[OPE-L] citizenship as commodity

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Thu Oct 19 2006 - 14:46:01 EDT

Neo-conservatives Max Boot and Michael O'Hanlon, in the following op-ed
piece, propose that a "foreign legion" be created by the US to overcome
the shortage of military personnel.  This would be a "military path to
citizenship".  US citizenship, after all -- they claim -- is "still one
of the world's most precious commidities".

In solidarity, Jerry
A Military Path to Citizenship
By Max Boot and Michael O'Hanlon
Washington Post  Thursday, October 19, 2006

America is a land of immigrants. Their spirit of resolve, adventure, hard
work and devotion to an idea bigger than themselves has made this country
great. Whatever one thinks of the immigration debate today, particularly
the problem of illegal immigrants, foreigners have played a central role
in the building of America. Many have done so as soldiers, among them
von Steuben and the Marquis de Lafayette in the War of Independence.
Now is the time to consider a new chapter in the annals of American
immigration. By inviting foreigners to join the U.S. armed forces in
exchange for a promise of citizenship after a four-year tour of duty, we
could continue to attract some of the world's most enterprising, selfless
and talented individuals. We could provide a new path toward assimilation
for undocumented immigrants who are already here but lack the prerequisite
for enlistment -- a green card. And we could solve the No. 1 problem
facing the Army and Marine Corps: the fact that these services need to
grow to
meet current commitments yet cannot easily do so (absent a draft) given
the current recruiting environment.Not only would immigrants provide a
valuable influx of highly motivated soldiers, they would also address one
of America's key deficiencies in the battle against Islamist extremists:
our lack of knowledge of the languages and mores in the lands where
terrorists reside. Newly arrived Americans can help us avoid trampling on
local sensitivities and thereby creating more enemies than we eliminate.
Skeptics might point out that in the just-concluded fiscal year, the
military met most of its recruiting and retention goals. But this was done
only by relaxing age and aptitude restrictions, allowing in more
individuals with criminal records, and greatly increasing the number of
recruiters and
advertising dollars. Although we generally support what has been done to
date, the logic of these measures cannot be pushed much further.
The Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, has just forecast that U.S.
commitments in Iraq may remain at their current level until 2010. With most
soldiers and Marines already on a third or even fourth deployment since
Sept. 11, 2001, it's doubtful that the all-volunteer force can withstand
such a commitment at its current size. Even if it could, it's unfair to
ask so much of so few for so long.Some might object to our proposal on
moral grounds, arguing that it is wrong to rely on "mercenaries" and to
use such incentives to get prospective immigrants to fight. We disagree.
For one thing, we already rely on tens of thousands of real mercenaries:
the security contractors the U.S. government employs from Colombia to Iraq
to make up for lack of troops. Immigrants who enrolled in our armed forces
would be more valuable because they would be under military discipline and
motivated by more than just a paycheck.As for the risks they would run in
Iraq or Afghanistan, these would be no greater than the risks run by
previous generations of newcomers who built railroads and skyscrapers and
toiled in factories and mines. No one would be forced to serve. No
existing immigration quotas would be reduced. The military avenue to
citizenship would be a new option, not an obligation. Nativists need not
fear that this would lead to a flood of foreigners. Say we decide to
recruit 50,000 foreigners a year for the next three years. That sounds
like a lot, but it represent less than 10 percent of the total number
coming to the United States anyway -- and less than 10 percent of our
active-duty armed forces. This would not radically change the demographics
of our society or our military, but it would make a big difference in the
size of the rotation base for our ongoing missions.

Despite growing anti-Americanism, U.S. citizenship is still one of the
world's most precious commodities, so there should be no shortage of
volunteers. Since proficiency in English would presumably be important for
those joining the armed forces, we might focus on South Asia, anglophone
Africa, and parts of Latin America, Europe and East Asia (the Philippines
would be a natural recruiting ground) where English is common as a second
language. These regions have more than 2 billion people, tens of millions
of whom reach military age each year.

The problem would not be the size of the likely applicant pool so much as
our ability to vet individuals for their abilities, their dependability
and their commitment. Screening would have to be done to ensure that
would-be terrorists did not gain access to the armed forces through this
program. That might complicate the process of recruiting from certain
countries, especially in the Middle East, but it would hardly put a huge
dent in the likely applicant pool.Unlike most issues in the immigration
debate, the idea of offering citizenship to foreigners who first join the
armed forces should be a winner for everyone.

It is good for immigrants who wish to pursue U.S. citizenship, which they
could not otherwise attain. It is good for a beleaguered American military
that is simply too small for the tasks it has been handed. And it is good
for the country, bringing more hardworking patriots to our shores. Before
the all-volunteer force breaks, it is high time to consider the idea of
such a latter-day foreign legion.

Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author
of "War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to
Today." Michael O'Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution
and co-author of "Hard Power: The New Politics of National Security."
 2006 The Washington Post Company

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