In Afghanistan, sacrificing our men for those who hate us
(Note, May 19: As Gerald M.’s comment
indicates, the Afghan madness of the American “elite” is not waning, but increasing.)
(Note, May 19: Starting with Pentheus’ comment, the thread launches into a new topic. Is there something about the ethos, dedication, and extremely high morale of our fighting men that will lead us keep our forces in Afghanistan indefinitely, no matter how impossible and doomed the overall mission?)
Charles T. writes:
Two Marines were murdered in Afghanistan recently. Lt. Col. Benjamin Palmer and Sgt. Kevin Balduf were murdered by a member of the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP). The article can be read here.
Marine Maj. Gen. James Laster, the International Security Assistance Force’s deputy chief of staff for joint operations, is quoted in the article:
“While this is a serious incident, the actions of this individual do not reflect the overall actions of our Afghan partners. We remain committed to our partners and to our mission here.”
Nonsense. The actions of this Afghan murderer accurately reflects the attitude of the Afghans towards our soldiers. The Afghans are not committed to us. Why the hell then should we commit the lives of our soldiers to them and their country? These people hate us and want us out of their country. We should move all of our soldiers back home immediately.
Only several weeks ago, there were nine Americans—eight military soldiers and one contractor—murdered by an Afghan military pilot. The article reports:
“It was the seventh time so far this year that members of the Afghan security forces, or insurgents impersonating them, have killed coalition soldiers or members of the Afghan security forces.”
Every time this happens a Maj. Gen. Laster type pokes his head up and crows about how this situation is atypical. This situation is typical of what our troops face. Our people cannot trust any of them.
Sorry, Gen. Laster. We are not buying your political lies. The only reason Laster and the rest of our generals are saying such things is to protect their careers and make sure they receive no unflattering words on their annual efficiency reports. And all the while, our troops are being murdered. What a disgusting lack of leadership.
I wish we could have one general who would stand up and state that the partnership with Afghan nationals is a failure and that as long as he is in command, the partnering will cease and the reason for doing so is to protect the lives of our American soldiers. Of course, his career would end immediately. However, this would be the moral thing to do and it would be done publicly which would focus attention on the issue. This would give the as now “unknown general” the moral capital to expand on this theme as he enters civilian life. I hope we get such a general, and soon.
Gerald M. writes from Dallas:
I share Charles T.’s hope that some general will rise up and speak the truth about Afghanistan, but I’m not holding my breath. The killing of bin Laden—a great good in itself—seems to have driven the thinking of government and media types even deeper into goo-goo land. Tonight on Hardball, Chris Matthews interviewed yet another government official / terrorist expert, along with America’s newest neocon, Sebastian Junger. Yes, Sebastian Junger, the cool-dude mountaineering author with the movie-star looks who, after writing a book about the Afghan war called, uh, WAR, and directing a documentary about it, Restrepo, is now an authority on Afghanistan, the Middle East, and the Arab Spring. What we need to do, according to Sebastian, is give every Afghan a cell phone and a Twitter account. (I expect to see him at AEI any day now.) The entire region is now riding on the Freedom Bus towards Democracy Town, and America needs to be very much “engaged” (troops, money, blood, etc.), to provide the gas and push the obstacles out of the way. The government guy echoed everything General Junger said. And Chris Matthews, the man for whom the word squish was invented? He’s still in incoherent drool mode from Black Napoleon’s masterstroke.
I recommend last week’s PBS FRONTLINE documentary, “Kill/Capture.”
The strong impression I receive is that we (the U.S.) are not truly fighting on behalf of the people of Afghanistan. It seems that the “hearts and minds” of the majority of the Afghanistan people are with the Taliban.
This is a warrior culture. Not just the fighters themselves, but the people of the villages who assist and support them. It struck me that this war we are in is much like fighting the American Indians. They don’t want to be like Westerners and live in cities and spend their time building water treatment facilities and schools etc. They want to keep living and fighting in their traditional ways (except with cell phones!). [LA replies: I recently read a useful book, A Brief History of Afghanistan, and it says the same. Over and over throughout its history, every attempt by an outside imperial power or by the Kabul government to modernize the country is defeated by the real culture of the country—the tribes and villagers and their leaders, who insist on their traditional tribal life.]
The problem is that on our side, the active fighting arm of the U.S. military is also a warrior culture. From what I read and from those whom I have happened to meet, these guys can’t wait to go into combat. They are, with few exceptions, fully committed to the Afghanistan mission (whatever specifically that is) for as long as it takes (whenever that may be).
So, I’m not sure if your (and my) pity and outrage on behalf of our murdered soldiers is shared by most of the combat troops themselves. That is, I don’t think they see these incidents as reasons why we should leave, but rather as one of the many built-in dangers of the mission which they accept. [LA replies: That’s an extraordinarily depressing thought.]
I wonder if the actual main purpose or benefit of our still being in Afghanistan is as a perpetual, large-scale, live-fire training exercise. The U.S. combat troops are the world’s only ground forces with so much fighting experience, training and success. In that sense, from the military perspective our Iraq and Afghanistan wars have not been a waste of blood and treasure. Despite all those costs, in the larger analysis they have not weakened us but rather have honed our fighting military’s skills and esprit to a level that is unmatched by any other country on Earth. It may be that those of us who believe our continued occupation of Afghanistan is at this point detrimental to our national interest do not take this enough into account.
I’ve posted a summary and response to Pentheus’s comment in a separate entry, “Why we will not awaken from our Afghan folly.” But to keep the discussion all in one place, I am cross-posting that entry here:
Why we will not awaken from our Afghan folly
Yesterday I said that we are sacrificing our men for the Afghans who hate us. In one of the most disturbing comments I’ve seen at VFR, a reader [Pentheus] argues that, just as the Afghans have a warrior culture which rejects the U.S., the U.S. armed forces have their own warrior culture which rejects the Afghans. The U.S. armed forces are not fighting or dying for the Afghans whom they recognize as their enemy, but are fighting to develop and express their own, already very formidable, warrior ethos and prowess. Therefore our forces are not deeply bothered by the repeated murders and mass murders of U.S. soldiers by their Afghan supposed allies. They don’t think this makes them suckers and sacrificial lambs in a doomed mission. Instead, our men see those deaths as part of the normal cost of war, and as something that is helping hone them into an ever tougher fighting force, preparing them for future wars.
