Take a look at a series of notable quotations about militaries from soldiers, leaders, and outside observers.
Michael Oâ€™Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, in an interview with August Hutchinson, argues that modest U.S. military spending cuts are painful but necessary, while deep cuts are unacceptable.
Technological Insurgency Ben Kallas writes about how modern communications technology has altered the way insurgents fight, and about how nations like the U.S. should fight back.
Altering The Force
Matti Suomenaro argues that Finlandâ€™s military needs to be structurally reformed, or its doctrine changed, so it can survive at current levels of funding.
Behind The Myths
The anonymous descendant of a French Foreign Legionnaire writes about the myths that surround such men and their elite institution.
Fighting Words Thoughts from participants in war The Enemy In A Soldier’s Eyes: “I did not want to kill you. [But] you were only an idea to me before, an abstraction that lived in my mind... It was that abstraction I stabbed. But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, [and] your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony. Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?” - Erich Remarque (WWI Author) War Stories: “War is...peddled by myth-makers (historians, war correspondents, filmmakers, novelists, and the state) [who] endow it with qualities if often does possess: excitement, exoticism, power, chances to rise above our small stations in life, and a bizzare and fantastic universe that has a grotesque and dark beauty.” - Chris Hedges (Gulf War Veteran) The Draft: “If they needed fresh bodies, why not draft [some] jingo [with his] Bomb Hanoi button, or one of LBJ’s pretty daughters... There should be a law, I thought. If you support a war, if you think it’s worth the price, that’s fine, but you have to put your own precious fluids on the line. You have to head up for the front and hook up with an infantry unit and help spill that blood.” - Tim O’Brien (Vietnam Veteran) Miserable Battles: “Stalingrad is hell...Every time you move, you
have to jump over [the bodies] left there to rot. [The] soldiers are suffering terribly from hunger; they...look like corpses or lunatics, looking for something to put in their mouths. They no longer take cover; they haven’t the strength to walk, run away and hide...A curse on this war!” - Will Hoffman (WWII Veteran) Beauty and Glory: “I like to see, armed for the fight, a host of men together ride; and my delight’s unbounded when castles strong I see assailed, and outworks smashed, whose strength has failed. [And] well I like a noble lord when boldly the attack he leads, for he, whene ’ er he wields his sword inspires men by his brave deed. [And] well I like to hear the call of ‘help!’ and see the wounded fall...and see the dead, both great and small, pierced by sharp spearheads one and all.” - Bertran de Born (Feudal Lord) Fanatic Ideology: “We were raised as the fanatical believers of a new creed, the only true religion of scientific socialism, bequeathing to all mankind eternal salvation, eternal peace, and the bliss of an earthly paradise... The works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin were accepted as holy writ. [Our] great goal was the universal triumph of communism, and for the sake of that goal everything was permissible - to lie, to steal, to [destroy] millions of people...I took part in this myself [and when] we saw the base and cruel acts that were committed in the name of our exalted notions of good [what] we feared most [was to [fall] into doubt or heresy.” - Lev Kopelev (Red Army Veteran)
This Issue Cut Cautiously
Altering The Force
Behind The Myths
By August Hutchinson
By Ben Kallas
By Matti Suomenaro
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An interview with Michael O’Hanlon “Right now, we have huge deficits, yet also huge responsibilities and concerns around the world,” says Mr. O’Hanlon, outlining the reality that ultimately defines his perspective on military spending in the United States. He knows well the subject about which he speaks. Before becoming a senior fellow and director of foreign policy research at the Brookings Institute, he earned a PhD in Public and International Affairs from Princeton, analyzed foreign policy for the Congressional Budget Office, did research for the Institute of Defense Analyses - the list of credentials goes on. Suffice it to say that he’s had enough knowledge to write twelve books about military and foreign policy issues, the latest of which, Healing the Wounded Giant, is about how to cut the defense budget whilst maintaining military preeminence. And not too long ago, the CIA recognized his expertise by making him one of their external advisors. Room for cuts can be found without looking too hard, he says. Start here at home. Some of the 149 military bases within the U.S. ought to be shut down - we simply don’t need that many. And commissaries (general stores run by the military for soldiers, veterans, and their families) can stop selling discount goods on the taxpayer’s dime in this era of widespread Walmarts and Home Depots. Some disagree, noting that a family of four saves around thirty percent on their grocery bill, that veterans are given an 2
