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Professional Military

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LandJ posted on Fri, Apr 12 2013 5:38 PM

In Greece there is still mandatory military service for men. Friedman talked about mercenary military. Surely, professional soldiers provide better services than those who are enforced to do it. But both options are paid from the taxpayers. Some claim that a mercenary military will be less costly than the mandatory.  a. Can you explain this?

 

Additional Questions:

b. What if there are no enough people that desire to serve mercenary military? Wouldn't this country had small military, insufficient military?

c.  Should/Could Greece that its neighbor is Turkey (historical opponent), adopt mercenary military? Wouldn't be this dangerous in case that only few people want to service the mercenary military?

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not everyone is suited for the service. it is better to employ self-selection in addition to your own selection processes, because it is more efficient. that said, cultural influence plays a big part and greek history is full of accounts of warrior citizenry, so the damage is likely to be minimalized. the basic problem is that people who dont want to be soldiers dont often make good soldiers, and bureaucrats are rarely if ever fit to dispose on a man's fitness for combat or other duties. "mercenary" is a loaded term, and a misnomer in this context as what you are referring to is the debate between mandatory service and voluntary service.

volunteer military is less costly per unit of soldier.

if there are no volunteers then there isnt really much of a country. or youre not paying them enough. technology has to come after soldiers.

greece should make the best decisions for itself rather than try to match turkey in administrative details. if you dont think mandatory service is an administrative detail then you probably are on your way to understanding why its a bad idea.

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LandJ replied on Sat, Apr 13 2013 5:02 AM

I do believe that mandatory military service is immoral in principle. Furthermore, with voluntary service, people who will not choose to service will work in other areas to contribute to the economy.

But I am asking about economics in comparison with a mandatory service. How can it be justified that voluntary military service will be less costly per unit?

 

* Another different question is , is just being a member of NATO a sufficient reason for not launching a war between Greece and Turkey?

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Kakugo replied on Sat, Apr 13 2013 8:39 AM

A professional military will always be more expensive to run than armed forces based on conscription with the only exception of a local volunteer militia being called up for domestic defense. The reason? Professional soldiers need to paid on the spot, while conscripts can be just be threatened and coerced. The fearsome Spanish Army of Flanders was the first military to show their own masters what can happen when mercenaries are not paid regularly: they mutinied, refused to fight or even sacked cities loyal to Spain (the best known case being Antwerp). 

Of course volunteer members of a militia cost less because they are paid nothing hence the only cost is to provide for their weapons (to standardize them and reduce logistic problems), their equipment (cheaper to buy in bulk) and their training. But the problem is a modern military relies on much more sophisticated tactics and equipment. It takes months (if not years) to train a jet fighter pilot and he needs many flight hours each year both to keep his skills from rusting and train with new equipment/tactics. The men servicing those jet fighters need to be carefully trained as well: you just cannot rely on a car mechanic and electrician to keep even a basic fighter like an F5 flying. A traditional militia, made up by volunteers fighting with simple infantry weapons not requiring much maintenance and training (small firearms, AT, SAM etc) is of limited value in modern warfare, unless you build your own defense system around bleeding an invader dry by a thousand cuts.

b) Two of the best armies in the XVII century were small, mercenary armies: Maurice of Nassau's and the New Model Army. The rationale behind both was that a small mercenary army was much more efficient than a general levy (as proven when the small professional Swedish army defeated Tilly's larger Imperial host at Nordlingen after their Saxon allies had melted away) and by keeping numbers low an army was easier to train, easier to feed and easier to pay. Cromwell and Fairfax had seen how unwieldy and unreliable the Parliament armies (made up of a mixture of veterans, militias and conscripts) were and insisted upon the formation of a small, highly trained and more efficient professional army.

c) To date not a single country which transitioned from an army based on conscription to a professional military has had any issue filling up the ranks. At most allow foreign nationals to serve as mercenaries. Israel has an institution called Mahal which allows foreign nationals who can prove Jewish ancestry (one grandparent is deemed sufficient) to enlist in their armed forces. The French allow anybody, even criminals on the run from the law, to enlist in the Foreign Legion. And Maurice of Nassau's celebrated army was mostly made up foreign mercenaries and adventures: Germans, Frenchmen and especially Englishmen and Scots (Dutch preferred serving in the navy).

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Malachi replied on Sat, Apr 13 2013 12:45 PM

Professional soldiers need to paid on the spot, while conscripts can be just be threatened and coerced.

ok, who is doing the threatening? people who dont need to be paid either? the cost of threatening and coercing someone is higher than just hiring them, because you have to pay the threateners and the prison system.

the problem is a modern military relies on much more sophisticated tactics and equipment. It takes months (if not years) to train a jet fighter pilot and he needs many flight hours each year both to keep his skills from rusting and train with new equipment/tactics.

this is not a necessary condition, see the american-vietnamese war, and basically any other low-intensity conflict. technology is something people get when they can afford it, it isnt a necessary part of a war. in fact, pretty much any weap you can name has an effective countermeasure that is comparatively lower cost and lower tech.

A traditional militia, made up by volunteers fighting with simple infantry weapons not requiring much maintenance and training (small firearms, AT, SAM etc) is of limited value in modern warfare, unless you build your own defense system around bleeding an invader dry by a thousand cuts.

and what exactly is wrong with that?

insisted upon the formation of a small, highly trained and more efficient professional army.

sounds like they knew what they were talking about.