If this is true, then any awakening from America’s irrational and self-destructive campaign to “democratize” Muslim countries becomes unlikely in the foreseeable future. No matter how contradictory and absurd the mission may be, no matter how bad it gets for our military, they will feel that it is strengthening them. And because the military morale remains so high, that makes it possible for the political leadership to continue the mission.
* * *
The above considerations remind me of two entries written in April 2005 in which I expressed similarly disturbing thoughts: Wounded GIs, and The ambiguous thing that America now is. The basic idea was that our military people are so brave, ready, and gung-ho that they don’t care how wrong-headed their mission is or what casualties—even the loss of three of her limbs by a female G.I.—they endure for it. The best American qualities are thus being used, by our liberal/globalist leadership, to serve ends that are deeply harming our country.
Maybe this entry should be re-entitled, “Our Nietzschean military,” because, like Nietzsche’s superman, they say Yes to every suffering, no matter how absurd and meaningless, and grow stronger in the very act of affirming the absurd.
[end of cross-posted entry]
Gerald M. writes from Dallas:
I agree with Pentheus about the warrior cultures of both Afghanistan and the U.S. (Also, the PBS documentary he recommends is well worth watching.) A few years ago, when the main action was in Iraq, a friend told me—echoing what he had heard from some of the Bush hating media—that the military couldn’t go on much longer fighting all over the world—it would “break” as re-enlistment rates plummeted, post-traumatic stress syndrome began to afflict thousands of vets, and we burned out our men and equipment. I told him that wasn’t going to happen. The reason? Casualties and numbers. Our total casualties are a small fraction of what they were in previous wars going back through World War I. Our daily casualties are tiny. Two or three killed a day, some days none at all. Only rarely have we lost more than five or six soldiers in one fight. I don’t know anyone who has lost a friend or loved one, or had a friend or loved one wounded. I don’t know anyone who knows anyone who has lost anyone. And I have two close relatives in the military, including one with three tours in Iraq! Most people don’t even know anyone in the military—it’s only one-half of one percent of the population.
So, hell yeah! Pentheus is right. This isn’t such a terrible war for our soldiers and Marines the way Vietnam, Korea, or the World Wars were. It’s more like an occasionally bloody drill (to paraphrase Juvenal), which provides both an addictive adrenaline rush and valuable experience to the soldiers who experience it. So again, Pentheus is correct in observing that our military has reached levels of professional expertise and operational virtuosity in these un-costly wars that are—to a veteran of the pathetic Jimmy Carter era army like me—almost incomprehensibly high. Of course, the individual horror and tragedy of every man or woman killed or maimed for life remains. And financially, the wars are ruinous, or at least helping to ruin us. But you get my point. Until our economy truly collapses, we can go on like this forever.
I say this also because of the psychological change I’ve seen in people in their attitude toward the wars over the past few years. People who once opposed the wars or had doubts, no longer care. They take permanent war—permanent war for democracy—for granted, much like most conservatives now take affirmative action for granted. This is because—as I pointed out in the numbers above—the war doesn’t touch them. Note the almost total lack of objection to our attack on Libya, or all the starry-eyed talk by idiots like Sebastian Junger about intervening all over the world to “give democracy a helping hand.” We have now turned John Quincy Adams on his bald head, going farther and farther abroad, seeking more and more monsters to destroy.
Finally, a last comment on Pentheus’s observations. I fear our military has become a powerful constituency for continuing the wars, because the wars have not only not damaged it the way Vietnam did in its latter stages, they have—to repeat what I said earlier—made the military better at what it does—so much better, at so little cost, that it has seduced the professional military into thinking that whatever is good for them must also be good for the nation.
That’s a very well written and persuasive (and, for that reason, disturbing) comment.
I feel I’m looking at a new reality here. It’s like a nightmare version of Keats’s line,
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies,
When a new planet swims into his ken.
Gerald M. replies:
Thanks. And your allusion is right on. I’m aghast at this absolutely crazy wave of enthusiasm and optimism about all our overseas interventions which seems to have been generated by the killing of bin Laden. The wonderfulness and deep satisfaction of that event has apparently caused a meltdown in the brains of countless pundits who normally aren’t that stupid.
Allan Wall writes:
I was interested in Pentheus’ comment about the military culture.
I recall that when I did my Iraq deployment, it struck me that most U.S. military personnel were not too knowledgeable about Iraq, the Middle East, Islam, etc. In fact, the military now has its own brainwashing program to convince deploying soldiers that Islam is a religion of peace.
Another thing that works against an individual soldier seeing the big picture is simply that he’s so wrapped up in his own mission, that he may not see the wider panorama of what’s going on. Military units work and train on specific tasks and missions, and if these are accomplished, the soldiers have a sense of satisfaction, regardless of what is transpiring in the theatre, or the entire world, at large. [LA replies: We’ve seen this phenomenon over and over. Because some captain or lieutenant colonel is experiencing success in his local mission of rebuilding a school or winning the cooperation of the local tribal leader, he thinks that the larger Iraq mission is a success. There is a reason why soldiers are supposed to serve under civilian leaders and not be making policy. Soldiers have a specialized point of view, they lack a larger perspective. The problem is that this also makes them easily manipulated by bad civilian (and military) leadership such as we have had under Bush and Obama.]
I remember some discussions with other military personnel that had no objection to the United States becoming a majority Muslim country, as long as this were accomplished democratically!
Of course, the real failure of our military is at the upper level, the generals and admirals who have promoted multiculturalism, feminism and now homosexualism. When is the last time a general ever resigned or was fired over a matter of principle? These men have a lot to answer for.
