Pundits are worrying about smaller government, and those with actual brains realize that any actual reduction means a smaller Defense Dept. Matt Yglesias asks what this might mean, and comes up with “gendarmes”… basically a national police force which can be used in “high-crime jurisdictions” as well as for occupations after an enemy was defeated.
His commenters basically ream him a new one. 1) A national police force wouldn’t fly. 2) Different skill sets. 3) Posse comitatus. 4) That’s the National Guard, dummy. 5) Do you want COIN-trained military assigned to the drug war?
All good points, but I think what Yglesias is really trying to say is twofold: first, the military is almost entirely oriented toward war; we’d be using our tax dollars a hell of a lot more efficiently if some large fraction of what we spend on it was useful domestically too. Second, we’re not really in a world where we’re about to refight WWII, so we need to radically rethink what kind of forces we need.
Generally, militaries are concerned to fight the last war. To be really cynical, the problem is that the last wars were mostly insurgencies, and we really don’t know how to win one of those. Nor does anyone else. (To be more precise, it’s like good schools: we “know” how to do it in that we can point to a few local success stories. We don’t know how to scale it up and generalize it so that it works at the national level.)
It’s fair to say that we could use a “nation-building corps”. The example Yglesias gives is if North Korea is defeated; someone need to rush in from Day One and organize a state so it doesn’t fall into chaos or warlordism. But it’s also clear that this isn’t something resembling a national police force.
A better sampling of Yglesias is here, where he points out the ending filibusters would be better not only now when Republicans are obstructing Democrats, but later when Democrats would be obstructing Republicans. Majority rule is a good thing, and filibusters in general have been retrogressive and more annoying than actually protective of anything. They didn’t prevent either the excesses of the Bush administration, or the substantial accomplishments of Obama.