I've been reading the book " The New American Militarism" by Bakevich this week. Although I'm only in the second chapter, the first "Wilsonians Under Arms" lays out an idea that makes complete sense. I've seen the Democrats cave in to Bush over the Iraq war spending bill lest they be seen as not supporting the troops. For myself, I've gone back and forth on whether I really support the troops and have decided that I support the troops when:
They are civilian soldiers who have been called up on a real, not manufactured mission that directly involves our country (and, in reverse, if it is found that the mission is a lie, they are all immediately brought back home).
- They are here in our country guarding our borders, not stationed around the world in many countries, in permanent bases.
- They are defending us, not fighting in a country against those who live there, who are only fighting us BECAUSE we are there.
Although there is much to comment on from this book, I want to discuss what the author says about elevating soldiers to national icons and discouraging any from criticism of militarism by bringing up support of the troops.
In public life today, paying homage to those in uniform has become obligatory and the one unforgivable sin is to be found guilty of failing to *support the troops*. ... In fact, the Democratic mainstream... has long since purged itself of any dovish inclinations. "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about", Madeleine Albright demanded of General Colin Powell "if we can't use it?"As Albright's Question famously attests, when it comes to advocating the use of force, Democrats can be positively gung ho. Moreover, in comparison to their Republican counterparts, they are at least as deferential to military leaders and probably more reluctant to question claims of military expertise. .... The imperative of political leaders always and in every case offering unconditional and unequivocal suport for the troops gives rise to a corrolary- one that illustrates militarization's impact on the calculs governing elite political behavior on questions of war and peace."
For example, the author points out that our military used to be citizen soldiers
Through the first two centuries of US history, Americans remained leery of the threat tha a large *standing army* might pose to liberty at home. As a result, placing their faith in the citizen-soldier as the guarantor of their security and ultimate guardian of their freedom, they accepted a common obligation to share in the responsibility for the country's defense. ... Military service has become strictly a matter of individual choice. On that score, beginning with the Vietnam War and continuing to the present day, members of the elite, regardless of political persuastion, have by and large opted out. ...
This is true. Whether some might join the military in order to get a job or hopes of a college education, the fact remains that it is a JOB choice, no longer a temporary call to arms by citizen soldiers who join with other Americans in defense of their country (and when you add the still-uncalculated amounts we pay for mercenary soldiers, it's one more commercial distance away for us who do not belong in the military). I don't support those who decide to work in other positions I find morally or ethically objectionable, why should I have unblinking support for those who join in order to invade other countries or occupy them via modern day forts?
Whereas previously Americans had recognized a link between citizenship and military service... Vietnam all but severed that relationship. ...
That's not to say, of course, that through our history, those who had the economic means didn't get out of serving. Look at George Bush, whose father used his connections to help his son into the National Guard (from which he didn't finish) Or Cheney, who deferred serving five times.
Today, having dissolved any connection between claims to citizenship and obligation to serve, American entrust their security to a class of military professionals who see themselves in many respects as culturally and politically set apart from the rest of society.
And there's the rub. When you are not part of the group, you can wave at them, tell them "Great job" and then go back to your own business... because you are not sharing with them in the cause. We all remember how, on at least two occasions, Bush told Americans to go about their normal lives and heck, go shopping! Go to Disney World! Meanwhile, the troops who decided to join up are on multiple tours of duty and the death rate in Iraq is high, not to mention all those injured. It isn't that I want to see anyone dead or injured-of course I don't. I know several people in my family that are in the service, one of whom is in the same area that the missing soldiers were taken from a couple of weeks ago. But I also believe that to unequivocally support the troops is to put a stamp of blessing on the creeping militarism that has overtaken this country.. and I believe we have lost our way.
I'd like to see some opposition that didn't stop short, with Democrats as "But we can't be seen as not supporting the troops". Instead, what happened to "We support the idea of a small military force for our own country and not the idea of empire around the world, and thus we support them by bringing them home. Take THAT, Bush and Republicans who want to have never-ending war. This is NOT Rome!"
Instead of history for Americans being a "peaceful continuum interrupted by war", today war is the *normal* state. And it absolutely should not be.