opportunity to make some extra cash by bagging money for tips, and that the commissaries foster a sense of community. They tend to see commissaries as a benefit that has been well-earned by people who have volunteered to risk their lives for this nation. Those of Mr. O’Hanlon’s persuasion are
more likely to view them as an unnecessary perk that was much more valuable in the early days of their existence, when a large number of soldiers were stationed in the middle of nowhere. While our soldiers still deserve world-class healthcare, he adds, some of the current programs are overly generous. They encourage veterans to pay less attention to their costs and to over-use the health-care system at significant expense to taxpayers. If you need evidence, look at the military’s
Tricare program for retirees. Recipients used inpatient services 60% more often, and outpatient services 44% more often, than people with civilian plans. Part of this has to do with the cost of insurance premiums. While premium costs increased sixty-five percent for civilians employed by the federal government between 2000 and 2005, Tricare premiums have increased less than $5 since the program began in 1995. It, and other such programs, should be pared back. Compensation for military personnel is also worth scrutinizing. For a long time, the Department of Defense (DoD) had tied their basic pay to that of civilians with similar qualifications via the Employment Cost Index. This would ensure that the military remained a competitive employment choice economically, However, since 2001, Congress has been repeatedly increasing military pay above and beyond what the index recommends, despite the fact that the DoD has either met or exceeded recruitment goals each of the past seven years. So, says Mr. O’Hanlon, we ought to scale it back somewhat. Our military capabilities can also be reduced slightly, in his estimation. The Air Force would be fine if it halved the number of ultrahigh-tech F-35’s that it plans to purchase. The Navy could stand to lose a carrier battle fleet or two. And we even have room to cut the number of our ground forces by fifteen percent. With this last cut, the military would still be
able to wage a full-scale war and deal with smaller simultaneous challenges abroad. But the capability of waging two simultaneous wars, which the U.S. has done over much of the past decade and been prepared to do since the end of the Cold War, would probably be eliminated. This isn’t a problem, according to Mr. O’Hanlon. “I don’t think we need to be able to do two large land wars at a time anymore. But I do think we may wind up in a couple of mid-sized operations: helping implement an Israeli/Palestinian peace deal, for example, while staying for a few years with modest forces in Afghanistan, and perhaps being part ultimately of a peace implementation force in Syria, where the carnage and the threats to our interests are currently so severe and where our inability to do anything that is meaningful at present is both heartbreaking and dangerous.”
Consider This: The Department of Defense’s base budget is often reported as America’s annual defense spending. In 2012, that number was $535.4 billion. But actual defense spending is much higher. Add the wars and nuclear weapons management, and you’re up to $636.7 billion. Add the costs of veterans affairs, military retirement, Homeland Security, and Interational Affairs, and you’re up to $928.7 billion. That’s almost a trillion dollars.
Mr. O’Hanlon warns strongly against cuts going much deeper than these. Not only must the U.S. be prepared for the aforementioned operations, but its soldiers deserve appropriate benefits, like educational assistance through the GI Bill. Plus, it faces a rising China that needs counterbalancing, the “enduring threat” of North Korea, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities, and its continuing aggression. But often, arguments are made that these threats aren’t serious. To provide an example: North Korea and Iran are local troublemakers. They haven’t dared to conquer their neighbors, a number of whom are equally or more powerful rivals, often armed by the U.S, who actively and directly counterbalance their power and threaten them, like South Korea and Saudi Arabia. Consequently, they are regionally contained and restricted, despite the fact that, in Iran at least, many leaders harbor hegemonic aspirations. To boot, North Korea’s army, according to the DoD, is not only run by an aid-dependent nation plagued by a decades-old failed economy and concomitant food shortages, but also “suffers from logistical shortages, aging equipment, and poor training.” Iran, on the other hand, has land forces geared more towards preventing coups and fighting guerrillas than engaging in conflict with other state armies. Plus, most other Middle Eastern countries are Sunni-majority, which would complicate the efforts of Shi’a-majority Iran to fight
In a nutshell Mr. O'Hanlon argues that: Q
America faces huge deficits. To address these, military spending must be cut. Certain military benefits are overly generous, and should be pared back or eliminated. Likewise, some of our forces and equipment are excessive. America faces significant threats from countries like China and Iran, and should maintain the ability to engage simultaneously in a war and multiple mid-sized operations. Spending cuts must be limited accordingly. Cutting spending will not have an effect on military adventurism, which isn’t a big problem to begin with.
