Militarism: The New Slavery - John T. Flynn

Universal Military Training

The people of the United States are now confronted by a movement to introduce into this country the project of Universal Military Training—UMT, as it is called—as a permanent institution. The ostensible purpose is to create a great reservoir of manpower to fight whatever global or other wars in which we may be involved. The assumption, of course, is that we live in a world upon which Communist Russia has launched with appalling success a monstrous plan to conquer it all for communism.

Before we go farther, let me warn you to be on guard against the supposition that UMT is essentially a military institution. There is a great deal more to it than national defense and soldiering. There is nothing new about it. It has been used in every important country of Western Europe—except Britain, to her eternal credit And it has brought every country that used it to bankruptcy and war.

As long as I can recall there have been groups here devoted to UMT, chiefly because they thought it offered excellent discipline for our youth. But its sponsors got nowhere with that argument in free America.

It is being urged now by the President and a powerful group in Congress who insist we must be ready on a moment's notice to defend ourselves against Russia. Now let me repeat the warning that we will go far afield if we think of UMT as a military institution. The idea takes numerous forms in various proposals to get it started or put it into effect either piecemeal or all at once. However, I am not discussing here any special measures or particular legislation. I am referring to permanent UMT as a national policy —whatever form it may take. It is, in general, a plan to conscript all young men into the armed services for from six months to two years, after which they will be discharged into a reserve, subject to annual training for years. But thus plan would not get very far if it were proposed as a purely military measure, particularly in this day of aerial and atomic warfare when even many military authorities question the need for mass armies. There are other highly complicated elements in it—purely political and economic. Until these are examined and understood no intelligent opinion of it is possible.

No one who opposes UMT does so because he wants to keep America defenseless. Of course America must be prepared to resist assaults on us by a foreign power. But we must never forget that there is an infinitely more dangerous enemy within our gates than Russia. It apparently has not occurred to our citizens that the institution of militarism can be a far more formidable enemy within our gates than Communist Russia 5000 miles away. We must know how to defend ourselves not only against Communist Russia in Europe and Asia, but also against Communist agents within our own gates and against a strange collection of other interests here in America. If America is ever conquered by communism, it will not be by the armies of Communist Russia, but by a curious alliance of ordinarily loyal elements within our country. We have Communists, socialists, various editions of collectivists, One Worlders, plus a variety of economic and sectional groups interested for political or business reasons in measures that will break down and finally destroy our free society.

Fortunately UMT has been tried in many countries. We will do well, therefore, to keep an open mind until we see clearly the various interests behind this dangerous institution. We can see this in all its aspects in the experience of Germany and Italy.