Mark Jaws writes:
Lord, I have wracked my brain over this one as well and I am not sure if I agree with you, although the symptoms are ubiquitous. For example, about five years ago I worked with a former Army captain who had been injured in Iraq by an IED and medically discharged due to a piece of shrapnel permanently embedded in his spine. He had no regrets. He was a newlywed. And of whom did he have a picture on his desk? Of his lovely bride? Nope. This noble character (and he truly was noble) had a picture of his Iraqi translator in Baghdad who had been killed by al Qaeda shortly before he came back to the States. Most of the intelligence guys I know started turning against this lunacy back in 2006 or so, when it was evident that it would be one rotation after another—with no end in sight.
Roland D. writes:
The real problem with today’s military is that it’s an all-volunteer force, segregated from mainstream society.
This makes it far easier for feckless politicians to launch wars of choice, and it means that the psychological dynamic of “a crappy, pointless war in which we can fight is better than no war at all” can create a self-reinforcing desire to continue the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan just in order to have a place to do the warrior thing.
We should immediately re-instate the draft in order to combat these undesirable phenomena, as well as to ensure that Americans of all socioeconomic classes are forced to mix with those of other socioeconomic classes at least once in their lives.
And, yes, the generals will say that they prefer the all-volunteer force over the conscripted force, that it’s more “professional,” etc. That’s because of the same dynamics described above.
Republics don’t long survive with large standing professional militaries. Even though we’re pretty far down the path of degeneration from a republic into a mere democracy, one thing we could do to arrest the slide somewhat is to re-introduce universal manhood conscription.
John B. writes:
I’ve just read your VFR entry headed “Why we will not awaken from our Afghan folly,” along with the comments that provoked it (i.e., comments in your earlier entry, “In Afghanistan, sacrificing our men for those who hate us”).
Evidently, you’ve arrived at the conclusion I arrived at long ago, the conclusion that led me to say it means nothing to me when American military personnel are killed or maimed. That, I think you’ll recall, is what got me banned from VFR.
So, Lawrence, please tell me: how exactly do our positions now differ? You and I have arrived at the same conclusion, i.e., that any admiration of the U.S. military is pointless—sentimental, one might say. The only difference between us is that you’re disturbed by the conclusion; I’ve merely given up caring—and have said as much, provocatively.
I haven’t said anything like what you said. What got you banned from VFR was not saying, “Any admiration of the U.S. military is pointless.” What got you banned was saying that it means nothing to you when U.S. soldiers are killed and maimed. What got you banned was expressing a vengeful resentment against boys who supposedly bullied you when you were a boy and now you’re getting back at them by seeing our soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
To refresh your memory, here’s your disgusting, repulsive statement in December 2009 which I called on you to retract and you refused:
Anyway—I have to say that when I think about the American troops who will go over to Afghanistan and get killed and maimed for nothing—I don’t care. They mean nothing to me. They’re not “protecting my freedom.” They’re just grown-up versions of the schoolyard louts who made it impossible for me and the few other serious persons I knew in childhood to get anything done. They’re the ones who mocked us for taking our studies seriously, who ridiculed us for tucking our shirts in—and who now have to go off and “fight for our freedom” because their parents and grandparents—who are as loutish as they are—were similarly unserious, say, nearly half a century ago, when the Immigration Act of 1965 was being enacted. Most white persons are fools—and are hostile to anyone who is not a fool. They love going off to war to “die for their country.” Let them. They’re not going to work to accomplish anything serious—like a change in our immigration laws—so let them go fight. As I noticed in the schoolyard: That’s what they enjoy.
I don’t want to associate with a person who talks that way and that still stands. Have some respect for my decisions as to whom I want to associate with, just as I would respect yours.
LA to Pentheus:
See my summary of your comment. Tell me if I have it more or less correct.
Thank you for inviting some clarifications.
You got it mostly correct as to my meaning. The following clarifications are aimed at other potential readers so that none can misconstrue what I said.
I would not be misunderstood by anyone to be saying that our guys are the bad guys, or support the mission only for their own sakes, or to be criticizing them or equating them with the Taliban (other than in being fearless warriors). Note that the FRONTLINE documentary I am recommending to people here is solely about the effectiveness of the “Kill/Capture” policy in winning hearts and minds; it is not a leftist anti-war piece, and notably does not fail to show the bravery, training, and idealism of our soldiers there. It is definitely not anti-military, but presents a for and against not only the specific Kill/Capture policy but the potential success of the U.S. effort there. It definitely tends towards the “this war is futile” side, but is very fair I think in portraying the evidence and arguments.
As the documentary shows, the soldiers believe they are fighting for the best, long-term interests of the Afghan people. The soldiers make a careful distinction between “the Taliban” (enemies) and “the people” whom they are they to help and protect from the Taliban. And of course, I would never claim that there are an insubstantial number of Afghanis who support the government and the U.S. role there. Unfortunately, as shown in the documentary, this is not in reality a firm line, and overall the Taliban represent a lot of the people, particularly those of large areas of the country, at least as against the current government and the Americans.
The soldiers’ morale remains high even though they are aware of the social complexities they are up against. As the idealistic young soldier opines candidly at the end of the documentary, we have to stay the course because if we leave, the Taliban would probably take over the country. But this raises the question: if that is so, then does that not signify that the Afghan “people”—in the sense of that portion or quantum of the populace in whom resides the legitimate source of that country’s sovereignty and right to choose their forms of government and social/religious organization– are not really on the side of the government we are supporting there? And my point here would not be that we are “violating their rights” but simply that our policy fails to recognize these different meanings of, say, “self-governance” or “democracy.”
I hope it is clear also that when I say “The problem is etc.” I do not mean that it is bad that U.S. soldiers have a proud warrior ethos. That is one of the chief excellences of a combat soldier. I meant only in the context of that post, “the problem for those (such as LA and commenters) who believe that surely enough of these incidents will push the soldiers and the generals to begin questioning our continuing to fight in Afghanistan is that … “
Because our fighting men are professional and disciplined and because they accept the dangers that face them, they do not rage like Achilles at the murder of their fellows. Their anger will be at the specific perpetrators as “the bad guys,” and not generalized to the Afghani population or official policy.