in and/or occupy one of these places. They’re having economic troubles too, which could be exacerbated with relative ease at key choke points. All but one of Iran’s major ocean-connected ports sit behind the key choke-point of the Straits of Hormuz, for example, and almost 60 percent of government revenues come from oil exports, many of which travel most easily over the sea to the major consumers, like China, Japan, and South Korea. And in any case, the world doesn’t revolve around Washington D.C. The elimination of tens of billions of dollars from the U.S. defense budget isn’t going to dramatically alter Iran’s 3
calculations when it comes to funding Hezbollah, or Stalinist North Korea’s hostility.
lation. Plus, China’s air force arguably still can’t match Japan’s, let alone America’s.
This all may be true, but Mr. O’Hanlon retorts that these two countries still threaten our interests. North Korea routinely rattles its sabre, not only with rhetoric but also with missiles. Their launches may fail now, but they continue to develop ballistic and nuclear technology; at some point they may stop failing. And while the Iranian regime may not be suicidal, it repeatedly crosses ‘Red Lines’ and has a history of sponsoring terrorism. Neither of these countries may be superpowers, but they’re hostile. Their hostility is threatening. So the U.S, says Mr. O’Hanlon, needs to remain able to deal with them militarily if necessary while simultaneously deterring or dealing with other threats, like a rising China.
And when it comes to sea power, China’s one functional aircraft carrier can’t match the nine active and five inactive carriers of the U.S. Navy. Plus, most of China’s sixty or so active subs run on diesel power; These need to surface to refuel every four weeks or so at best, while nuclear subs don’t, and since ours are equipped with oxygen generators, they can stay submerged as long as the crew has food. Nuclear propulsion also allows for higher speeds. In short, U.S. subs can travel farther from bases, move faster, stay out longer, and stay hidden better than Chinese ones. And on the nuclear weapons front, the eighteen or so Chinese missile silos able to fire rockets at the Western U.S, as well as most Chinese population centers and bases, are all within range of the nearly 300 nuclear warheads carried by U.S. submarines that are on ‘hard alert’ in the Pacific at all times, ready to launch within fifteen minutes of an order.
Some posit that China is in no position to threaten the U.S. Not only are the two nations tied tightly economically, but the latter has overwhelming military advantages. America’s troops, though less numerous, are much better equipped, and as of 2012 the U.S. had over 208,000 military personnel on Pacific landmasses, while China still doesn’t have a single overseas military instal-
In 1999, Mr. O’Hanlon seemed to agree with this argument, writing that “China’s military is simply not very good.” But as the years have progressed, he’s become
Credit: The Wall Street Journal
more concerned. China’s military budget has been on the rise, he notes, while those of our key East Asian allies have remained comparatively stagnant. He adds that they’re rapidly developing key niche technologies, such as cyberespionage, which would be immensely helpful in a military conflict, just like the more conventional technologies that they’re also working on, such as precision-guided missiles and modern stealth aircraft. And the Chinese government lacks much of a concern for human rights, which would make them much more flexible than the U.S. in certain combat situations. In other words, they still may not have reached parity with America, but they’re headed toward parity, and as a result of this, America must remain strong and prepared. The question of historical context is also worthy of consideration here. Most nations throughout most of history were much more threatened than today’s U.S. is. Look at the French. In 1793, they were simultaneously at war with Spain, Portugal, Austria, Prussia, Great Britain, and the Dutch. In 1872, they had just been pummeled in the Franco-Prussian war. They also faced a new nation on its eastern border, a unified Germany, whose citizens often seethed with anti-French sentiments, whose increasingly militaristic armed forces also beat Austria, and whose economy was growing robust due to collapsing trade barriers and booming industrial development. In 1918, Germany shed much French blood, and threatened France again in 1940. Its aggressive to-
talitarian leaders invaded Poland in 1939, took Czechoslovakia and Austria in 1938, signed a non-aggression pact with Russia, and was being appeased by Britain. Unlike France and most of the other Great Powers of yore, the United States does not face such terribly grave threats from
and prudently, without trepidation that our global position is somehow already fragile. But the things we have going for us in our favor also don’t change the fact that there are also big threats. And I’d submit to you that our strength and successful deterrence have helped create
