Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day reflection

Arlington National Cemetary photo by Loren Gul. I have two uncles buried in that place.

I was very struck by this from Chuck Blanchard:

Sadly, most Americans have lost touch with the military. Joining the Army, Marines, Navy or Air Force is something that others do.

Blanchard goes on to pay tribute to four fallen friends, honorable soldiers and a civilian.

The military seems very far from me indeed -- and that also seems a little strange. In my parents' generation, three uncles and one aunt served in what I was raised to call "The War." One uncle did not come back, so I never knew him. Last year I searched through family graves and found ancestors who served in US wars all the way back to the Revolution.

But in my generation, only one person in the family served, partly because we ran to girls. But also, this happened because most of us no longer believed in what the country was doing with its military. The only age peers I knew (apart from one cousin) who served in my youth (mid-1960s) were guys who had unlucky draft numbers. Though loyal to their buddies, they did not believe in the war they were required to be part of and were just glad to get out alive.

No wonder so many Americans are out of touch with the military. None of our wars since "The War" appear to have been unequivocally necessary or just, though some of them ended fast enough so the public never formed a strong opinion.

But now the public does have a strong opinion; it is time to get the current war over with! And so we get the spectacle of a President and his preferred successor, a war hero himself, trying to a block a veterans' benefits bill because if soldiers can get government help when they get out, they won't re-enlist.

McCain said he opposed Webb's measure because it would give the same benefit to everyone regardless of how many times he or she has enlisted. He said he feared that would depress reenlistments by those wanting to attend college after only a few years in uniform.

Associated Press,
May 26, 2008

That's pretty clear; they'll only stay around to fight if they have no alternative. Military service has become profoundly uninspiring to most of us.

In the past, people in this country have been willing to die for the country because they believed that wars were essential to our survival. Gar Lipow makes the case in Grist that reducing the influence of the military within our society has become a prerequisite to our survival in the era of excess carbon of the atmosphere and global warming.

The U.S. military push for coal based synthetic fuels reminds us that in the long run, solving climate chaos is incompatible with an aggressive military policy. Solutions will ultimately have to draw on traditional American virtues of thrift and cleverness, not the domination and power expressed in the new U.S. Air Force motto: Air Force Above All ...

Militarization and aggression compete with sustainability, and all progressive causes, for mindshare. They encourage fear of external enemies, a kind of constant terror that can be exploited to fight or distort any progressive gain.

This is a "go read it all" article.

1 comment:

joared said...

There's certainly little question in my mind that "wars" fought since WWII have seemed quite different, not generating over-whelming public backing, not inciting a similar sense of patriotism as that "Big One" for a variety of reasons.

Also worth thinking about are cautions from, I believe it was former President General D. D. Eisenhower who admonished the American people to beware of the potential for and possible consequences from over-development of the military complex.

The approach to holding our servicemen hostage for medical care is nothing short of criminal. I'm already highly incensed about the military foot-dragging in seeing there is appropriate adequate care for those with PTSD.

That said, I honor our service personnel as I note in my blog posts Memorial and Veterans Days.
We do continue to need a defensive force, unfortunately. How do we get peace throughout the world? Is it possible?

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