On October 7th, John Arquilla, Andrew Bacevich, James Fallows, and Gary Hart, writing in The Atlantic, proposed the creation of an independent, nonpartisan investigatory commission to evaluate the military experience of the past decade. In their view, the United States is now in an era of “persistent conflict” with no end in sight in which our armed forces achieve indifferent results while costing American taxpayers exorbitant amounts. To address this they believe that the United States must extract from the military experience of the past decade insights that can provide the basis for a more effective and affordable 21st century force.
They identify several areas of investigation likely to bear fruit, among them is:
The civil-military gap. On the eve of his retirement, outgoing JCS chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, speaking on behalf of those who serve, noted that his fellow Americans “don’t know … what we have been through.” Americans don’t know because today’s military exists in splendid isolation from the rest of society — an unintended consequence of abandoning the citizen-soldier tradition four decades ago. The question deserves to be asked and studied: Does the existing All-Volunteer Force serve the nation’s best interests?
Their work is timely, thoughtful, and well worth consideration. It is encouraging to see a group of such accomplished scholars focusing on the civil-military cultural divide and recommending a serious national debate on the subject.