We should cut where we can do so safely and prudently, without trepidation that our global position is somehow already fragile. But the things we have going for us in our favor also don’t change the fact that there are big threats. equally powerful nation states. In fact, our global situation is unprecedented in modern times: no Great Powers are actively seeking broad territorial conquest or trying to forcefully alter the rules of the prevailing international order. They bicker over issues like aid to Syria, Edward Snowden, and the Senkaku/Dioyu islands instead. In this spirit, some might try to use Mr. O’Hanlon’s own words to rebut him. In 2010, he wrote that the U.S. “leads a global alliance system of more than 60 partner states that collectively amount to almost 80 percent of global GDP and more than 80 percent of total global military spending between them.” He added that the U.S. has a slew of demographic and domestic advantages that are lacking in “would-be rivals like China, Russia, and India,” including its solid legal system, open political system, and powerfully innovative economic engine. But he would have none of this. “These kinds of arguments go far in saying that we should cut where we can do so safely
these favorable conditions.” Some argue that cuts, as deep or deeper than those enumerated here, might help to limit military adventurism. They use words like those of Harvard Professor Stephen Walt to make their case: “the most obvious reason that the United States keeps [fighting foolish wars] is the fact that it has a remarkably powerful military... When you’ve got hundreds of planes, smart bombs, and cruise missiles, the whole world looks like a target set. So when some thorny problem arises somewhere in the world, it’s hard to resist the temptation to ‘do something!’” Mr. O’Hanlon, however, doesn’t entirely agree. While the President may think this way, he says, “the U.S. military itself doesn’t. Look at its aversion to current operations in Syria, for example, or its reluctance to get into Iraq (which was a civilians’ war).” Plus, “back when Rumsfeld and company argued for the Iraq war, our defense budget was actually only half as expensive as it has been since. And in the 1980s, when we spent a lot on defense,
we didn’t intervene much at all. And the Korean war broke out after we’d cut precipitously. And the Vietnam war wasn’t exactly an appealing prospect to anyone at the time. It happened out of fear, not hubris, I’d argue.” Whatever your sentiments about military spending, Mr. O’Hanlon urges you to avoid analyzing the issue with broad and sweeping arguments. “We can cut drastically,” one person often says, “because we outspend other countries and spend more in real dollars than we did, on average, during the Cold War.” No, another person often rejoins, “we spend only three percent of our GDP on our armed forces, and the world is still dangerous.” To him, rehashing these broad arguments only reinforces the impasse between hawks and doves, leaving people with little other than two simplistic geopolitical worldviews to choose from. He thinks everyone would benefit much more from linking budget numbers to military policies, strategies, and abilities, and from trying to figure out exactly how to structure these things based on the specific challenges that the United States faces domestically and overseas. Still, if he had to put his own argument in sweeping terms, it would be this: our government already has massive debts here at home, and yet it still borrows 31% of all the money it spends. Our military faces threats abroad that it must remain prepared for, too. So let’s cut our spending cautiously, not drastically. By August Hutchinson ‘16.5 5
The Technological Insurgency How the modern terrorist fights and how to fight back Let’s say you want to fight a government, but you lack the firepower to defeat its military in open combat. To have any chance of winning, two things are quite clear: you must stay hidden and you cannot use the same tactics as your opponent. In other words, you, the weaker side, will use unconventional tactics to gain advantage over your stronger opponent in an asymmetric war. This is why, throughout history, examples abound of weaker forces using psychological warfare, attacks on civilians, sabotage, hit-andrun attacks, and other such tactics. Traditional insurgencies used these tactics to directly challenge a country’s military or governing apparatus in an effort to weaken and eventually replace the state. They often imitate, loosely or closely, the model of “people’s war” pioneered and successfully executed by Mao Zedong. According to this model, guerrillas initially live among the populace and harry enemy forces and supply lines. As if they are fleas biting a lion to make it lash out blindly in anger, the guerrillas antagonize the stronger force until it clumsily attacks and alienates the people. The insurgency then grows to a point where it can assume various functions of government and eventually defeat the military in a traditional campaign. The newest model of insurgency (as practiced by groups like Al-Qaeda, MEND, and Lash6
kar-e-Taiba) works quite differently. Instead of focusing on crippling the opposing military, they strike at civilian, economic, or symbolic targets in order to convince national decision makers that the political and monetary costs of the conflict will outweigh the benefits. When they do target an enemy military, their motive is usually strategic rather than tactical.
