Enlistment for the Farm

Enlistment for the Farm” seemed, at first, to be nothing special. The title felt dull, blunt,  and straightforward compared to the dozens of pamphlets that advertised grandiose topics like spreading democracy or protecting American values. My attention was caught, however, when I saw that the pamphlet, which I assumed was about the importance of supporting farms during the war through either farming unions or female participation, was written by famous American education reformer John Dewey. Agriculture and public education have no overlap in my mind, so I became interested to see exactly what the pamphlet was about. Little did I know that this pamphlet would just kept getting better as it went on. Dewey was, indeed, concerned with finding a labor force that would replace the farmers who enlisted as soldiers, but his solution was far more shocking than I had anticipated.

Having gone into “Enlistment for the Farm” with certain expectations, the pamphlet’s thesis perplexed me even though it was stated rather plainly in the first couple paragraphs: “The school children of America can serve definitely, effectively and with educational results by helping in the plowing of Uncle Sam’s acre.” According to Dewey, victory rested almost entirely on America’s ability to feed troops, something that could quickly be achieved by using school children (ages 9 to 16) to bolster the farming population. If the calculations of Dr. P. P. Claxton, whom Dewey cites, are to be believed then a total of $750,000,000 worth of production—a conservative estimation I might add—would have been added to the nation’s food supply. Dewey points out, however, that such benefits would not come easily and that “State, country and even national organization are required to make available this latent power.” He claims that the results would be worth the effort, though, as they would be using a group of people that could otherwise do little to help the nation.

Amazingly, Dewey promises that his solution would not only solve America’s agricultural dilemma but would also benefit children as a superior means of education. He claims that “Constructive Patriotism” will be developed and taught in the fields. “It gives a chance for the expression of the idea of service to one’s country which is not of the destructive kind,” he says, later going on to explain that his solution also provides “healthful exercise, a sense of reality which means so much to children, and a sense of service in performance of work which is really useful.” According to Dewey, his solution provided no downside and even if the nation were not at war he would still advocate for such a program. It’s that good.

Reading through “Enlistment for the Farm” with a modern mindset, Dewey’s proposal feels like a finely constructed satire. The blunt vocabulary and wild logic he uses to advocate for what is essentially a system of government sanctioned child labor camps is entertaining in its absurdity. At one point Dewey explicitly says, “Children in the cities may be sent into the county for camps and tent colonies.” As entertaining as the concept is now, though, it was an actual possibility at the time brought into reality through society’s obsession over rationalism and efficiency. To Dewey and many others in 1917, it would be irrational and inefficient to allow children to run around and play while the nation mobilized for war. Dewey saw children as unused variables, variables that had over 4,000 hours of free time per year to contribute to the war effort.  He was given no choice but to allocate them accordingly.

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The World Safe for Democracy

During the United States’ campaign to fight for democracy during the Great War, Americans failed to understand the implications between civil liberties and their idealistic aim for the war. While going through the pamphlet box, I was intrigued by how a pamphlet repurposed Wilson’s phrase of “making the world safe for democracy” for the argument of protecting civil liberties.

English economist John A. Hobson saw basic freedoms under threat from the growing power of the state in his pamphlet “The World Safe for Democracy.” To Hobson, “reactionary forces” during the war took over the state for the purpose of a mobilized public. A mobilized public meant a unified public opinion. However, the trade-off for a unified public opinion was the degradation of basic freedoms, violating the foundations of democracy. These “reactionary forces” were dangerous to democracy. If public opinion was being influenced by a powerful state, England was no longer in line with the belief of democracy versus despotism. The people were no longer in charge.

Hobson originally published his beliefs in his book Democracy After the War in 1917. In order to combat low morale, European powers attempted to control public opinion in favor of the war. With the advent of the US coming into the war, the war was rebranded. Hobson saw inconsistencies between the justification of the war and the controlling of public opinion through centralization of power in the state.