They are enlistees, many of whom go back to combat voluntarily, not conscripts prone to regarding themselves as pitiable cannon fodder. For these men, unlike us civilians, combat is opportunity and fulfillment, not oppression. They want to be in the game, not sit on the bench. I have cringed whenever I heard Nancy Pelosi speak of “getting our brave young men and women out of harm’s way.” (There’s the feminization of America for you.) These men do not want to be “out of harm’s way” in the way she means it. They want to be inches out of harm’s way, not thousands of miles.
Afghanistan is not like Vietnam. There is no NVA, no USSR, no China at the border threatening to join the action. Even if we cannot win, neither can we lose. We do not face defeat in battle, and not even major losses in any single engagement, but mostly via terror attacks.
As stated in my initial comment, I think the Afghanistan War is like fighting the Indians, except the Indians are not starving or being driven out and supplanted by waves of European settlers. Indeed we are giving aid to the Indians to develop their country. Just not to the bad Indians.
We could be in Afghanistan forever.
James R. writes:
Setting aside whether universal conscription would be appropriate for a well-formed republic, the idea that enacting it now would be a means to help restore it is laughable. It’s not well-thought through. Every regular reader of your site knows what our current elite would do with such a thing: they’d turn it into “national service,” with their scions serving as government-paid interns in glory jobs (one’s they’d take anyhow as “community service” for their grad-school applications, only now on our dime). Most of the rest of the conscripts would be used as corvee labor for progressive projects. Only a fraction would be inducted into the military itself for any length of time, because the modern military doesn’t need the amount of personnel that universal manhood conscription would provide. I know Rahm Emanuel would be gleeful to see us propose “universal manhood conscription” in the context of today’s politics; progressives would love to be thrown into that briar patch, they have many uses for such a thing and have dreamt of it since Edward Bellamy wrote “Looking Backwards.”
Also people need to consider what conscription within the context of a liberal-progressive-social-democratic society has done with respect to continental European militaries. It certainly hasn’t reversed the social degeneration, just sped it up.
Too many people have non-solutions. Proposing and pushing for universal conscription while we’re governed as we are is one of them.
But I thought the idea was for universal conscription specifically for the military, not for some all-purpose domestic service corps. It would be for the military. From the universal base, the military would draft the numbers it needed, and no more.
Gerald M. writes:
I note that Allan Wall is a national guardsman—an old-fashioned citizen-soldier—who brings a perspective to these matters which I believe is lacking in our regular army officers, whose point of view has become (as I previously stated) too narrowly parochial. And I use the term “old-fashioned” deliberately and with respect, for the modern army has forgotten—or would like to forget—that the vast majority of our fighting men in the past were not professionals, but volunteers for a specific conflict, or conscripts, or militiamen, who usually had a healthy skepticism of “lifers,” and often a strong dislike for the military in general. Their attitude was, “Let’s do what needs to be done, and go home.” The pride that most of us feel in the accomplishments of our military over the past ten years has obscured these facts. I’m reminded of something Arnold Toynbee said, in analyzing the factors of a civilization’s decline. He spoke of institutions, once vital in the maintenance of society, which had become “enormities,” dedicated only to their own perpetuation and prosperity, even at the expense of the society they were supposed to serve. We may be reaching that point with our own military.
Mark Jaws speaks of the “noble character” of a badly wounded ex-Army captain he knows. Indeed, that is one of the wonderful/terrible things about our military today. Despite its political correctness, multiculturalism and feminism, the U.S. military is still a place where noble men—especially noble white men—can be men, can be around other men like them. Despite its disgusting kowtows to every left-wing shibboleth, the military somehow remains a place of honor and nobility and tradition. A place where a kind of comradeship can exist between men that has virtually been outlawed every place else in American society. That is what makes the military so terribly attractive to young white men. It is one of the last places where they are not belittled, not under attack, not forced to behave like emasculated, metrosexual lickspittles. That is why the U.S. military can be such a wonderful place for its members, and yet (thinking of Toynbee’s enormities), a terrible thing for our nation as a whole. Or, while wonderful in many respects, the military—if not yet an enormity—is at least a problem, for those of us who think our hyper-interventionist foreign policy is taking us down the wrong path.
Roland D. makes excellent points about the dangers of a professional military, and the advantages of conscription. But I just don’t see any way to change it for now. There is a growing sense of American omnipotence abroad in the land. And the belief that we can lead, or dominate, the world, with a military that consists of a tiny fragment of our population, is very comforting for most people. Even so, Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel, professor and strident critic of interventionism, has recommended not only returning to the draft, but also closing down the service academies, including his alma mater, West Point, to bring the nation back to a true “citizen-soldier” military, where people like Allan Wall would not be the exception, but dominant. Bacevich’s thinking is often erratic (to put it mildly), but I agree with him on this, and I’m an ex-professional soldier, myself.
Stewart W. writes:
By an interesting coincidence, I happened across the following quote today, by Lt. Col John Dean “Jeff” Cooper, USMC:
There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes, and the other is the Bill of rights.”—Major General Smedley Butler, U.S. Marine Corps 1930. I would add another reason—practice. Anyone who has ever been deeply involved in warfare knows that the only way to learn to fight is to fight. This may not be a popular view with the grass eaters, but I defy them to disprove it.
Jeff Cooper was one of the founders of modern gunfighting techniques, and started the Gunsite academy in Arizona.
I suppose you may be right, that this attitude makes it more difficult for the U.S. to awaken to the folly of our mission in Afghanistan, but I might venture that if the result is that we keep our military in top fighting form and spirit, well, at least there is a silver lining. I suspect that, over the next few decades, our armed forces will be called upon many other times, and if some of those conflicts are much more important to our true interests, at least we’ll be ready.
For those who are uncertain as to whether to call the people of Afghanistan “Afghans” or “Afghanis,” here is a simple guide:
The citizens of Afghanistan are Afghans. Similarly, it’s Afghan food, Afghan politics, and Afghan afghans. The only time to use “Afghani” is in reference to the unit of Afghan currency by that name. Afghans spend Afghanis.
