Maffeo: It is necessary to have a standing military in peacetime

Most days that I walk around in my Army ROTC uniform during our required uniform days,  my worries are mostly limited to baking in the canvas clothing on hot days or avoiding—like the plague—anything that would lead to dry cleaning.   

Very rarely my uniform-related worries escalate beyond this; the great exception, however, is when an anti-war “social-justice warrior,” or one of those religious “recruiters,” builds up the courage to approach me.  Although the two will approach me with different tactics, both have the same objective: trying to shame me.


 The anti-war warrior will target me directly with opening remarks which include such words as “baby killer,” “rapist,” or “ever heard of peace?  You should try it.”

The religious recruiter will suggest I am defective or faulty (thus the only reason I would join the military) and he/she will offer to cure the disease which infects me with a cup of enlightenment from his/her deity.

The peace activist just delivers criticism and disrespect.  Receiving hate from a “peace” activist and “enlightenment” from a person who seems to have been absent during his turn to be enlightened is comical; it stems from the problem that a small portion of the population forgets what the military is for.  It is easy to forget because the last time our country had a direct threat was during World War II.

Some people suggest that the military is a puppet of the president, the congress, or even maybe of corporate America. That thought might be developed more fully in another article.  But for right now, let us consider that the real purpose of the military is to ensure the existence of the United States—now and forever.  

Some people think that if we have peacetime, then there is no call for an armed force and, in fact, having a standing military in peacetime is actually a threat to peace.  However, history does not bear this out as true.  Nations which survive and offer stability to their citizens have had a competent armed force in their back pocket to deter or ward-off aggressor nations.  

Even democracies such as ancient Athens found this to be crucial.  A Roman lyric poet named Quintus Horatius Flaccus, writing at the time of Caesar August, said “A wise man in times of peace prepares for war.”  Another Roman, Flavius Vegetius Renatus, in the fourth century A.D. wrote, “Let him who desires peace prepare for war.” 

The founders of our country understood this.  They believed that having a military force and people trained and in place to be essential for the safety of the country.  President George Washington said, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”    And, just a few years ago, President Ronald Reagan said, “None of the four wars in my lifetime came about because we were too strong.  It’s weakness…that invites adventurous adversaries to make mistaken judgements.”  This has been the history of the world.

In even simpler terms, who does a bully target:  a nerd or a jock?  Likely he won’t target the one who might best put up a fight.  A football team can’t take the field without a trained and competent defense.  A team must have a strong defense in order to repel any other team’s offense. It is not rational to think that putting your weapon down, if you are in a “Mexican standoff,” will lead to hugs and smiles.  Rather than eliminating the conflict, it will lead to you being victimized.

People like the “peace” activists and the religious “recruiters” who I mentioned earlier don’t seem to have thought this through.  For the most part, those of us who are in the armed forces are there not because we are just violent people, nor because we are angry, nor because we wish for war.  Neither are we necessarily lacking in spiritual enlightenment.  I might argue that we do so out of love.  Love for family, for friends, for our freedoms, and for country.  

We want to stand ready to defend what we hold dear. I hope that anyone who tries take us believes in an afterlife, because they are going to need a safe place after we are done with them.


Collegian Columnist Micah Maffeo can be reached at