Hobson referred to the issues of England in his pamphlet. However, the American Civil Liberties Bureau reproduced Hobson’s sentiments for the American public. The Bureau applied the democratic and idealistic purpose of the war to the need to protect civil liberties. If civil liberties were being violated at home, then democracy cannot be adequately fought for abroad. These “reactionary forces” were dangerous to democracy.

While the National Security League was promoting the war effort through its ‘Patriotism through Education’ pamphlet series, the American Civil Liberties Bureau was also advocating for protection of basic freedoms during the war. By reprinting Hobson’s thoughts, the Bureau illustrated the universality of the struggle between maintaining the war effort and while holding the foundation of democracy and civil liberties constant amongst the Allied powers. In addition, and more pertinent, the Bureau connected having free public expression with being American. The Espionage and Sedition Acts gave more direct power to the government to control public discourse. Under this assumption, being American was dictated by supporting the war effort. However, by supporting civil liberties, Americans also demonstrated their Americanness as the war was about fighting for democracy according to the Bureau.

The violations during the war were not just an issue of exhibiting the benefits of democracy, but those violations present a danger in the future after the war was over. According to Hobson, the “reactionary forces” would “win possession of their national government.” With these “reactionary forces” in charge at the end of the war, the war could not live up to its aims of democracy, hurting democracy and moving towards despotism.

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The Tentacles of the German Octopus in America

Thumbing through the pamphlets, I was caught off guard when I saw the word ‘octopus.’ After reading over the pamphlet’s entire title a few times, I could see a corresponding propaganda poster in my head: an octopus in the black, white, and red of the German Empire’s flag reaching its long tentacles across the Atlantic and into the states of the East Coast, casting ominous shadows over the land. The imagery that this pamphlet’s title so quickly provoked made me really want to learn about this figurative cephalopod and what it meant for the war effort.

“What greater danger could the nation face?”

According to Dr. Earl E. Sperry, nothing posed a greater threat to the United States at this time than proud German-Americans. While there were many different groups of “hyphenated Americans,” he claims German-Americans were especially dangerous because the German state and cultural feelings of superiority were directing German minorities abroad to retain allegiance to Deutschland. He claims that “they have been taught perseveringly that they are not of us ” and seek to impress German Kultur upon “native pupils” (Protestant Anglo-Saxon Americans). This allegiance to Germany, Sperry argues, was valued over American citizenship, creating a streitpunkt. German-Americans were segregating themselves away from the rest of America with the intention of creating a “nation within a nation,” producing “a schism in the American nation along the line of race cleavage,” yet still expected the rights of American citizens. This self-segregation was exemplified by adherence to German tradition and use of the German language, specifically in German culture groups.

Groups such as the Verein für das Deutschum im Ausland (Association for Germans Abroad) and the Alldeutscher Verband (Pan-German League) existed to give “advice… concerning all policies which relate to the extension of German power and civilization throughout the world.” So, not only were these German-Americans practicing German culture within the United States, but Sperry claims that, in doing so, they intended on increasing German influence and and power. As if that wasn’t enough to raise alarm over, the ultimate plan of the German-Americans was, according to Sperry, to create a new political group in America that served the interests of Germany. He specifically cites an anti-Wilson editorial from a German newspaper in which the (unnamed) author claims German-Americans “favor a policy which will be advantageous to Germany” as an example of this cultural sentiment.

Even the German-American National Alliance was not safe from Sperry’s scrutiny. While he could not deny that the Alliance had “done much to promote friendly political relations between Germany and the United States,” he claimed that they were doing so as Germans rather than as Americans. Any German-American individual or group could be assumed to carry more allegiance to “the fatherland” than the United States, no matter what he, she, or they contributed to America. The tentacles of this German octopus are Germanism itself, described by Sperry as “a destructive and disintegrating force.” Anything that these tentacles came into contact with was soiled by potent German loyalty.

How were Americans to protect themselves from such a threat? He suggests that loyal Americans could “exert against” German papers and societies “the force of a justly angered public opinion.” Through nativist intimidation, the National Security League suggested Americans could deter German homogeneity, figuratively cutting off the tentacles of the Kaiser’s octopus. This pamphlet serves as an example of the dehumanization of German-Americans at this time, reducing the German identity to a slippery sea creature intent on reaching into the United States, as well as the acceptance of nativism as a justified protection against such encroachments.