curity forces have become much more effective. But ICT has simultaneously made decentralization a more effective and feasible option for insurgencies. Groups with such command and control structures used to be severely limited in their ability to communicate, coordinate actions, and recruit new followers. But as Al-Qaeda has shown, this is no longer the case. One no longer needs to be in the same country as Al-Qaeda’s central leadership to take up the group’s cause and receive training through chat rooms. One need not even have met a single Al-Qaeda member if one takes inspiration from and learns from their online videos. Plus, existing insurgencies can easily affiliate with Al-Qaeda and fight in its name. Indeed, an insurgency can exist on a truly global scale as long as its members can communicate. Most of Al-Qaeda’s characteristics have precedents, but its global reach is truly new.
In the past, insurgent groups with hierarchical structures predominated. They could fly under the radar of state security forces, which used to be less effective, and their operations were made feasible by funding from very powerful state sponsors, like the USSR and the USA during the Cold War. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, this stream of money dried up substantially, and thanks to the rise of ICT, se-
Without a strong overarching hierarchical leadership, it is generally more difficult for insurgent cells to coordinate actions. But given enough of them, ICT can enable disparate ones to coordinate and learn from one another. A salient example of such “open source warfare” comes from the Iraqi insurgents. They had the ability to rapidly adapt to American anti-IED technology, despite the sparse and frequently hostile relations among its many resistance groups. Factor in the sheer volume of information that can be accessed online (everything
from bomb-making instructions to detailed satellite imagery) and it becomes clear that insurgents have access to an unprecedented amount of knowledge, skills, and ideas. Decentralization also imparts a high degree of resilience to an insurgent network. The “leaders” of these groups, like the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, only merit the title insofar as they issue broad mission-type orders to the cells that follow them, though no direct connection may exist between the leader and the led. Since such leaders only contribute ideas or inspiration to their followers; their removal (as happened with al-Zarqawi) has little impact on the network’s ability to fight. Even the death of Osama bin Laden seems to have had little effect on Al-Qaeda Central; from a strategic standpoint, the information confiscated during that raid was probably more important than bin Laden’s death. It is well known that ICT is reducing the degree to which political elites can control the information that reaches ordinary people.
Usually this is a good thing, but insurgents frequently manipulate the media to spread their message. The leaders of open societies face a dilemma when an enemy consciously employs tactics and broadcasts messages designed to demoralize the public, since direct manipulation of information by elites is anathema to societies based on freedom of expression. All the insurgents need do is commit a shocking atrocity – even if it has no tactical significance whatsoever – and step back while the news broadcasts images of bodies and burning buildings to the world. In democracies, where a military effort is critically dependent on public support, this strategy can rapidly convince the public that the troops should be brought home or never deployed in the first place. The targets available to insurgents are also becoming more plentiful as societies become more complex; networked critical infrastructure for transporting oil, water, and electricity have proliferated in recent years. They often comprise hundreds or thousands of miles of exposed pipelines or
On A Related Note: Killing the leader of a decentralized movement may not be very effective. But this can also be true of organizations with highly structured hierarchies. Consider a Mexican drug cartel, Los Zetas. In 2013, its kingpin, Miguel Morales, was captured. As a rival drug lord said, “for all the bosses jailed, dead or extradited, their replacements are already here.” Experienced people who have risen through the ranks abound, eager to bathe in the power and huge sums of money that come with running a cartel. The organization may be hurt and even splintered by a battle to fill the leadership vaccuum (which a decentralized group is much less harmed by), but it can still survive and rebound.
