Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dumb military? Think Again!

Another guest post by Nathalie Vogel...well worth reading!

The faithful readers of UC will remember that in a previous entry a (friendly) controversy arose regarding the military. It was argued that the military turns out economic ignorants because of "a tradition that is regimented, authoritarian, central planning oriented, and not particularly intellectual." It was furthermore argued that some politicians had had to "overcome such a background" to become good Presidents in the past. As if having served your country in the military was some kind of intellectual or political handicap.

Firstly, I wish to reply to these statements with the following portrait of a French officer, Gen E. de Richoufftz who managed to tackle problems no politician had managed to tackle properly ... My question is simple: why?

Secondly, Gen. E. de Richoufftz does a great job defending the principles of tolerance, freedom and free market economy. My second question is: how many Libertarians are able to do his actual job i.e. pick up a weapon and go defend our freedom?

Read France - General(ret) Emmanuel de Richoufftz, a model for domestic conflict management

Note: the rifle is a French FAMAS, the standard weapon carried by French soldiers such as Gen. de Richoufftz.

You realize, of course, that General de Richoufftz is a community organizer? What will the Republicans think?

More seriously, de Richoufftz is doing great work. I'm glad you pointed his case out to us, and agree that both his military service and his subsequent community organizing are admirable. We need more like him.

However, I stand by my position that there's nothing inherent in the military enterprise that is libertarian, or promotes an appreciation for freedom. So far as I understand it, military science does not vary systematically across economic or political systems. E.g. differences in, say, NATO and Warsaw Pact doctrines did not stem from differences in systems, but from cultural and historical differences. Neither does military science teach one to understand economic systems. Military science is a sort of technology, broadly understood. Like engineering, it doesn't vary across political systems. Right?

The military is necessarily focused on command and control; it is hierarchical in a way that capitalist economic systems are not. And there's nothing, so far as I know, in military science about spontaneous order and invisible hands... things working properly precisely because there's no single person in charge. Quite to the contrary, it is about central planners (officers) directing activity according to a common plan. This is appropriate in the context, but not necessarily good training for a civilian political leader.

None of this is meant to disparage soldiers who put themselves between enemy and home. This latter is something that, as Robert Heinlein warns us, we should always honor. If we don't, our days will be numbered. But this willingness to heroically risk one's life to defend home is hardly unique to free societies. E.g. Nazi and Soviet soldiers both heroically sacrificed themselves repelling the foreign invaders in W.W.II.

I don't disparage any such heroism; but I do question whether it shows the ability to be, say, President.

Finally, you raise a simple question why Gen. de Richoufftz managed to tackle problems no politician could address, but you don't answer the question.

I don't know the answer, but I don't think it can be that military service necessarily prepares one for such tasks, for we don't see large numbers of former military people doing such important work.

Thank you again, Nat, for your excellent post, linked article, and comments.
Charles, you inspired a 7 pages article. In fact, I tried to illustrate what leadership is.
Point taken on libertariasnism, But I would not go that far and say that nothing in the military promotes the appreciation of freedom as such. The contrary is the case, it is at the core of many if not most military doctrines in democratic states.
I strongly disagree on the issue of systemic analysis of the Warsaw Pact and NATO. There is a HUGE difference which is neither of cultural nor of historical nature. NATO military doctrines stem from democratically elected state representations. This gives them another nature. The armed forces are a body under the control and supervision of ...well, us!
This is where we need to make the difference between soldiers serving in a dictatorship and soldiers serving in a democracy. Yes, both sacrifice for their country, but the latter have absolutely no choice. And ultimately, it is about choice. It is not because of a different “culture” that our armed forces know no dedovshina, but because of certain mechanisms within our military reglementing the dos and don’ts from the outside (and of course from the inside). Interesting in this context is what the French understand by “l’armée de la Nation dans la Nation” and in another military dimension, what the Germans understand by “Innnere Führung”
And re: the economic dimension, well there is some truth in what you advance, but only some. The defense agenda of a country is strongly submitted to economic retraints and follows certain needs. Why would reforms aim at basing our troops in economically sustainable areas? Why would one try to avoid duplication and rationalize effectives, is it not an economic understanding of defense?
It is true that military science is a sort of technology, in practice but the theory is much broader. Also, many military related research areas have generated much innovation. Many applications for instance in communication technologies eventually benefitted us all (the internet for instance).
I ask you, on a sidenote: which military science serving a dictatorship has been able to turn out technologies to ameliorate the living conditions of the civilan population?
I agree on the command and control issue and also on the absence of spontaneous order per se. Where I disagree again is that we see that sometimes it is excellent training for a civilian leader.
This leads me to answer my question myself, since you asked: why did this officer manage to tackle the issue? Well, because he is a leader. Because when he showed up in the suburbs, it was certainly not with the FAMAS you displayed on the posting. It was simply by standing there, as a leader. Because drug dealers and criminals know one thing, they can intimidate many, but certainly not someone with the background of an officer like him.
And broadly speaking, in international relations, it works with states the same way.As a democracy, when dealing with bullying, threats and violence, you need someone who does not have to repeat twice what he is saying to be heard.

So, call that community organizer or anything you want, and Republicans like Democrats are entitled to their views. My point is this, there are times when a leader is required to tackle certain issues.
I am the one who says thank you for inspiring me to research this issue. I have to agree with you, that the examples are not legion. Perhaps my next paper will be on someone of the NDU then? And the more one says these people do not exist, the more examples I will find. NV
correction: I meant "the first have absolutely no choice" (the ones serving in a dictatorship) of course. NV
Thanks for your reply.

I will defer to your expertise on military science and doctrine. But I do want to ask about this: when the Soviets took over Russia, was there a sharp break in military doctrine? My impression, perhaps wrong, was that there was not (although Soviet doctrines were obviously influenced by the experiences of the civil war). I think it's an implication of your position is that there was, right?

I stand by my contention that military training is about command and control, and that this approach is fundamentally different from such things as voluntary exchange and contracting, diplomacy, and other non-hierarchical means of conducting social relations. I would be going too far if I said military science and leadership are *only* about commanding and controlling, but I only say that there's an unusual *emphasis* on such. Good training? No doubt, but my point re McCain is that in my view it's his *only* training, and he has taken the wrong message from it.

You point to "freedom of choice" as the difference between military service in democracies and totalitarian states. This doesn't hold in the case of conscription. And America's experience suggests that if a President wants to go to war, he can do so. I am sure that democracy does serve as a check on a national leader, and that there's a fundamental difference with totalitarian states (i.e. I'm not siding with the Rockwellians) but the check is not enough for me to agree that we ive in a state of freedom in this regard.

Totalitarian systems do a poor job of applying military & space technology to productive use, and market systems do a great job of it. But this has nothing to do with military science, and everything to do with economic systems.

I don't think you answered the question regarding Gen. de Richoufftz. The question isn't why did he have the courage to go into these neighborhoods; the question is why did he have the wisdom to offer a free market approach to problems? That remains unanawered for me. (BTW, my comment re "community organizers" should be seen as a shot at the venality of America's Republican Party, which now attacks and mocks the activity of going into a poor community to help people, simply because they think they can win political points doing so.)

Finally, the more of these articles you write, the better. If I am stimulating (umm, provoking) you to do so, then I can be happy that I have actually done something good with all this.
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