The Minuteman: Restoring An Army of the People


Drawing on his long experience as a leader in the field of military reform (including twelve years on the Senate Armed Services Committee), Hart proposes a return to the oldest principles of the republic, making an impassioned case for replacing the present Cold War military with a smaller standing army and a much larger, well-trained citizen reserve - an "army of the people." The professional nucleus would be a rapid-response force responsible for dealing with immediate crises and low-intensity conflicts, while ...
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Drawing on his long experience as a leader in the field of military reform (including twelve years on the Senate Armed Services Committee), Hart proposes a return to the oldest principles of the republic, making an impassioned case for replacing the present Cold War military with a smaller standing army and a much larger, well-trained citizen reserve - an "army of the people." The professional nucleus would be a rapid-response force responsible for dealing with immediate crises and low-intensity conflicts, while the larger army of citizen-soldiers would be called up when national interests required a larger, sustained military presence. From ancient times to the present, the heroes of democracy have consistently upheld two principles: that it is dangerous to maintain a large standing army in peacetime; and that free people have a civic duty to participate in their own defense. Contemporary America, by contrast, has sunk into "Eisenhower's Nightmare," beholden to a powerful military-industrial complex embracing the armed forces, military contractors, unions, Congress, and communities economically dependent on military spending. The only way to break this cycle of dependence, Hart argues, is to restore a citizen military - a true militia, like the one that defended Lexington and Concord. If we reject this path, he warns, we risk being truly ill-prepared for the challenges facing our nation in the century about to dawn.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The role of the military in American society and the related questions of the nature of the military the public wants and needs have been central to U.S. politics and national security since before the Revolution. Hart, the former senator from Colorado and one-time contender for the presidency, offers this extended essay on a future army as an argument for a greatly reduced professional force supported by a larger civilian-based reserve in line with the militia traditions of 18th- and 19th-century America. While those new to the discussion may view his work with skepticism, the author clearly demonstrates that the "expansible" army concept is firmly based on longstanding American ideas on citizenship and defense. Hart enjoyed wide respect for his national security efforts in the Senate, and the present work clearly demonstrates that he has a keen appreciation for critiquing contemporary military issues. An engaging and lively book, it should be considered for public libraries with strong collections in current events and by academic libraries with collection strengths in American military history.John R. Vallely, Siena Coll. Lib., NY
Kirkus Reviews
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. Hart's 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, itþs also disappointing that he doesnþt 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684838090
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 5/12/1998
  • Pages: 188
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.87 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Interviews & Essays

On Saturday, May 16th, welcomed Gary Hart to discuss THE MINUTEMAN.

Moderator: Welcome to the author chat Auditorium, Gary Hart. We are pleased you could join us on Armed Forces Day to discuss THE MINUTEMAN.

Gary Hart: Great pleasure for me. It's always a remarkable experience to be part of the era of 21st-century communication.

Greg from Jersey: Can you describe what you mean by an "army of the people"? Thanks.

Gary Hart: Throughout the history of this country, we have had two armies. Up until the cold war, we had a relatively small professional standing army, and when there were problems in the world that challenged our interests, we have also had fairly large citizen reserves. I'm strongly advocating returning to a system where our standing army is about half or a third of its present size and that we increase our dependence on better-trained and better-equipped citizen reserves.

Yousef from State College, PA: When you were writing THE MINUTEMAN, who did you have in mind as your audience? Policy makers? Academic circles? Is THE MINUTEMAN geared toward a general audience?

Gary Hart: I had in mind everyone in the country, not only the foreign-policy elite but also concerned citizens who wonder why we are maintaining a very large cold war military establishment seven years after the end of the cold war.

Aria from Flint, MI: Where does your interest in the military stem from? Were you ever in the military?

Gary Hart: I indicate in the preface of the book that having come through draft age between the Korean and Vietnam Wars that I sought and obtained student deferments. As a senator I requested and received a commission in the United States Navy as lieutenant, junior grade, the oldest in the services. I wish I had, in retrospect, active-duty service, but in response to the first part of the question, I've always had an interest in military history and served 12 years on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Soc from Dallas: Given the way the military is now and the way this country is, how difficult do you think it would be to adjust the existing military system to your proposal? Can it be done?

Gary Hart: It can certainly be done. It would take at least a decade to make the transition, and my philosophy is that we should fix the roof while the sun is shining. We have a very large and very expensive military designed to defeat the former Soviet Union, and therefore one less well prepared to fight the brushfire wars of the future. Once the American people understand this, I believe they will demand this reform.

