the cult of the uniform
November 10, 2014 11:18 AM   Subscribe

You don’t protect my freedom: Our childish insistence on calling soldiers heroes deadens real democracy
Wars that are not heroic have no real heroes, except for the people who oppose those wars. Far from being the heroes of recent wars, American troops are among their victims. No rational person can blame the soldier, the Marine, the airman, or the Navy man for the stupid and destructive foreign policy of the U.S. government, but calling them “heroes,” and settling for nothing less, makes honest and critical conversations about American foreign policy less likely to happen. If all troops are heroes, it doesn’t make much sense to call their mission unnecessary and unjust...

Calling all cops and troops heroes insults those who actually are heroic – the soldier who runs into the line of fire to protect his division, the police officer who works tirelessly to find a missing child – by placing them alongside the cops who shoot unarmed teenagers who have their hands in the air, or the soldier who rapes his subordinate.

It also degrades the collective understanding of heroism to the fantasies of high-budget, cheap-story action movies. The American conception of heroism seems inextricably linked to violence; not yet graduated from third-grade games of cops and robbers. Explosions and smoking guns might make for entertaining television, but they are not necessary, and more and more in modern society, not even helpful in determining what makes a hero...

The assignment of heroism, exactly like the literary construct, might have more to do with the assignment of villainy than the actual honoring of “heroes.” Every hero needs a villain. If the only heroes are armed men fighting the country’s wars on drugs and wars in the Middle East, America’s only villains are criminals and terrorists. If servants of the poor, sick and oppressed are the heroes, then the villains are those who oppress, profit from inequality and poverty, and neglect the sick. If that is the real battle of heroism versus villainy, everyone is implicated, and everyone has a far greater role than repeating slogans, tying ribbons and placing stickers on bumpers.
*William Astore - “Our American Heroes”: Why It’s Wrong to Equate Military Service with Heroism
*Michael Moore - Those Who Say 'I Support the Troops' Really Don't
*William Deresiewicz - An Empty Regard: America's Sentimental Regard for the Military

Canadian Dimension - The NHL and the New Canadian Militarism: National Game, International Shame
Ours is not to talk about actual details of Canada’s military engagements, it is simply to “support the troops.” Those who question this mantra are told that while one may or may not agree with the particular deployments of the Canadian Armed Forces, we all have a responsibility to support the men and women who put their bodies on the line for us.

But the logic does not hold. Uncritically supporting the troops is a tacit support of their deployments especially since, in the first place, that support is premised on the notion that they are protecting us. That is, it requires that we believe that the troops’ particular deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Haiti, Mali and elsewhere are making us safer — a claim that is not at all self-evident. Moreover, the military celebrations at NHL games themselves make no effort to separate the troops from their missions, and it needs to be added that there are plenty of other Canadians — aid workers, doctors, nurses, activists — who also put their bodies on the line doing work that doesn’t involve killing, injuring or torturing anyone. They receive no similar tributes at hockey games.
*No, thanks: Stop saying “support the troops” -
"Compulsory patriotism does nothing for soldiers who risk their lives, but props up those who profit from war"

*Inside America’s militarized mind: How propaganda and perpetual war have poisoned our imaginations -
"I’m not saying we should treat our troops with disdain, but as our history has shown us, genuflecting before them is not a healthy sign of respect. Consider it a sign as well that we really are all government issue now."

*Noam Chomsky on propaganda
posted by flex (221 comments total) 163 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've already gotten shit from a Facebook acquaintance for posting the main "you don't protect my freedom" article on my own page yesterday. I thought the fact that he was jumping up my ass about how we shouldn't criticize the military or the police too harshly because some of them are decent people and they're all so brave really highlighted exactly why I posted the article in the first place...
posted by palomar at 11:22 AM on November 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Why do you hate America?

hamburger

Seriously, I wish this was acceptable public discourse. I think one of the real tragedies of Political Correctness is that it's no longer acceptable to call anybody out for anything.
posted by spacewrench at 11:25 AM on November 10, 2014 [24 favorites]


Calling all cops and troops heroes insults those who actually are heroic – the soldier who runs into the line of fire to protect his division, the police officer who works tirelessly to find a missing child – by placing them alongside the cops who shoot unarmed teenagers who have their hands in the air, or the soldier who rapes his subordinate.

It also degrades the collective understanding of heroism to the fantasies of high-budget, cheap-story action movies. The American conception of heroism seems inextricably linked to violence; not yet graduated from third-grade games of cops and robbers. Explosions and smoking guns might make for entertaining television, but they are not necessary, and more and more in modern society, not even helpful in determining what makes a hero.
So not even "those who actually are heroic" are real heroes. I wish it surprised me more to see Salon arguing against itself in consecutive paragraphs.
posted by Etrigan at 11:26 AM on November 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


I think one of the real tragedies of Political Correctness is that it's no longer acceptable to call anybody out for anything.

What universe do you live in?
posted by Aizkolari at 11:28 AM on November 10, 2014 [56 favorites]


Stanley Hauerwas, a professor of divinity studies at Duke whom Time called “America’s best theologian,” has suggested that, given the radical pacifism of Jesus Christ, American churches should do all they can to discourage its young congregants from joining the military.

Unitarian Universalists, by the way, are pretty good on this front.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:28 AM on November 10, 2014 [27 favorites]


What universe do you live in?
The one where police unions and bosses stand firmly behind every "bad apple" while the bodies are still cooling, and then urge everyone to "look forward, not back" when the weeks-suspension-without-pay and mild wrist-slaps have been meted out.
posted by spacewrench at 11:31 AM on November 10, 2014 [23 favorites]


So not even "those who actually are heroic" are real heroes.

I think you're conflating those confronting violence with those meting it out.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:33 AM on November 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Personally I've always said "support our veterans" in response to the jingoists. Also I try to make it clear that the mission is often unjust, and that requires more moral courage and integrity from our troops than a just war does.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:34 AM on November 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


"look forward, not back" when the weeks-suspension-without-pay and mild wrist-slaps have been meted out.

If only the tortures got that severe of a penalty. Or is someone other than Obama using the "look forward, not back" line to describe lawbreakers in positions of power?
posted by el io at 11:35 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wow. I wonder what the point of this is? I’m more primed than most to agree with this since I think militarism in all its forms is one of the biggest forces in destroying culture and society, but even the most simplistic analysis of people who are in the military should tell you that they are not the people who decide policy, policies which allow for the brutality that is not officially condoned and the brutality that is in the job description. The violence people in the military are subject to – physical and psychological – is never adequately treated or compensated. Why on earth would one put one’s energy into fighting this particular fight? There is so much to hate on when it comes to the military – including how enlisted people are treated. The last thing we should be spending time on is undermining people who are on the front lines. To say nothing of the lack of real choices available to so many people in the military. You can critique the violence they perpetrate without going along this particular road.
posted by latkes at 11:37 AM on November 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


American and British (and Dutch) troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq may have acted heroically on an individual level, but of course since they were fighting illegal and immoral wars they were still servicing evil. The glorification of soldiers in modern life is a way to avoid looking too closely at the idea that our countries may actually be the baddies.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:38 AM on November 10, 2014 [72 favorites]


Try calling soldiers government employees in a room full of right wingers if you want to generate an instant lynch mob.
posted by benzenedream at 11:38 AM on November 10, 2014 [88 favorites]


I thought the fact that he was jumping up my ass about how we shouldn't criticize the military or the police too harshly because some of them are decent people and they're all so brave really highlighted exactly why I posted the article in the first place...

