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The time for an American Foreign Legion

By Bruce Walker
web posted February 17, 2003

Ironic, isn't it? Millions of people dream of being able to live in America. Yet millions of Americans seem unhappy living in this blessed land. Millions of others try to sneak into America illegally, and to enjoy the benefits of our wealth all the while despising America.

Ironic, isn't it? America fought two world wars which liberated the peoples of France, Germany and Belgium and which fed and clothed them in poverty. These lands are now safe, rich and free. Yet it is the newly freed peoples with struggling economies in Eastern Europe who stand most strongly beside America in its battle to free Iraq.

Ironic, isn't it? The perfect dream would be to live in America freely, as citizens, and not as legal immigrants or even illegal immigrants. The dream of many peoples of the world is to live in America. The greatest dream of many of these peoples is not just to live in America, but to become American citizens.

President Bush has reminded us that the globe is so small now that we must act to protect ourselves. We cannot wait for the evildoers to strike. American air power, naval power, satellites and smart weapons will allow us to do a great deal without ground forces. But a nation that loves peace and freedom cannot be developed with cruise missiles or drones. There must be men on the ground carrying guns.

These men should know the language, culture, religion and culture of those lands which we occupy. Ideally, these soldiers should actually come from those regions. But American soldiers come from that distinctive culture that stretches across the middle of North America between two oceans.

The United Nations is supposed to provide a multi-national force for peacekeeping, but this has never worked. Small military units from distant lands are not needed. Troops under the morally dubious command of the United Nations is not helpful. What we need is an American Foreign Legion.

Good people, brave people around the world understand what a blessing American citizenship is to anyone. Many would be willing to volunteer to serve in ethnically separate companies, battalions and brigades in return for the promise of American citizenship.

America should offer, after rigorous testing to insure loyalty, that Baluchi, Bengali, Kurd, Syrian and other nationalities and ethnic groups in "hot spots" be allowed to sign up for a ten year hitch in the American Foreign Legion. Citizenship for them and for their families should be the reward for a decade of faithful service.

These troops could be trained well, taught to operate with traditional American military support, and used whenever America needed to project land power for a long term basis into a region in which the language, culture and religion was substantially different from what American soldiers would typically encounter.

These forces could operate as a genuine "peace-keeping" force, without all the silliness and insincerity of the United Nations. These troops would also be under the direct command of the United States. The President could send them in or pull them out as served our objectives.

The benefits of this flexible branch of our armed forces could be immense. Consider the problems if we do need to invade the territories controlled by the House of Saud. Do we send non-Moslem troops as an invasion force, thus offending Moslems around the world? Do we make transitory alliances with Moslem nations like the Kingdom of Jordan or Yemen? Neither of these options if appealing.

But what if we could send an entirely Muslim force, conversant in Arabic, familiar with the customs of the peninsula, to overrun Riyadh? These forces would be loyal American forces, but America would be showing a keen interest in not offending the sensibilities of other cultures. Indeed, the mere presence of such military units would discourage governments that intended to hide behind the skirts of nationalism, religion or race.

Perhaps the best benefit, however, would come in the area of nation building. A regiment of Iranian soldiers in an American Foreign Legion could occupy, pacify and stabilize Teheran after a popular revolution. Loyalty to America and to Iran would make these troops the core around which to construct a modern, working democracy in Iran - one aligned with America, but not overwhelmed by America.

President Bush would do well to make candid our long term foreign policy strategy. America wants every nation to be free, tolerant, peaceful and democratic. It really does not matter to us if a nation if ungrateful (like the Germans), obstructionist (like the French), introspective (like the Japanese), or smug (like the Swedes).

As irritating as these nations are to us, if all the other nations on Earth had governments like these nations, war would end. As crummy as President Chirac or Chancellor Schroeder have been, neither man and neither party each man represents is going to begin genocidal campaigns or create vast torture chambers.

The world is much better off that Japan is overly pacifist than overly militarist. The world is much better off that Russia is a creaky, corrupt democracy than a totalitarian state been on domination. The world is much better off that Germany has a tiny military with little serious purpose than a big, serious war machine. These obnoxious nations, who are not truly our allies, are also no threats to peace.

What America needs is a clear plan to make sure over time that any man or clique who dream of global blackmail or regional conquest know that America will end the power of that regime, and that a free, open society will replace the repressive regime. An American Foreign Legion could be an excellent tool to achieve that goal.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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