Former defense secretary Melvin R. Laird rightfully takes pride in having engineered the all-volunteer military [“We don’t need a draft,” Washington Forum, Feb. 22], and as a citizen I feel well served by its capability. What he did not discuss, however, is the relationship between the military service and the political leadership. The Founding Fathers, both federalists and republicans alike, shared a healthy fear of standing national armies as a possible means of exercising tyrannical rule. History provides us no shortage of Caesars. In our own country, we are uniquely fortunate to have been led by the likes of Washington and Eisenhower — both guided by a sense of modesty and respect for the precept of civilian rule.
Neither our liberty nor our Constitution is currently threatened by a Caesar, but the impotence of recent Congresses tends to ripen the buds from which Caesars sprout. Should one of them, unfortunately, blossom, it will likely be our volunteer army — rather than conscriptees — that makes it possible for that unwholesome fruit to flourish.