Kim from Massachusetts: Mr. Hart, what inspired you to write your book, and what do you hope that writing it will accomplish? Kim

Gary Hart: What inspired me was something that hasn't happened, and that is the absence of a serious national debate on the future of the U.S. military. We have had two national elections, two presidential elections since the cold war ended, and neither party nor its candidates has discussed the role of the military in the 21st century. The book was written to stimulate a debate.

Dave from Nantucket: What changes do you foresee happening in the 21st century in terms of what our military should be prepared to face? Where are the areas where we can improve in order to be better prepared for the future?

Gary Hart: Far and away the most likely threat is not a major world war but low-intensity urban conflict between tribes, clans, and gangs. We should be prepared to organize and lead international intervention forces capable of enforcing the peace and protecting the lives of innocent civilians. Our military can be configured as a 911 rapid-response peacemaking capability.

Michael Wimbush from Greeley, CO: What's your take on the current situation in India? Do you feel that the flexing of their muscles will escalate into a military confrontation involving the U.S.? How much of a threat will Asia be as we move into the 21st century, and does your army take into account the volatile potentials of Asia and South America? Thanks.

Gary Hart: My headline response to Indian nuclear testing is: "Welcome to the 21st Century." Nuclear technology is now widespread throughout the world, and increasing numbers of nations will be able to produce nuclear materials. Even through tension exists between India and Pakistan, as it did between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, those weapons will be used only if there is serious miscalculation on one side or the other. Asia as a region is much too large and diverse to render any kind of comprehensive threat evaluation. There will continue to be, as in the Indian subcontinent, old frictions, as in Indonesia, national disintegration, and in some parts of the region, tribal conflicts. In the vast majority of these, our land forces can and should play no role except to help keep the peace once it is restored. That does not mean, however, that our naval and air forces might not also help enforce the peace. The same general principles apply in Latin America as well.

Vivian from Kansas City: Do women play a role in this army of the people?

Gary Hart: Absolutely. I recently met with an old and good friend, the secretary of defense, William Cohen, and he said that today's military could not operate without heavy participation by women. The same principle would apply in the reformed military structures that I envision.

Eric from Delaware: What should the first step be in raising public awareness about this?

Gary Hart: The best way would be for the President to initiate the debate by putting forward his own sweeping military-reform proposal. Then the Congress should hold hearings on that proposal, call in experts to testify, decide which parts of the proposal they agreed with or disagreed with, and perhaps modify and improve it in the process of these deliberations. All of this, while it's going on, will engage the opinion makers, who would write pros and cons, and very quickly the American people will become engaged in the debate. The conclusion would be that the best possible plan would be arrived at.

Kim from Massachusetts: It seems that lessening our armed forces would cause some leaders of countries who oppose the values of the U.S. to feel that the U.S. was in a weakened state. Please comment. Thank you.

Gary Hart: I am not proposing either to weaken or diminish the military in its role in our foreign policy. It took us six months to get ready to fight the Persian Gulf War because of the limitations on our ability to move our permanent forces to the Persian Gulf area. Under my proposal, the standing forces would go quickly, and the reserves would be brought up and ready to support the early intervention forces in sufficient time when ships and planes were available to transport them, with the net result that we could intervene if necessary in any part of the world as quickly as we can today. The point is, our ability to deploy large-scale forces is limited by the number of ships and planes available. I am not advocating a smaller military, I am advocating a different kind of military.

Ed from Tennessee: What is the state of the reserve troops now? You mention in THE MINUTEMAN that there is tension between the reserves and the professional military. My question is, where does that tension come from? Do you think the reserve troops are up to par in their training to stand alongside the professional military?

Gary Hart: It depends on which service we are discussing. Air Force regular and reserve units are very successfully integrated. The Marine Corps regular and reserves are also increasingly successfully integrated. With regard to most of its reserve units, the Navy is integrating its reserves and regular forces as well, although the Navy is peculiar in that the deployment of its ships is for longer periods of time, and therefore it's difficult to bring the reserves in as fully as the other services. The basic regular reserve conflict is in the army. The regular Army wishes to maintain ten regular divisions. The Army Guard and reserves believe they can provide five of those divisions. But the regular army will not train and equip them sufficiently, preferring instead to keep the political power that the five regular divisions represent.

Corrine Trenbath from Indianapolis: Has Washington or the military had any response to your book?

Gary Hart: Too soon. I have received invitations from at least one of the war colleges to lecture on my proposal, but it will take a month or two for the ideas to circulate.

John from Los Angeles: What are your thoughts about President Clinton's troubles in the White House?