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Handbook of the War for Public Speakers

The National Catholic Forensics League has very clear (although often unspoken) rules for those hoping to succeed in the category of Original Oratory. Having competed in the NCFL for four years, I know these rules inside and out, and the first thing that I thought when I picked up the National Security League’s “Handbook of the War for Public Speakers” was oh, my god, they’re following all of the rules.

Rule Number One is to start with a quote, usually from a respected or well-known person. The Handbook’s first page after the title contains a selection of political rhetoric from Abraham Lincoln that stresses the value of American freedom and the unfortunate necessity of sometimes having to fight for it (Hart 2). Although Lincoln spoke of a war that took place fifty years prior and within American borders, the NSL nevertheless appropriates his words to lend authority to their argument regarding the present war in Europe. Additionally, as a good orator would, the editors refer back to Lincoln’s gloomy prognosis about the inevitability of the war when they make their claim about the justice and necessity of entering into WWI (Hart 2). The succeeding chapters of the handbook provide further sources of quotes and evidence to lend credibility to an orator’s argument.

Rule Number 2 of the NCFL is to provide a roadmap for the listener of what the speaker intends to cover. The editors make clear that they have two main goals in publishing the handbook and writing its introduction: to provide an introduction to the pro-war standpoint and to enable the education of the “citizens of the Republic” regarding the importance of going to war (Hart 3). They elaborate on the first point by placing the Handbook in the context of other volumes which the NSL plans to publish, giving an idea of the vast scope of the organization’s propaganda activities. In the second case, they appropriate the progressive idea that, as Kennedy writes, “social change should come about primarily through education and the appeal to people’s enlightened, better selves” (Kennedy 47). Hart and Lovejoy’s language has deep parallels to Kennedy’s when the former pair writes about “informing the understanding [and] … awakening the moral vision and the moral passion, of the entire people” (Hart 3).

Rule Number 3 is that every speech should have, aside from a central argument, a theme following through the whole. This short essay’s theme is patriotism. By constantly evoking the need to appeal to “citizens of the Republic,” “every honest and loyal citizen,” “all Americans deserving of the name,” etc., the editors suggest the pressing nature of this issue for the American psyche (Hart 3-4). The U.S., Hart and Lovejoy suggest, has been “forced” to enter the war on the part of all mankind due to its status as an upholder of justice and human rights. The strong appeal to American values such as freedom and justice calls to mind present-day accusations that those who kneel during the national anthem are not “true patriots” and do not show proper support for the U.S. military. Patriotism, it seems, has always lent itself well to militant causes.

By following these rules, the Handbook provides in its introduction an example to help guide its readers when they eventually speak to their own audiences.

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The American Ambulance

When flipping through the pamphlet box, a few stood out to me, but I definitely did not expect myself to choose such a rudimentary topic to read and write about. The pamphlet called “The American Ambulance” by Robert Bacon explains that “ambulance” is the French term for hospital and was about the hospital set up by Americans in France during the war. The idea of a hospital in the war is a tale as old as time, it was near the front lines, injured soldiers were rushed in daily, the number of wounded grew, and many noble men and women worked reluctantly to save the lives of strangers. However, as I read more into the pamphlet, I learned that this hospital was more than just a place for healing physical wounds, but it was also a symbol of gratitude.

After the French assisted the Americans in their fight for independence, the United States had yet to return the favor, and this hospital was their token of gratitude. The pamphlet describes in detail how small cars were used to transport soldiers from the front lines and the task was so dangerous the car couldn’t risk honking their horns or else they would be heard by the enemy. Aside from the dangers of the location, the men and women who volunteered to worked in the hospital were paid a quarter of their salary back home.

