Their War--My War
I'm going to cherry-pick a little. Overall, it friggin' rocks.
"Infantrymen, on the other hand, learn that the military's basic job is to break the enemy's will by killing him, or threatening to. Looking at their training from the inside, infantrymen conclude that their job hasn't fundamentally changed since the days when naked men threw spears at one another to protect their families. It's an ancient role, and they're proud of it."
It's hardly infantrymen alone, though their job has changed least. At the basic level, Soldiers are killers, regardless of how you dress it up in fancy words. The difference between a Soldier and a bandit is in intent and restraint. We kill those who deserve it, bandits prey on the weak regardless.
"But these days, that part of the job apparently makes America's civilians uneasy. World War II headlines celebrated accomplished military killers and called them heroes. Second Lt. Audie Murphy mowed down dozens of attacking German soldiers, won the Medal of Honor and went on to become a movie star. Today, U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who win medals for successfully doing their jobs while obeying the laws of war might get local coverage. But the brightest national spotlight is reserved for killers who are war criminals, such as the alleged perpetrators of the Haditha massacre, or heroes who are victims, such as prisoners of war. American civilians no longer seem comfortable labeling a soldier as both a killer and a hero.
"In fact, they're not particularly comfortable with the military in general. "
Yeah, ain't that the truth. You know who actually is tracking on what the Armed Forces are for? Little boys. About 12 or younger, they generally will ask, first thing, a Soldier returning from Iraq, "Did you kill anyone?" They understand why we are. The rest of the country does their best to ignore it. God forbid you actually admit that you really do enjoy that part of the job.
Part of it is the politically-correct pacifistic twaddle where no one is ever judged on a moral basis. Because for killing to be heroic, for it to be morally just, it requires a determinate of who is just and unjust. And that requires judgment between right and wrong, with no mealy-mouthed phrases making both sides in a conflict somehow equivalent.
Part of it is that American society has become removed from death. They experience massive quantities of cinematic "death" substitute, while removing themselves further and further from the reality of death.
Anyway, I meander.
"The military is at war, but the country is not," warns University of Maryland sociologist David Segal. "And the military resents that."
Well, you know, that's only half true.
I do resent hypersensitive civilians whining about how awful the war is when they aren't actually at war by any definition I can comprehend.
"When recruiters began approaching the teenage sons of Montgomery County peace activist Pat Elder, he turned his energies to counter-recruiting. He and a few other parents were upset that recruiters had free access to students during lunch period at Walt Whitman High School. They
succeeded in restricting recruiters' visits to the guidance office, where interested students now must make an appointment."
Yeah, but if we recruit black kids, then we are racist. And if we recruit from lower-income demographics, we are "taking advantage" of the poor. Never mind that the Army has a 98% high school graduation rate, 14% better than the general population. And never mind that the really poor and uneducated generally can't handle the training.
"But in the past 30 years, the officer corps has undergone a revolution. In the most recent comprehensive study, conducted in the late 1990s by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies, Republican officers outnumbered Democrats 8 to 1. In 2006, only 16 percent of Army Times active-duty readers, who are mostly senior in rank, declared themselves Democrats."
Let me throw out a semi-random guess that should someone bother to break the studies out by officer/NCO/lower enlisted, the NCO Corps would pretty much look like the officer corps, at least politically.
"There's clearly some self-selection going on, too, because nearly half of all Army recruits are following in the footsteps of a parent who has served. We seem to be creating an American warrior class."
If the idea of a hereditary warrior class doesn't concern you greatly, you're not familiar enough with history to be permitted in an adult conversation regarding politics. Of course, the only way to change that trend would be for some rich liberal bastards to join my beloved Army. I'll enjoy that way more than some of you might guess.
"But Segal worries that the military's low visibility in American society is leading to estrangement. 'People say they support the troops, but I don't know how long one can sustain that if one doesn't know what a soldier is.'"
Given the lack of Soldiers in most communities, this is probably not going to change any time soon.
"In a nation of more than 300 million people, less than 1 percent serve in all the armed forces combined, active duty and reserve. Compare that to previous wartimes: 4 percent served during Vietnam, 12 percent during World War II, 11 percent during the Civil War. "
No kidding. I've said that before.
"Faculty and student leaders argued that ROTC was an academically limited program that shut
down discussion instead of broadening the free and open exchange of ideas. In 1969, the Yale faculty voted to stop giving academic credit for military science courses, which are taught by the military officers who run ROTC and are open to any student, not only cadets. In response, the military closed down the Yale ROTC programs. The same thing happened at many leading schools nationwide."
Then they wonder why your average Soldier has no use for liberal idiots who don't understand what they are talking about when it comes to things military.
"The consequences appear to be suspicion and stereotyping. Those Triangle Institute for Security Studies surveys reveal that only 1 percent of military leaders think civilian leaders are very knowledgeable about the military. More than one-third of civilian leaders believe the military is dishonest, and fewer than half believe it's attracting high-quality recruits."
The second statistic explains the first.
"Today, only a very few of our top leaders have a family member in harm's way. The faces of the children of America's policy and opinion makers are missing from the mirror our military holds up to us. When they join the military, it makes news, not a difference."
No kidding. The Bush twins probably wouldn't be worth a damn as privates, and Chelsea wouldn't last 20 seconds in boot camp. But I'm sure that someone in Congress has offspring who might be worth having my unit. But here's my question--what's in it for them? Very few people join the Army for basically sociological reasons. I mean, why would rich snots put themselves through the difficulty of military service in the hopes that it would reverse a trend over 50 years in the making? I have a hard time believing this would ever happen. And coercing it--a draft--would be as catastrophic a policy as possible.
"It disconnects the people from the kind of commitment and sacrifice that goes into this. You ask the question, so what? So what is: You then raise another generation of Americans thinking they have no obligations, thinking they have no responsibilities, thinking that they're born into this world as an American so we'll pay these kids over here to go join the armed forces. That's the real danger here. Service. Citizenship. What is the responsibility of a citizen?"
Damn good question. I don't have an answer anymore. It's no longer a given that a person will defend his family and home, much less his nation.
One final note:
"That's patriotism," Close says. He acknowledges that outsiders, those who haven't lived this iconic moment, can hear about casualties and feel sad and make the connection between the policy decision and the end state. "But the families give up the one they love for their country. It's the families, the way of life. If you don't serve, you don't understand."