Summer 2011

Introduction

Author
David M. Kennedy

David M. Kennedy, a Fellow of the American Academy since 1996, is the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Emeritus, at Stanford University, where he is also Codirector of the Bill Lane Center for the American West and a Senior Fellow in the Woods Institute for the Environment. His publications include Over Here: The First World War and American Society(1980) and Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945(1999), for which he received the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in History.

Parvi enim sunt foris arma, nisi est consilium domi.
–Cicero, De Officiis1

This volume surveys the evolution, character, missions, and possible futures of the modern U.S. armed forces. It proceeds from the conviction that today’s American military is at once increasingly prominent as an instrument of national policy and increasingly detached from and poorly understood by the civilian society in whose name it is asked to fight.

Since the creation of the all-volunteer force (AVF) in 1973, the United States has relied on an ever-smaller proportion of its citizens to shoulder its military burdens, configuring service members into a standing professional force with formidable capacities to prevail in virtually any conceivable battle space. Whether those developments should be celebrated or lamented is a question that animates many of the essays to follow, but all contributors agree that this is a situation with slender precedent in the history of the American republic. “A standing army, however necessary it may be at some times, is always dangerous to the liberties of the people,” warned Samuel Adams, a leader in the American Revolution. “Soldiers are apt to consider themselves as a body distinct from the rest of the citizens. . . . Such a power should be watched with a jealous eye.” For nearly two centuries thereafter, the United States accordingly embraced the principle of the citizen-soldier. Deeply rooted in antiquity, that principle was axiomatic in the organization of the Amer- . . .

Endnotes

  • 1“Arms are of little value in the field unless there is wise counsel at home”; Cicero, De Officiis, Book I, XXII, par. 76.
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