12 October 2006


So I'm checking my email, and I find two emails that made my day.

The first email is from an old buddy of mine, a guy I've been friends with since my first tour in Germany. We lost track of each other after my last Iraq tour, and I havn't really heard from him in a dog's age. The internet is an amazing place. Turns out he found this blog. . .

The other was an email from another reader, a guy I didn't realize read my stuff. Most of it ain't for publication, but he said something that got me started thinking.

I've been reading lately in a couple places that the military is pretty much the only part of the Federal Government that many people trust. Confidence in the military's ability to do pretty much any task is high. Some people have even given up on raising their children and want the military to do that also (hence the call among some social conservatives for a return to conscription). We are lauded to the heavens in unrealistic terms as "heros" and the terminology used to describe us is hagiographic to an extent that would make a saint's vita sound positively pedestrian.

That's both insulting and dangerous to the Republic, in my mind.

It's insulting because it denies us individuality and personhood. We become a symbol, an expression of a set of values, even an ideal in a way that deprives us of our very humanity. We aren't noble paladins out to right wrongs, we're just doing our best with the cards we have. Most of our privates are 18-20 year old kids who aren't that much different from kids back in the States. In better shape, on an average smarter, more disciplined (if their NCOs are on them), whatever. But just kids.

The idealization allows us to be a little ideological football that politicians can kick around. Both parties--whenever a politician talks about supporting the troops he means one of two things. Either he's pushing for a piece of equipment made in his district, or he's using us as a stick to beat his opponents. In the latter case he doesn't WANT our situation remedied because then he'd be deprived of that stick. This is why the Democrats don't really DO anything to fix the "problems" they complain of. If they were serious, they'd write bills, send them into committee, and issue press releases about how the Republicans don't "support the troops" if the bills die. What would the Republicans do? They'd be shamed into whatever action the Dems wanted. Basic politics. Not a damn one of those fools cares about us as people. Nor do the folks who argue that they support this or that course of action in Iraq because they "care" about us. Who cares about us? Our wives, our parents, our family and close friends. Does Ms RichBitch in Hollywood? Yeah, right. How many of your millions are going to support the ARC, MWR, USO, and other people who really support the troops? Screw that noise.

Or there's what really pisses me off. The folks who go to the other extreme and portray us as murderers, or losers so hopelessly inept in the civilian world that we had no choice but to enlist.

There are some. A lot fewer than you'll find in most lines of work, IMHO. Basic Training weeds out a lot of losers, and we chapter even more out from the units. But that portrayal as a whole? Unrealistic and never espoused by anyone with regular contact with Soldiers that I've ever met.

Anyway, here's where I worry about the future of the Republic.

That idealized "heroic" portrayal of the military combined with a lack of regard for other governmental bodies has led to the military taking a larger role in things that aren't our job. Drug interdiction, border patrol, disaster relief, no matter what the problem, the military gets tasked because we are known to be able to get things done. Everyone from the Mayor to the President got covered in crap over Katrina, except one organization. The military came out looking like saviors, complete with angelic wings and a halo.

Ummm. . . twitch, twitch.

The only thing standing between the military and the seat of power is the professionalism of our officer and NCO corps. Now, we've got retired generals (guess what--you still get a paycheck, you still fall under UCMJ) sharpshooting the elected officials. We've got military officers taking their disputes over policy to the media instead of following the chain of command. The military is becoming more and more politicized as the politicians have been more and more open about displaying contempt and lack of understanding. It used to be that most professionals didn't even vote. Now it's about 70/30 one particular political party because that party is the best about keeping us equipped. But even that party is futzing around with veteran's benefits.

Twitch, twitch.

After the Marian reforms, the Roman armies were enlisted with a promise that after 25 years of service each soldier would recieve a plot of land sufficient to serve as a family farm. This promise was repeatedly betrayed by the Senate. Soon the Armies began not serving the Republic, but following the standard of whichever general could force the Senate to honor their commitments to veterans.

Twitch, twitch.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Marcus Licinius Crassus. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Gaius Julius Caesar. Marcus Antonius. Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus.

I'm not saying we are ripe for a military coup. I'm just saying that if one were to happen 20 years down the road, historians 200 years down the road will say the foundations were laid here.


Blogger A Soldier's Girl said...

Have I mentioned lately that I think you're a fantastic writer?

I'm really impressed by this, honey.

Love you

2:38 PM  
Anonymous sappersdad said...

Some years ago there was a paper Military Coup of 2020(?) that was studied at the War College(?). It was a warning about home the people are looking to the military to take care of non military problems and we could get to the point where the mitary could be called in the take care of a major problem after the civ leadership failed. It was interesting reading.

5:30 PM  
Anonymous sappersdad said...

