I spent last week in Pittsfield, Maine, at
a symposium on modern war called by Colonel Mike Wyly, USMC retired. Col. Wyly
was one of the heroes of the maneuver warfare movement in the Marine Corps in
the 1970s and '80s, and when he suggests it's time for a new effort, people
listen. My hope was that we might make some progress on Fourth Generation war
theory, and while I am not sure we accomplished that, we did gain some ground
on one important question: what might a state armed service designed for 4GW
To address that question, we first had to answer another one: what would
such a force's mission be? Not being neo-Trotskyites, we derived our answer
within the framework of a defensive grand strategy. The new service's (and it
should be a new armed service) primary mission would be to prevent outbreaks
of Fourth Generation war on American soil. The focus must be on prevention,
not "first response," because if we are forced into a response mode,
the enemy has already won. And, the new service must be oriented not only to
preventing imported 4GW, like that we saw on 9/11, but also the homegrown variety
such as London just experienced.
But – and here was the kicker – the new service has to keep us safe without
pushing America further toward Big Brother, the all-powerful, centralized, national
security state represented by the Department of Homeland Security, the "PATRIOT
Act" and much else coming out of Washington.
So what should this new 4GW armed service be? The answer of our working
group at the symposium was, "a militia."
The militia was the basis of America's defense through most of our history
as a republic. More, there are two contemporary models. One is volunteer fire
departments, which small town and rural America depend on and which almost always
perform well. The other is community policing, where cops walk the same beat
in the same neighborhood for a long time, long enough to understand the neighborhood
and prevent crimes instead of just responding to them. Neither volunteer fire
departments nor community police serve as control mechanisms for the federal
government. They respond to their local communities, not to Washington.
The new militia's most important function would be neighborhood watch.
The only way to prevent 4GW attacks is to find out about them before they happen,
and that means the militia, like community police, must know what is happening
in their neighborhoods. But again, we don't want to feed Big Brother. Almost
all of what the militia knows should remain on the local level.
How can we make this happen? Our working group decided the militia should
normally report to the county sheriff, a local, elected official who has a lot
of independence. Sheriffs' powers, defined over centuries in common law, allow
them to tell the feds to stick it. Nor are they under the thumb of local or
state politicians. If they violate citizens' rights, they can be unelected real
fast. The militia, we also decided, would not have powers of arrest unless deputized.
A separation of powers between the militia and law enforcement would also help
maintain citizens' rights.
Another danger we wanted to avoid was allowing the First Generation culture
of order, still characteristic of America's Second Generation armed forces,
to carry over to the new service. Like Third Generation militaries, the militia
must be outward focused, prize initiative over obedience and depend on self-discipline,
not imposed discipline. We therefore determined that there should be very little
in the way of formal ranks or commands and no saluting, drill, uniforms (at
least none required), etc. The largest unit would be the company, with an elected
captain. The captain's duties would be mostly administrative, and sub-units
could elect adjutants to handle their paperwork if they wanted to. The militiamen
would be free to choose leaders on a task basis, picking whomever they thought
was best qualified depending on what they had to do. Yes, this means trusting
ordinary citizens to show some common sense. Republics do that; if they can't
or won't, they are no longer republics.
Another characteristic of our anti-4GW militia is that unless mobilized,
the militiamen would not be paid. Instead of pay, they would collect points
toward retirement benefits and – we thought this could kill two birds with
one stone – they would receive health insurance for themselves and their families.
Instead of health coverage just becoming another "entitlement," citizens
who did something for their country would find their country doing something
for them. We thought long-term benefits like pensions and health insurance would
also help recruit the kind of people the militia needs, solid citizens capable
of delayed gratification.
Next week's column will continue this report on the results of Colonel
Wyly's symposium, including the militia. And no, the fact that we met in Maine
did not lead us to consider using moose as crew-served weapons carriers.