10/6/16

The separation of the US military and American civilians

In our last post ('our' in the editorial sense) we saw that General James Mattis had some interesting observations regarding the relationship of our modern military, and the civilians who form the nation our military defends.

Mattis, along with Kori Schake,  are both involved with a think tank out of Stanford. They have co-edited a book on this subject, Warriors and Citizens: American Views of Our Military.

Our military has been increasingly disconnected from the civilian population - or vice versa.

There are a number of articles and more scholarly studies on the phenomenon.

Here is a particularly good article from Time magazine, published a few years back, on November 10 ... which is the both the day before Veterans' Day, and the anniversary of the founding of the United States Marine Corps:

An Army Apart: The Widening Military-Civilian Gap

An excerpt:

“There’s no challenge for the 99% of the American people who are not involved in the military,” says Army veteran Ron Capps, who served as an intelligence analyst in Afghanistan. “They don’t lose when soldiers die overseas, they’re not being forced to pay, for the wars, and there’s no sense among the vast population of what we’re engaged in.”

and another:

More evidence of the military’s growing separateness: it is becoming a family trade. Mullen has had two children on active duty. His successor, Army General Martin Dempsey, has had three. General Ray Odierno, the new Army chief of staff, has a son who lost his left arm to an RPG in Iraq in 2004. Of course, there are other ways of looking at it. “It is truly inspiring to see the same commitment to serve this nation passing to a new generation of leaders who will follow in the footsteps of their fathers,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said as Mullen handed off the baton to Dempsey Sept. 30. Fair enough. But what about the rest of us?

I don't know about the rest of  you, but our family has served the nation for at least four generations. We had people in World War I, not only in the US armed forces, but the Canadian as well. Both of my parents served as Marines in World War II, and my father served in Korea, retiring just before the buildup in Vietnam. Then I did a 20 year jolt in USAF. And now, we have two grandchildren serving as Marines. The military is very real to us.

Admiral Mike Mullen was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time the article was written:

“I have been struck in my travels at the lack of what I would call in-depth understanding of what we’ve been through,” Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told Time before he retired last month after 43 years in uniform. It’s almost like the American Foreign Legion. “We come from fewer and fewer places — we’ve BRAC’ed our way out of significant portions of the country,” Mullen said, referring to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission process that has shuttered hundreds of military posts across wide swaths of the nation. “Long term, if the military drifts away from its people in this country, that is a catastrophic outcome we as a country can’t tolerate.”

He calls it pretty well. Almost all Americans I know are pretty much clueless about the military. "An American Foreign Legion ..." Mullen called it.

He's right.

That doesn't stop our fellow Americans from getting all teary-eyed and waving a few flags. Look at the furor over the Kaepernick Kaper. Most people will tell you that Kaepernick is showing great disrespect for the military with his protest, while I'm wondering exactly when the national anthem became so overbearingly militaristic. I thought it was a national anthem, not a military march or hymn. I also thought serving in the armed forces of these United States was all about 'protecting and defending' the Constitutional values that make America so unique. Isn't that a major part of the oaths of enlistment and commissioning? You know, stuff like freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Not freedom to think, speak, and worship in a manner approved by self-anointed TrueAmericanPatriots™, the majority of whom have never served themselves, except perhaps at an approved church potluck.

The outrage over this 'disrespect,' however, is superficial at best, and completely disingenuous at worst. The same people who piss and moan over 'disrespect' don't know all the words to the national anthem, and think for the most part that the last words are 'Play Ball!'

Their 'respect' for the military consists of fidgeting through a couple of minutes of music while waiting for a ballgame to begin.

And that's as far as it goes.

Unless you've got some skin in the game.

Most Americans do not.