by Gary Hart ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 1, 1998
Proof that a politician can promote a serious idea even without polls supporting it, albeit after leaving public office. In this volume former Democratic senator and presidential candidate Hart points to a forgotten truth: Military structure is politically significant. The Founding Fathers understood that choosing between a citizen militia and a professional standing army was profoundly political, shaping the concentration of power, political relations between government and citizens, and social relations within the populace. Today these larger concerns are obscured by the complex technicalities of modern warfare, allowing most people to believe that military design is for experts. HaWs premise, however, is that peacetime preparation for war is too important to leave to generals. Moreover, the end of the Cold War has created a unique opportunity for discussing the military independent of immediate security needs, a debate ""less about what might threaten us and more about who we are."" Taking his own cue, Hart argues for maintaining a relatively small full-time army designed for rapid deployment, coupled with an expanded National Guard to be mobilized for larger and more extended commitments of force. This proposal fits squarely within the republican tradition embraced by the Founding Fathers, and the political implications are immediately obvious: Mobilizing the army's a very different proposition, politically, if it involves calling up large numbers of citizens otherwise occupied in civilian life. The broader public debate almost certain to be associated with such action is anathema in some quarters, of course, and Hart notes that official Washington will oppose such an idea, for ""those with power seldom like to see it dispersed."" Despite the commendation Hart deserves for challenging the experts and contributing to public discourse, however, it's also disappointing that he doesn't press forward with the logical extension of his analysis: universal national service, which encompasses a citizen militia. A thoughtful treatise that should be taken seriously.
Pub Date: May 1, 1998
Page Count: 208
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998
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