This information shocked me because after over 140 years, the Americans felt such a strong debt towards the French that they not only risked their lives a great deal but also took on a fraction of their typical compensation to work in the hospital. The dedication the Americans showed to this cause was so impressive that the French gave 52 men awards for “bravery under fire” and 2 men even won the highest award the French army has to offer. The men who ambulated soldiers from the war zone were so passionate about their cause and understood the debt the United States owed to the French so whole heartedly that they laid their life on the line to save people they had never met. Furthermore, the Americans even took a large pay reduction so that they may contribute to repaying the French for their aid in American independence.

The actions of the men and women spelled throughout this pamphlet set a precedence for international relationships. They illustrate the emphasis Americans put on paying their dues to their neighboring countries so as to remain on good terms with their allies. It conveys the admiration the Americans have for the country that helped them achieve a system of independence and democracy which fortifies American value of what they believe to be the best form of government. Even after 141 years, citizens of the United States were still so passionate about their way of life that they were willing to take a significant pay cut and risk their lives to show their gratitude to their European neighbors for a history altering act of kindness.

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Virginia’s War History

After looking through a variety of pamphlets, one immediately grabbed my attention. “Virginia’s War History” was published in 1920 in an effort to preserve the history of World War in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The subject itself is very intriguing, as when one thinks about the Great War time period in the United States, Virginia isn’t typically the first state to come to mind. However, Chairman Arthur Kyle was determined to ensure that future Virginians would always have knowledge of their state’s history and participation in the first World War. He accomplished this through what became known as “The Virginia Plan”, which sought to preserve the civilian history of the war in Virginia. Not only was it the first state in the Union “to adopt and publish a definite and comprehensive plan of treatment for a State war history” (3), but it also specifically highlighted the story of civilian activities throughout the war. People criticized the Virginia plan because of this, but it’s interesting and important to have these records now as they give us an insight into what life in Virginia was like during the war.

The whole pamphlet lays out the planned design of the Virginia plan as well as makes an argument for it. As a result, it doesn’t give too much information on the state of Virginia at the time. However, there is a little bit of insight on racial relations which I find very interesting. Kyle talks about “The Virginia Negroes” and the role in which they would play in the assembling of the Virginia plan. Virginia had “a central board of thirty negro collaborators” which would be responsible for gathering facts and history of “negro civilian activities in war time” (6). What I find most interesting about this section of the pamphlet is Kyle’s opinion on race relations of the time which he subtly makes clear. He says, “It is the belief of the executive committee… that Virginia will have reason to be proud of the story of the negroes in war time as told by their own writers” (6).

His view contrasts the discussion and readings that our class has had, but they also prove our class right. His beliefs are what would have been expected from a white man at this time. While it is significant that he had African-Americans actually write their own history of what happened, his belief that future Virginians would be proud of the story of negroes in war time was clearly misguided. As seen throughout various readings and discussed in class, this time period resulted in mass segregation and was incredibly challenging for African-Americans. Kyle’s sentiment here, even though he believed he was helping, reflects the ignorance of white Americans toward racial relations.

While the pamphlet itself didn’t give much indication about civilian life in Virginia at the time, it was very interesting to read as it set the stage for creating the Virginia plan. I enjoyed reading Kyle’s argument as to why it should be written, because without sources like this, it’s arguable that we wouldn’t even have this class (considering our class is all about civilian life during the Great War).

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International Conciliation: Race and Nationality

I chose a pamphlet that spoke to the influence of race and nationality on the war in Europe called “International Conciliation: Race and Nationality” by Franz Boas (1915). Ideas of race at this time were much different than they are today. Some people did not see race just as skin color, but distinguished between hereditary differences of peoples from different areas of Europe. So for the context of this pamphlet, Teutonic people, Slavic people, Anglo Saxons etc are all considered people of different races.


Boas started by explaining that there was a common belief that the Great War was an unavoidable war of races. Teutonic people, Slavic people, Latin people and all the other people of Europe had hereditary differences that caused animosity from the people of the other races. This was referred to as “racial instinct” and was the idea that people of different appearances and mental characteristics were incapable of living harmoniously. Boas then points out the lack of any tangible evidence to support these claims. He additionally explains that each country involved in the Great War has clearly cross bred with the other “races” and that none of the involved nations are homogeneous. So clearly the cause of the war was not hereditary.


