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Max Boot's Illegal Army
Council on Foreign Relations "Senior Fellow" Max Boot [email him], who epitomizes the "Invade The World/Invite The World" mentality of the neoconservatives, has objected to my objections to the DREAM Act in the Commentary Magazine blog Contentions.( Dream A Little DREAM Max Boot, September 20, 2007)
The DREAM act will give amnesty to illegal aliens who (among other things) sign up for the military. I accurately described such an institution as an "illegal alien legion". Boot has argued for this policy for years. Now he has gone a step further in proposing a "freedom legion" that will allow not just illegal aliens but all foreigners to achieve American citizenship in exchange for military service.
Significantly, although Boot objects to my objections, he carefully avoids mentioning me by name. I am merely a "blogger" for "the anti-immigrant web site Vdare". This is certainly because my obviously Jewish name would impede his attempt to stampede Commentary's heavily Jewish readership. But Boot shows some of his own xenophobia by implying that immigrants like VDARE.COM's editor Peter Brimelow have no right to criticize U.S. immigration policy. Hypocritically, Boot does not mention that he himself is an immigrant, from the Soviet Union.
Perhaps it is futile to argue with Boot on the merits of his "freedom legion". We come from completely different perspectives. I consider myself a small 'r' republican in the tradition of George Washington, John Quincy Adams, and Robert Taft. I have no more desire for America to occupy or rule over other countries than I wish for Mexicans to occupy America. Max Boot, in contrast, famously wrote the Weekly Standard cover piece "The Case for American Empire." [October 15, 2001]
In addition to its incompatibility with self-government, I oppose empire because of the high costs it imposes on the taxpayers, and more importantly the loss of lives to both American soldiers and foreign civilians. In contrast, Max Boot actually complained that an insufficient amount of American "blood and guts" were spilled in Afghanistan because it would confirm the belief "that Americans are incapable of suffering casualties stoically." (I guess he got his wish in Iraq.) In his Empire piece he made it clear the occupation of Iraq was just the beginning of American imperium in Middle East. He was unconcerned about the costs of such a project and wrote, "Does America have the resources to carry it out?... [W]ithout a doubt."
In his criticism of me, Boot writes
"I have yet to hear a persuasive argument against [freedom legions]. Most of the negative reactions are little more than emotional responses along the lines of 'we don't want to entrust our defense to mercenaries.'"
So, although we come from completely different premises, I will give here a few unemotional reasons why exporting our foreign policy and importing the soldiers may be a bad idea.
As Boot notes, there have been many examples of this in history. Yet he fails to mention the best known: the Roman Empire.
The historian Vegetius discussed the causes of decline of the Roman Empire shortly before its collapse. He argued, and countless generations of subsequent historians have agreed, that the influx of Germanic legions into the Roman military led to the "barbarization" of Roman legions. This had the dual affect of having a military with no loyalty to the empire; and also a citizenry that was both decadent and complacent, because immigrants were doing all the jobs that Romans wouldn't.
The next best known example of a foreign-staffed military: the French Foreign Legion. This was certainly a capable fighting force and helped expand and maintain France's empire for many years. Yet it was still a foreign legion and there was no definite promise of French residency or citizenship in exchange for their service. Still, the Foreign Legion did have the effect of making French somewhat naïve about the ability of their country to assimilate foreigners—even allegedly "xenophobic" politicians like Jean Marie Le Pen have a soft spot for its members. Combined with post-colonial guilt, this has made it even more difficult for the French to protect their national identity.
Again, Max Boot probably likes this development. But any American who cares about the integrity of its borders and culture should see the Foreign Legion as a warning.
Of course America isn't France or Rome. So Boot—who has a tendency of rewriting American history to suggest it was always an imperial, warmongering, multicultural empire—attempts to bring up American predecessors for his "freedom legion". His examples are limited to Marquis de Lafayette in the American Revolution and the German regiments in the Civil War.
Although I am (partly) descended from 1840s German immigrants who fought for the Union, I am somewhat sympathetic to the Confederate cause in the War Between the States. Boot is correct that German immigrants did in fact fight in the American Civil War. Yet the story is larger than that. Immigrants who fled after the failed Revolution for consolidated power in Germany were immediately attracted to the radical abolitionist and centralist cause of the Union. This did not make them appreciate the American ideas of constitutional liberty.
In Missouri, for example, the secessionists argued that the Constitution was on their side and wished to secede through the legislative process. The failed German revolutionaries saw no need to invoke the Constitution and simply stormed the Statehouse. This is no doubt to Max Boot's liking. But for someone who supports the rule of law and the Constitution, it is a bad precedent for the "freedom legion".
Boot also gives the example of Marquis de Lafayette's assistance during the Revolutionary War. Although Lafayette was posthumously granted citizenship, following the war he returned to France (where his support for an ideological revolution in his country had less positive results for himself and his country). Furthermore, one general who helped the Revolution is not equivalent to thousands of enlistees. One can be sure that the main motives for members of a freedom legion will be money, the promise of the material benefits of living in America, and, if a war should arise, the possibility of being able to fight their national and ethnic enemies. Unlike Lafayette, you can be sure that these mercenaries will not be fighting for the ideals of the American Revolution.
While Max Boot and Peter Brimelow are both immigrants, there is a big difference. Brimelow hails from Britain, from whence most of our political and cultural institutions were inherited. This allowed him to assimilate easily—as evidenced by his support of an immigration and foreign policy that puts America before his own ethnic and ideological preoccupations.
Boot, in contrast came from an ideological state—one that had a real claim to be called "the first universal nation"—and he apparently wishes to turn America into a ideological state, one that wages war around the world without hesitation.
If this is what he wants, then maybe the "freedom legion" is a good idea. But please don't call it American.
Marcus Epstein [send him mail] is the founder of the Robert A Taft Club and the executive director of the The American Cause and Team America PAC. A selection of his articles can be seen here. The views he expresses are his own.