One of the mantras of the U.S. Marine Corps is that every Marine is first and foremost a rifleman, regardless of their actual military occupational specialty. Whether accurate or not, that reflects an idea that has historically animated all militaries: Those who actually fight with enemies are seen as the centerpiece and the model. All the rest of the military are expected to reflect the capabilities, psychological characteristics, moral foundation, ethos and physical attributes of fighters.
This idea, call it the “warrior mindset,” has become so deeply ingrained in the American military that it is seldom discussed or analyzed. But it should be.
A case can be made that the character of armed conflict has changed so much that it no longer makes sense to expect every member of the military to be a potential fighter. The costs of this mindset are greater than its benefits, and it places rigid limitations on the military. Perhaps the time has come to move toward a grand reorganization of the military, whereby a small component of fighters is complemented by a larger corps of military professionals who, though different than today’s Department of Defense civilians, are not expected to directly engage the enemy.