January 22, 2010 | Commentary on National Security and Defense

The National Guard and Reserve

The reserve components, approximately one-third of our military force, have made significant contributions to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The National Guard has assumed most of the military missions supporting homeland security. It is simply not possible to have a discussion about contemporary military affairs that doesn't include talking about the role of the reserve components. Michael D. Doubler, an expert on the citizen-soldier, has written a valuable guide to understanding the legacy of as well as contemporary issues surrounding the National Guard and reserve forces. Packed with facts, figures and interpretative essays, this reference book would make a worthwhile addition to any professional library.

The National Guard and Reserve: A Reference Handbook includes individual chapters on the Air National Guard and Army National Guard, the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve, Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve. Each chapter provides a brief summary of that element of the reserve components from the Colonial era to the present. Additional chapters explore the concept of the citizen-soldier, examine current military affairs and evaluate the future prospects for these forces. Two useful appendices provide brief biographies of historically significant citizen-soldiers and a summary of important federal legislation governing the organization and employment of reserve forces.

Doubler is certainly the right person to compile The National Guard and Reserve: A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he served 23 years as an Army officer with time in both the Regular Army and the Army National Guard. He is also a world-class historian, a prolific author and a former faculty member of the U.S. Military Academy. Doubler spent a decade studying the history of the Guard and Reserve as well as analyzing how they have been used in the Long War since 9/11.

The best and most important contribution of The National Guard and Reserve is arguably Doubler's exploration of the contemporary relevance of the concept of the citizen-soldier. He rightly concludes that there is little practical alternative to the modern all-volunteer force, a military that simply could not exist without robust and readily deployable reserve components. On the other hand, Doubler also correctly warns against taking this force for granted.

Doubler's cautious treatment of the Abrams Doctrine is particularly noteworthy. Attributed to Army Chief of Staff GEN Creighton Abrams, it held that the armed forces should be structured so that it was impossible to go to war without the reserve components. There is little proof, however, that Abrams ever intended to write such a doctrine. Likewise, as Doubler points out, "Many contended that the Abrams Doctrine would help to prevent the military from ever being sent to war again without the full backing of the American people, but there was sparse evidence to support such a grand assertion." Always judicious and measured, Doubler's treatment of the issue and the subject in general makes this handbook a valuable resource.

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Assistant Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

First Appeared in Army Magazine