Wait, you're assuming these type of folks on facebook would RTFA? That was your second mistake, your first was in thinking they'd grok the content or give it a fair shake by viewing it without their Red, White, and Blue tinted fighter pilot helmet visors.

That said, brave person who posted this article on your facebook feed...

...you da real MVP.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:39 AM on November 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Was it David Cross who said that if someone sends a kindergarten class into a burning building, we have to be allowed more choices than calling them tiny heroes and "not supporting kindergartners"?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:40 AM on November 10, 2014 [108 favorites]


latkes: I've always heard the refrain "Support our troops" in a context of the latest military adventure the US was embarking on. It is in this context that any critique of the latest military adventure is attacked as treason for not "supporting our troops". I think "Support our veterans" would service the ideals you espouse without the "Support our troops" mantra being an excuse to try to silence dissent for potentially illegal and immoral wars.

The thing is, the US doesn't have a history of righteous military interventions (for the last 50+ years). So all the troops who signed up for military service did this with the knowledge of what our military actually did. I think its fair to shoulder some responsibility on them - they are not protecting our country, they are invading other countries. (Yeah, I'll give some slack to those that signed up after 9-11, but not those that signed up after we decided to invade Iraq in reaction to 9-11).
posted by el io at 11:44 AM on November 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


Wait, you're assuming these type of folks on facebook would RTFA?

Yeah, my Facebook friends usually do RTFA... I'm pretty picky about who I friend on social media. The guy who ranted at me gave me something like latkes's post up there, just with more vehemence... but as with latkes's post, from my friend there were no suggestions about what we can say, where we can say it, what's "acceptable". Just, don't talk about it, it's bad. That's even less helpful than the original criticism, it's a silencing tactic.
posted by palomar at 11:44 AM on November 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Every hero needs a villain.

Homer might disagree. (Or at the very least have a more nuanced view of the situation.)

troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq may have acted heroically on an individual level, but of course since they were fighting illegal and immoral wars they were still servicing evil.

Up to a point. I was from day one and still am against western involvement in either of those places. That said, I think there are plenty of locals over there who need killing, and badly. I just don't think it's our responsibility (or even our right) to do the killing. Plus we're not very good at it, not in the current iteration of warfare.

As to the article, I'd probably read more of and enthuse more over it if not for the race clause in the opening sentence. One cause at a time, please.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:44 AM on November 10, 2014


The thing is, the US doesn't have a history of righteous military interventions (for the last 50+ years). So all the troops who signed up for military service did this with the knowledge of what our military actually did.

I think this way overestimates the number of people who have any idea what the US has been up to overseas for most of its history. Like, astoundingly so.

Every hero needs a villain.

Homer might disagree. (Or at the very least have a more nuanced view of the situation.)


You know that hero does not today mean anything like what it meant in Homer's day. Stop being purposefully obtuse.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:48 AM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Every hero needs a villain.

Homer might disagree.


No, as I recall he was quite fond of Frank Grimes.
posted by Aizkolari at 11:49 AM on November 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


I consider military members heroes, because they have willingly volunteered to put their life on the line to protect me and my family from attack. They aren't always used for that purpose, but they have signed on as willing. That is a heroic act in my book.

Now, that said people are complex. Holding someone up as a hero can lead to all kinds of bad places. Look at Penn State. So, I try and keep a balanced view on this. I'm willing to be critical of all members of the military when they deserve it, that I have chosen to default towards honoring and respecting them with the word hero doesn't hold me back from it.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:50 AM on November 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


Salon trying to horn in on Slate's liberal contrarianism market I see.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:50 AM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


The last thing we should be spending time on is undermining people who are on the front lines.

I don't know, I think we've come to a place where we should be able to have an honest discourse on the topic of are the people in our [volunteer] military necessarily, and even by definition, heroes.

Don't get me wrong, one of the first comments I made on this site was with regards to the value in honoring of US military gravesites but I think it's unfair to not consider the fact that we may be guilty of perpetuating a generation of enlisted men and women who, if they had more options or a better education or understanding of global (or local for that matter) politics that, with 20/20 hindsight a la Vietnam perhaps, might say something along the lines of "I was misled"*.

On preview:

I think this way overestimates the number of people who have any idea what the US has been up to overseas for most of its history. Like, astoundingly so.

Which is exactly why it should be discussed, or at least approachable, lest we continue on down the road of ignorance for our, again totally-volunteer-if-not-always-the-class-of-folks-with-the-best-education-or-economic-options, military?

Just, don't talk about it, it's bad. That's even less helpful than the original criticism, it's a silencing tactic

Yep, totally agree.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:51 AM on November 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


To a degree, this trend, which in my mind includes singing "GBA" in the 7th inning of the world series (ugh) and singling out uniformed service-people on airplanes and all of the things like that, is related to the awful experience that soldiers returning from Viet Nam faced, and the 'guilt' that that generation has placed upon the US to treat soldiers with more respect than those were treated.
I hate it, but I kinda get it.
I wish it would stop, because it's not very far from the type of glorification and romanticism of the military that lead to the horrendous losses of that war a century ago.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:53 AM on November 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


So all the troops who signed up for military service did this with the knowledge of what our military actually did.

A family member/wife of a veteran who spent way too many months in Vietnam said of his decision to join the military that "it was the best deal he could find." Joining the military isn't necessarily an ideological decision.
posted by Gymnopedist at 11:53 AM on November 10, 2014 [35 favorites]


... one of the real tragedies of Political Correctness is that it's no longer acceptable to call anybody out for anything.

"Political correctness" is right-spectrum code for "Liberal thought policing."

This is conservative thought-policing. (Note the small-'c'.)
posted by lodurr at 11:53 AM on November 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


Ask Pat Tillman's brother what "I support the troops" means. (Sorry it's a truthdig link, but that's where he posted it.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:54 AM on November 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


the soldier, the Marine, the airman, or the Navy man 

*sigh*
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:54 AM on November 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


Which is exactly why it should be discussed, or at least approachable, lest we continue on down the road of ignorance for our, again totally-volunteer-if-not-always-the-class-of-folks-with-the-best-education-or-economic-options, military?

Yes? I don't know why you seemingly think we disagree on that; I was responding to the idea that folks who sign up for military service these days do it knowing full well what kind of bullshit their predecessors have been used for, which I don't think is true.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:54 AM on November 10, 2014


they have willingly volunteered to put their life on the line to protect me and my family from attack.

But that isn't true. They've volunteered to be sent wherever politicians find it expedient to send them, which almost never (in recent history at least) involves protecting you or your family from anything. They are willing to surrender their own moral judgment to the judgment of a group of people who have, frankly speaking, demonstrated time and again that they have no real moral judgment themselves.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:55 AM on November 10, 2014 [82 favorites]


I consider military members heroes, because they have willingly volunteered to put their life on the line to protect me and my family from attack. They aren't always used for that purpose, but they have signed on as willing. That is a heroic act in my book.