Gary Hart: It depends on which troubles we are talking about. There are several kinds. Some are important and some are less important. The so-called personal or private issues are less important. The most serious are the fund-raising investigations and now, particularly, the allegations regarding Chinese government money. These are issues that represent a serious challenge to the Clinton administration. I was the first presidential candidate to refuse to take political action committee money. I believe the entire political structure in both parties is corrupted by special-interest money. Therefore the Republicans are not in a position of moral authority to condemn this administration. The entire system must be radically changed.

George Piasecki from Boston: How can a regular person get more involved in military issues? What steps would you recommend the interested citizen take in order to take the military into his own hands?

Gary Hart: Read as much as you can find. I recommend three books: THE TRANSFORMATION OF WAR by Martin Van Creveld, published in 1991, Robert Kaplan's book THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, published in 1996, and Samuel Huntington's book THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS, published also in 1996. Write opinion letters to your newspaper, ask questions of your elected members of Congress, and if you are seriously interested, join a local reserve unit.

Janet from San Francisco: Why do you feel it's dangerous to keep a large standing army in peacetime?

Gary Hart: For 2,500 years, advocates of a republican form of government -- government by the people -- have consistently believed that a large professional army in peacetime is a danger to a republic. I strongly concur with that belief. It is very important for political leaders to have to justify the use of the military to the people they represent. This is most required when the commander in chief has to call up reserve units to fight a war abroad. This is the principle of my book.

Eric from Delaware: Today there are about 1.5 million people in our standing military. How many would be in the standing army after its change to a people's army?

Gary Hart: I estimate 500,000 to 700,000, with perhaps 1 to 1.5 million in reserve. But I am willing to be persuaded that the active duty numbers should be somewhat higher or somewhat lower.

Darren Lowell from NYC: In Germany, after a student has graduated from high school and before beginning college, he must give either two years of community or military service. Does your plan involve such an institution?

Gary Hart: When I was in the Senate and since, I have continued to advocate a form of voluntary national service with a military/nonmilitary option. If there were insufficient volunteers for the reserve military I advocate, then it might be required for our country to have universal military training.

Barbara Hoffman from Westport, CT: I recently read in The New York Times Magazine about your friendship with Warren Beatty. Is it true that he was very instrumental in getting you to run for presidential office? What do you think of Hollywood's fascination with politics and vice versa?

Gary Hart: My friend Mr. Beatty was not instrumental in persuading me to run initially. When I chose to withdraw from the race in 1987, he felt very strongly, as did my children and many of my friends, that I should reenter the race in late 1987, which I did for several months. I encourage everyone to go see his new movie, "Bulworth," both as entertainment and as a biting political commentary.

Jack from Macon, GA: Hello, Gary Hart -- it's great to find you online. Is there an existing military in the world today that you feel is successful or should be a model that the United States should look to? What is your military structure based on?

Gary Hart: The best model I can think of is the Israeli defense force, which is almost exactly the kind of military structure I advocate. Even though Israel is smaller than we are, it is constantly under threat, and it has found that its reserve soldiers are as fully capable as its regular forces. Of course there are also Switzerland and several other countries. Keep in mind, we are an island nation with no threatening nation on or near our borders.

Laurel from Connecticut: What are your views on the Iraq problem? Do you feel the U.S is taking appropriate actions against Saddam?

Gary Hart: Based on what limited knowledge I have, which is basically the same as everyone else's, I see very little else we could be doing today that we are not doing. I continue to advocate, however, that we substantially reduce our dependence on foreign oil to make ourselves more energy-secure and less susceptible to the threat of adverse regional forces in cutting off our oil supplies. This was basically the cause of our involvement in the Persian Gulf War.

Kim from Massachusetts: Sir, I have not read your book. I only learned of it by coming into looking for another title! My reason for telling you this is my question may seem a bit dense. If you were a leader of a foreign country (opposing the values of the U.S.), what do you think their opinion of your book would be? Do you think that they would feel that our current military is ineffective? Thank you.

Gary Hart: I think anyone adverse to us would wonder whether a military structure designed to fight a nonexistent enemy was capable of responding to some other kind of threat. That adverse leader would also note that it took us six months to deploy fully in the Persian Gulf, and finally, if there were sufficient citizens in this time of prosperity willing to join and participate in our reserve training programs, they would clearly draw the conclusion that we continue to be a nation committed to protecting our long-range interests.

Moderator: Thank you for taking the time to field all of our questions, Gary Hart. We wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors. Do you have any final comments for the online audience?

Gary Hart: Buy my book and seriously engage in debate about the role of the military in our 21st century society, and insist that the news media give more attention to military issues. Thanks to

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