Boas goes on to suggest that what many had seen as racial constructs were actually national constructs. People determine someone’s nationality by the habits that their society has taught them. Many of the emotions that people attributed to racial differences were still present, however they were caused by nationalism and not hereditary differences. This brings to attention the advantages and disadvantages of nationalism. On the one hand, nationalism serves to set definite ideals for a large group of people that can then work together to achieve those ideals. On the other hand, one of the primary lessons that nationalism teaches is that your country is superior to others and its goals should be prioritized over the goals of other nations. In other words, nationalism enforces the idea of national isolation and governmental inadaptability. This side of nationalism caused the animosity between European Nations which then led to the Great War.


Boas then brings up the idea of the federation of nations. Now in 1915, this was a nascent concept that few considered achievable. However, Boas clearly stated that the Federation of Nations was inevitable. Simply by looking at the history of human development the size of groups was always growing. From tribes to towns to cities to nations to empires, people’s social circles were always growing. Looking around today, he was completely correct. Only a few years after this pamphlet was published Wilson attempted to create the League of Nations. After World War II the United Nations was created. Now there are international accords that nearly all of the developed nations of the world participate in, clearly indicating the accuracy of Boas’s prediction. The main force that kept the federation of nations from becoming a reality was nationalism. Nationalism prioritized national self preservation over the interests of any other nation. This is exactly what happened at the end of World War I with the Treaty of Versailles.

Boas quickly repudiates the notion that race and genetics has anything to do with the cause of the war in Europe. The way Boas focuses on the concept of nationalism provides helpful insight on understanding what caused the start of WWI and what fueled it throughout the war. National pride was unique in that it united large groups of people and created a common goal but at the same time caused massive divisions from other nations and made international cooperation seem almost impossible. Even with all of these national differences, Boas was still confident that countries would put aside some of their differences to form some kind of international federation of nations. 

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What About the Secret Treaties

As I was browsing through some of the pamphlets, I came across one pamphlet entitled “What About the Secret Treaties?”  This piece was an editorial published by the weekly periodical called “The New Age,” which reviewed politics, literature, art, and culture and was based in London.  I think that this pamphlet is important because it shows an accurate representation of how many British people felt toward their government during this war and is reflected in today’s society when state secrets are published on websites like Wikileaks.

These secret treaties were documents that Great Britain and other European Allies had created to decide how to divide up territories between themselves after the war was over.  When the Bolsheviks dominated Russian control, they published these secret treaties to prove that the larger nations in Europe were not fighting, as they had previously claimed, for small countries’ rights, since they were planning on taking advantage of small national groups within their own colonies (Manella 38).

One of the things that struck me as interesting about this piece was that the author chose to write it anonymously under the name of “The Foreign Editor (1).”  He might have chosen to use a pseudonym because his views were controversial to both pacifists and to those who were in favor of the secret treaties.  He believed that the people who created these secret treaties  should be held accountable and should give an explanation as to why these treaties were made in secret.  However, unlike pacifists, he believed that there is an understandable explanation as to why it was made a secret.  “[We] must not fall into the error of suspecting, as the pacifists do, that because the secret treaties require to be explained, therefore no satisfactory explanation of them exists, and that all explanation is a vain attempt to explain away (3).”  Despite the fact that the author believed that it was wrong for the British prime minister to not address the secret treaties once the Bolsheviks published them, he did believe that there are comprehensible reasons that these nations would keep the treaties a secret.  One of the more prominent reasons that the author justifies is that these documents contained ways to weaken Germany and strengthen the Allied powers, so it would make sense that the Allies would not want to broadcast this plan (7).  

