On a Citizen Armed Forces

May I just give you some of my thoughts about why we need a citizen armed forces.

The Davide Commission which made an inquiry on the causes of coup d etat after the December 1989 stated that the academy system is a threat to a democracy. In asking the AFP to review its system of officer training, it was referring actually to the PMA in that the products are showing signs of psychosis. This is the effect of four years of hazing or brutalization. The products are socially dysfunctional and regard the world with hostility. 72% of those involved in coup come from the academy. They make up the higher ranks in the coup and they ordered the lower ranking non-PMA to join them. This situation is exacerbated with the present situation wherein even the NBI is now controlled by the same academy so that there is no longer any independent uniformed agency that can check the excesses of the academy graduates. The total control of the AFP and the police by the same institution was planned way back in 1981. The fruit of such a policy if carried to completion can be seen in what is happening now in Indonesia which is slowly disintegrating. The other institutions have to be strengthened to resist intimidation by the bodies designed to protect the body politic and not to rule over it. The solution lies in the citizen soldiers and not in a Prussian-like military elite which makes the military science an esoteric art subject to licensing by them.

In Thailand, the coups were done by batches at the Royal Thai Military Academy. There is something to the Crown Prince syndrome wherein people with this syndrome think it is their right to rule over the rest. The one virtue that is missing here is humility. Rank has its responsibilities (RHIR) as against Rank has its Privileges (RHIP).

In the Swiss and Israeli system, everyone goes through the same grind that is from the lowest level. There is a kind of confidence call in that not only must the officer candidate be qualified by performance but also his peers must give him a vote of confidence. It works like this. Everyone passes through the same boot camp. Then those who excel and have the qualities for leading are ordered to attend officer school. However, they may refuse to be commissioned as officer but they have the training for it nonetheless. At the time of David Ben Gurion, he was very particular about the moral integrity of the Israeli Defense Force. It was his baby. It was supposed to epitomize the virtues of the nation and to meld the young Israelis from various parts of the world. A citizen armed forces can teach people of various ethnic groups, religions to serve under one flag. They are forced to serve together and learn to appreciate each other. In Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew grouped citizen from different ethnic groups to live together in the same tenement building – Indian, Malay and Chinese. Thus, the social tensions were reduced.

We have seen in the Rainbow that Filipinos from various regions – Ilocano, Cebuanos, Pampangos, etc- and of various religion, especially Moslems, learned to work together. This can explain that up to now, many Rainbow do not feel threatened by present alignment of conflicts in our country. They are not easily agitated by propaganda because they recall that they made friends despite the differences in religion, ethnic groups, or political beliefs.

I have been trying to trace the history of nations as to how they learned to be cohesive and to live with differences. They have learned to agree to disagree but they are united in believing that they should stay together as one nation. Look at the United Kingdom. There are still residual tensions as in Northern Ireland. I believe that the resolution of this lies not in military force but in learning to appreciate each other, the protestants and the Catholics. Already, people of good will on both sides have been extending hands of friendship to the others and are learning to forgive the other party for deaths inflicted on their families and friends. There are forces that try to sabotage this effort by acts of violence the source of which are not clear. But once the decision is made to recognize the legitimate claims of the other party and to respect one another’s dignity, there is no stopping the drive towards peace.

In Australia, the cadets of the Royal Australian Military Academy spend the majority of the time in the campus of the University of New South Wales. They just assemble at the Academy facilities in summer training. The rest of the time during the two semesters, they stay at the university campus. This way, they blend with their peers who are not members of the academy. They are not odd balls in society.

The special units of the US Armed Forces, especially the special forces, spend much of their time studying in the university campuses. When they retire from the service, they easily join the rest of civil society. The US Armed Services after Vietnam departed drastically away from brutalization. In fact, the draft was abolished to give way to a volunteer armed forces. Some old timers though regret that most young men will not experience military service which was something that united them as they remember World War II, Korea and Vietnam. But, Vietnam was disastrous. It was at that time that there was a very serious effort to review the relevance of the West Point (US Military Academy) as many of its products turned out to be cowards and incompetents in the field. The result of the turnabout was the team work of Collin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopff at the Gulf War of 1991. Both of them did not believe in elitism. They led regular and mostly reserve units into combat. Collin Powell is a black and an ROTC graduate. Schwarzkopff deliberately broke up the old-boy system that defeated the merit system in the armed services. The outstanding performance of the armed forces combined with allied services showed the wisdom of the changes.

