One of the things that many modern Americans do not understand is that our nation's founders did not like the idea of a professional standing army. Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution requires Congress to provide for a permanent naval force as a protection for merchant vessels and the common coastal boundary, but other military appropriations were subject to a maximum two year appropriation, which was intended to only be used in times of armed conflict. That such a situation was intended is clear from Jefferson's quote above; he specifies that the American people should be both armed and disciplined such that a standing army would be unnecessary.
There are three primary arguments against a standing army: first, having a professional military force at one's disposal increases the temptation to use it. Today's United States is an excellent example of this. If the entire force necessary for the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, and military operations in Libya were called up from reserve units (meaning men and women with day jobs), would the logistical effort and required preparation time have been enough to keep these invasions from happening? Second, a standing army is expensive. Since the end of the Second World War, the military-industrial complex has grown to the point where close to a trillion dollars is spent annually keeping it going. There are a huge number of Americans who make their living from war and rumor of war. How much good could be accomplished if that money were allowed to remain in the private sector with free-market economics driving its use? Third, a standing army insulates the public at large from the horrors of war. Given the size and scope of the United States' military machine, it is unlikely that any conflict except a direct invasion of the homeland would cause the average American discomfort. Would Americans be less likely to support military conflict if they felt the results through austerity and a requirement of service?
The purpose of Memorial Day is to recognize the sacrifice made by soldiers in pursuit of America's freedom and security. Over the next three days, there will be many statements made referring to the troops that fight for our freedom. I would, however, like to offer a heretical question: how many of the conflicts fought by America's standing army over the last 60 years have been fought in the name of American freedom? I would argue that the answer is none, meaning that there is not a soldier alive today that has truly fought for American freedom. This statement is not intended to disparage servicemembers, but to bring to light an uncomfortable truth - that we have been using our standing military in precisely the fashion that our founders were afraid of. Indeed, my argument is that these soldiers should not be asked to make the sacrifices that they do, since they are not necessary in order for us to remain a free people.