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Thoughts on National Defense

As the great powers of Europe were engaged in WWI, here in McLean County men had their opinions on the focus our national defense should take. Judge Reuben M. Benjamin wrote an editorial for the Pantagraph on this date.

Judge Benjamin's first question is the same that we ask 100 years later -- why does it cost so much to keep up the US military? Benjamin compared the cost of keeping our army of just 90,000 men against that of Switzerland's citizen army of 500,000 men. He pointed out that we paid more for our army than did Switzerland. It was a somewhat unfair comparison, when Switzerland's army was more of a weekend national guard and our army was presently engaged in military actions in Mexico.

Judge Benjamin suggested that a standing army was just what the founding fathers feared and that having a standing army only led to war -- as demonstrated by the European nations that were presently engaged in war. He suggested defensive measures, such as mining the shores of the US would be a good substitute for having a larger Navy. This of course would be no defense again airstrikes, and we were already using airplanes in the action against Mexico! And making the mines visible to the fishermen would make those mines equally visible to any invading navy. But this is all hindsight, and no knew then the slaughter that would occur in the fields and trenches of WWI. Many more than 90,000 men would be needed to end that war, and Switzerland would successfully remain neutral in the face of war all around them. Refusing to fight is sometimes a successful gambit. I wish it were so more often.

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