They discarded the myths that lost Vietnam. One myth is “body count.” It is possible to win all the battles and lose the war. They did not even bother to give any estimate of casualties when queried by the press. They made an effort to be kind to prisoners. This is something that Mao Tse Tung’s Red Army did to the captives from the army of Tsang Kai Tsek during the Chinese Civil War which ended in victory for him in 1949. Many captives decided to cooperate or join the Red Army. The Nationalist Army was rife with corruption and brutality from the officers.

I was struck especially by the American Civil War. The Confederacy under Jefferson Davis was very certain of victory over the Union since the majority of the regular officers of the US Army in 1860 had roots from the states that joined the Confederates. When Abraham Lincoln offered to Robert E Lee the command of all the Union forces, he declined stating that he had already accepted the offer of the Confederacy. Abraham Lincoln, a dark-horse president, was saddled with many green volunteers, and few officers. Many regular officers could not be pulled out from the Wild West. The height of lucidrity was that Gen Winfield Scott who accepted command of the Union Armies could not even ride a horse because of vertigo. He led the American forces successfully in the 1840’s in the war against Mexico. The lieutenants who were under his command at that war like Ulysses S Grant, Sherman, Sheridan were not in active service when the Civil War was already upon the States because of the siege and eventual fall of Ft Sumner.

The first battle was that of Bull Run. The socialites of Washington DC came to watch in their carriages because they expected it to be a grand show. The first and last battle of the Civil War. The battle was a rout. The Union troops broke ranks and run for their lives. That caught the Confederate forces by surprised and they were not ready to press forward and capture the capital. There was this one scene where Abraham Lincoln hatless stood at a road crossing as the troops streamed past him. When the soldiers saw his sadness, they were ashamed of themselves and stopped running. Then the sergeants and captains began to put some semblance of order. The units reformed in front of Lincoln. It was like an ROTC parade when a thunderstorm suddenly breaks lose and everyone runs for shelter.

The battles for the first year of the Civil War were all like that. There was an exception when a reserve officer, Col Banks, disobeyed orders to withdraw and instead attacked with his regiment. The Confederate units before him this time ran away. Bank’s attack preserved the Union lines. The next three years of the war was story of mishandled opportunities. Abraham Lincoln was looking for a regular general that would give victory. He was even willing to appear stupid and bumbling provided that a general gave him consistent victory, a drive to liquidate the Confederate forces. The last one who chose, the most dashing of them all, was General McClellan. McClellan was always preparing for a victory but never pressed an advantage. He looked so good in parades but always froze in battle.

Then Lincoln took note of a general who was always winning or at least never gave the enemy an advantage, Gen Ulysses S Grant. It was rumored that he was never sober in the field. After all, this Grant never did well as a civilian. Immediately after graduating from West Point, he resigned his commission, got married and failed in one commercial venture after another. He served as a second lieutenant in the Mexican campaign and then went back to civilian life.

Another general is Sheridan. A constant headache to the Union is big Confederate force that was attacking along Shenandoah Valley (West Virginia) to outflank Washington DC. The main army of Lee was in Virginia and directly faced the Army of the Potomac. Sheridan was a soldier’s soldier, a hero to his men. One time, he went to Washington to have a conference with Lincoln. While he was not with his men, the Confederates attacked powerfully by surprise. Sheridan got the news by telegraph and rode hard to get back to the front. When the news got to his troops that he was coming, they redoubled their efforts. As he was seen by troops, they shouted loudly and the Confederates withdrew to their former positions.

Another general is Sherman. He swept through Georgia to destroy the source of food and supplies of the Confederates. He used scorched earth policy, burned everything in his path so that nobody could get grain, horse nor shelter where he passed.