One of the author’s main critiques of the treaties was that they were designed to decide the fates of territories by transferring them from one nation to another without regard to the people that occupy these areas, which contradicted the democratic methods that these nations were supposedly going to war over (3).  The argument that many of these Allied nations in Europe gave to their citizens as a justifiable reason to go to war was that they were fighting for the democracy of all people, but these treaties showed that the governments of Allied countries that people have risked their lives for are betraying their trust by lying to their citizens.  Another problem that the author had with the treaties was that it likely prolonged Germany’s involvement in the war because the treaties were designed to demolish Germany’s economy (4).  If these treaties had not been as harsh as they were toward Germany, then the Germans may have backed out of the war earlier, which would have saved thousands of lives for both the Allied and Central Powers.

The concerns expressed by the author and many other British citizens about the lack of accountability of the government when these secret treaties were published mirrored some of the reactions by many American citizens when Edward Snowden released classified information to “The Guardian.”  These documents included information about the NSA and CIA hacking private citizens’ and world leaders’ personal devices to obtain information about them, which is supposed to be illegal without a warrant.  While most Americans were upset that the government would do this without their permission, other people thought that the U.S. was justified if it was protecting the security of the citizens.  Although it is sometimes important for nations to keep secrets, so that they do not alert their adversaries to their future plans, these secrets can also be very harmful to those that are affected by them, especially when the government does not address the reasoning behind them.

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Declaration of Interdependence

When the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, the American colonists severed their ties with England, declaring themselves a separate and independent nation. Over the following decades the two nations forged different courses in history, pushing and pulling against each other. The Great War brought the two nations together in a fight against Germany, and, exactly 142 years after the Declaration of Independence, the two nations symbolically joined together again on July 4, 1918 with the issuance of a Declaration of Interdependence.

The pamphlet on the Declaration of Interdependence.

The commemoration of the new declaration, which was marked by “a spirit of brotherhood… in the air” (3) was intended to acknowledge the two countries’ need for each other (6). A series of dignitaries presented speeches, and the resolution for a Declaration of Interdependence was passed unanimously. There were a few things that struck me as especially interesting while reading through the pamphlet.

First, a common theme was the countries’ sense of shared duty to the world. In fact, each speaker mentioned this at least once in their speech. “The two nations are making today a new declaration, a Declaration of Interdependence, of acknowledgement that they have need of each other and belong together for the work of the world,” American soldier George Haven Putnam said (5-6). This same sentiment was echoed in the next speech of Viscount Bryce, who noted that “With the love of freedom, and as its proper accompaniment, Britain and America have both revered the moral law, have held to good faith between nations, and have recognized their duties to the world” (11). Winston Churchill, the keynote speaker, similarly emphasized the nations’ joint duty to the world in his speech. “Let us proclaim the true comradeship of Britain and America, and their determination to stand together until the work is done, in all perils, in all difficulties, at all costs,” he stated (17). These assertions connect to the  larger themes we have been discussing in class, about each nation’s perceived duty to the world. The fact that this point was brought up during the commemoration of the Declaration of Interdependence is significant because it shows how despite earlier division, both Britain and the United States now shared a democratic vision for the world.

The program of events for the commemoration.

Another common theme was the role of race. Hon. A. Meighen, a representative of the Canadian government, noted that the Anglo-Saxon race could never be together again politically. “But they are together for a greater purpose than the building of a nation: they are together to rescue a world,” he asserted (19). Winston Churchill also emphasized race, referring repeatedly to “the English-speaking race” (13). These points are important to consider in the context of the timeline of the war. By July 1918, the war was nearing its inevitable end. Wilson had already delivered his Fourteen Points speech to Congress in January of that year, so long-term planning for the end of the war was on the horizon. Thus, the comments about race signify a larger framework of thinking about how different races and different countries would be suited for self-determination and democratic government following the war.

The re-interpretation of the historical record was also interesting to observe throughout the pamphlet. A few of the speakers acknowledged the irony in celebrating the anniversary of the two countries’ separation. However, by emphasizing the English background of the Declaration of Independence, the speakers presented an image of America as embracing English morals. For example, Churchill noted that “The Declaration of Independence is not only an American document; it follows on Magna Carta and the Petition of Right as the third of the great title deeds on which the liberties of the English-speaking race are founded” (13). Stressing the shared legal and moral background of the two nations was an attempt to move past the divisive history and instead focus on a unified battle against the Germans. Emphasizing the common background also served to reiterate the importance of promoting democracy for the world. I also thought it was interesting that there was no reference to America once existing as a British colony. This was clearly a touchy subject given the state of empires and colonization at this point in the war.

