an unanticipated consequence of
Jack M. Balkin
Jack Balkin: jackbalkin at yahoo.com
Bruce Ackerman bruce.ackerman at yale.edu
Ian Ayres ian.ayres at yale.edu
Mary Dudziak mary.l.dudziak at emory.edu
Joey Fishkin joey.fishkin at gmail.com
Heather Gerken heather.gerken at yale.edu
Abbe Gluck abbe.gluck at yale.edu
Mark Graber mgraber at law.umaryland.edu
Stephen Griffin sgriffin at tulane.edu
Bernard Harcourt harcourt at uchicago.edu
Scott Horton shorto at law.columbia.edu
Andrew Koppelman akoppelman at law.northwestern.edu
Marty Lederman msl46 at law.georgetown.edu
Sanford Levinson slevinson at law.utexas.edu
David Luban david.luban at gmail.com
Gerard Magliocca gmaglioc at iupui.edu
Jason Mazzone mazzonej at illinois.edu
Linda McClain lmcclain at bu.edu
John Mikhail mikhail at law.georgetown.edu
Frank Pasquale pasquale.frank at gmail.com
Nate Persily npersily at gmail.com
Michael Stokes Paulsen michaelstokespaulsen at gmail.com
Deborah Pearlstein dpearlst at princeton.edu
Rick Pildes rick.pildes at nyu.edu
Richard Primus raprimus at umich.edu
K. Sabeel Rahmansabeel.rahman at brooklaw.edu
Alice Ristroph alice.ristroph at shu.edu
Neil Siegel siegel at law.duke.edu
Brian Tamanaha btamanaha at wulaw.wustl.edu
Mark Tushnet mtushnet at law.harvard.edu
Adam Winkler winkler at ucla.edu
William J. Astore, retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), has a post today on the remoteness of American wars from the American people:
America’s wars are remote. They’re remote from us geographically, remote from us emotionally (unless you’re serving in the military or have a close relative or friend who serves), and remote from our major media outlets, which have given us no compelling narrative about them, except that they’re being fought by “America’s heroes” against foreign terrorists and evil-doers. They’re even being fought, in significant part, by remote control—by robotic drones “piloted” by ground-based operators from a secret network of bases located hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from the danger of the battlefield.
Their remoteness, which breeds detachment if not complacency at home, is no accident. Indeed, it’s a product of the fact that Afghanistan and Iraq were wars of choice, not wars of necessity. It’s a product of the fact that we’ve chosen to create a “warrior” or “war fighter” caste in this country, which we send with few concerns and fewer qualms to prosecute Washington’s foreign wars of choice.
Astore goes on to argue that wars of choice have led to "a state of permanent remote war" that "has weakened our military, drained our treasury, and eroded our rights and freedoms."
The engagement of the people with a nation's wars has been central to ideas about warfare. War theorist Carl von Clausewitz wrote of the people as both an engine and a restraint on warfare. Clausewitz's "wonderful trinity," describes the nature of war as "composed of the original violence of its elements, hatred and animosity, which may be looked upon as blind instinct; of the play of probabilities and chance, which make it a free activity of the soul; and of the subordinate nature of a political instrument, by which it belongs purely to the reason." The trinity is often reduced to those Clausewitz thought to embody these elements: the people, the military, and the government.
The emotional element of war, centered in the people, can help motivate a nation to warfare. But the people can also rein in warfare. When the costs of war are too great, the people are thought to lose their will to fight, hampering the nation's ability to pursue war.
But what happens if the people are never in engaged in a war in the first place? This where Astore's point is so important. The remoteness of the American people from American wars, he argues, enables the nation's wars of choice. The absence of the people -- the embodiment of the emotional element Clausewitz thought was a central feature of warfare -- means that the people do not tire of the costs of war. The people's remoteness and isolation from war undermines their traditional role as a restraint.
As Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put it recently to Time: “Long term, if the military drifts away from its people in this country, that is a catastrophic outcome we as a country can't tolerate.”
One of the consequences of this development appears to be our current "permanent state of remote war."