A call for an Army-led volunteer corps to revitalize rural and small-town America.
Meyerson’s (Nature’s Army, 2001, etc.) persuasive narrative spans America’s founding to the present as he pitches a domestic nation-building program, modeled after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. He revisits the little-known origin of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, which was created by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to teach “useful skills” for developing the nation’s nascent infrastructure. He details the Army’s unheralded administration of the first national parks, nearly a century later, as well as its largely ignored role in operating Depression-era CCC camps. Since World War II, the Army’s nation-building focus has shifted abroad. The author makes the case that today’s hollowed-out heartland economy increases America’s vulnerability to terrorism and natural disasters, and he catalogs why the Army is uniquely qualified to lead a theoretical redevelopment and training program that he calls the American Resilience Corps. He brings together a few different trends, including the rise of the internet and digital manufacturing (specifically, 3-D printing), which he says makes decentralization possible. He also highlights the Army’s embrace of “Net Zero” energy, water, and waste practices, driven by deployments at remote foreign locations; its strategies to preserve readiness by “islanding” domestic bases from the power grid and other terrorism targets, he says, put it at the vanguard of sustainable development. Meyerson, with his experience as a wartime journalist, congressional staffer, policy analyst, and independent scholar, blends smooth prose, detailed research, and a command of U.S. military history; he also shows a firm grasp of potential policymaking pitfalls. His supporting evidence is clear and compelling, and his proposal is a pleasure to read. The 2016 presidential campaign highlighted America’s urgent need to rebuild regions that have been left behind by the economy, but anger and blame have eclipsed concrete plans. This is a substantive program, however, that’s worthy of serious national debate.
A timely, cogent work that should be required reading for policymakers.