by David Phinney
Friday July 12th 2024



Marching Back to the Future: The Department of Peace

Max Boot parades his bright ideas about the use of civilians in wartime environments in The Los Angeles Times:

How Bush can ensure no more Iraqs
The U.S. is only a few bright ideas away from being the nation builder it needs to be

In the opening graph, Boot claims that one of the “most intriguing elements” of President Bush’s State of the Union speech last week was the proposal to create a “Civilian Reserve Corps” that would ease the burden on the military by hiring civilians to serve on missions abroad.
Boot’s imagination reels at the possibilities. He dreams of a new federal agency called the Department of Peace along with a federal police force that would be dispatched to “enforce the law in lawless lands.”
Call it the Department of Peace Enforcement.
Cute. And once upon a time, the Department of Defense was called the Department of War.
The military is the military by any other name.

There are now 100,000 civilian contractors working for the US military in Iraq. Most of them do work that the military once did. In addition to the 25,000 or so gun-slinging private security contractors, these civilians drive trucks, build and service military camps, do logistical engineering, join midnight missions to bang down doors of Iraqi homes in search of insurgents, take part in prison interrogations, train troops and police, etc., etc., etc…..
The whole idea of using civilian contractors was to save money and let soldiers be soldiers. Civilians can be hired when needed and then fired. That’s allegedly why civilians make so much more money than soldiers do. Once contractors do their job, they’re gone. There are no expensive training costs, no pension payments or explosive funding needs by the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Except now, with recent rewriting of Pentagon contracting code, these civilian contractors are getting to be as close to being soldiers as they can without joining the Army. They eat at military dining halls and many already carry weapons legally or otherwise. The rest can carry weapons when the closest commanding military officer deems it fitting. Contractors on the battlefield are now also subject to military justice on the battlefield thanks to recent legislation approved in Congress just months ago.
The president’s “Civilian Reserve Corps” would absorb a big number of these civilians. Follow that line of thinking and in a couple of years, someone is going to have another bright idea. Let’s put the “Civilian Reserve Corps” under the control of the military. Hell, let’s give them basic training, uniforms, guns, medical benefits and pensions!
That would really bring down costs the old fashioned way — with an appeal to national service and a promise that the country will stand by those who are willing to make the commitment. In other words, put the contractors back in the military.
Or then again, just reorganize the entire government according to Boot, call it a bright idea, and get the same thing.


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