My new "Think Again" column is called "John Bolton and the Problem with On-the-One Hand Objectivity." Read it.
By way of introduction to Reed’s post, I was up at Yale last week to give a talk to Jewish students there and it happened to be the day when the International Relations program through which I got my master’s there was celebrating its reception of Henry Kissinger’s papers, which I assume must have been inspired either by a great deal of money or by Henry’s desire to poke Harvard in the eye. John Lewis Gaddis (who appeared deeply unhappy to see me) talked about how great Henry was and then Henry moderated a panel on China with Robert Rubin, Jonathan Spence (its only China expert) William Burns, deputy secretary of state; Michael Mullen, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. What was said during conference was off the record, it was repeatedly announced, but the let the record show that the words “democracy” and “human rights” were not spoken a single time until I was invited to ask a question from the audience. I see this as legitimate to mention because
a) I am not reporting on anything that was actually said at the conference;
b) When I did raise the question, asking Kissinger to comment on his own record in this regard and to speak freely since we were off the record, he responded that he would be happy to respond “on the record” and then said what he has always said on the topic.
But the actual reason I am bringing this up was because I had a nice talk with Mike Mullen at the reception and we talked about the “other one percent”; those Americans with family members in the military and the disjunction between their lives and the rest of us. I brought up the sign I had seen at Springsteen in Philly the night before. “Please play Thundercrack for my dad in Iraq.” He brought up Rachel Maddow, and had some quite complementary things to say about her work.
That’s all. Here’s Reed. Happy Passover and Easter and two Bruce Garden shows. Let’s, um, go Mets.
A Military Policy Adrift
by Reed Richardson
On June 1, 1784, General Henry Knox commanded a mere 700 men, the remainder of the Continental Army that had finally wrested America’s independence from the vast British Empire less than a year before. Congress took one look at this paltry force and decided that its size was completely unacceptable. Indeed, for them, it was much too large. So the next day, Congress summarily disbanded the army, leaving this new nation with only 80 privates as the sum total of its active-duty force. (Their lone duty was to guard the weapons stores at Fort Pitt and West Point.)
This adversarial attitude toward a large peacetime military was no mere afterthought. It was born out of the early colonial citizens’ deep-seated displeasure of bearing the costs and burdens of the large British garrisons that had been stationed among them. After ridding themselves of the British yoke, the Framers’ visceral distaste for any future empire building on the part of the United States manifested itself in the Constitution, where the military was clearly placed under civilian control and war-making powers were specifically vested with the Congress. This new American take on liberalism had little interest for the dangerous instruments of imperialism, and as Thomas Jefferson wrote during the early Constitutional debates: “Such an instrument is a standing army.”