The Declaration of Interdependence provides an opportunity to connect a historical event to earlier parts of history (the original Declaration of Independence), but it can also connect to the modern day. During a state visit to Beijing yesterday, President Donald Trump emphasized the United States’ relationship with China and asserted that collectively the two countries have “the power to liberate the world” from the North Korean “menace.” This closely echoes the sentiment of the American and British leaders who vowed to work together to save the world from Germany. While I can’t imagine the United States and China will sign a Declaration of Interdependence any time in the near future, only time will tell how this particular conflict will play out. The Founders and the old English monarchy certainly never could have imagined their respective countries signing a Declaration of Interdependence only 142 years after the events of July 4, 1776.

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The Basis for National Military Training

The pamphlet I chose to expand upon, “The Basis for National Military Training” by Henry Stimson, was published in 1917 through the National Security League. The pamphlet brings to light Stimson’s rationale for why and how the United States should develop a standard foundation for national military training as a proper form of national security. Published just before the United States’ decision to declare war on Germany, Mr. Stimson’s pamphlet warned that the readiness of America’s “discredited militia system” would not be able to defend itself in the occurrence of an invasion. He argues that the time is now to reform the military while the public’s attention is squared on national defense.

Henry Stimson, a former Secretary of War, starts his proposition by offering the argument that the volunteer system has historically failed the United States in all prior military engagements from the Revolutionary War up to the War of 1898. He proposes a system of conscription where all military aged males would conduct obligatory training like structures initiated by Switzerland, France, and Chile. Stimson propounds that this universal system would avoid a scenario where “a citizen feels aggrieved if he is asked to do a national duty which his fellow citizen escapes” (2).

The next leg of the proposed standard military training is the developing and regard of America’s military officers. Stimson states that no one maintains more consistently than officers, the traditions of the United States’ “free institutions” (3). He suggests that a premium must be placed on the development and education of commissioned and non-commissioned officers as they are the leaders of the Nation’s military. The success and effectiveness of these leaders is vital in the conscription style system Stimson proposes.

Stimson believes he can solve a few societal problems with the next component in his national military training strategy. Regarding the influx immigration at the time, Stimson argues that the military is a perfect place to add immigrants to its ranks. First off, there is no better method than conscribing them to the military to show “that free government has responsibilities as well as privileges…as well as assimilate them into our present population” (4). According to his proposition, the problem concerning immigrant’s loyalty and ability to assimilate to American society can be solved by enlisting them in the military. Additionally, Stimson notes “(Military) Practice for six months in the rapidly decaying art of obedience would teach our undisciplined youth (immigrant and native-born) …much needed self-control (4).

Henry Stimson also deems that national military training would moreover resolve the pressing ‘masculinity issues’ facing the country as more and more men are moving out of rural farm areas and becoming city-dwellers. Six-months of military training in the field will reinstitute those “hearty outdoor virtues” lost by the migration and is the “secret ideal of every right-thinking boy” (6).

This pamphlet outlines a former Secretary of War’s response to an ever-growing military insecurity in the United States. While it is true that the military really doesn’t exist in an effective formal capacity in 1917 and it must be strengthened, full conscription in military training is not the answer. It is important to make the distinction between military training conscription and a draft. In a time of war, where the nation needs individuals ready to defend the nation, a draft takes place. However, the enrolling of all military aged males in military training during peacetime is militarized conscription. It is not logistically feasible (in 1917) nor consistent with social and democratic ideals to initiate this form of nationwide training; that structure seems more aligned with a fully militarized state. Stimson attempts to offer a solution of America’s poor national defense in 1917. However, his plan and ideology are rooted in stereotypical assumptions and undemocratic ideals.

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