James R. writes:
Subject: Our Nietzschean military
Before I start my reply, a personal aside: I served and was deployed into a combat theater (I’d rather not say which right now), though I didn’t see combat myself.
I don’t want to endorse Pentheus’ statement. But I think I have to critique your critique in response, and how it characterizes the military but, more importantly, what I infer as your implication of what the U.S. military ought to do. “Military morale remains high” in particular. I see only too alternatives to this—the military become the liberal-created caricature of the late Vietnam-era military (which was, to some extent, true), low morale with all that implies, which I think you would then criticize. “Low morale” is not a laser whose effects can be targeted, it is a general condition that becomes pervasive. Or, in one alternative to collapsing morale, perhaps you mean military units should explicitly disobey orders, rejecting the commands from the civilian authority to deploy or engage in missions. Obviously this extreme would prevent the civilian leadership from continuing the mission. But I doubt this is a precedent you would actually want to see set (Indeed, having read enough of you, I’m very confident you wouldn’t like to see this).
Probably I am taking the wrong inference from what you wrote. But in that case a clarification of just what you’d like to see American servicemen do.
Your questions are fair. Let me start by saying that when I wrote that entry I didn’t have something in mind that I was proposing. I was shaken by Pentheus’ initial comment. It opened up a vision of something terrible that I had never seen before (and Gerald M. expanded on the idea further), a vision of endless insane wars for “democracy” all over the Muslim world, with both the American military and the American civilians accepting it, and I was exploring that vision. I didn’t have a solution or counter-proposal in mind.
The problem is, how are we supposed to think about our military when it has been taken over by an insane ideology, an ideology which, as the title of this entry says, tells our fighting men to die for people who hate them? Tells our fighting men that people who hate us are our friends? Tells them that by being friendly to Afghans and other Muslims, they can turn them into liberal democrats and quasi-Americans?
And here’s my answer, and it’s contained in the question. The problem is not our military men. The problem is the civilian ideology under which they operate. It’s not our military men who need to be changed. It’s the ideology which is currently directing them that needs to be changed. The solution to what I described as the military’s Nietzschean mentality of saying Yes to every suffering, no matter how absurd, is to stop giving them absurd missions and putting them in absurd situations, as is being done now in Afghanistan.
At the same time, it is possible, as a commenter suggested, that having an all-volunteer, professional army with a very high morale and a mentality so separate and distinct from that of the rest of the population increases the problem and tends to make the military more of an instrument for bad civilian ideologies than it ought to be, while it also separates regular civilians physically and mentally from the military and makes the citizenry indifferent to the fact that we are engaged in endless war. So I think there is something to be said for bringing back the draft—not for some universal domestic service corps, but strictly for the military.
Also, I don’t agree with the suggestion someone made that we need to be fighting wars all the time in order to keep the military in shape. War is to be fought for national necessity, not for practice.
While it’s not needed for following this discussion, anyone who wants to see my ideas about the Nietzschean superman in their full context can go to this entry where I summarize Nietzsche’s philosophy in 253 words.
Diana West writes:
I agree the population isn’t touched, the casualties are numerically small, the military is a high-functioning professional army (boy, is that a bad idea for a nation that is supposed to be a democratic republic).
I agree also that because the professional military likes its budget, its missions, it thus becomes a major constituency for perpetual wars. (I’ve written elsewhere that the military has encroached on civilian powers, as well, to this end.)
But ideology has to be part of the mix to make sense of the situation, and this theory seems totally devoid of such concerns.
The “warrior culture” of the military is also the feminized culture of the military, the socially engineered culture of the military. In fact, as an institution, the military is and (post WWII) has been the cutting edge of leftist social change in this country. The most recent changes (homosexuality) in effect make the military off limits to conservative Christians (which could in the long term bring an end to our foreign adventures if backbone-of-the-army male Christians stop joining!).
You don’t rise to flag officer, I’ve been told time and again, unless you are “PC”—a Leftist. Nation-building as a concept and COIN as a strategy is Leftism. The lack of concern for personnel, the tolerance of permanent war (something MacArthur specifically warned against long ago), I submit is in great part a manifestation of the ideological aspirations and zealotry of the brass, and civilian leadership.
P.S. Also to note is the fact that while the military doesn’t suffer huge losses in personnel, its strength and weapons systems are being systematically degraded and are not really being replaced, upgraded.
P.P.S. On second thought, I might take exception to the blanket term “warrior culture” given the feminized non-warrior culture of nation-building, which takes up so much of military’s time and effort!
But it seems as if the feminized culture has been folded into the warrior culture, so that when, under feminized rules of engagement, U.S. soldiers are unnecessarily killed, their comrades and officers don’t get angry and fed-up and rebellious about the wrongness and insanity of this, but accept it as the costs of war. Is it their stoic, warrior side or their PC, feminized side that leads them to accept it?
LA to James R.:
I want to say I’m really glad you asked your critical points, because I did go out on a limb and your comment gave me the chance to explain myself better.
James R. replies:
You’re welcome, and thanks for your considered replies.
I know the idea proposed in the comment threads is for universal military service, rather than domestic “national service.” But so long as “the civilian ideology under which they operate”—under which our society operates—remains the same, any proposal for universal service will be twisted by those in charge to serve their ends. As you say “It’s the ideology which is currently directing them that needs to be changed.” Once that is done it will be possible to consider whether universal military service would be useful in maintaining a well-ordered republic. But I don’t think it would help at all to return it to one.
People might have in mind the way in which the draft prompted widespread protest against the Vietnam policies. But, perhaps because we were already a long way on the road to the blind ignavia [?] into which the nation has continued to sink, we of all people should see the attendant social calamities that got empowered then. It certainly wasn’t traditionalism. It is quite possible that a lot of this would have happened anyhow. It was the trajectory progressivism had put us on. But universal conscription neither stopped it, nor helped restore the traditional republic. Arguably because of the Boomer Generation’s response to it (widespread protest and general mayhem, with attendant debauchery), the draft accelerated this process. Which may also explain why so many on that side of things would love nothing more than the opportunity to reinstate it: they could then use it for this selfsame purpose, and also, since they are the ones who really make the rules, as long as their ideology is the one under which we operate, they will “expand the concept of service” into “national service,” corvee labor for their own ends (and paid gilded internships for their own scions). At least this is what I predict would happen.
