When I returned home from under enemy Communist Viet Cong fire in the Vietnam War on Nov. 19, 1967, I was glad to be leaving the military when I was: war to me was pretty terrible, and now, of course, it is much worse. Most if not all of us by now are familiar with drone warfare, but one largely hidden aspect of our modern wars is that much combat is now being waged by private
security firm contractors that are hired by the military to fill in where there arenít enough real soldiers to go around.
While I recognize that this may be necessary from a practical standpoint as regards numbers, my concern is that these contractor warriors are not governed by the same codes of conduct as our real soldiers are. The problem is that we have "too many wars and too few soldiers," and thatís it in a nutshell. These contractor warriors are the modern version of Great Britainís
mercenary hired German Hessian soldiers during our Revolution.
Not only did they not beat us for their paymaster Great Britain, but many stayed here after the war and became American citizens. That is, I believe, one of the roots of our unnecessary war in Iraq, and why it failed to "turn" the residents toward us. They will revert to their old ways in time completely. In addition to that, during 2007-11, our private contractor troops
overseas actually outnumbered the real US soldiersí "boots on the ground!"
They may someday provide a danger to our civilian democracy here at home that all of us should be both mindful of and wary of. As a direct result of my own Vietnam War, the US government ended the draft, and thus the average citizen and family no longer really feels the actual impact of our overseas, modern, and now endless cycles of war 40-plus years later that are aping
those of the Roman Empire.
I can foresee a day in the not too distant future when enlistment tours of duty will no longer be from three, four, and six years, but may actually be as long as 25, so as to keep a standing force in being and also to provide a true career path for those who serve.
To have such a force standing apart from normal democratic processes also poses a threat to our democracy and way of life, one keenly recognized by our Colonial era Founding Fathers when they drafted the Constitution under which we have prospered as a nation ever since.
In fact, there was no danger they feared more than a large, permanent, standing army instead of impermanent state militias that we now have also in the form of the National Guard. Minus a third world war, I doubt that we will ever see a return of the universal military draft such as existed during 1948-73, and thatís fine with me.
The draft permitted the Vietnam War to occur as it did, but since then, our AVM or All-Volunteer Military has allowed Endless Wars to occur as well. I mention the foregoing as a way of recommending vigilance and continuing civilian control at all times.
The Military-Industrial Complex that President Eisenhower warned us against in his last address from the Oval Office on Jan. 19, 1961, has now long come to pass, with no way backward foreseeable. There it is. According to the 2013 study, The Modern American Military, "War is likely to remain a permanent condition," so there, that, too, is. One thing we can do, however---and
what I will do as an elected United States Senator from Maryland in 2017---is to make sure that this country never goes to war again without a legal declaration of war from the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled.
We didnít have that with Vietnam, and we know where that got us. In fact, the very last time Congress declared war was on Dec. 8, 1941 against Japan, five years to the day of my birth in 1946, and that was 69 years ago! I mean to reverse that.
Today I hear repeated by the military the same worn out slogans regarding the Middle East that I personally saw fail in Vietnam during 1966-67: winning the peopleís "hearts and minds" and "nation-building." The main reason they didnít work in Vietnam was that the people didnít want us there, and the same is true now in the Mideast.
The reason it worked in South Korea to now was the reverse of the peopleís attitude: they did want us there, to offset North Korea. The same was true in both Germany versus the Soviet Union, and Japan versus Red China, and continues still. It is significant to point out that we have maintained permanent garrisons in all three states---South Korea, Germany, and
Japan---1945-2016, some seven decades.
This raises the very real question of whether we want to---or even can---garrison the entire planet. That, too, I will be mindful of in 2017 as your US Senator as we go to war in Syria a year from now, if not sooner. As we enter that next and newest war, we are also on the threshold of a new technological age in which future drones themselves will make an autonomous decision
as to weather or not to fire, rather than a human being doing so, back at base.
This is called autonomous weaponry, and part and parcel of it is both sensors on our side and jamming by the enemy, and vice versa. As the author of a 2010 book on military and civil engineering published worldwide, I intend to keep up with all of this on our collective behalf.
Military contractors accounted for more than half of all "US" personnel sent overseas since 2003---with recruits coming from across the globe as US-paid mercenary "soldiers of fortune" in effect. By 2008, they outnumbered our "real" soldiers there! By 2010, there were 1.43 contractor troops for every one real American soldier, with these New Hessians providing logistics,
security, and reconstruction, all things that my fellow soldiers and I provided ourselves during the Vietnam War. While I acknowledge the validity of having these mercenaries, I as a US Senator mean to be ever watchful of them and their expansion.
I recall once when I was a soldier-student at the US Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, GA in 1966, when I saw a bleacher stand full of South American officer cadets taking part in what was then called at Benning the School of the Americas. These officers were being trained by us to fight Communist insurgents back in their home countries. Iíve often wondered about the career
paths taken by those young cadets, my peers both then and now.
Historically, Rome paid Germans to fight for it, but their empire fell anyway. The 170,000 paid military contractors em-ployed---as opposed to de-ployed---by us in Iraq operated without any Congressional oversight, it has been reported. That is a dangerous concept in my view.
On the other hand, their numbers alone doubled the overall "US" presence there, in-country. Paid contracts were the only real control over these paid contractors, period. As we know, a good deal of this money also found its way into the hands of our enemies, both in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, after having been shelled out to "locals."
The danger exists that---as real American military enlistments decline---more of these paid contractors will take their place. We must be wary that such does not also become the case here at home.
As, over time, AVM troops are used more and more as a last resort, they will, or may, be replaced evermore also with mercenary contractor forces, a situation that demands constant monitoring, both at home and abroad. I mean to do that, too.
I leave you with this thought: as we as a nation prepare to jump into our next overseas, foreign, civil war between ISIS and the Assad regime in Syria, it might be well to have in the United States Senate from Maryland a former serviceman with some actual, on-the-ground, under fire, up-close-and-personal, hands-on experience of just such an earlier civil war in Southeast Asia.
Thank you for your kind consideration!