Except the military hasn't used soldiers in that capacity for 70 years. They signed up to do what the military told them to do. And anyone who has been paying the slightest attention for the last twenty years knows that the military is going to tell them to go protect American economic interests abroad, often at the expense of the indigenous population.

Also, when I turned 18, I became a (semi-compulsory) member of the Selective Service. Though my phone has yet to ring, I signed up, so I'll happily accept my kudos for heroism.
posted by Mayor West at 11:55 AM on November 10, 2014 [48 favorites]


How exactly do servicevolk "defend our freedom"?
posted by lodurr at 11:56 AM on November 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


My definition of a hero:

Someone who does the right thing in a dangerous or risky situation, who would not have gotten any blame had they simply walked away.

In other words, if you sign up for a dangerous or risky job, doing that job may be brave, it may be bold, it may be courageous, but it is not heroic.

In the context of Police and the Armed Forces, the ones decorated for going above and beyond the call of duty (those who could have walked away) are the heroes among them.
posted by chimaera at 11:57 AM on November 10, 2014 [20 favorites]


... I mean, I get that that's what we say, and that's what a lot of them sign up for. But how does what they actually do, in any way, "defend our freedom"?
posted by lodurr at 11:57 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I grew up on military bases. I'd say most people who join the military voluntarily do it for the paycheck, career security, opportunity to get out of their dead-end hometown and see the world, etc. They don't do it because they want to fight wars or protect our freedom. Of course, the whole point of basic training is to turn those bored, uninspired kids into fighters, and that is something that we seem to be scarily good it.

Chew on that conservatives who claim government can't do anything competently.
posted by COD at 11:58 AM on November 10, 2014 [26 favorites]


The current state of affairs is a huge propaganda win for the Right that they've been working on for generations. The core concept is blurring the lines between military action and military members.

It starts in the years after Vietnam, with inflation in the public memory of how much shit participating soldiers endured after they returned. There were isolated incidents, but we've been implanted with false memories that the public was lined up to hock loogies on returning soldiers after they stepped off planes.

The next major conflict was Gulf War One. The "Support Our Troops" stuff starts almost immediately. The public loves a safe war, so it rallies around this idea. Of course, conscripted troops fighting and losing for a nebulous cause are much different from volunteers fighting for a stated objective.

Between the two conflicts and continuing to today, working-class opportunities have deteriorated to the point that many people see the military as a career choice. In an earlier time, many of them would have gone on to solid jobs that no longer exist. The consequence is that most people have friends and relatives who are/were career military, making the military personal instead of an outside force.

Politicians and the complacent parts of the media set up a straw man argument, starting with Gulf War I, that criticizing US military action was maligning the actual people in the military. "Fighting for your freedom" etc. Emotion won over logic, and it stuck.

We're at the point now that any criticism of the military has to be prefaced with some overblown professing of love and appreciation for the "troops." Even liberals feel obligated to give praise to the people in the military. Otherwise, they'll be dirty commies who totally spat on your uncle when he got off the plane and hope your kid in Afghanistan gets maimed for his sins.

Of course, the truth is that the folks in the military aren't heroes. Most of them simply looked at a dearth of opportunity and decided that they'd do whatever was asked of them for a regular paycheck-- shielded from the uglier parts of the job by the propaganda machine that came before them. But the popular perception has created an environment that stifles discussion of what we should be doing with our forces, and encourages that institutional atrocities that are a byproduct of unregulated warfare.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:59 AM on November 10, 2014 [53 favorites]


I've always heard the refrain "Support our troops" in a context of the latest military adventure the US was embarking on.

Sure, this is the most over-used, manipulative, jingoistic bullshit line ever. I get that. But the best policy to me seems to be to ignore it. I mean, if I was in a direct conversation with someone one on one who said, “But don’t you support the troops?!” I would engage enough to say, “I want them to come home alive” or whatever, but by publicly engaging in this debate we are letting them frame the debate. Who gives a crap if they accuse of us hating the troops? They will say this no matter what we say. In our actions we should show our compassion and respect for all human beings, especially those who have been through the kinds of traumatic experiences people go through in the military. And in our actions we should oppose wars.
posted by latkes at 12:00 PM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think it's important to separate the jingoism and the schmaltz and heroic patriotism memes from the actual people who are in the military. In my experience, many more active duty military and recent vets find those attitudes embarrassing and unwelcome than find them worthwhile or meaningful expressions of appreciation. That sort of over the top handwavy performative Patriotism on the part of the government with minimal military experience and even less of a personal stake in the current military is a great way to blow smoke and distract the audience while royally fucking over American service people via underfunding the VA and so on. Getting mad at people doing the soldiering is useless. They're generally not the ones asking to be called heroes.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:00 PM on November 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


A family member/wife of a veteran who spent way too many months in Vietnam said of his decision to join the military that "it was the best deal he could find." Joining the military isn't necessarily an ideological decision.

A very salient point. I'm also not on the "support the troops" side of the equation, but I do think it's worth distinguishing between the two types of soldier: volunteers and conscripts. Volunteers, for the most part, knew exactly what they were signing up for. Conscripts deserve our pity, and our best efforts at removing them from a horrible situation. And we should definitely note that conscription did not end in 1973.
posted by Mayor West at 12:01 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wars that are not heroic have no real heroes

No wars are heroic, but, yeah, self-sacrifice, doing something to protect your country (even when it might not protect your country), those are heroic actions.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:05 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Volunteers, for the most part, knew exactly what they were signing up for. Conscripts deserve our pity, and our best efforts at removing them from a horrible situation. And we should definitely note that conscription did not end in 1973.

This seems like a false distinction in our current age of so little economic opportunity for young adults. Not to mention in the context of our propaganda state.
posted by latkes at 12:05 PM on November 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


"I consider military members heroes, because they have willingly volunteered to put their life on the line to protect me and my family from attack."

What on earth are you talking about? Were you in Hawaii during WWII?
posted by el io at 12:06 PM on November 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


Bojack Horseman agrees.
posted by snofoam at 12:06 PM on November 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


I consider military members heroes, because they have willingly volunteered to put their life on the line to protect me and my family from attack. They aren't always used for that purpose, but they have signed on as willing. That is a heroic act in my book.

Except the military hasn't used soldiers in that capacity for 70 years.


Although I disagree with many of the methods used I consider the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban to be a response to an attack and done for the purpose of preventing future attacks. So, I would say military members have died and risked their lives for me in very recent history.

It is also correct that they have also been sent to Iraq completely purposelessly, but I still honor and respect them for signing up to risk their life for me. The American people allowed George W. Bush to have control of the military. Civilians fucked it up. By all means don't call Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney a hero and don't elect more presidents that support America acting as world police.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:08 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


The consequence is that most people have friends and relatives who are/were career military, making the military personal instead of an outside force.

The number of veterans relative to the overall population has actually trended downward for a while. I'd argue that, if anything, our disconnect from the toll war takes on people is a big part of what allows us to adopt a "support our troops" mindset vs. a "maybe this cause isn't worth creating more veterans for" kind of mindset.
posted by Gymnopedist at 12:08 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


> I consider military members heroes, because they have willingly volunteered to put their life on the line to protect me and my family from attack.

