No Standing Army: An American Tradition?

Modern America prides itself on having one of the finest, well-equipped militaries the world has ever known. But, if you examine American history, this is contrary to over 100 years of tradition and not what the Founding Fathers envisioned. So how did we get to where we are today and is it in America’s best interest?

The Founding Fathers are famous for arguing against a large standing military. Although European nations all had massive armies and navies that were expensive to maintain, it was something the young nation could not afford. Plus, many early Americans saw those great military forces as the government’s first means of controlling the citizens. Given that we had just found a revolution against government oppression, our early leaders preferred to have a relatively small army and navy supported by local state militias which would only be called to duty when needed, something which would require state approval. Not only did this defer cost, but also provided a sort of check and balance against Federal abuse.

US MilitaryThis practice was the standard throughout the first 100 plus years of American history. Following the Revolutionary War, militias were disbanded and the members returned to civilian occupations, even the main Army and Navy were similarly dissolved for a short time but reestablished in a much smaller form. When trouble arose, the militias were called up, and the military quickly swelled in numbers and again disbanded once no longer needed. This practice was followed after each major conflict – War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish-American War and even World War 1; each time, the US called up temporary forces to defeat the threat and once the fighting ceased the troops were sent home.

It wasn’t until the aftermath of World War 2 that a large, permanent military was established primarily due to a predicted need to respond to the Cold War threat. However, historians now question the genuine need for this increase in American military might. Sure, the Soviet threat was real, but many now argue it was not a threat to America as much as to our allies. America was mostly sheltered by geography while our allies were literally on the Soviet doorstep. Some suggest America was convinced to take the lead in the Cold War because it was easier and cheaper for our allies than increasing their military capabilities, many of which had been exhausted by the recent conflict.

I doubt there is any chance of returning to our early isolationist roots, shrinking our military and withdrawing from world conflict. The last 70 years have made this impossible and have also made the USA the main target of many who see us as the face of democracy. But, it does make you wonder what the Founding Fathers would think of our current situation and whether America might be better off as an observer rather than the leader every time another nation finds themselves in trouble.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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3 thoughts on “No Standing Army: An American Tradition?

  1. Nice ‘nostalgia’ piece Tom. I strongly suspect that many of the founding fathers would be baffled by a great many things in the modern world, as well as a great deal that has occurred since 1776. America has fought a civil war, gone to war with a range of other nations, become a close ally of the great enemy – England, been colonialist, expansionist (the Louisiana Purchase, Alaska, Hawaii), isolationist, late to two wars, and has become the pre-eminent world power, all in the space of a quarter of a millennium (give or take a few years).

    It is a mistake to think of the founding fathers as an homogeneous group as history shows that they were a diverse group coming from a variety of background and holding a wide range of ideas. But I suspect that those who were of a military mind would recognize the need to move with the times and would be proud of the all-volunteer American military as it is today.

    I also suspect that the founding fathers would be, in turn, baffled and deeply disturbed by what passes for presidential candidates on both sides of politics.

  2. I would be appalled at the idea of disbanding our military even for a short time. Yes the Founding Fathers were against a standing army but now days we have far to many enemies around us to do that. On the other hand, we make a very serious mistake of branding all militias as wacko groups because of a few. We saw what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan when we fought a two front war and stretched our military to the breaking point. Now picture this, a two front war and large scale terror attacks at home. we know have been infiltrated by muslim terrorist and mexican narco cartels so with the troops away who do we turn to, the police? While many in civilian police agencies are former military police agencies are not trained or equipped to do the work of the military nor should we seek to make them military. As with the days during and shortly after the Revolutionary War it would fall to the militia to defend the homeland. The ONLY ones who should fear these civilians are those who seek to harm this wonderful country for political power or financial gain! WE need the militias!

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