James R. continues:
Also, there is much you said I agree with. Especially the fact that we don’t have to fight wars to keep our military in fighting shape. That’s why we have the National Training Center, for example. We have plenty of ways to train our military under combat-like conditions without sending them to kill and be killed.
I focus on replying to the things I disagree with because I’m already wordy. But I don’t want to leave the impression I disagree with everything. Far from it.
So where does this leave us? If universal service as a way of getting away from a permanent professional army and the distortions it brings to a democratic republic is not acceptable, because under the current ruling left-wing ideology, universal service will only help advance the power of the leftist ideology over the country, then what is to be done about the problem addressed in this thread? The problem addressed in this thread is (a) that we have great warriors in the professionalized U.S. armed services, who, out of warrior ethos and patriotism, are serving a left-wing, anti-American ideology in a permanent war, and (b) that we have a citizenry that doesn’t care that the military is being mis-used this way in a permanent war, because both the military and the war are distant from them and have no effect on them.
The answer seems to be that nothing can be done about that problem, short of overturning the left-wing ideology that currently rules America.
One way this could start happening, as suggested by Diana West, is that, given the homosexualization of the military that is now in progress, Christian men, the backbone of the military, stop enlisting.
But that idea only brings us back to another problem discussed here, which is that the military, notwithstanding the leftist, PC ideology that governs it, remains extremely attractive to many young men wanting to live the warrior life, a warrior life made even more appealing to them by the professional nature of the military. Thus the very people who need to refuse to serve in the military, because of its PC-ized nature, are the ones most drawn to it, because of the warrior culture that also still exists within it, alongside the PC.
These men need to undergo an “Atlas Shrugged”-type epiphany and realize that by serving in the military, notwithstanding its positive and fulfilling aspects, they are serving an ideology that is hostile to them and everything they cherish.
James R. writes:
Encouraging traditionalists, conservatives, and “conservatives” not to enlist or re-enlist under current conditions is a much better way of accomplishing the immediate goal, I think. It’s going to be difficult, but it targets an audience that should be receptive to the message. It’s still not an easy row to hoe but it is achievable and would (I think) accomplish the immediate goal.
Indeed I think it would also be a solid first step in accomplishing the larger goal. If the people who form the “backbone of the military” effectively say, “We will not sign up to serve this regime,” that would be a start at undercutting the leftist ideology itself. Indeed, if it happened it could serve as a model of non-participation and non-support that could be used in a variety of contexts to undermine the progressive ideology.
Jeff W. writes:
The Obama regime is essentially a redistributionist regime. Its agenda is to take from whites, especially white men, and redistribute to all the others. A related agenda is for insiders to grab as much boodle as possible in the process.,
It grieves Obama and his supporters to see valuable tax dollars being given to white males in the military. A more redistributionist military would consist much more of blacks, Hispanics, and women. Obama is pushing this agenda hard.
But Obama also recognizes the role that whites play in maintaining a strong fighting force. So there will continue to be white Navy SEALs, whites in all areas involving nuclear weapons, and whites in combat roles where there is a high likelihood of being killed or wounded.
That being said, Obama has a goal in view where as much as 75 percent of the military’s payroll dollars go to women and minorities. The essential warfighting roles where whites are needed are less than 10 percent of the payroll.
Mark Jaws writes:
Lots of thoughts to wade through on this excellent thread, and I must agree with those who point to the military as the last resort of the “manly white man.” Portions of the military are indeed the only place where a white man can bond with his true peers, and, more importantly, learn valuable lessons in teamwork, mission accomplishment, and gain combat experience. As many in this forum know, I spent 20 years in Army Military Intelligence, and another 15 years as a defense contractor. I know the military very well. My son in law is a jet pilot in the Marines. He also tells me a lot. Thus, given my understanding of the Army, I must disagree with those who would like to discourage our conservative white men from joining. That would be a tragic mistake, even when one considers the madness of our policy makers. Rather, we should encourage our cream of the crop to join the RIGHT portion of the military.
For example, there are three main groupings in the Army: (1) combat and combat service support, (2) combat units, and (3) elite units. Given the very large tail-to-tooth ratio of the U.S. Army, there are far more support units and personnel than combat soldiers. It is in these support units (e.g., medical, administrative, military intelligence, signals, etc) that you will find the preponderance of blacks and/or females. In fact the vast majority of combat service support units are overwhelmingly black. So much so, that the old XVIII Airborne Corps Support Command (“2nd COSCOM”) at Fort Bragg used to be known in the 1980s as “Botswanaland.” The warrior ethic in these units is very low, and the level of PC-infestation is high. This is the portion of the military to be avoided at all costs by white conservatives (except intelligence, where females abound).
On the second tier are the combat units—“straight leg” infantry (non-airborne), armor, artillery, aviation, and air defense (although some would consider air defense combat support). Sanity still prevails in these units and it is here where you feel you are in the American Army, rather than the Army of the Dominican Republic. A young man can “soldier” in these units and be challenged.
Finally, at the top of the heap are the elite units, and I would include many—if not most—of the airborne units of the 82nd Airborne Division. Of course, I am speaking primarily of Green Berets and Special Forces. While there is a fair amount of Hispanics in these units, the complexion of unit personnel resembles that of a Tea Party gathering. These men truly are the best of the best, and it is exactly here where the warrior ethic is pervasive. These units are simply the American Valhalla in which the long tentacles of PC are chopped off, and the liberal beast repelled (almost completely). And, no surprise, it is here where the politics are radically conservative.
So folks, be careful what you advocate. We do not want a whole generation of conservative white men not knowing how to deal with weapons or function effectively as a team. One reason why my chapter of the Tea Party is so active and effective is that the vast majority of our members are active and former military, and we work together very well. We never want to lose that experience and capability—even if many of our men are fodder for a poorly conceived policy.
