Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Developing strategy from a solid foundation 4: a case study example of the consequences of a priori underlying assumptions 3

Posted in macroeconomics, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 3, 2014

This is my fourth installment to a series on strategy as it is developed in practice, and on where it is developed from (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, postings 490 and loosely following for Parts 1-3.)

I began this series with a brief outline of a more general conceptual model for developing overall strategy and policy, and for both private sector businesses and public sector government contexts (see Part 1.) And I chose while writing that to further develop its approach in terms of a very specific public sector, national government policy example: developing and maintaining personnel levels in military forces as this has historically been achieved in the United States. And I have been developing this case study example both for its strategic and operational considerations, and as a discussion of a societally-faced macroeconomics challenge so I include this series in both my Business Strategy and Operations, and in my Macroeconomics and Business directories in this blog.

I started developing this case study example in Part 2 with a broad brushstroke discussion of how realized mixes of involuntary military conscription and volunteerism impact on both public perception and opinion, and on governmental decision making processes and on how the two shape each other. And following an historical timeline in this, I briefly touched upon five periods and events:

• The American Revolutionary War and the issues of conscription and voluntary enlistment in colonial period history leading up to that (e.g. the French and Indian Wars),
• The United States Civil War of 1861-1865,
• The Second World War and US participation in that,
• The United Stated led Vietnam War,
• And in the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as carried out as part of a larger War on Terror.

A more complete study would have to include periods in history such as the Spanish-American War, the First World War and the Korean War, and would have delved more fully into the Cold War and on how both the Korean and Vietnam wars fit into that. I expect to at least touch upon these other events at this narrative continues but I plan on focusing primarily on lessons learnable from the five that I first raised and began addressing in Part 2.

I began to more fully address the conscription and enlistment issues of the five bullet pointed events as listed above in Part 3 of this series, with a more detailed look into how both the British and the break-away American colonists built and maintained their fighting forces during the American Revolution. And my plan for this installment is to begin with the troop strength recruitment issues of the Civil War. But before that, I want to return to the issues that I raised regarding the US Revolutionary War, and the question of those Hessian mercenary troops that fought on the side of the British Army in that conflict.

The Hessians were professional military who went and fought where needed, for a fee and as volunteers. So on one level they were all strictly volunteers, and I add volunteers who knew fairly exactly and precisely what they were signing up for. But many of these volunteer professional soldiers entered that profession out of economic need, and for lack of other realistic employment options. So the term “volunteer” takes on a less certain meaning for them. And at the end of this conflict and when the British forces were withdrawing to return to England, many felt they had little to return to. Many did in fact go back to Europe, but a significant percentage of them stayed on in the now former colonies and a significant number of them also stayed in the Americas, moving north into the still British Canadian colonies. Both of these groups saw themselves as having more of a future by not going to their old home communities again.

I stress this because it adds an essential nuance to what the word “volunteer” means when a commitment such as military service is involved. I noted in Part 2 how American colonists were ambivalent toward military service in this conflict that was taking place around them. They, in many respects had more options than many of the Hessian “volunteers” did as this new land they had settled in gave them opportunity to build their own futures and futures for their families. This is a crucial point to consider when thinking about military service policy and how government policy and practices can garner both public support and public resistance, and often both at the same time.

With that, I jump ahead to the American Civil War, and more particularly to the Militia Act of 1862, passed by the 37th Congress of the United States. I wrote at least briefly in Part 2 about how this military conscription act caused unrest and even massive riots. And I noted the levels of societal damage this caused, there citing the draft riots of 1863 that took place in New York City, and how many died as a result of them.

In principle essentially all male citizens of draft age were eligible for being called into military service in the Union Army under the Militia Act of 1862. In practice, those wealthy enough to do so could buy their way out of having to serve themselves by paying a substitute to serve for them. The wealthy and the better off financially could readily and I add quite legally avoid military service while the working class and the poor could not and were forced into military service, losing any jobs they had and losing ongoing contact with family and friends and their civilian life communities. The two-tiered system that resulted created a great deal of resentment and fueled the rage that led to this riot and others that took place in other Northern cities. And the New York City draft riots of 1863 are generally considered to be the largest and most damaging conflict of their time in the United States aside from the battles of the Civil War itself. And lessons were learned as to the damage that can be caused by allowing some to buy their way out of military service while force conscripting others who cannot afford to take that same route out of service. This affected, among other things, how potential conscripts were or were not considered eligible for exemption from military service with personal wealth at least officially no longer serving as sufficient reason for exemption. And I will discuss how that has played out as I continue this discussion.

I am going to continue my more detailed discussion of the five events of Part 2 in a next series installment where I will at least begin with United States participation in World War II. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. Also see Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation.

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