In his book on the Art of War, Machiavelli recommended that republics rely on the use of militia--i.e., citizen soldiers--in order to prevent the tyranny that arises from standing armies and/or use of mercenaries. Our founding fathers recognized this, thus the prominence given to militia's and ensconcing the right to keep and bear arms in the Constitution. They could, of course, look back on Rome as an example of what happens when charismatic leaders obtain control of large professional armies. And by "armies," I am not limiting it to just military forces, but para-military "police" forces as well.
That fact is, standing armies--professional armies--are not only a significant drain on the treasury, but a threat to liberty.
Throughout most of the history of the United States, this was not an issue. Only a small professional army was maintained in peace time. When war threatened, the size of the army would swell with volunteers and, beginning in the Civil War, conscription.
But now, not only does the United States maintain a standing army, it also uses mercenaries. An article by David Sirota discusses some of the consequences. Sirota writes:
In operations across the globe, the all-volunteer military has been employed by policymakers to birth what Gen. George Casey recently called the "era of persistent conflict." ...Not to rub salt in the wounds, but getting rid of the draft was pushed by progressives.
... a look back at some lost history shows that today's public acquiescence to militarism was exactly what the government wanted when it ended the draft.
That loaded term - "militarism" - was, in fact, a prominent part of the 1970 report by President Nixon's Commission on an All-Volunteer Force. In its findings, the panel worried about "a cycle of anti-militarism" in a nation then questioning America's increasingly martial posture.
Noting that "the draft is a major source of antagonism" toward the growing military-industrial complex, the report praised the fact that "an all-volunteer force offers an obvious opportunity to curb the growth of anti-militaristic sentiment."
... The pattern suggests that in the absence of conscription, dissent - if it exists at all - becomes a low-grade affair (an email, a petition, etc.) but not the kind of serious movement required to compel military policy changes. Why? Because as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it, without a draft "wars remain an abstraction - a distant and unpleasant series of news items that does not affect (most people) personally.”
... That reality has prompted some lawmakers in recent years to propose reinstating the draft. They argue it is the only way to compel Americans to truly care about the foreign policy and national security decisions of their government.