A senior retired officer of the Unified Armed Forces, known here simply as Prisoner 222305759, is one of those arrested, having been convicted by court-martial for opposing the coup. Prior to his execution, he is able to smuggle out of prison a letter to an old War College classmate discussing the "Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012." In it, he argues that the coup was the outgrowth of trends visible as far back as 1992. These trends were the massive diversion of military forces to civilian uses, the monolithic unification of the armed forces, and the insularity of the military community. His letter survives and is here presented verbatim.


5:41 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

Yeah! I remember you telling me about that years ago, and I know I read it at some point, but I couldn't remember enough to find it.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous cMAD said...

... and, in due course, Maximinus Thrax, Gordian I, Gordian II, Pupienus, Maximus, Balbinus, Gordian III, Philippus Arabs, etc. in rapid sequence ... but this time with nukes.

When it comes to judging the literary quality of soldiers' writings, I don't think, that, after reading your blog for a while, I make the mistake of a lot of people and set the bar low, too, but I'm very impressed by your analysis of the situation. This is something I would expect from professional writers.

It looks to me that a coup is already taking place, not by the military, but by a new nobility of business executives who deem themselves above the law, including their own laws that they impose on others. This executive undermines, gradually, the functioning of government accountable to the people, and replaces it by private business only accountable to their owners and management (privatization of prisons comes to mind as a particularly blatant example). The authoritarian chain of command without accountability of the leaders to the led is portrayed as the only feasible way to do any kind of business, by more or less deliberately undermining the effectiveness of government institutions. You (and other people in uniform, like police and firefighters) become a symbol and an expression of a set of values indeed, namely, of an authoritarian chain of command. At the same time, the general public is discouraged from taking interest in their own affairs (not that they need a lot of discouragement).

If this takeover of power (by business executives from the lawyers, to map it somewhat crudely on today's political spectrum) succeeds, it appears entirely plausible that the military will try to step in and prevent the worst - with unpredictable but likely disastrous results.

Anyway, thanks for your post. I think it made my day.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Tim Covington said...

I can see something like the Bonus Army Protest happening in the near future (~5-10 years). Hopefully we will have good men like Smedley Butler to thwart any coups.

11:08 PM  
Anonymous auxdarastrix said...

Totally off topic but thought you should see it.


7:08 AM  
Anonymous Michael Llaneza said...

And in other news, the entire California National Guard has just volunteered for overseas duty.

10:36 AM  
Blogger sophia said...

Okay, I see what you're saying about being a political football. However, I still say that people who go to a different country to protect others are heroes. Most people I know aren't strong enough, mentally or physically, to do what you all do or they just don't care to do what you all do. I know the motives probably aren't always perfectly perfect, but still, I can't help but put our troops on a pedalstal in many ways. Is there something wrong with that?

God bless you.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Zero Ponsdorf said...

Linked and quoted at OWD.

1:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sophia- It's Jen here, but I'm on a work computer and I don't want to log on with my blogger account...

The problem with putting us up on pedestals is that we tend to fall off of them. Soldiers are just like any other cross-section of a population, with a few exceptions.

There are thieves, there are liars, there are selfish folx, there are folx who would give anything and everything to help another soldier, there are generous soldiers, and there are soldiers who tell the truth no matter the consequences for themselves. There seem to be more of the good folx, but the bad ones are there, and when they show up, it's hard to make folx understand that it's just life. Sort of them when a nurse or doctor, or some other public servant is revealed to be a killer, or a rapist or any of a number of other horrible things.

I'm not a hero. I didn't do anything special. The guys who I went out with, who did their jobs day in and day out, they didn't consider themselves heros, and neither did the folx who've won the Medal of Honor, generally.

I don't think I'm making much sense.

I hope that you understand what I'm talking about. It's sort of like saints not thinking they're anything special, and probably being *VERY* uncomfortable with anyone mentioning how pious or humble or holy they are.

I wish I could be in church today.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

While our Military is made up of heros, nuts, slackers and exceptional people, as a whole they just do as they are told.

They follow their orders, try and accomplish their mission and get the hell out of dodge as soon as it's allowed (ordered).

No one in his "right" mind likes to be in the position where people are trying very hard to kill or maim him or his buds.

Most heroics are because of efforts by individuals who are engaged in helping, saving or assisting their buds in what ever situation they happen to be in.

Usually that entails killing the enemy or denying them the success of killing our troops.

Does that make them heros, exceptional people. Well, it depends on where you are in the situation or who you are.

I've known many who got their ass chewed for doing "brave" things, one even got demoted because his commander thought that he showed that he didn't consider the big picture and did something stupid, even if it was brave and saved a life.

The military needs to stay a tool of the American Government, a tool for the extention of the wishes and wants of our ELECTED government.

If it becomes something else we will have big problems.

That by the way, includes all the "retired generals".

Papa Ray
West Texas

6:37 PM  

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