cables which are costly to defend and are even more costly when crippled by attacks. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 it took care to preserve the country’s oil infrastructure because oil exports constituted Iraq’s economic lifeblood. The country’s insurgents came to the same conclusion, and began a concerted sabotage campaign against both this infrastructure and Iraq’s electrical grids. The resulting economic damage severely hampered reconstruction efforts and eroded the government’s legitimacy in the eyes of its people. Similar attacks have taken place all over the world, from Columbia to Nigeria to the Caucasus and Pakistan. And it turns out that astronomical economic damage can be caused with very small investments. When a pipeline near Basra, Iraq was damaged in 2004, the Basra port was unable to export oil for nearly a week. Losses were estimated at $500 million, and the attackers’ only significant cost was the explosives. The Nigerian group MEND attacked one of Shell Oil’s loading platforms in February 2006, prompting the company to halt oil production (20% of Nigeria’s total output) for two weeks and to indefinitely shut down an adjacent oil field. The attack cost Shell $50 million. The near-simultaneous sabotage of oil and electrical infrastructure leading into Georgia in January 2006 took nearly a week to repair, during which time the country was almost entirely without energy in the middle of winter. Given how rapidly ideas can spread,
we should expect that insurgents around the world will soon come to appreciate how effective infrastructure sabotage can be in a campaign. As was mentioned, decentralized insurgencies make extensive use of digital communications to coordinate, fundraise, and recruit. Additionally, their digital trails are obscured by the noise created by the rest of the world’s internet and cell phone users. So even though the U.S. government can exploit these vital connections to gain important information, this task is very difficult. Essentially, the U.S. is searching for a needle in a massive digital haystack. So the government uses data mining: supercomputers sift through numerous sources of information – from people’s internet searches to travel and spending patterns – to find trends which indicate suspicious activity. One early project began in 2002, called Total Information Awareness. It was discontinued due to concerns over potential civil liberties violations, though segments of the program continued under different names. A similar project, Novel Intelligence from Massive Data, retained its funding. The PRISM program, exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, is merely the latest component to be revealed in a broad system related to data mining. Similar programs are under development to sort and analyze surveillance footage. Like the internet, surveillance captures so much information that actually watching it all – much less sorting through past 8
footage to identify patterns – is simply beyond the capacity of those who monitor it. Once the U.S. government identifies an insurgent, it may be unable to deploy troops to that country or region. Thus the best-known weapon in the U.S. counterinsurgency arsenal has become another advent of the modern tech-
even different from the one that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. ICT allows groups which have never met to share ideas and learn from one another, and inspire individuals on different continents whose only link to the insurgent group is an internet connection. Networked infrastructure is expanding faster than it can be pro-
Technology has greatly improved insurgents’ ability to wage and win asymmetric wars against states, but also gives counterinsurgents powerful new tools to track and disrupt them. nological age: unmanned aerial vehicles, colloquially known as “drones.” Their enormous contribution to battlefield surveillance is unquestioned. Furthermore, Hellfire missile strikes have killed many high-level insurgents who were otherwise inaccessible, and have severely restricted the ability of insurgents to train in the open. Though overuse does create some degree of backlash, even the highest estimates of civilian casualties are far lower than those that would result from traditional military campaigns. For instance, when the Pakistani army engaged the Taliban in Swat Valley in 2009, approximately 2 million people were internally displaced, creating a national refugee crisis. The Pakistani government (one of the most vocal critics of drones) says that civilians constitute only about 3% of drone strike fatalities since 2008, with none killed since 2011.” In short, the insurgent networks arrayed against Western powers today are quite different from those in past decades, and are
tected and its failure tends to be tremendously expensive, so one can expect sabotage to remain prominent into the foreseeable future. Western security agencies have dramatically expanded their surveillance and data mining capacity since 9/11. The most important question that governments now face is not whether they can combat these networks, but whether they can do so without tarnishing their image at home and abroad. The United States arguably has more soft power than any nation in history, and many have argued that this constitutes its greatest long-term strength. It can certainly win this ideological battle, but not if it sacrifices its ideals in pursuit of short-term gains. Defeating a dispersed, adaptable enemy which seeks to use our freedoms and democratic values against us (without compromising those values) may prove to be the defining struggle of our time. By Ben Kallas ‘14