The one time in recent history that the United States was actually attacked, the "defense" forces were 0 for 4 - in fact, they basically sat on their asses even though intercepting airplanes that are out of contact in a handful of minutes is one of the central goals of NORAD. And we didn't see a wave of courtsmartial, or even people losing their jobs.

They aren't there to protect you. Some tiny percentage of the troops that the US has would be needed for "defense".

Nearly all the troops who get killed, are getting killed in offensive wars - wars of choice in foreign countries. And there's always a huge kill ratio, so ten times as many of "them" are being killed as "us".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:09 PM on November 10, 2014 [27 favorites]


I would recommend the book War Is a Lie if you want more of this skewering-mindless-patriotic-tropes genre.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 12:10 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt.--Thoreau
posted by No Robots at 12:14 PM on November 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


I find it annoying that conversation about the military in the broader culture is so polarized on both sides of the discussion. In most cases (because of the trends Gymnopedist links to), the loudest voices in favor of and against military action, talking about military culture, and veterans issues, tend to be people with limited exposure to the military, to soldiers, and to veterans. We could all do a lot more listening to each other.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:14 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


So all the troops who signed up for military service did this with the knowledge of what our military actually did.

I cannot speak for everyone, but there was no mystery at the time of my enlistment what we were up to. And I went voluntarily knowing full well what the consequences were because that's what I wanted to do. Guaranteed infantry and I kept it that way even when cushier assignments were offered.

Ideologues? Yeah, there were certainly a few here and there, but for the most part the people I served with were of an average background looking to move ahead in life and the military certainly offers that opportunity to someone who doesn't live inside the prototypical middle class model. Service members are by far and large the technicians of their craft across all disciplines and there's little room for those whose ideology comes first.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:17 PM on November 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Keep your hagiographic veterans day rant. Say thanks or say no thanks I really don't give a shit. I'm over what you think or what you believe. Our elected officials created a state of endless war and we've carried it out. I'm tired and want to go home - however my all or nothing very generous retirement system simply won't allow it. In a couple of years I'm out and done with it all and moving on.
posted by vonstadler at 12:17 PM on November 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


Americans really only seem to abandon the general trope of rally around the troops when the US is effectively losing a war or the actual costs in human life exceed the perceived benefit.

The last time that really happened for any significant length of time was during the Vietnam war where ostensibly soldiers (including my Father) were effectively fed into a continual meatgrinder with no real practical purpose other than to slow down the advance of international communism because of the domino theory.

The cost in terms of USian lives in the war on terror simply hasn't reached the threshold were the rhetoric of WTF are we doing can compete with the constant rally round the troops jingoism.

Based upon the increasing dependence on air power and drones, etc I suspect that the real human cost (in USian lives - it's pretty obvious to many Americans non-USians simply don't matter or they amount to less) is going to decrease and it will be harder and harder to fight the rhetoric that implies that we should blindly support whatever adventurism the Military has sold to our elites in an valiant attempt to avoid cuts to Defense Appropriations.
posted by vuron at 12:18 PM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]




Hero, not hero - I have no idea.

I can say that as a Navy Brat who grew up in the 70s - and mind, this is the same Navy my grandfather and his father served in - to my time in the Marines in the early 90s (I have several cousins and sibling currently serving, too!) this Cult of the Soldier stuff is a little... weird.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:20 PM on November 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Spot on. In Australia, sports players who play sports good are considered national heroes. I'm not sure which is worse.
posted by turbid dahlia at 12:21 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Drinky Die, besides what other people are saying, I would add that soldiers' motivations for signing up are often very complex. Many of them do it, yes, because they believe they are signing up for a noble cause. Others do it to go to college, or to get out of their boring town, or to have an adventure or to kill {insert racial epithet here}. And all of these aren't mutually exclusive.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 12:21 PM on November 10, 2014


I'm not a big fan of the military. I don't like what we're doing overseas right now. But veterans who serve and come home don't deserve to be treated the way they are treated, which is horribly, quite often.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:24 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why do you hate America?

My father was a World War II veteran, a Marine Airman whose plane was shot down over the Pacific; he was rescued by Our Side a few hours later. And that, besides lots of pictures of the plane he flew in, and that he was NOT a pilot, was all he ever wanted to talk about that time of his life. I respected that; partly because I was truly afraid of pressing him further (as I was afraid of bothering him with a lot of things). I later came to the conclusion that he had at least a mild case of PTSD long before the term was created, and all the GI Bill education and house-buying benefits didn't cure it. I don't want to go beyond my own anecdotal experience, but a lot more untreated trauma among 'The Greatest Generation' and the way it effected my generation, 'The Baby Boomers', seems to explain a lot about America for the last 70 years.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:28 PM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: But veterans who serve and come home don't deserve to be treated the way they are treated, which is horribly, quite often.

And the cult of the soldier serves the paradoxical purpose of preventing us from looking closely at that cost.
posted by lodurr at 12:31 PM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Drinky Die, besides what other people are saying, I would add that soldiers' motivations for signing up are often very complex.

I don't really judge this on motivations. For whatever reasons they sign up, they are signing up for a service that could call on them to consciously put their life on the line for me. I know some of them are not good people. One former friend of mine who signed up is a barely closeted neo-nazi. But that sort of thing goes for any group of people.

I call them heroes, but I don't engage in hero worship. I sense there is a possibility some people don't really see those as things that can be practically separated when you are talking about the politics of a large country. I think that's a reasonable view too.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:31 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


The one time in recent history that the United States was actually attacked, the "defense" forces were 0 for 4

The US was 1 for 3. The threat of 9/11 ended in a field in Pennsylvania, once inadvertent Cuban vacations were off the table.

The resultant collective shitting of the national bed is a disgrace.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:33 PM on November 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


But veterans who serve and come home don't deserve to be treated the way they are treated, which is horribly, quite often.

I don't think we'd be having this discussion if the constant refrain in america were "Support our veterans". I've never met someone that was anti-military, anti-war that thought we should treat veterans shabbily.

But 'support our troops' is not about veterans, it's about the military adventure-of-the-day. Inevitably, the more we go to war the worse off our veterans are (more dead, more PTSD, etc). If America really wanted to support its troops, it'd keep them as a defense force, not an invasion force.
posted by el io at 12:34 PM on November 10, 2014 [21 favorites]


I support the movement to stop singing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch.
posted by mattdidthat at 12:37 PM on November 10, 2014 [35 favorites]


what i know about some veterans is this - they come home, they get jobs supervising civilians and start to impose military like discipline on the "grunts" - they get elected to office and start imposing their will on the people, including coming up with ways to disenfranchise them - they become police officers and treat some of us as if we were the enemy

and then they have the gall to tell us they fought for our freedom as they're taking it away from us

truth is, there are greater enemies at home then there are overseas, and i don't see any of our soldiers fighting them - because, so often, they ARE them
posted by pyramid termite at 12:39 PM on November 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


All this military worship paves the way for an eventual coup, doesn't it?

When the population (not incorrectly) considers "civilian government" to be corrupt and ineffectual, and we already support the "heroes" out there "fighting for our freedom," who's going to object when those heroes decide to take over - to save the country, of course.

