'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Freedom Legion 

Max Boot, a neoconservative's neoconservative who doesn't like being called a neoconservative, observes

It is hard to pick up a newspaper these days without reading about Army and Marine Corps recruiting and retention woes. Nonstop deployments and the danger faced by troops in Iraq are making it hard for both services to fill their ranks.

and, of course, comes to the logical conclusion that the pursuit of an American empire is doomed by practical considerations as well as being a deeply immoral enterprise -- ummm... okay, he didn't come to that conclusion; I was just seeing if you're paying attention.

Actually Boot thinks the solution to the US recruitment woes is to begin recruiting poor people from other countries instead of just poor people from the US:

The military would do well today to open its ranks not only to legal immigrants but also to illegal ones and, as important, to untold numbers of young men and women who are not here now but would like to come. No doubt many would be willing to serve for some set period in return for one of the world's most precious commodities -- U.S. citizenship. Open up recruiting stations from Budapest to Bangkok, Cape Town to Cairo, Montreal to Mexico City. Some might deride those who sign up as mercenaries, but these troops would have significantly different motives than the usual soldier of fortune.

The simplest thing to do would be to sign up foreigners for the regular U.S. military, but it would also make sense to create a unit whose enlisted ranks would be composed entirely of non-Americans, led by U.S. officers and NCOs.

Call it the Freedom Legion. As its name implies, this unit would be modeled on the French Foreign Legion, except, again, U.S. citizenship would be part of the "pay." And rather than fighting for U.S. security writ small -- the way the Foreign Legion fights for the glory of France -- it would have as its mission defending and advancing freedom across the world. It would be, in effect, a multinational force under U.S. command -- but one that wouldn't require the permission of France, Germany or the United Nations to deploy.

Boot is an unabashed cheerleader for the establishment of an American empire -- in an interview with Josh Marshall he fantasized about US domination of Saudi oil:

"We need to be more assertive," argues Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, "and stop letting all these two-bit dictators and rogue regimes push us around and stop being a patsy for our so-called allies, especially in Saudi Arabia." Hopefully, in Boot's view, laying down the law will be enough. But he envisions a worst-case scenario that would involve the United States "occupying the Saudi's oil fields and administering them as a trust for the people of the region."

so it makes sense that Boot brings up the French foreign legion. The purpose of the French foreign legion, after all, was to wage colonial wars, the bloodiest kind of war in terms of civilian deaths and thus the hardest kind of war to wage with a volunteer army or a conscript army, as the US tried in Vietnam.

Boot's advice has been the standard strategy of colonial powers throughout history: the French had its foreign legion, the British had Gurkhas, and perhaps, he thinks, the US should have its Freedom Legion. Boot doesn't mention, however, the extent to which the US already does. To remain solvent, the Iraq occupation relies heavily on the use of "security" contractors that do most of their hiring in the economic South. The private mercenary firm Blackwater USA, for example, often recruits in Latin America. Boot's proposal amounts to cutting out the middle man: why pay these guys a thousand dollars a day if we can get them on the cheap?

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