One of the symptoms of the steady decline in the nation-state — as at its peak about 100 years ago — is that no advanced country can recruit enough young people into its professional standing army. Of those that they have — in this country — are medically unfit for fighting anyway.
The only real ‘warrior’ soldiers or sailors in advanced countries’ armed services today are small percentages of recruits who are already fit and are at IQ100 and above — just as impressionable as anybody else — who can be incentivised by being placed in ‘special’ units and given thorough training in the use of weapons. This doesn’t apply to air force pilots because, since the Second World War, they don’t face anywhere the same risk of injury or death than soldiers — mainly — or sailors.
The last grand-standing army in full operation was, of course, the American invasion of Iraq. But considering what a mess it made of it, both to itself and the recipient country — setting it back at least 100 years in almost all respects, particularly in the mutual hatred between Sunnis and Shias which Saddam had just about got under control — then no wonder that Obama, as well as Cameron and Hollande talk now of a policy of ‘light footprint’ approach to military intervention.
Saddam Hussein, nasty though he’d been in his political career had already instituted a secular Baath Party government — and a Roman Catholic foreign minister! — at the time of the 2003 invasion. He had largely retired as a dictator, spending most of his time in the restitution of buildings and features — the Hanging Gardens of Babylon — of many hundreds of years previously when Iraq — and particularly Babylon — was at the top of the world artistically and scientifically.
President Basher al-Assad of Syria was also trying to bring his country into the 20th century with his own secular Baath Party government but it wasn’t making such a good fist of it as Hussein. He, previously having been a peaceful 9 till 5 consultant opthalmologist at St Mary’s Hospital in London with no political aspirations, had to take the job of President when his father died. But when he and his Baath government started to be nasty against Sunni revolutionists and other religious groups, he was immediately cast into the same category as Hussein was.
America, Britain and France — among others — were enthusiastic that Assad had to be out down. Taking advantage of all this Isis spread like wildfire from Iraq to Syria and that is where we find ourselves today. But we haven’t sent any army into Syria. This is not because of any new wisdom about a new ‘light footprint’ policy. It’s because they didn’t have suitable armies for the old sort of warfare. I don’t know about the French, but there are British ‘special forces’ in Iraq — supposedly not fighting — and there are American ‘special forces’ in Syria. But we don’t know how effective they are for many years yet when journalists finally collect the evidence.