And if you do object - what becomes of you then?
posted by kgasmart at 12:41 PM on November 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't think the problem is really respecting military sacrifices, the problem is that people tend to simplify and overfocus on it instead of realizing it's one ingredient that's often necessary but never sufficient to have/keep a nation that's "free" (shorthand for government that's responsive to its citizens, works for them, and respects limits to which it can impose).

When I try having this conversation, I usually keep it simple, and try to leverage a bit of American exceptionalism. "You know, plenty of nations -- including Stalin's Russia -- have had soldiers that fought and died for their country, too. Their sacrifice didn't make their country free, though. So what really makes our country different? And how do we make sure we don't similarly spend the lives of brave soldiers for something we don't really want?"
posted by weston at 12:43 PM on November 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


I have a very difficult time putting people who serve on a pedestal.

In 1988, I was raped by a young marine, just returned home from boot camp the day prior.

He probably looked handsome in his dress blues. I'm sure his mother was proud of him, and his father doubly so.

But the government had just told the man that he was a hero. That he would never leave a brother behind. That "Once a Marine, Always a Marine". I'm sure he thought he earned something by getting through boot camp. I'm sure his superiors told him so. I'm pretty sure I was one of the "things" he thought he had earned and I'm pretty sure there wasn't anything during boot camp that made him doubt that.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:43 PM on November 10, 2014 [55 favorites]


Who gives a crap if they accuse of us hating the troops? They will say this no matter what we say.

It's always important to strive towards an honest discussion about the role our military plays in modern society, no matter what vapid commentary comes out of a random mouth-breather.

Very recently, President Obama says there are no troops on the ground in the Middle East, fighting ISIS.

But the Pentagon admits that we have Special Forces troops there now doing that very thing, as well as operations that are training rebels.

It's going to be a "long fight", to quote the boss, but we're not going to make any open commitments.

Why can't we have an adult discussion about this doublespeak?

Because, basically, we can't have The Talk about why the modern military really exists — to keep capital flowing from our subjugated nations, colonies and territories, to keep the natural resources pipelines flowing towards us, to keep our lifestyles subsidized on the backs of people we bomb, torture and shoot — without looking in the mirror and making fundamental changes in our lifestyle.

To be honest: We just don't want to make those changes.

Also: The people who sell us on our lifestyle also don't want anyone making waves, and they run the show, for the most part.

Those same people who run the corporations, media and government entities also shape what the current figurehead gets to say to us, to frame the unspoken narrative correctly; specifically:

Military and paramilitary entities are here to protect our ability to keep buying support for military and paramilitary entities, who protect our ability to keep buying the treasures those entities bring us.

Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulations. That's Milton Friedman. He got a goddamn Nobel Prize. We have laws against it precisely so we can get away with it. Corruption is our protection. Corruption keeps us safe and warm. Corruption is why you and I are prancing around in here instead of fighting over scraps of meat out in the streets. Corruption is why we win.

The Oxford English Dictionary calls heroes semi-divine and immortal. Our soldiers fill that role by keeping our system running, seemingly impervious to collapse from within and without.

Our military and paramilitary are heroes in every sense of the definition, to the extent that they keep the system going every day. They subjugate the right people — here in the US, through police shootings and high incarceration rates; outside, through covert and not-so-covert operations in areas most Americans can't even place on a map.

Their powers are near God-like, in contrast with the mostly powerless they are tasked with controlling. Soldiers are nameless entities who make up a larger, immortal organism; an immune system for an even larger body politic:

Today, you people are no longer maggots. Today, you are Marines. You're part of a brotherhood. From now on until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother. Most of you will go to Vietnam. Some of you will not come back. But always remember this: Marines die. That's what we're here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever. And that means YOU live forever.

We worship them, because their being what they are and what they do demands reverence.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:45 PM on November 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


truth is, there are greater enemies at home then there are overseas, and i don't see any of our soldiers fighting them - because, so often, they ARE them

Yeah, fuck those tyrants Tammy Duckworth and Tulsi Gabbard and Ed Markey and Gary Peters.
posted by Etrigan at 12:52 PM on November 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


I've only read the first article so far, which was interesting in the way it touched on but missed an opportunity to point out the gendered nature of "heroism". I remember after the September 11 terrorist attacks how everyone would go on and on about the heroic efforts of police and firefighters (for good reasons) but the flight attendants who did and do so much to make air travel safe don't get to be heroes. The article mentions social workers and hospice workers among those we should consider heroes; to that list I'd add nurses, teachers/daycare workers, and therapists.
posted by medusa at 12:55 PM on November 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


No wars are heroic, but, yeah, self-sacrifice, doing something to protect your country (even when it might not protect your country), those are heroic actions.

But by that definition, all soldiers ARE heroes, and not just US solders. Like the heroic soldiers to the Taliban and ISIS? I don't think that's going to work as a standard for heroism that most people can accept.
posted by layceepee at 12:58 PM on November 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


Layceepee: Such comments might cost you your job.
posted by el io at 1:02 PM on November 10, 2014


I grew up in a very rural part of Arkansas that was also within easy driving distance of a large Air Force Base. By and large, growing up with that kind of proximity to a rotating cast of military recruits was pretty neat--airshows! hot dudes in flight suits! people from far and wide living in my podunk town!--buuuut... not every military recruit is a model citizen. Some of them are also violent, misogynistic, drunk driving, methamphetamine loving fuck ups. Those dudes handily ruined my automatic appreciation for 'the uniform' and made me appreciate much more the ones who manage to come out of a system like that undamaged.

tl;dr: the first guy I went down on was in the Air Force, as was the first guy who called me a faggot in public (different dudes, which is/was not always an obvious detail).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:16 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


posted by medusa The article mentions social workers and hospice workers among those we should consider heroes; to that list I'd add nurses, teachers/daycare workers, and therapists.

I'd add whistleblowers, specifically James Risen and Edward Snowden, and whoever is working on putting Joe Arpaio out of work and in jail.

posted by el io If America really wanted to support its troops, it'd keep them as a defense force, not an invasion force.

If we really supported our troops, we'd provide them with adequate health care and support after their service.
posted by mattdidthat at 1:37 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not wearing a poppy. Please don't ask me why.
posted by klanawa at 1:42 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would recommend the book War Is a Lie if you want more of this skewering-mindless-patriotic-tropes genre.

Militarism really is a mindless trope.

Holy crap that pic is seven years old. America has been under military occupation far longer than that. It is time to pull out HST's first column he wrote after the day everything changed, When War Drums Roll.

Generals and military scholars will tell you that eight or 10 years is actually not such a long time in the span of human history -- which is no doubt true -- but history also tells us that 10 years of martial law and a war-time economy are going to feel like a Lifetime to people who are in their twenties today. The poor bastards of what will forever be known as Generation Z are doomed to be the first generation of Americans who will grow up with a lower standard of living than their parents enjoyed.

