Courtesy Reuters

The Military and American Society

The armed forces of the United States are in the throes of what is popularly termed an identity crisis. Alongside daily press reports of antiwar protests, draft resistance and opposition to military spending are accounts of such problems within the uniformed services as discipline, race relations and drug abuse. The concern of the military is apparent in recent institutional reforms, most notably in the Navy, designed to make service more attractive and to remove some of the irritants that no longer appear to serve a useful purpose. Not so well-known, however, is the search to adapt traditional concepts and practices of military professionalism to changing requirements and radically new demands.

Protected as it was by vast oceans until the Soviets acquired a nuclear capability, the United States traditionally sought security in a form of national defense based on a tiny, physically isolated active army and a relatively larger but still small navy which could be expanded in time of emergency. Civilian authorities conducted politics and diplomacy without military participation; the military conducted war to victory without civilian intrusion. In keeping with the American liberal ethic, it was considered dangerous to democratic institutions for the soldier to engage in political activity or the affairs of state. But when diplomacy failed, war was sanctioned as a crusade, and it was considered inefficient and even immoral for the civilian non-professional to meddle in the conduct of military campaigns when American lives were at stake.

Traditional U.S. military professionalism, nurtured in the isolation of frontier posts following the Civil War, reflected this doctrine of mutual exclusion. Its aim was simple: to apply military power to destroy an enemy armed force with the fewest possible casualties to itself. Inherent in the soldier's outlook was the conviction that he would be committed to combat only for causes which justified the ravages of war. The soldier considered himself divorced from politics and politically neutral, with loyalty not to abstract principles but to elected political authority, in the

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