The Corner

Re: Military Path to Citizenship

Not only do I agree with Derb that recruiting foreign soldiers (Max Boot has been flacking an American Foreign Legion for a while now; see here) is a terrible idea, I’d go further and ask whether even legal residents who are not yet citizens should be permitted to serve in the military (for instance, see here).

If there’s a problem in persuading enough Americans to fill the ranks, then the problem may be that our foreign policy is not be in line with our national character. One of the most important considerations in crafting a response to today’s global jihad is whether that response is politically sustainable over the long term — and in a democracy that means whether enough of the public will support it for the many, many, many years the struggle against radical Islam is going to last. The kinds of sustained counterinsurgency and “nation-building” we are attempting in Iraq and Afghanistan, however advisable it may seem on paper, requires the American public to go along with things, for decades to come, that are simply contrary to our national character — like bribing tribal chieftains to kill troublemakers, killing lots and lots of civilians, ripping out the fingernails of bad guys to get them to talk, lying on a scale and with a sang-froid that would make even one of congressmen uncomfortable, and in general the permanent committment of large numbers of troops in very dangerous but very ambiguous situations.

Other countries, with a less moralistic character, may well be capable of sustaining this sort of thing over the long haul. Remember the Rainbow Warrior? The French secret service blew up the Greenpeace ship in New Zealand in 1985 to prevent it from interfering with nuclear tests in Polynesia, killing one of the 12 people aboard. Here, this would have been a big deal; in France no one cared — after all, that’s the kind of thing you have to do when you’re a Great Power, right? (I don’t want to debate whether France is a great power; the point is that the French think they are.) Heck, it seems the brother of the current socialist (socialist) presidential candidate is the one who set the bomb, and no one cares.

My point is not that there’s some clear popular will that’s going to tell us what strategy to follow, just that if you’re going to sail to windward, you at least have to take account of the wind. The difficulty Boot notes in increasing troop levels ought to be a clue that, while we’re happy to sign on to kill Saddam or nuke Japan or burn Atlanta (sorry to you Georgians out there), not enough of our people are interested in playing nursemaid to a bunch of crazies to make that a sustainable policy. To ignore that, and call instead for the recruitment of foreign soldiers, stems from the same impulse as Brecht’s crack about “dissolving the people and electing a new one” — if the American people aren’t interested in signing up for police duty in Araby, lets find people who are.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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