That is extremely heavy news, and it will take a while for it to sink in. The 22 babies born in New York City while the World Trade Center burned will never know what they missed. The last half of the 20th century will seem like a wild party for rich kids, compared to what's coming now. The party's over, folks. The time has come for loyal Americans to Sacrifice. ... Sacrifice. ... Sacrifice. That is the new buzz-word in Washington. But what it means is not entirely clear.

posted by charlie don't surf at 1:49 PM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


No uniform, but a real third-grade hero. (from Syria, possibly NSFW):

@Brown_Moses: Not sure if this is authentic, but if it is then holy shit
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:59 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


All this military worship paves the way for an eventual coup, doesn't it?

We've already already had a recent case of a government official calling for a coup. Does she still have hee job?


I wonder what will happen to the "support our Troops" line once we've largely switched over to a drone force. "Support or Stunts" just doesn't have the same ring to it.The entire rhetoric of heroic troops may need to be revised.

CONGRATULATIONS PRIVATE RODRIGUEZ! AT17:50 HOURS AN INFANTRY DRONE OPERATED BY YOU ADVANCED INTO HEAVY FIRE, TAKING AN ENEMY POSITION AND SAVING AN ENTIRE SQUAD OF FELLOW DRONES. IN THE PIECES YOUR DRONE WAS HIT, LOSING A FORWARD MANIPULATOR.

IT IS OUR DECISION THAT YOUR ACTIONS WERE IN THE FINEST TRADITION OF MILITARY HEROISM. PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO RECEIVE YOUR MEDALS.
posted by happyroach at 2:02 PM on November 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


I support the movement to stop singing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch.

I go to 5-10 baseball games a year and just remain seated and occupy myself with my phone during that time. The movement is us!
posted by Kwine at 2:08 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought about commenting, but in this case essayist and science-fiction author Jim Wright has already said it for me.
posted by seasparrow at 2:15 PM on November 10, 2014


What a complete ignoramus. There is no freedom without the willingness and ability to defend it at arms. Like the military or not, they're what separates the average American from the average Yazidi watching ISIS sell off his daughter.
posted by MattD at 2:17 PM on November 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I support the movement to stop singing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch.

For extra baseball fun, try this little experiment: shout "Allah" whenever they come to the word "God" in the song. Please have a friend youtube the results.
posted by el io at 2:18 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


CONGRATULATIONS PRIVATE RODRIGUEZ! AT17:50 HOURS AN INFANTRY DRONE OPERATED BY YOU ADVANCED INTO HEAVY FIRE, TAKING AN ENEMY POSITION AND SAVING AN ENTIRE SQUAD OF FELLOW DRONES. IN THE [PROCESS] YOUR DRONE WAS HIT, LOSING A FORWARD MANIPULATOR.

YOUR NEXT PAY DEPOSIT WILL BE DOCKED FOR THE REPLACEMENT PARTS. KEEP FIGHTING, KEEP WINNING!™
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:18 PM on November 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


There is no freedom without the willingness and ability to defend it at arms kill brown people halfway around the world.

FTFY.
posted by el io at 2:19 PM on November 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


ChurchHatesTucker: The one time in recent history that the United States was actually attacked, the "defense" forces were 0 for 4

The US was 1 for 3. The threat of 9/11 ended in a field in Pennsylvania, once inadvertent Cuban vacations were off the table.
As long as you're going to count that carefully - the defeat of the threat of Flight 93 wasn't due to "defense" forces. It was due to the collective actions of a group of civilians who were complete strangers minutes before.

That can't be counted by any stretch of the imagination as defense by our armed services. The only successful defense mounted that day was by civilians.

Support Our Civilians!

...or else, why do you hate America?
posted by IAmBroom at 2:20 PM on November 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


I thought about commenting, but in this case essayist and science-fiction author Jim Wright has already said it for me.:

Isolationism as a foreign policy only works if you're not dependent on the rest of the world for your standard of living. We Americans righteously bemoan wars fought over oil, but fighting for access to resources does one hell of a lot more to ensure your freedom and way of life than holding hands and singing Kumbaya. I'm not saying it's right, or that there shouldn't be a better way, nobody knows the immorality of war like those whose job it is to fight one, but you can either face the world head on or like Masciotra you can live in a fantasyland. And Masciotra has the privilege of his contempt because others are out there right now standing into harm's way. Those people may not be heroes and they may not be fighting for "freedom" as Masciotra defines it, but they're out there ensuring our way of life nonetheless. Every single day.


I'm not saying it's right...but I'm not saying it's not right, either, feel me?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:21 PM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


This is in part babble about use of words,cliches...does it matter? And in part...comments..about Am policy...some wars justified, ie WW2
We're all heroes? Nope..but even the cowards, non heroes died in a necessary war
posted by Postroad at 2:22 PM on November 10, 2014


El Io -- people with a strong military are risking its misuse. People with a weak military are asking to be enslaved.
posted by MattD at 2:35 PM on November 10, 2014


Putting aside for a minute whether we should have gone into Viet Nam, Iraq, or Afghanistan in the first place, what pisses me off is the Wounded Warrior Project. If we send these people into harm's way, then we should support them with tax dollars when they come home. They shouldn't have to depend on charity.
posted by Daddy-O at 2:41 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Asking to enslaved, eh? By those with a strong military, no doubt. Better slave owners than slaves is the argument? Personally I'm against slavery.
posted by el io at 2:42 PM on November 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


>You know that hero does not today mean anything like what it meant in Homer's day. Stop being purposefully obtuse.

You clearly missed my point. The author introduced his comment by writing: "The assignment of heroism, exactly like the literary construct, might have more to do with the assignment of villainy than the actual honoring of 'heroes.'"

His understanding of literary construct (the, notice, not a) is limited to say the least. I cite Homer because he is the first to give us opposing warriors who are arguably about on moral par. Is Achilles or Hector a villain? One could argue not. The conceit has had parallels down to modern time, both literary and actual, though less so now in our benighted age.

In any event, the scattershot use of the word hero these days dilutes its meaning on all fronts. Everybody gets a prize.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:48 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know that hero in literature today does not mean anything like what it meant in Homer's day. Stop being purposefully obtuse.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:50 PM on November 10, 2014


Ever see a FPP on Metafilter, know instantly that you will have a very intense reaction and want to have things to say, and yet you just plain don't have the time to invest in reading everything first?

That's me today.

Wait, no. I can say this.

Four years in the US Coast Guard, including the invasion of Haiti in 1994. Still totally proud of everything I did.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 3:17 PM on November 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


There is time-travel in this thread!
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:21 PM on November 10, 2014


Like the military or not, they're what separates the average American from the average Yazidi watching ISIS sell off his daughter.

Heroes or not the American military, and the other parts of the American state which have participated in intentionally destabilizing the Middle East for decades and longer, are the reason why what's effectively a large gang can control a giant swathe of the region and be in the position to sell off anyone's daughter. Not only that, but I'd be quite surprised if regimes the U.S. supports haven't done a great deal more human trafficking than ISIS has—Saudi Arabia has certainly beheaded more people than ISIS does.
posted by XMLicious at 3:29 PM on November 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


The thing that separates the average American from the average ISIS soldier is the Atlantic Ocean.
posted by Zalzidrax at 3:32 PM on November 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


People with a weak military are asking to be enslaved.

The strong militaries that, in the 20th century, kept free the peoples of Germany, China and the USSR are testament to the truth of this...wait...

