A number of people are commenting on the report that the US is considering the establishment of overseas military recruiting stations. Some people may be wondering whence the idea sprang, and whether it’s a good one. The answer to the first question supplies the answer to the second.
The idea was first floated in a February, 2005 Los Angeles Times op-ed column by neoconservative Nostradamus Max Boot. Boot, a dogged proponent of American Empire who regards Rudyard Kipling as the premier foreign policy thinker of the modern age, suggested modeling the new enterprise after the French Foreign Legion — he dubbed it the “Freedom Legion” — in what must surely be the only recorded instance of a neoconservative publicly offering anything remotely resembling praise for that most obstinate of nations.
Recruiting from among our own citizens and legal residents is tres expensive. The Congressional Budget office estimated a few years ago that adding 20,000 troops to the Army would cost $100 billion in the first five years and $10 billion annually after that, which numbers you can mulitply to account for many more troops and the difficulty of training and commanding a corps of soldiers for whom English might be a second, third or unknown language.
While we probably can find any number of willing recruits overseas, we might possibly encounter some resistance from local populations who hold both our government and its various military adventures in less than high regard, and from governments that may balk at the idea of US military training for those among their own citizenry who might eventually return to use that training against those governments. So, to the expense of recruiting, training, maintaining and commanding the Freedom Legion you can add that of protecting the recruiters and recruits in the far-flung lands we attempt to mine, exhaustively screening recruits to forestall the inevitable attempts to obtain the best military training in the world by people who wish us ill, and bribing the host governments into allowing us to do this.
Beyond the practical difficulties, which would be enough to scuttle the plan in any sane country, recruiting abroad would indelibly stamp the United States as an empire in official thought and deed. Boot thinks that’s a fine idea; one of his favorite Kipling quotes is “Ye dare not stoop to less,” from, appropriately, The White Man’s Burden. He once said of the US imperative to take up that burden that “Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets.”
And that, really, is all you need know about Max Boot and his ideas of what’s good for this country.