“These units are simply the American Valhalla in which the long tentacles of PC are chopped off, and the liberal beast repelled (almost completely). And, no surprise, it is here where the politics are radically conservative.”
But do not these same elite units operate under suicidal rules of engagement and cooperate with Afghan “allies” who are really their enemies, and all the rest of it?
Mark Jaws replies:
But do not these same elite units operate under suicidal rules of engagement and cooperate with Afghan “allies” who are really their enemies, and all the rest of it?
Dunno. My Special Forces friend left for the day and I will ask him when he returns on Monday. He has been to Afghanistan a few times.
Howard Sutherland writes:
Very interesting thread overall! Diana West’s observation that the relentless social engineering of the U.S. armed forces (feminizing, homosexualizing) may eventually drive away the white American men who have always been the backbone of the American military bears thinking about. That is a possibility, one with several negative consequences, but there is also something to what other commenters write about the military’s attraction to such men, as it is one place where men can still be men. (Aside: Just how true is that still, today in 2011? I last served actively in 1995 and already we—meaning fighter pilots in still all-male and (among pilots, anyway) over 99 percent white fighter squadrons—had to be pretty careful about saying anything other than platitudes about racial and ethnic minorities and women of any shade.)
What is likely to happen is what has been happening for a long time: white and other men with the warrior spirit will continue to join up, wanting to be real warriors. But because of the bureaucracy, careerism, and pervasive PC, most of those warriors will not stay for a full career and will leave disillusioned. And a politicized and affirmative-action based (sexually as well as racially) promotion system will cull almost all of the few white warriors who do try to go the distance. My favorite thought experiment is to ask how the Army’s most capable combat commander of World War II, George Patton, would fare in the U.S. Army today. Not only do I think today’s Army would find a way to deny him a commission, to say nothing of general’s stars, a white boy of his temperament would not get appointed to West Point in the first place! Even in the U.S. Army of 1941, America’s being pulled into a world war was the only thing that kept that phenomenally skillful general from retiring as a colonel. Anyway, the Georges the Army wants today are Casey’s.
With warriors screened out, people who rise to the most senior grades will be political toadies, as most are today. What I really fear, and recent press stories make it seem so, is that the senior enlisted grades are becoming as politically poisoned as the senior commissioned grades. Since staff NCOs and chief petty officers are the real backbone of the military, that is as disastrous a development as the degradation of the senior officer ranks. Good sergeants-major and chiefs have always screened the troops from the worst nonsense from out-of-touch senior officers. A PC cadre may have neither the inclination nor the guts to do that.
There is truth in what Diana West says about the “leftism” of today’s generals and admirals, but it isn’t for the most part a leftism of Bolshie convictions. (At least I hope it isn’t!) I think it is the default position of people—products of our liberal society to begin with—who get with the program to move up in the system and execute the missions they are assigned. With rare exceptions, these are not people who question the political direction given them—if they were, they wouldn’t be where they are. They aren’t usually people who were fascinated by poli-sci and economics in college; they are more likely to have studied engineering. A very worthy course of study, but not always conducive to thinking about social and geopolitical issues. Nor are most officers given to parsing constitutional questions about when a president is authorized to commit armed forces to action. Most are technicians, which may help explain their ability to be so enthusiastic and dedicated about missions we look at and think are both insane and unconstitutional. It’s someone else’s job to think about that stuff!
Unfortunately, and to me this is the most worrying of all, starving the U.S. armed forces of white American men with the warrior spirit would not bring the PC insanity to a stop. There is an unlimited reservoir of manpower available to recruiters, and the services have already shown themselves more than happy to tap it. Going back at least to Clinton, one of the many ways American presidents have debased the coinage of U.S. citizenship is by making it ever more easily available to foreign nationals in return for enlisting. GW Bush, acting as always to benefit his beloved Mexicans, effectively ended any waiting period. And anyone who thinks that quota-driven recruiters are checking very hard to make sure enlistee mercenaries are in fact legal residents of the United States is very naive. In the absence of willing American recruits, the government will fill the ranks with mestizos who will jump at the opportunity—and who will bring all their relatives here and never go home. At a stroke, and I can’t imagine Barack Hussein Obama’s objecting to any of these, that would (i) increase third-world immigration beyond its already unconscionable levels, (ii) grossly reduce the level of competence in the ranks and—most ominously to me—(iii) greatly expand an already material mercenary element in the U.S. armed forces with no particular reservations about using force on Americans, should some future commander-in-chief order it. HRS
James R. writes:
Mark Jaws makes some very good points but they are wrapped around the fatal weakness of continuing what you see as the current flaw: serving as the cutting edge of the Progressive regime. Doing as he suggests leaves us back at square one, with no solution.
Sure, PC might be right out [?] in those specific spheres. My uncle was both a Ranger and a Special Forces officer. Because of his VERY un-PC nature, he couldn’t get promoted beyond lieutenant colonel (and his career ended almost 20 years ago, things are worse now). We seem to have this idea that “Going Galt,” as you suggest, won’t involve sacrifices and tradeoffs for us, and that if it does, we shouldn’t do it.
Yes, those involved will lose some valuable things. But the alternative is to keep going on the path we’re going on. If we’re not willing to pay this sort of price—very small in the great scheme of things (we’re not talking of engaging in civil war, of revolt, armed resistance, and the like. But simple non-participation and non-support), what do we expect?
Again, on his specific points, Mark Jaws is right. But his position does have that fatal weakness. Unless his alternative is that people use the weapon skills and teamwork against our current fellow countrymen in an armed uprising against them. Which I don’t see happening and which I think would be a tragedy. Mencius Moldbug has mused wistfully about the prospects of a military coup in the United States but I don’t think you do. [LA replies: of course not. I’ve never suggested anything like that.]
So if this weapon’s training isn’t for that, it’s only for continuing the mission as determined by our progressive civilian leadership.