A strong military can just as easily enslave the population of one's own country as that of another. We don't need bullshit Frank Miller posturing (and if you want to talk about the potential horror of a strong military, Sparta is a decent place to start), we need to think about how we actually create free societies.
posted by howfar at 3:35 PM on November 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


*sigh* Gah. Read the main article anyway, even when I should be doing other stuff. And here I am commenting, 'cause commenting on MF is clearly so important.

I agree with a lot of Masciorta's points. I don't agree with all of them.

"Wars that are not heroic have no real heroes, except for the people who oppose those wars." --Flatly false. Even Vietnam had plenty of heroes who were not opposing the war itself. They may have done things that opposed aspects of the war, such as the helicopter crew that intervened in the My Lai massacre, but there they were, serving in an unheroic war and acting heroically.

I also flatly disagree with the headline of not protecting Masciorta's freedoms. People in uniform do that simply by existing as such, much as my union--warts and all--protects me from workplace abuses simply by existing. And if anyone wants to say, "Yeah, but provocative headlines are all part of internet journalism these days (or journalism in general, always)," then you're giving this guy a pass on nuanced criticism while expecting everyone to appreciate the nuances in the article.

Calling every one of our uniformed people heroes has always kinda grated on me, too. I wore a uniform. I put myself at risk and even saved lives. I did a lot of good things while in uniform, but don't think anything I did remotely measures up to the label of "hero."

Yet there's a whole lot more going on in Masciorta's article beyond a complaint about using that label with proper definition, and a lot of it is just plain pretentious.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 3:37 PM on November 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Well, folks, it depends on how you define freedom.

Isolationism as a foreign policy only works if you're not dependent on the rest of the world for your standard of living. We Americans righteously bemoan wars fought over oil, but fighting for access to resources does one hell of a lot more to ensure your freedom and way of life than holding hands and singing Kumbaya.


jim wright, what you're describing is not freedom, it's being a consumer

furthermore, china is doing a fair job of competing for access to resources by cleverly manipulating people instead of grabbing guns - but i wouldn't call them free, would you?

but the devolvement and degeneracy of our country is nearly complete - it's no longer about being able to speak, or vote, or practice your religion, or rescue other peoples from enslavement and genocide; it's about what we can buy at the mall

and yet some other countries not only get to purchase the same things as we do, they get to do it without their soldiers dying for it - they even get to do it when we reduced their countries to rubble and destroyed their armed forces

this is a travesty, but it's one that you and tens of millions of americans fully believe in - why else would president bush tell us to go shopping after 9/11?

it's a karmic joke writ large - a country that was partially won by giving native americans trinkets is now in the process of selling off its principles and freedoms for somewhat more sophisticated trinkets - trinkets that other people get without bloodshed or trading in their birthrights that in the distant past, soldiers really DID die for

you're a sucker in the best american tradtion, mr wright, and the p t barnums of the corporate elite are even now willing to to sell you new improved things so you can feel "free"

eventually, as a last special offer, they will show your way to the egress
posted by pyramid termite at 3:38 PM on November 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


El Io -- people with a strong military are risking its misuse. People with a weak military are asking to be enslaved.

hitler's germany and stalin's russia both had strong militaries, but their people were enslaved anyway
posted by pyramid termite at 3:41 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yet there's a whole lot more going on in Masciorta's article beyond a complaint about using that label with proper definition, and a lot of it is just plain pretentious.

I don't see it. Would you elaborate?
posted by LogicalDash at 3:41 PM on November 10, 2014


If anything, I feel like a serviceperson who's involved in some dubious politically-motivated military action in Iraq or Afghanistan deserves pity, not worship.
posted by gottabefunky at 3:41 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


At the American Airlines terminal at DFW right now there's a big display called Remembering Our FallenTM that's sponsored by the Texas Funeral Directors Association.
posted by gottabefunky at 3:47 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


The abuses of which a strong military is capable simply don't refute the fact that a population without a strong military has no defense whatever against abuse. I'm sure the Yazidis had problems with Saddam's army too, but that didn't make it any better when ISIS came for them.
posted by MattD at 3:53 PM on November 10, 2014


Well, folks, it depends on how you define freedom.

Isolationism as a foreign policy only works if you're not dependent on the rest of the world for your standard of living. We Americans righteously bemoan wars fought over oil, but fighting for access to resources does one hell of a lot more to ensure your freedom and way of life than holding hands and singing Kumbaya.


So... the freedom to have whatever the fuck we want and give a big middle finger to the rest of the world. Nice definition of freedom.

Also, total false dichotomy between "Isolationism" and "wars fought over oil [and] access to resources"
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:53 PM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


You don't need a military to have a strong national defense. The military and it's 'role' in defending us just continues the divide into the protected/the protectors crap we are enculterated into. It keeps populations defensless and greatful to their saviors and heroes, we willingly become infants. wWe should assume responsibility for self protection, Civilian Based Defense. But that might mean civic involvement... Quelle horror.
posted by edgeways at 4:01 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Is a volunteer military really that different an idea?
posted by Drinky Die at 4:07 PM on November 10, 2014


We give our veterans the lip service because words are cheap, and they aren't getting much else of value besides from that. I don't think most are impressed by being called hero and thanked by people who weren't there.
posted by koebelin at 4:07 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Is this finally making its way into public discourse? There is hope yet.
posted by ivandnav at 4:21 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yet there's a whole lot more going on in Masciorta's article beyond a complaint about using that label with proper definition, and a lot of it is just plain pretentious.

I would agree with the first part and disagree with the second. After having read it, I understand that it isn't about whether certain people are or not heroes - or whether they should or should not be called this. It is about the sociopathy and depravity of some of our military and civilian leaders and their enabling by a lot of the media and therefore a lot of our society that doesn't think very much about things beyond how they are going to be entertained, mostly. I'm generally an optimist, but I don't see this changing in the short term - and probably not in my lifetime either, unfortunately.
posted by McMillan's Other Wife at 4:31 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


My experience of most people in the armed forces parallels with my experience working in health care - some people signed up because they wanted to further the public good, some people because it was their dream since they were children, some because despite its occupational hardships it's a good gig, some because it looked cool and they thought it would raise their prestige, and some because they didn't really know what else they could do so decided to try this out. And it's about evenly split between these reasons.

So I'm not sure why when someone decides they want to be a marine because it'll give them the chance to travel and make some money for college I'm supposed to consider them a hero. Is it because their job is dangerous? So is being a firefighter. Is it because they might get into armed conflict? So do cops. Is it because they're on the coal-face of conflict and danger? So are paramedics. Is it because they promote the common good? So do teachers. Is it because they save people? So do doctors and nurses. Shit, so do lifeguards.

So why are soldiers singled out as being somehow more worthy of admiration? I appreciate the comment that there's a gendered aspect to it, I think that's probably true. I appreciate the observation that it tends to glorify heroism as a dimension of cartoony violence, I think that's true and diminishes the recognition of any heroism which is pacifistic in nature.

