons background? That is marvellous!

  42. sam says:

    ” Are you saying that your Marines can make a 7.62mm sharpshooter at 300 yards on iron sights in a matter of two weeks from a zero weapons background?”

    Yes.

  43. mannning says:

    Marvellous!

    Must have some very sore shoulders in that bunch. How many rounds on the average do they expend to get there?

  44. sam says:

    Here’s how it was Manning (over 50 years ago, but in the essetentials, the Marine Corps doesn’t change). The first week I was in boot camp, I was issued an M1. That was my rifle. That rifle went with me to every duty station I served at. On my last day on active duty, I turned my rifle in. Until then, it was always with me. From the very beginning, a Marine recruit is told that he is first, last, and always, a rifleman. No matter where you end up — as a cook, running a database at Headquarters Marine Corps, driving a truck, whatever — you are a rifleman. You are expected (and that’s much too weak a term) to become proficient with your rifle. I’d guess that 3/4s of the guys I was in boot camp with had never held a rifle in their lives (I know I hadn’t). We had two weeks of very, very intensive training in the firing of that weapon. I can’t recall how many rounds we fired in practice, but I’d guess a lot. At the end of that training, we went to the range to qualify. In those days, we fired from 200, 300, and 500 yards. We all qualified. Some as Marksman, some, like myself, as Sharpshooter, some as Expert.

    And thereafter, just like every other Marine (even the flyboys), I had to go to the range once a year and requalify.

    The Marine Corps is very serious about the small arms proficiency of its members.

  45. sam says:

    Here’s the Marine Rifleman’s Creed:

    This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than the enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. My rifle and I know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, or the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit.

    My rifle is human, even as I am human, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other.

    Before God I swear this creed. My rifle and I are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.

    So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy.

  46. mannning says:

    I can see that the intense training you Marines received provides an extremely powerful motivation to become an excellent rifleman. 500 yards is beyond what I attempted in the AF. My hat is off to any rifleman that can consistently hit the 10 ring or a vital area at that distance. Today, I don’t believe that a strandard M-16/AR-15 type weapon can be very accurate at 500 yards, but I could be wrong. An M-14 or an M-1 is a different story.

    I will say that my experience on the ranges before I was in the AF made the effort to qualify quite a lot easier and faster than many others were experiencing. Such things as: knowing a good sight picture, how to zero in at range, control of breathing, trigger pull, ignoring the forthcoming kick and blast, how to use a sling, and the best standing, sitting, kneeling and prone positions, all helped me greatly. But, I was not under the pressure to qualify you indicate for Marines.

  47. sam says:

    FWIW, when I qualified the first time, I fired a possible at 500 yds, that is , 10 shots in the 10 ring (actually, a black bullseye). I can’t recall if I did that again, but my scores at 500 yds were always high. We we firing from the prone position, of course. Here’s a story — I saw this with my own eyes — to give you some idea of the quality of the instruction.

    When you fired at the target, the pullers would bring the target down, mark the spot you hit with at round white cardboard spotter (looked like a 6″ dreidel), run the target back up, and then use a marking staff to indicate the gross position of the hit, and the score. The marking staff was a long pole with a metal disk (about 1 foot diameter). The pullers would hold the staff up over the bullseye, then move it to the part of the target where you hit. The disks were red, white, and black, so you could see what your score was for the shot. The protocol for all this emphasized speed and crispness.

    The guys pulling the target for the Marine next to me on the line were not models of speed and crispness . In fact, they were a pair of screwoffs . Instead of simply using the marking staff it indicate the general position of the hit, they were waving it around all over the place, and taking a bit time to do it. My instructor (there was one for every three Marines on the line), was getting really pissed. He called down range and told them to knock it off, but they didn’t. Finally, when we got to 500 yds, he had enough. The next time they fooled around, he asked the guy next to me to hand him his rifle, and offhand he put a round through the marking disk at 500 yds. I bet that guy’s arming were vibrating for the rest of the day. They pulled the targets with more dispatch after that.

  48. mannning says:

    Good shooting, sam!

  49. ponce says:

    Serving in the Navy and the Air Force is about as dangerous as serving in the Girl Scouts, anyone could do it.

    The Army and the Marines are a different matter.

  50. EHov says:

    Ponce,
    While a good percentage of people in the Navy and Air Force never see direct combat, there are those that do (AF TACP & PJs and Navy SEALS & Riverine Units). Plus, flying any aircraft in the military is potentially deadly. You also have to think how many are handling dangerous chemicals, heavy equipment, and hazardous working conditions (pitching seas, high winds, hot climates, etc.).

  51. DC Loser says:

    Ponce – obviously you’ve never been in the military. Good natured interservice rivalry helps build morale and a sense of competition, but I’ve never met a soldier/sailor/airman/marine/coastie who truly talked badly of the other services. It’s one team, one fight. The grunt in the foxhole may make fun of the flyboys and their air conditioned tents, but they will hold them in the highest esteem when they need close air support and an A-10 shows up. I’ve never met any members from other services who thought I had it good going out in -50 blizzards hauling nuclear weapon components to fix broken missiles. We respect each others’ skills and specialties and what we all bring to the fight. We make fun of each other, but sometimes civilians just don’t understand.