Here I should note that I supported both missions, Afghanistan and Iraq, though now how they’ve evolved, e.g., nation building in Afghanistan. If people did what Diana West suggested and I support, it would end our ability to continue those efforts. Again, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make, because I do think that if the people that progressives rely upon to fight their wars simply stopped, it would be a fatal blow to that ideology. What are these people fighting for? Right now they’re fighting on behalf of—and carrying out the orders of—people who explicitly hate them, hate their way of life, hate the warrior spirit, but nevertheless use them as a tool for what amounts to progressive imperialism, “global nation building.” People progressives hate should not let themselves continue to serve as the mailed fist of progressivism simply because they get weapons training and fighting experience from doing their dirty work.
Allen G. writes:
You said that Nietzsche’s superman “says Yes to every suffering, no matter how absurd and meaningless, and grows stronger in the very act of affirming the absurd.” Nietzsche doesn’t talk about the military per se, but about life, and the military is an extension of life. The basic Nietzsche tenet is that many aspects of life are painful, absurd, and awful, but you say yes to life despite this. You get stronger and wiser; you overcome. It is a state of mind that gives you the strength to go on. The most famous aphorism: “what does not kill you makes you stronger,” is a call to the human spirit. You do not deny objective truth in life.
Nietzsche said that Germans foolishly believed that they had a superior culture to France because they had defeated the French militarily.
Thank you for this excellent thread. I have learned a lot from it. With regard to traditional Southern white enlistment, I suspect that unemployment rates, both now and in the past, have had a significant impact on enlistment from this part of the country. Could poor employment prospects be a part of the long-standing tradition of enlistment coming from Southern states? Would a truly prosperous and more urbanized (i.e., transformed) South see a concomitant reduction in enlistment by whites? I don’t doubt this military tradition of origination is a long and real cultural phenomenon, but I wonder what fundamental role economics may be at play. I am not a Southerner myself, but I have family who fought at Gettysburg—they didn’t have to travel far to get there.
Among the many excellent comments, this one by Gerald M. stood out for me:
And I use the term “old-fashioned” deliberately and with respect, for the modern army has forgotten—or would like to forget—that the vast majority of our fighting men in the past were not professionals, but volunteers for a specific conflict, or conscripts, or militiamen, who usually had a healthy skepticism of “lifers,” and often a strong dislike for the military in general. Their attitude was, “Let’s do what needs to be done, and go home.”
I did not know this contrast existed. It reminded me of exactly what many on the left and the right have been saying for eons about our politicians: No More Lifers.
Gerald M. writes:
I don’t think it’s a good idea for whites to stop serving in the military. It’s the Eloi/Morlock thing you talk about from time to time. If the military becomes dominated by homosexuals and minorities, the Morlocks will have the biggest and the best guns and many more whites will slide into Eloi mentality. Also, the lessons and experiences young white men receive in the military—as Mark Jaws pointed out—are invaluable. They may be the difference between our survival and extinction, when crunch time comes. Also, to contradict (a little) what I said yesterday, it’s just possible that, instead of becoming one of Toynbee’s enormities, the military might become an instrument of national regeneration. It happened in the late Third Century Roman Empire. It happened in Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Yes, I know these regenerations were only partial or deeply flawed, but historical analogies are never perfect.
Maybe my outlook on this has been OBE’d (overcome by events), as we used to say in the Army. I’m sure the “my skin is my country” folks would say I’m an idiot. But that’s the way I see it.
The meaning of Gerald’s last paragraph is unclear to me.
David B. writes:
Howard Sutherland’s comment about recruiters filling the ranks with Mestizos is something I’ve been thinking about for some time. Would the politicians be especially upset if conservative-leaning white men stopped joining up? They may hope feminizing and homosexualizing the armed forces will drive white men out. Mercenaries from south of the border would take their place. Liberals and neocons will trot out a new version of the “doing work Americans won’t do” slogan.
Around a decade ago, I think a neocon writer suggested the formation of an American Foreign Legion with U.S. citizenship the reward for joining up. I don’t remember the name, but I seem to recall an article on this subject.
Gerald M. writes:
To clarify the meaning of the last paragraph of my previous comment, I was referring to the white nationalists who think every institution in America has become so rotten it must be destroyed. They no longer think of themselves as Americans, only as whites—“my skin is my country.” They embrace Lenin’s dictum, “The worse, the better,” and rejoice in our national calamities—like the financial meltdown in 2008—as bringing the day of reckoning, when whites will inevitably triumph, that much closer. Their attitudes are often seen in the comment threads at American Renaissance and Alternative right. Most of them advocate strongly against military service for whites, and think whites who serve are either chumps or traitors.
Paul K. writes:
Very interesting discussion.
In answer to David B., it’s Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow and prominent neocon Max Boot who has been pushing the idea of an American Foreign Legion with citizenship as its reward. Here’s an article on the subject by him.
Marcus Epstein addresses the implications of this idea at Vdare.
The American Foreign Legion with U.S. citizenship the reward for joining up is in place right now:
Francisco Resendiz enlisted in the U.S. Army three years ago, returning last month from a year in Afghanistan where, as an engineer, he cleared ground and built roads for new troop bases.
Democracy as a combat sport??
He did it all for a country that was not officially his own.
The 29-year-old Resendiz was one of 47 military members who became U.S. citizens at a special Armed Forces Day naturalization ceremony Thursday at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton.
The new citizens, who were born in 19 different countries, were naturalized through a law that expedites naturalization for military members during a time of armed conflict.
Nearly 70,000 men and women have become citizens through this law since September 2001, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Capt. John Ring, USS Nimitz executive officer, gave the keynote address. He emphasized that the diversity in the room brought new perspectives to armed services and new understanding. He called democracy a combat sport and encouraged the 47 to get involved.
Has anyone mentioned the connection between the popularity of football, or between football and war? Maybe we see all this war as some kind of sport. Spreading democracy by combat is a thrilling, dangerous game.
JC in Houston writes:
If it recall it was the execrable Max Boot who suggested incorporating foreign mercenaries into the armed forces.
Roland D. writes:
Legions are the tools of empires, not republics. We’re moving down the path from dysfunctional republic to democratic tyranny, and thence to incompetent empire. I’m skeptical whether this slide can be arrested, but forming legions isn’t going to help matters.
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Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 18, 2011 08:55 PM | Send