Whose Army Is It, Anyway?

A Northern Michigan University conference tries to address the question: to whom does the U.S. Army belong?

The answer may be that the Army belongs to those inside the Washington Beltway, rather than to Americans as a whole.

Andrew Basevich is a retired Army colonel turned college history professor.

He says it used to belong to all of us until the early 20th century, when the idea of citizen-soldiers providing the bulk of national defense by serving in militias and volunteering for duty in times of crisis fell out of favor.

By the World War II era, the citizen-soldier idea was replaced by a desire for a larger, permanent standing army.

He also traced the development of an all–volunteer army that arose from Vietnam where he himself once served.

Bacevich explained why universal military training went away for militias went away.

He says to many opponents of the citizen-soldier concept, the idea means compulsion of the entire population into military service.

He also outlined the problems with an all–volunteer model that the years since the 9/11 attacks have exposed: too many wars, too few warriors to fight them, and even greater removal of oversight of the Army by the people.