Max Boot is Barking Mad
March 4, 2005
By Weldon Berger
Boot is barking mad. The neoconservative polemicist, long an outspoken
fan of a new American imperialism, is calling upon our country to
embark upon a dramatic reenactment of the final volumes of Edward
Gibbon's masterpiece The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
In what can only be described as a vicious act of revenge by mild-mannered
former Crossfire host and Slate Magazine founding editor Michael
Kinsley, the now-chief of the Los Angeles Times editorial
pages has hired Boot as the paper's designated neoconservative hitter.
Boot has responded nobly with a series of bizarre op-ed pieces including,
most recently, a proposal that the U.S. seek its citizen soldiers
from among the ranks of illegal aliens, non-citizens and citizens
A few years ago, in the wake of 911 when achieving the American
Empire looked like somewhat less actual work than it does today,
Max penned the most famous Boot-ism
ever: "Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for
the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by
self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets." Now,
though, Boot despairs that the U.S is capable of generating sufficient
troops from within our own borders to carry out that mission.
What happened was that instead of enlightened foreign administration,
we got Iraq Proconsul Jerry
Bremer in a business suit and desert boots, running satchels
full of large, unmarked bills from the Oval Office to the Green
Zone. It's a far cry from even the
tailings of the original. And the administration's astounding
series of screwups in that country has led to a situation in which
Army recruiters are struggling to meet their quotas in every demographic.
Max is now so discouraged by the scuffs on his boots and the dust
on his jodhpurs and the stains on his once-pristine pith helmet
sweatband that he proposes a wholesale
redistribution of particular burdens.
"Some experts are already starting to wonder whether the war
on terrorism might break the all-volunteer military. But because
reinstating the draft isn't a serious option (the House defeated
a symbolic draft bill last year, 402 to 2), some outside-the-box
thinking is needed to fill up the ranks. In this regard, I note
that there is a pretty big pool of manpower that's not being tapped:
everyone on the planet who is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident."
In other words, pith on it: let's hire out the grunt work. We need
another right hefty chunk of troops to spread democracy, and Max
knows just where to find them.
What he proposes is the establishment of The Freedom Legion, a
force to be recruited from among legal and illegal US resident non-citizens
as well as through "recruiting stations from Budapest to Bangkok,
Cape Town to Cairo, Montreal to Mexico City."
"The simplest thing to do would be to sign up foreigners for
the regular U.S. military, but it would also make sense to create
a unit whose enlisted ranks would be composed entirely of non-Americans,
led by U.S. officers and NCOs."
Conspicuously missing from the list of alliterative recruiting
sites is Riyadh to Rawalpindi, no doubt simply because he hadn't
got that far in the alphabet before the word count alarm went off.
Max likens the new force to the French Foreign Legion, including
even the latter's reward of citizenship to those who survive in
service to it. Students of less recent history - including most
certainly Max himself - may recognize similarities to an older empire,
not only in the recruitment of a surrogate force to fight its battles
but in the circumstances necessitating it as well.
He worries at that concept of a New American Empire like a brain-damaged
dog trying to suck some nutrition from an old boot. He is prepared
to, if not die for it, at least present the opportunity of dying
for it to as many people as is remotely possible. He won't give
it up no matter how many teeth it steals from him, no matter how
many times life conspires to snatch it away and no matter how deeply
warped his plans to secure it may be.
And the plan is deeply warped. Boot proposes adding sufficient
troops to our ground forces to effectively occupy Iraq and embark
simultaneously on other democracy-freighted missions; an agenda
that, whether he realizes it or not, would require something along
the lines of at least an additional 200,000 soldiers. The Congressional
Budget Office in 2003 estimated the cost of adding even a tenth
that number at around $20 billion over five years, and the annual
additional cost of maintaining the new troops and deploying them
overseas at around $10 billion. Multiply those numbers by ten and
we're adding more than $100 billion per year to an already
swollen Pentagon budget.
And that's not counting the new infrastructure necessary to support
the troops (so much for base closures) or the extraordinary expense
involved in training and maintaining a non-English speaking army.
We don't have enough English-speaking drill sergeants now; where
will we come up with thousands more who speak a second or third
The money, though, is the least of the difficulties. Imagine if
you will opening recruitment centers for the new imperial army in
any of the cities Boot mentions. The U.S. is not topping the popularity
charts these days, and protecting the recruiters and their recruits
would likely add billions more to the tab.
Imagine too, as right-wing pundits such as anti-immigrant doyenne
Michelle Malkin surely will, the prospect of training and arming
would-be immigrants among whose ranks would certainly be some who
do not wish our country well. And imagine the trepidation of certain
host countries at the notion of supplying the U.S. with recruits
who may decide their futures lie not in supporting the U.S. government
but in toppling their own. Boot's plan would replace liberals as
fifth columnists in the right's imagination with the thing itself.
Boot describes the scheme as an example of thinking outside the
box. What it really is, though, is an example of someone trapped
in a box of his own making and not so much thinking as praying for
Warren Zevon to swoop down from the heavens bearing lawyers, guns
And that, dear reader, is Kinsley's Revenge. The soft-spoken deacon
of the Radical Center has got one of the leading intellectual lights
of the ruling hierarchy publicly forwarding the lunatic notion of
embarking the United States upon a larger-than-life reenactment
of the declining days of the Roman Empire.
A word to the wise recruiter: anyone named "Spartacus"
gets turned down flat and, if the customs of the host country allow,
shot dead on the spot.
Weldon Berger is a writer living in Hawaii who, despite his
vaguely foreign countenance, is not fodder for the Freedom Legion.
You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or through his BTC News website.