Altering The Force
The Finnish defense doctrine or its armed forces need to change Finland is a small Northern European country whose potential national security threats are limited to neighbouring Russia. Its national defense plan is shared by many other small countries: prepare with the expectation that when war breaks out, it will involve a massive land invasion. Such a doctrine demands a large standing army and reserve, helping to explain why all men between the ages of 18 and 64 must serve in the Finnish Defense Forces (FDF) or civil service. This is costly, and has been a key political issue in recent years. Under the Defence Forces Reform of 2012, military spending is to be cut down approximately 33% by 2016. The FDF is working to reach this goal (1) by postponing or cancelling material upgrades and purchases, (2) by disbanding garrisons, divisions, and brigades, (3) by reducing training hours, the number of field exercise days, and support staff, and (4) by increasing the number of holidays given to servicemen. One need not think hard to realize that these policies diminish Finland’s material capabilities. Finland, in its quest to reduce military spending, doesn’t need to look further than the other Scandinavian countries for possible alternatives. It could follow the Swedish model and move away from a conscript army to a smaller professional army. Or perhaps it could follow the Danish model by maintaining conscription but drafting a small
portion (30% in Denmark) for military service. However, even if Finland opted for reform, legislating that change could be an issue. According to Panu Poutvaara of the University of Helsinki, current Finnish support for conscription stands at
to a professional army largely because they no longer see themselves as needing a large land army. Now, he asserts, Sweden trusts in Finland’s ability to act as a buffer against Russia (though he never actually mentions Russia, it is hard to imagine Sweden hoping for protection from Norway).
The Finnish military is cutting spending while keeping an expensive defence doctrine. This is hardly sustainable; the quality of the forces will decline. It must change its doctrine, too. 79%. So if the government opts for a referendum, it is possible that conscription will survive, as it did in Switzerland last year, when 73% of voters chose to maintain it. Nevertheless, public support does not guarantee its continued existence. According to the Finnish news agency Suomen Tietotoimisto, Sweden eliminated conscription despite public support for the program standing at 63%. In addition to available funds and public opinion, Finnish military policy is also influenced by perceived security threats. According to General Hägglund of the Finnish Army, Sweden moved
But even in light of the threat posed by Russia, Finland could limit military spending by, perhaps, reevaluating its partnership with NATO. A 2007 poll shows 69% of Finns oppose NATO membership, and that 40% believe it will make Russia more threatening, even though 45% think the opposite would happen. Whether the public is right or wrong, NATO membership could help deter Russia and open up an opportunity for downsizing the military and cutting costs. After all, the key problem is that the FDF is cutting spending while keeping an expensive defense doctrine. This is hardly sustainable; the quality of the forces will decline. Finland has to find ways to cut costs and still maintain a credible defence force. This could be either done by switching to a defense doctrine that requires a smaller and cheaper defence force at the risk of going against public opinion, or it can maintain conscription and look abroad and hope to supplement its forces with someone else’s. By Matti Suomenaro ‘16.5 9
Behind The Myths ...that surround the French Foreign Legion. “The French Foreign Legion.” There is something quite bewildering in the capacity of these four words to create a look on someone’s face. At six years old, my father’s line of work inspired both fear and aspirations in the hearts of my classmates. Their faces were filled with childish awe. At fourteen, they saw him and his brothers-in-arms running up the hill near our school, every morning, whether rain poured or the frigid air sucked the heat from their bodies. The looks on their faces had become ones of genuine amazement and inspiration.
foremost of whom, in my eyes, was my father. But when I left the military environment in which I was raised, I was confronted with the other looks. The “what on earth is the French Foreign Legion?” look always threw me off. I had a lot of trouble handling the judgmental look of the anti-military people who refused to talk to me. And then there was the scared look, inevitably followed with a ques-
I considered walking away, but then I would have given her a right to have all these prejudices. While I was struggling to find an answer that would not contain any insult, she whispered: “So... Did he kill anyone or not?”
