Monday, July 18, 2005

My Position on the Military; "They Died So You Can Be Free"

Let me first rebut the ridiculous argument put forward by folks like Father Denis O'Brian ( that, essentially, the military has given us all of our freedoms.

Only three wars I'm aware of in US history could possibly fit this rubric. The Revolutionary War established the nation as it is and thus can't be used to argue that the American military has been a bulwark of freedom; in any respect, that was 230 or so years ago, and the war established one half of one branch of government as democratic as well as insured slavery and denied the franchise to women. Only the pressure of the people got the Amendments (called that because the original Constitution did not have them) added in. The Revolutionary War also had a lot of populist militia support, not regular military, and most leftists would eagerly support a war against monarchy (including the monarchs and dictators the US supports).

The Civil War, of course, was initially fought to preserve the Union. All sorts of things went into the calculations for the war: the intractable economic conflict between the North and South (the Northern capitalist manufacturers versus the Southern slave agrarians; the tariffs the North wanted and the South didn't), divergent culture, etc. In any respect, the Civil War did free the slaves... to almost immediate re-enslavement and poverty, even during the Reconstruction. Not to mention that the war in essence established the prominence of capitalism, not something that one should support immediately.

World War II is the most complex. On the surface, it appears a most just war. But remember the US support for fascists both before and after the war. Then remember a variety of events: the US failure to block the Holocaust (not to mention Zionist complicity with it); Dresden; Hamburg; Hiroshima; Nagasaki... Also note that the US only got into the war after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor (not a US state, mind you, but a colonial asset) and the Germans declared war on the US. Roosevelt wanted to get involved earlier, but it's hardly tenable that that was a decision made to expand freedom. And if the US hadn't fought the Fascists, would they have launched an invasion of the US and thus broached American civil liberties when they took control? Arguably. I don't see how.

Meanwhile, immediately after the war, the army was used to smash freedom by breaking Shay's Rebellion. And throughout the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, it supported slavery, committed practical genocide upon the remaining Native Americans, and invaded all the countries I listed in . Let's just pick three wars at random: Vietnam, World War I, and the contras in Nicaragua.

Before someone says "What about the Cold War?", remember these facts: The Soviet Union expanded almost exclusively to get a shield of satellite states; a documentary record in later years has shown that, for example, Germany could have been unified if the US hadn't wanted West Germany in NATO; China has almost never been expansionist (they interfered in Korea, but that was in their backyard, they knew that Korea falling to the capitalist could lead to their subsequent invasion, and they had as much right as the "UN" - read: US - forces to be there) and the majority of conflict during the Cold War had little to nothing to do with any Communist power.

The US military is the enemy of freedom, not its guardian.

But what does that say about the people in it? And is it primarily the internal structure of the military or other organizations' influence, such as corporations, Congress and the Presidency?

Part of me wants to say "take it up with management". After all, that's what we'd do if we were critiquing, say, Wal-Mart. The dude behind the counter isn't going to be involved in the major decision-making process of the institution. He just works there (and I assume "he" because this is the military). So even if the soldiers on the ground and lower officers were ideologically problematic, they wouldn't be a problem if the chain of command wasn't fundamentally rotten to the top. Further, as a practical matter, these soldiers are usually poor people turning to the military because our economy doesn't provide free education and just wages.

However, I can see that soldiers vote Republican and often harbor racist, sexist, homophobic views; further, while they may think they're serving their country, a la the safe Michael Moore liberalist view, they are in fact denigrating whatever good name it had. And notice the haste with which many ordinary soldiers utilized ridiculous degrees of torture: yes, allowed by those at top; no, not necessarily forced.

The military as a bureaucracy will naturally gravitate towards war more quickly than a civilian organization, just by basic bureaucratic theory. The military have seemed to be willing friends of graft and waste benefitting corporations

Then again, military reports seem very nuanced, contrasted with the unsophisticated rhetoric of the chickenhawks. One trying to understand modern security issues could do worse than to read military collegiate essays.

Good personal friends of mine are or were in the military. One of them who quit told horror stories of people yelling "Grind the heels! Crush the skulls!" and the monstrosity of boot camp. All of the soldiers I've met have been good, tolerant people, very willing to speak about their experience and with a nuanced view with very many liberal or even leftist aspects.

After all, the dominant story that seeps in of the military's freedom-causing-influences must have some positive effect, even if it is simply propaganda.

My experience has been that very often the military is forced to buy weapons by Congressmen beholden to particular arms corporations and "their constituency" (in an incredibly narrow way, of course). It seems that the patriarchal and racist influences come into the military more than they come out: that is, that people in the military are sexist and racist because of the military's structure, not that the military's structure causes much racism and sexism in the broader culture. I am personally of the attitude, with the caveats I've made (and others), that those in the military are victims about as much as they are victimizers.

I support raising military salaries and benefits... as well as salaries for the rest of society, so there's no incentive to join the military besides "serving one's country".

I support not forcing some soldiers to appeal to the prejudices of others. The "group cohesion" argument is not only a justification for continued homophobia but is stupid anyways, as now no one thinks about "group cohesion" being a problem when blacks are in the military (even though such arguments were raised during desegregation) and Sparta (one of the most fearsome military powers of all time) used gay relations to INCREASE group cohesion.

I support not forcing those men and women, courageous and deluded as they often are, to die.

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