While the Army of the Potomac held the line along the Potomac River, the main defense line of Washington DC, Grant resolved the break the Confederate’s control of the Mississippi. There is a massive fortress at Vicksburg which totally commanded by its guns the Mississippi river. In this way, the Union could not take advantage of its superiority in water crafts to transport troops and supply. In the midst of heavy rains, Grant and Sherman infiltrated 40,000 troops to the other side of the fortress by letting barges float to the other side in complete darkness while troops waded in chest high water amidst mosquito-infested swamps. Then they attacked simultaneously from both sides catching the fortress by surprise. With the fall of Vicksburg, the Confederate forces were divided into two big groups which could not support each other. Also, it cut off a major source of victuals and other supplies for Lee at Virginia.

Then Sheridan launched a campaign that completely destroyed the Army of the Shenandoah under Gen Jubal Early. Early escaped with his life with hardly a platoon left functioning. The destruction was so complete that no Confederate unit survived intact after Sheridan swept. Then Sheridan’s Army descended on the rear of Lee while Lee was facing Washington DC.

Let me comment that this Army of the Potomac was never led well but was never routed. I think it was their faithfulness to the great man, Abraham Lincoln, that kept them intact. This Army protected Washington DC so well that Grant could leave it without fear that it would collapse.

The final scene of the war was most touching. Lee was left with about 25,000 men. He was marching along a valley to escape the Union armies pursuing him on all sides. Then about a hundred Union guns blocked his forward progress. Then about 30,000 Union cavalry troops deployed on both sides of him. Then the Union infantry in their hundred thousands marched briskly to catch up with the horsed units. Lee’s men vouched that they were ready to die for their commander. Lee knew that it was death for all of them. Grant demanded unconditional surrender. Lee requested that the officers be allowed to retain their arms and that all his men be allowed to take horses with them so that they can plant before winter comes. Grant found the request reasonable. Lee’s men laid down their arms. They were processed and given papers saying that they surrendered and then were allowed to go home.

Review that scene. All the Union generals in top command were reservists. They spent most of their years in civilian life. They were respected by their men. Many of the officers were middle class and few were career officers. The great majority of the Union Army came from civilian life. On the other hand, the Confederacy had a military tradition. They were adept at horsemanship. Many of them were slave owners. Therefore, they had a leisure to learn all kinds of arts. Indeed, their names were legends in the US Army. The Confederacy believed that they had Darwinian superiority, that they were genetically fitted to lead inferior human beings. The Confederacy was brought low by an army the majority, say 95%, of whom did not experience formal military service before the Civil War.

The Union army had to duplicate fast and learn by defeat. However, the citizen soldiers brought with them their skills in civilian life, a willingness to learn new skills to bring the war to the end. Many of them believed in the justice of the Union cause. What’s more, they had a self-effacing, God-fearing leader in Abraham Lincoln, a man who hated to hurt anyone. Abraham married into a slave-owning family in Kentucky and yet abhorred especially the slave auctions where young men and women were traded like cattle. Having come from civilian life and loving it, they were eager to get the war over with. Given the right set of democracy-loving, right-thinking and morally upright leaders, they went on to mangle the Confederate army to non-existence.

Although Abe Lincoln could not hurt a fly, he enforced the military articles of war. Desertion, running in front of the enemy, sleeping while on sentry duty and the like offenses were punished by death by musketry. He approved the court martial penalties demanded by the Articles of War. He was no shrinking violet. He was no bully, but he did not shrink from a fight for what was right.

Let me also add that the Union Army kept growing while the Confederates could not replenish its losses. The Union Army duplicated because ordinary citizens willing to serve could be trained to military efficacy while the Confederates believed in innate superiority. The Union Army eventually deployed Black units into combat, not just labor battalions but the Confederates were afraid to empower their slaves for fear of rebellion.

Whereas Abe Lincoln was a sort of an open book that he was so underestimated as a country bumpkin, the Confederate leadership was elite and aristocratic. In the surrender ceremonies, Gen Grant was unshaven and unkempt while Gen Lee was a parade perfect model of an officer. This is not to look down at what Gen Lee accomplished. Both sides after all respected him. And he went on to serve the United States in various capacities in civilian life.

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