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Malachi replied on Sat, Apr 13 2013 12:49 PM

But I am asking about economics in comparison with a mandatory service. How can it be justified that voluntary military service will be less costly per unit?

the basic problem is that people who dont want to be soldiers dont often make good soldiers, and bureaucrats are rarely if ever fit to dispose on a man's fitness for combat or other duties.

it costs more to force people (who may not want to fight) to train to be fighters, and then go risk their lives, than it costs to hire people who already want to fight and train them to do something they are amenable to.

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Bogart replied on Mon, Apr 15 2013 9:28 PM

a. A mercenary force is the cheaper alternative in both peacetime and wartime.

In peacetime this like other financial decisions is a matter of time preference.  If you are only concerned about a military right now and the hell with the costs then a conscripted force would be your best alternative.  But in the longer term it is decidedly worse as the government takes away the people for military services who are just entering the prime of their lives and society loses their output.  A volunteer force also suffers from many of these issues but is worse on the grounds that what it gains in only taking people willing to do the job it loses in retirement pay and what not.  This is where the mercenary force is the best as it has very little longer term effects otherthan funding costs.

In wartime the cost of a mercenary force is lots cheaper as the government is on the hook only for the cost of the service and not the veterans cost.

And in both peacetime and wartime the mercenary force is very expensive to augment compared to the other options, especially the conscripted one, are much easier to increase the size of the force making politicians more willing start wars.

b. There is no such thing as too small of a military.  As Mises pointed out, war is so stupidly expensive that it is almost always cheaper to pay the attackers to go away or sell them property that they desire.  And if your military is too small then the solution is easy: Allow people to have guns, like the Japanese General said, we would never invade the Continental USA, behind every blade of grass would be a rifle.

c. Again no, peace is vastly less expensive than war that it is in the best interest of both parties to maintain peace.

Look at the Falklands War, More people died than live there and more property was destroyed than the economic value of the islands. 

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The cheapest army is an army of zealots.  You don't need to pay them anything.

The most expensive army is the opposite of zealous: mercenary.  You must pay them fully according to their risk assessment and will to live.  If I estimated 20% chance of dying in Battle X, you couldn't pay me any amount to do it.  Someone else might do it for $1,000,000.  Another someone else might do it for $10,000.

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I insist on the opposite. Blind zealotry is an effective way to eradicate swaths of humans. It easily spirals into a cumulative multiplier on human resources [with minimal maintenance].

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excel replied on Wed, Apr 17 2013 7:55 AM

 Allow people to have guns, like the Japanese General said, we would never invade the Continental USA, behind every blade of grass would be a rifle.

I believe that quotation is an urban myh.

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In Greece there is still mandatory military service for men. Friedman talked about mercenary military. Surely, professional soldiers provide better services than those who are enforced to do it. But both options are paid from the taxpayers. Some claim that a mercenary military will be less costly than the mandatory.  a. Can you explain this?

 

I think that depends largely on the situation.

Continental empires like Persia, China and Russia could tap into vast pools of human capital and therefore manage to mobilize large conscripted/enslaved armies at lower costs.

The same is not true for smaller states in Europe, with logistical complications like overseas interests, like Spain, Holland or England, or with large concentration of financial assets or political power compared to gross exploitable population, like Switzerland and the Papal States. These may find more cost-effective to deploy mercs rather than conscripts for certain military manoeuvers.

An interesting middle ground was found by France, with its Légion Etrangère, where foreign volunteers can be converted into french citoyens after a few years of service in the french african theater of operations.

Modern civilization generally increases the relative costs of compulsory labor, compared to organized voluntary labour alternatives, but that's not always the case, specially when the costs do not fall directly on the people taking the decisions, such as representatives in a modern democracy.

Slavery and conscription existed and still exist because they were and still are economically efficient for those taking decisions.

And they have disappeared to the extent that they have ceased to be.

"Blood alone moves the wheels of history" - Dwight Schrute
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b. What if there are no enough people that desire to serve mercenary military? Wouldn't this country had small military, insufficient military?

If you're supposing a free-market, the "shortage" would be addressed by rising prices, to the extent that wealth transfers would be an economically interesting method of inciting people to enlist.

Of course, there's always a point where salaries, war bonds and bonus payments are no longer convincing, specially within the weaker sides, and thus violent ways of military mobilization may become economically interesting again.

"Blood alone moves the wheels of history" - Dwight Schrute
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c.  Should/Could Greece that its neighbor is Turkey (historical opponent), adopt mercenary military? Wouldn't be this dangerous in case that only few people want to service the mercenary military?

 

To start answering that specific question one would require more specific intelligence about the geopolitical situation between greeks and turks than I have. The only thing I know is that Greece and Turkey are members of NATO and the likelihood of a war between the two is probably very low in the short run.

But it is important to keep in mind that the contingents of conscripts in peace time are generally much smaller than the potential contingent of conscripts in wartime.

What is important for Greece is to be sure that she was able to respond swiftly to a mobilization by Turkey (or any other potential foe), either by massive conscription or by calling contractors.

Conscription might look like a short time solution to unemployed and increasingly violent greek youths, but that solution might also backfire, especially if potential enemies (like Turkey) interpret such move as a mobilization towards probable war and start their own large-scale conscription program themselves, leading to a diplomatic situation. More likely, a large movement toward conscription could lead to more political instability inside greece, with people fearing the establishment of martial law. 

In any case, a large peacetime contingent of conscripts is a very large liability and Greek politicians do not seem to be in a position to afford it.

 

"Blood alone moves the wheels of history" - Dwight Schrute
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