Forgetting our American tradition: Bonus Material

by David Brin

There is some reason to believe that these ideas have started – at last – to take hold in high places. Take the following excerpts from this 2/09 article.

Back in July 2008, Barack Obama, then the presidential front runner, called for a civilian national security force as powerful as the US military. We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded, Obama told a Colorado Springs audience.

In his book, The Plan: Big Ideas for America, current Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel writes: It’s time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, all Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service.

Now, these paragraphs can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Certainly three months of training are inadequate to create a vast pool of citizen soldiers, even if they had only WWII levels of technology to deal with. But that is not the issue or the point.

What three months (a summer) can achieve is:

  1. to create a vast pool of “pre-trained” men and women who might hurry into accelerated ramp-up training in an emergency.
  2. to allow the security services to access huge reserves of professional skills, finding out where and who such civilians are and pre-slotting them, should they volunteer.
  3. to expose several hundred thousand young men and women every year to a pre-taste of military life, thus enticing tens of thousands toward normal enlistment.
  4. to provide every community with large pools of citizens who are capable of applying swift resilience to any shock or disaster, each of them knowing where to go and what to do, in order to back up or assist first responders.
  5. to give citizens a greater appreciation of just how much they don’t know (!) and how impressive the professionals really are.

In any event, one thing is clear. A wind is at last blowing counter to the hyper-professionalization trend. Whether or not any of the points that I have made are truly sensible, it might be wise to study and understand the arguments. We may, indeed, be looking at the future. And truly adaptable professionals ought to be able to roll with it.

Leave a Reply