  52. ponce says:

    DC,

    What’s to understand?

    Marines and soldiers can and do die or get mutilated in the most horrible ways in the line of duty.

    Sailors and airmen don’t, unless they’re extremely lucky.

    Please don’t ask us to pretend that serving in the Air Force or Navy is anywhere near as noble a sacrifice as serving in the Army or Marines.

  53. DC Loser says:

    @Ponce – your attempt at humor ain’t working.

  54. EHov says:

    Ponce,
    I don’t know why service would be less noble than the other. Just because a couple services don’t routinely see direct combat doesn’t make them any less respectable. You have some serious problems if you can’t respect all service members equally.

  55. mannning says:

    @ponce

    You need to look up the horrible casualties the Navy suffered in WWII, primarily from Kamikaze strikes. In a future war, Navy vessels all the way up to carriers are going to be vulnerable to missile strikes, with similar casualties. For example, if we engaged Iran, our ships in the Gulf would suffer missile attacks; if we engaged NK/China in a repeat of that war, our fleet would be under missile attack. One hopes that the defenses of a carrier group will be adequate to stop waves of missiles, but I am not so sure.

    With my group, I spent many years trying to perfect several close in weapons systems, and largely succeeded with the 30mm gatling gun Goalkeeper against single missiles flying at up to Mach 3 (and jinking), but the system could only engage three or four missiles in a barrage, leaving the ship open to the fifth or sixth missile in a cluster. (we were able to test the system using 3″ shells fired from a frigate, and had 92% successful hits on the shells we recoverd downrange.)

    The US Navy CIWS was the 20 mm gatling gun Phalanx with much less throw-weight and range and no proximity fusing, but they were installed at four points on a carrier. Since that time, the US Navy has installed RAM systems (Rolling Airframe Missile) that have greater promise: prox fusing, self-guidance, higher velocity and far longer range, so some hope is there for the defense.

  56. sam says:

    I think, as a matter of plain fact, the infantry is more exposed to getting on the casualty lists than the Navy or the Air Force. But when things go sideways, the Navy especially is at great risk. For instance, there were twice as many Navy causalities at Guadalcanal than Marine. The naval battles around Guadalcanal were ferocious — as were the air battles. (The Solomons campaign is only the place in WWII that I know of where the combined arms of the opposing forces were in constant contact throughout the entire campaign.) And then there was Taffy 3 at Leyte Gulf. Frankly, I’d rather be getting off a landing craft on a beach than serving on a ship carrying the landing crafts.

  57. matt says:

    My biological dad died a very early death from ALS which even the Navy said was probably a result of handling depleted uranium in the CIWS (seawiz) systems (he was a loader etc). I’d rather have a quick or semi quick death on the battlefield then to go through the agonizing years of suffering I watched him endure..

    I have no doubt that there would be a great number of casualties should a carrier group come under attack by anti-ship missiles. Even Iran would easily be capable of launching several hundred missiles at once which would quickly overwhelm our current defensive technology.

    Taffy 3 was a marvelous show of epic courage under fire. I’ve been long disappointed in the lack of interest in what is without a doubt one of the navies brightest moments. I’ve long wanted to see a GOOD movie made of the events but alas I’ve had to settle for the excellent book “THe last stand of the tin can sailors” by James D. Hornfischer. I HIGHLY recommend you pick up a copy if you’re even remotely a ww2 buff.

  58. matt says:

    “A large Japanese fleet has been contacted. They are fifteen miles away and headed in our direction. They are believed to have four battleships, eight cruisers, and a number of destroyers. This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.”

  59. ponce says:

    Manning,

    Past danger and potential danger in future wars don’t really equate to the actual danger faced now by members of the Army and marines.

  60. mannning says:

    Such considerations matter a lot if you are deciding whether to join up, which service to select, and for what reasons, including what on-going wars or conflicts are present or anticipated that you may be called upon to enter

  61. Barry says:

    jkb: “The United States Military hasn’t been released for a full war since 1945. The “wars” since have been tightly constrained as to what they could do in the conduct of the hostilities. We haven’t even declared war officially.”

    charles austin says:
    “Unless our objective is unconditional surrender, it’s not really a war that anyone from WWII or before would recognize as such. It may be a police action, a kinetic event, a multilateral fishing expedition, or whatever else you want to call it, but it ain’t a war.”

    Actually, this is incorect. Ask any Marine from the 1920’s and 30’s about that, and they’ll tell you that they were in plenty of wars.

    This ‘if it ain’t WWII, it ain’t a war’ attitude is pretty foolish; the USA has been in three unlimited wars after the Revolutionary War. And even that was to some extent limited; it ended when the British government decided that there was no victory worth having.

  62. VetJim says:

    @Ponce- You do realize that The Marines are a Dept of the Navy?