Some Basics: Q
At seventeen, added to their faces were looks of respect and jealousy; this was especially true of all the kids whose fathers were mainstream soldiers; the French Foreign Legion was held in much higher esteem than the navy, the infantry, or the air force. The Legion provoked the look, and seeing it made me proud, not because I could succeed in its ranks (I could not) but because I was related to the institution. Growing up, I religiously listened to my father’s tales of war, shared late at night over glasses of wine grown by the Legion’s injured veterans. Tales of friendship, of brotherhood - the tales, all the tales of this big family, the mythical Foreign Legion, the romanticized institution of heroes, the 10
tion you wouldn’t expect to hear unless you were the son of someone like Al Capone: “So, is your father a criminal? A thief? A murderer?” The first time I heard that question, I almost choked to death on my coffee, not to mention my surprise and anger. If only it had been a joke. The dread and confidence in her voice, her shifting eyes searching to see whether anyone was listening. She went on: “you know, they take their passport away. They give them a new identity so they can start a new life, a second chance to wash away their former mistakes.”
The French Foreign Legion is an elite military unit of only 7,700 soldiers, who come from countries other than France. The Legion currently boasts about 140 nationalities. The Foreign Legion has a storied history dating back to 1831, and remains active. Since 2000, it has fought Islamic militants in Afghanistan and Mali, protected installations such as a satellite launch center in French Guiana, and done peacekeeping operations in Chad, Kosovo, and, in a mission with the name “Operation Unicorn,” the Ivory Coast. After three years of service, a Legionnaire can apply for French citizenship. If injured in combat, he may apply for citizenship early, having become, it is said, “French by spilled blood.” Despite common impressions to the contrary, the Foreign Legionnaires aren’t a bunch of criminals. They are all subjected to rigorous Interpol background checks.
Enough was enough. Did she really believe that the French government would risk pissing off all its allies by taking in all of their criminals? “Oh, you’re a serial killer? Please come in, have a cup of coffee and consider joining the elite of the French Army.” They did check records, they did ask for motivations, they did care about your past, and they did apply rules. They had reasons to take your passport away, to give you a new identity for a limited amount of time. No, my father didn’t kill anyone to join the club. The myth was wrong. Legionnaires were not all huge, primitive, heavy-drinking bears who committed crimes before fighting under the French flag. So I walked away. After that, I came to realize that more and more of those around me, many of whom are on their way to becoming the elites of France, did not even care about the soldiers. Many in the government did not care about the soldiers; outside of the pernicious myths, many citizens didn’t care about the soldiers. The war in Mali, the early withdrawal from Afghanistan, defense budget cuts - I could only see the solider and his own struggle, but for most people, these were all numbers and sound bytes. For the longest time, I kept struggling on how to incorporate my past into the new life I was living. Should I just forget about the Foreign Legion? Should I just stop talking about my father’s job? I tried. I would not talk in class when military topics arose. I
would remain silent when people talked to me - as if I knew nothing about the army. I would just sit on my anger. Then, one day, I came to a realization: I can’t escape my past. The military is a part of me; I care enough about it to get angry when the subject arises. No longer, I told myself, could I let the reality be obscured by the discourse, nor by that pernicious myth of criminality, which suggested to many that we might as well, without a care, let those men of the Foreign Legion atone through their service or die trying. I could not let the reality be obscured by the myth and the discourse. I could not let people unchallenged in their views. And when I started to speak my mind, I rediscovered those looks from olden days - the looks of respect, amazement, inspiration. They returned because I brought, not detached studies or academic analysis, but experience. Yes, those other things are necessary, especially for those who make public policy and military decisions, but too many people get lost in the theory and the strategy. Too few incorporate the actual human element into their thoughts and plans.
me that you can only effectively criticize and improve that which you know. I only am now starting to see how much warfare has changed, and how this change impacts the army. Plus, now that my father has retired, I can look back over his entire career. When I look back at his early years, I see a gap between the civilian world and the military world. And I see that, by the time he retired, the gap had grown into a wide chasm. And while all the old myths, both dark and positive, persist, I also see a more novel myth emerging: that, as the institution transforms and adapts to survive, the French Foreign Legion as my father knew it, a world famous elite military corps, is becoming a relic, a construction that belongs to the past. By An Anonymous Contributor
Growing up in the Foreign Legion taught me very important and meaningful lessons: it taught me respect for soldiers; it taught me to care about what wars we decided to get involve in; it taught me tolerance and open-mindedness and acceptance of difference. And it taught 11 Credit: Erik Chipchase
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