Monday, May 25, 2015


The L.A. Times is concerned about the relationship between civilians and the military community in America today:
Surveys suggest that as many as 80% of those who serve [in the U.S. military] come from a family in which a parent or sibling is also in the military. They often live in relative isolation -- behind the gates of military installations such as Ft. Bragg or in the deeply military communities like Fayetteville, N.C., that surround them....

As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broad civilian population appear to be growing more distant....

Most of the country has experienced little, if any, personal impact from the longest era of war in U.S. history. But those in uniform have seen their lives upended by repeated deployments to war zones, felt the pain of seeing family members and comrades killed and maimed, and endured psychological trauma that many will carry forever, often invisible to their civilian neighbors....

"We've disconnected the consequences of war from the American public. As a result, that young man or woman putting on the uniform is much less likely to be your son or daughter, or even your neighbor or classmate," said Mike Haynie, director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University in upstate New York. "That is a dangerous place to be."
Some would say that what we need is universal conscription, or at least a universal national service requirement -- but it's hard to imagine such a policy being implemented in contemporary America without the rich and powerful finding a way to evade service, or at least locking up the cushiest positions.

Meanwhile, I see that two right-wing commentators, both military veterans, want us to know that they basically despise civilians. Here's RedState diarist streiff with a response to the L.A. Times story:
I served a couple of decades in uniform. I didn’t hold civilians in high regard, I didn’t know anyone who did (as we said, “I’m ashamed my mother was a f***ing civilian). I don’t suspect we were much different than the men at Fort Detroit in 1812 or Fort Kearney in 1850. If you want men who are willing to get killed on your behalf, not necessarily because you are in imminent danger but because the men and women you elect tell them to, then you are going to have men set apart, and men who don’t take you all that seriously. That will be unsettling to some. If that rejection of your seriousness comes hand-in-glove with a rejection of your view of society then you are going to hate the institution that rejects you and do your damnedest to change it. That is what’s behind this incessant caterwauling over the civil-military divide.

The military is open to anyone who wants to enlist... assuming they can meet the standards which, sadly, about 70% of American kids can’t... if they want to become more familiar with the military and increase its attachment to the civilian population. If not, then they should spend more time combing the quinoa out of their hipster beards and let the declining number of men in this nation get on with business.
So there you have it: According to streiff, everyone who hasn't served in the military is essentially a hipster with ancient grains in his beard who doesn't deserve the service the troops perform for the country.

The Times story suggests that the problem for a country where the military burden isn't widely shared is that civilians don't understand what servicemembers and veterans are going through. I think an equal problem is that servicemembers and veterans become like streiff and develop contempt for civilians -- which means contempt for the very country they're serving, because, after all, we non-warriors are a majority of the citizens.

A commentator, Steve Yen, an Army veteran, is, if anything, more contemptuous of the civilian population than streiff. According to Yen, he and his generation of servicemembers basically won both of George Bush's wars, but had victory stolen from them by ... well, it's not clear whether it was evil civilian liberals or Bush administration officials. Yen blames liberals (and other assorted soft-bellied civilians), though the timeline would suggest that it was the Bushies who were largely at fault:
In a time where victimhood is celebrated, where discourse is dominated by ineffectual and verbose liberal academics, and society led by inept deceivers -- we alone showed the world for the seven years after 9/11/01 that America was the indisputable world super power and that darkness could never put out the light. To the contrary, the light would come with insurmountable power to punish its enemies. We are the brave few volunteers upon whom the existence of the entire free world relies.

We are the lionhearted difference‐makers who -- in the flower of our youth -- cast off the mental shackles of our society’s historic entitlement, weakness, and cowardice to serve and to take the greatest of the world’s challenges head on....

We showed the world that, despite our society’s cowardly quibbling, America’s volunteer military was --incomparably -- the most powerful and professional in the world, and that we would defend our nation fearlessly when attacked. While civilians who risked nothing and sacrificed nothing trembled and called for surrender, we warriors roared undaunted toward imminent danger.

Those few of us who were there know the ferocity we brought to bear upon our enemies’ heads -- day in, day out, 24/7 -- despite being sent to war without the manpower mandated by our own doctrine and with a fundamental lack of the resources needed to employ our own best tactics.
(Um, who deprived you of sufficient manpower and resources? It wasn't anyone with a beard full of quinoa. Donald Rumsfeld is clean-shaven.)
... one of the greatest stories never told was our victory in Iraq. On its heels, however, was the greatest of betrayals: a deliberate surrender of the already won victory in Iraq to serve anti-American political objectives. We still have troops in Germany, Italy, Japan, and Korea -- yet we pull out of Iraq while the ground is still wet with the blood of the best and brightest of our young generation.

Afghanistan was won in 2002 and also would have been secured long ago if not for a total lack of national commitment over the entirety of the war’s now nearly 15-year history. Instead, that war has been allowed to persist in an inexcusable state –- ultimately becoming a telling dichotomy as America’s longest war and America’s first war to be forgotten while it was still being fought.

Our country completely and unapologetically failed us, yet we never once quit on our country.
I guess, to Yen, we pulled out of Iraq because quisling liberals were anti-victory (you remember that great victory we'd clearly won in Iraq right before January 20, 2009, right?) -- but he also seems to think that backing was withdrawn for the war in Afghanistan by the same people for the same reason, in 2002. If there's a civilian/military split here, maybe it's that the troops who actually fought the wars have no understanding of the politics surrounding them.

In any case, it's unsettling to realize that people like Yen and streiff believe that they gave us service we didn't deserve. To me, this contempt is reminiscent of the contempt city cops have for the communities where they serve. It's as if the taking up of arms becomes an end in itself, and the purpose -- securing the peace for the civilian population -- becomes secondary, and then not even relevant at all, because the people with the guns don't respect the people they're sworn to serve and don't think those people deserve protection. That's not a healthy state of affairs.


