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The Army and Public Affairs: Enduring Principles

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Journal article

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Revolutionary War soldier and patriot Joel Barlow wrote shortly after the War for Independence that what separated free men from the oppressed was a habit of thinking. Men submitted to a king. he said, not because that ruler was stronger or wiser than they but because of a belief that he was born to govern. In the same way, they became free when the conviction grew in them that they were in themselves equal to one another. The idea alone was what counted Let the people have time to become thoroughly and soberly grounded in the doctrine of equality. and there is no danger of oppression either from government or from anarchy. It was the American peoples habit of thinking that all men are equal in their rights, Barlow avowed, that had compelled them to revolt from Great Britain and that sustained their independence. Historians might quibble with Barlows further conclusion that men will always act in their own best interests if only shown where those interests lie, but his insight into the American character and the nature of the American political experiment was important. For the founders of the United States had indeed constructed not just a new form of government but a new conception of politics one rooted in the habit of equality and expressed by the principle that, as Charles Pinckney of South Carolina put it, all authority flows from and returns at stated periods to, the people. Yet, if that concept has been the pivot, as James Madison observed, upon which the entire American system has revolved, it has also been a source of complication for the United States Army. For although the American soldier has taken pride in his role as guardian of the republic, he has also had to contend in time of war with the inefficiencies imposed by his nations unique egalitarian and democratic psychology. Individual commanders have responded to that challenge differently, some more adequately than others.

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  • Sociology and Law
  • Humanities and History
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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