UPDATE: Yen link fixed.


Grung_e_Gene said...

The right wing internet fart bubble actually declared 11/22/2008 Victory in Iraq day. Conservative chicken hawks repeatedly declared victory from the safety of the U.S. Year after year even as violence increased. Even the vaunted surge saw an increase of violence in 2006 & 2007.

aimai said...

Anybody who thinks that 1812 and 1850 were prime time for professional soldiers is nuts. At any rate the revolutionary war was not won by professional soldiers and the Civil War was fought by conscripts and volunteers. This guy is so full of shit.

Never Ben Better said...

A military that regards its own civilians with contempt, with an officer corps increasingly dominated by Dominionist fanatics, has a disturbing potential to carry out a coup for an oligarchy that wraps itself in the flag and demonizes everyone but the far right as traitors. Those Jade Helm nutcases should stop worrying; they're not the civilians who'll have the guns turned on them when some Koch clone decides to dispense with all that democracy nonsense.

petrilli said...

In response to these two lifers, I can only say "They hate us for our freedoms."

Chai T. Ch'uan said...

In a bit over a decade, the kids of these cocky soldiers of fortune are going to be fighting primarily with remotely controlled weapons (ground assault drones). Meanwhile these guys'll be swapping stories of machismo at the local VFW hall about the glory days and comparing whose limb prosthesis software has the most old-school, non-hipster user interface.

Ken_L said...

Shades of American Sniper with its sheep, wolves and shepherds. Guess who are the superior ones.

Precisely the same contempt for 'civilians' is, of course, a characteristic of most police forces.

Victor said...

"If there's a civilian/military split here, maybe it's that the troops who actually fought the wars have no understanding of the politics surrounding them."

They understood - at least what Rush told them, on the radio.
Air America couldn't get on, but Rush, Sean and a bunch of Reich-Wingers were!

And no, the attitude displayed here is most certainly not healthy.

Shayne Mitchell said...

Just because someone claims to be "the tip of the spear" or whatever doesn't make it so. While the military is slightly more conservative on some issues than the nation as a whole, the "pretend-we-were-once-in-Delta-Force" crowd is TREMENDOUSLY more conservative.

Shayne Mitchell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philo Vaihinger said...

There are two strands in the piece you quote from the LA Times that are regularly brought forward as excuses for a military draft, a strand of unshared sacrifice and a strand of multigenerationalism.

If multigenerationalism is a problem in the military why is it not also a problem among office holders (Clintons, Bushes, Kennedys, Tafts, Rockefellers, and so on), among the police and other forces of order, in the fire departments, in the medical and legal professions, among high iron workers, coal miners, the cod fishermen of New England, auto workers, and so on?

And in any case wherever it really is a problem the obvious solution is simply to prohibit it, refusing to accept service from those with too many ancestors or family members who were or are in service.

But that is a solution no one has ever suggested, or ever will suggest.

If unshared sacrifice is a problem at all why is it not so among policemen and the forces of order, fire department workers, park rangers and others who cope with massive forest and brush fires, high iron workers, coal miners, and many others in dangerous occupations?

But in any case is it a problem we must solve by rejecting willing volunteers who want the job and aspire to do it well, staffing these vocations instead with resentful forced labor not much interested in the work and perhaps little more than minimally capable of it?

And how, exactly, is military servitude less constitutionally, morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable than forced labor of any other sort, even including chattel slavery?

And in any case the claim that a massive military, notably bigger than the current forces and easily expanded quite quickly, would bring about a less bellicose and interventionist foreign policy than reliance on volunteer forces as small as we can make them is a laughable, cynical, barefaced imposture.

This is all just part of the glut of regularly scheduled propaganda to which the nation is subjected to keep us all suitably softened up for outrages by government, like the claim that earned benefits programs are an increasingly insupportable and unfair burden on the backs of the ordinary young working people of America.


Yeh’s shocking, parade-ground horseshit, obviously modeled on Hitler’s decades of yelling to the German people that they had been stabbed in the back by civilians in 1918, is so outrageous he must have been kidding, unless he was on drugs or is literally insane.


Streiff’s remarks are just stupid and mean.

Some liberals sometimes quote such garbage as Streiff’s and Yeh’s as part of another argument for the draft that reliance on volunteer forces, and then actually making those volunteers do what they volunteered for, turns the volunteer military into a cesspool of lunacy prohibitively dangerous to democracy.

Just more bullshit.

Dark Avenger said...

I think some sort of national service should be required, but should be a choice between military and civilian services.

Philo, I don't know how old you are, but I'm over 50 years old, so I can tell you my argument against purely volunteer forces is that they make things like Vietnam possible, not less likely. Why do you think that it was largely deactivated immediately after the North Vietnamese completed their conquest of South Vietnam?

As for a cesspool of lunacy, two words for you to consider: Chris Kyle. Not the one you saw onscreen played by Bradley Cooper, but the guy who boasted about shooting flood refugees in New Orleans, the guy who thought that target practice would be a good therapy for someone suffering from PTSD. You could look it up.

Philo Vaihinger said...


I'm 66 and did my time in the Vietnam marches and the army.

I believe you are mistaken as to the effect of using a draft.

I don't believe I said there were no lunatics, nor did I mean that.

Point remains.

I continue to object to forced labor, civilian or military, and favor extensive force drawdowns along with withdrawal of US forces to the Western hemisphere, above the equator.

Bruce M. said...

Go fuck yourself you ignorant cunt!