I find it especially abhorrent that we take our young people and throw their lives away on unjust wars, let them come home physically and emotionally scarred and needing support, and then conveniently forget about them. Just hope they melt away. It's a disgusting parallel with how some conservatives view children - don't you dare abort because that baby is more precious than you are, but once it's born I'm not real fussed about what happens to it. Not really. Not in the way where I'll let my wallet be affected for example. It's the same with our armed forces. They're precious while they're an abstract, but they minute they lose rhetorical utility and actually need something they're out the door in terms of our attention span. If we were a society that really supported our troops we would not have situations like this, where 12% of the homeless population is veterans. We can't even be bothered to make sure they all have a roof over their heads, let alone treating them like heroes.
posted by supercrayon at 4:32 PM on November 10, 2014 [35 favorites]


We had an inservice today and when the presenter asked if anyone had served in the armed forces our Vietnam vet said in outrage, "You're not going to thank us, are you?" He went on to say something like all he did was go into someone else's country and kill them.
posted by Peach at 4:42 PM on November 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


And the presenter then insisted on thanking him after all. Seriously pissed him off.
posted by Peach at 4:45 PM on November 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


We dance around the issue, IMO, but as far as I can see the reason the cult continues to have power is that it basically comes down to blood sacrifice.

But because we refuse to talk about it that way, the sacrificial subjects get to continue believing that's not what it's about. Or worse, they get to dress that up in some kind of obfuscation, like 'protecting freedom' or 'furthering democracy.'

And we're schizoid about it: we can't stand actual sacrifice, but we want the risk to be there.

And who knows, maybe that's the real reason we treat veterans like crap when they get back a little damaged. It implies that there was some lack of purity in the effort.
posted by lodurr at 6:40 PM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


In another tab I'm having a discussion in a Facebook group for Girl Scout leaders, about the girls saluting the flag and saying the pledge of allegiance. It's been civil so far, even when I said that I don't do either of those things myself and it's up for each of my girls to decide what she wants to do.

The discussion is being framed as it being disrespectful to the members of the armed forces who died to protect us. I'm curious: when was that association first made? That the Pledge and the flag were associated with the military, and not of any other qualities of the US?
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:55 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


We Americans righteously bemoan wars fought over oil, but fighting for access to resources does one hell of a lot more to ensure your freedom and way of life than holding hands and singing Kumbaya.

I feel like 100% confident that if we had thrown four trillion dollars at the problem, we could have solar arrays the size of a laptop powering every car and home in North America, with enough juice left over to charge up a benevolent AI to run indefinitely until it figures out cold fusion.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:11 PM on November 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


El Io -- people with a strong military are risking its misuse. People with a weak military are asking to be enslaved.

That's like your opinion man. I posted these in the deep state thread from a few days ago, but I prefer these opinions over yours:

The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free. The institutions chiefly alluded to are standing armies and the correspondent appendages of military establishments...These are not vague inferences drawn from supposed or speculative defects in a Constitution, the whole power of which is lodged in the hands of a people, or their representatives and delegates, but they are solid conclusions, drawn from the natural and necessary progress of human affairs. (The Federalist No. 8)

The veteran legions of Rome were an overmatch for the undisciplined valor of all other nations and rendered her the mistress of the world. Not the less true is it, that the liberties of Rome proved the final victim to her military triumphs; and that the liberties of Europe, as far as they ever existed, have, with few exceptions, been the price of her military establishments. A standing force, therefore, is a dangerous, at the same time that it may be a necessary, provision. On the smallest scale it has its inconveniences. On an extensive scale its consequences may be fatal. (The Federalist No. 41)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:52 PM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


The American people allowed George W. Bush to have control of the military

Oh, please. Only 50.3% of 'the American people' voted in 2000. It was the Supreme Court who 'allowed' him to be Commander in Chief.
posted by Rash at 8:04 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I keep opening up a comment box and closing it again; no matter what I say, it just isn't coming out quite right. My wife doesn't want to be anyone's hero and she doesn't want to be thanked for her service. She just wants the nightmares to stop and to stop getting crappy medical care from the VA and to feel good most days (and some days, she does. And she's walking and talking and holding down a couple of long term relationships and a 3.7 GPA; she's doing the best of anyone she was in OIF with.)

Glorifying all of our military as heroes isn't doing anything to take care of our vets, but neither does demonizing them because some of them are criminals or assholes or terrible human beings or people who've ended up terrible human beings because of what they've seen (some percentage of humanity, after all, are criminal and/or assholes and/or etc.) And that latter is what's making me itch about this article; for all that the author says "Far from being the heroes of recent wars, American troops are among their victims", it sure feels like he's victim blaming in places.
posted by joycehealy at 8:33 PM on November 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


If I had known that one day in the distant future I might be referred to as "the Navy man" I might have reenlisted. I mean, that sounds so damn cool, like there ought to be a Marvel comic or something. Maybe I could have been a badass (anti-)hero with a marlinspike in one hand and a monkey's fist in the other, taking on the designated "Others." Like, I dunno, zombies or something.

I was out playing guitar earlier tonight and we were doing some stuff in an open D tuning, which led to a chat about tunings in general. I mentioned that I have been enamored with a Nick Drake tune written in an offbeat tuning. I said that I feel some serendipity with the guy for a strange reason--I know precisely where I was the day he died in 1974. I was doing pushups during my first week in boot camp. I had no idea he even existed at the time. Troubled soul that he was, he was quite talented musically and that's a gift that he left in the world. So, 40 years later, I'm gonna master the tune, put it in my repertoire, and play it for folks on occasion.

After I explained this, a fellow thanked me for my service. I could have jumped down his throat (and would have if I thought be was a bullethead chickenhawk) but I know he's a good fellow and genuinely meant well. Instead, I told a quick story about when I first got out into the fleet in early 75.

That first year my ship had about a 35-40% turnover in crew because so many fellow sailors had volunteered for the Navy in order to avoid being drafted as a ground-pounder and getting sent off to Vietnam. Our ship had just come out of the yards and prior to refresher training, some crew member(s) had taken it upon themselves to engage in some serious attempts at sabotage. Things like removing pins from 40 ton booms, for example. No heroes there and then, that's for sure. Just people, some radicalized by the times, who were doing their best to keep their limited universe together while the larger world around them was in semi-chaos.

This thread covers much of my thought and feeling about active service, being a vet, and my miniscule (but culpable) role in US foreign policy. Except for this idea which I have come to support over time.

Bring back the draft. For everybody. No better way to get folks engaged in the debate about our military, how and why we go to war, and how we treat our vets than to have everyone with a potential skin in the game. I don't think a couple of years in the service is necessarily a bad way to spend some time but much more importantly, I think it positively essential that we need to jolt the population out of their apathy and passive acceptance of current foreign policy as shaped by the elites.

Side-benefit: we could all be heroes!
posted by CincyBlues at 8:54 PM on November 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


posted by CincyBlues Bring back the draft. For everybody. No better way to get folks engaged in the debate about our military, how and why we go to war, and how we treat our vets than to have everyone with a potential skin in the game.

No. If you can't get enough volunteers to fight your war, and you can't take care of those volunteers after they fight your war, you shouldn't be fighting that war.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:27 PM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Thanks for demonstrating my point: If it were a just war, then there would be no shortage of volunteers. But, if it were an unpopular or unjust war being proposed by our Congress (because, yes, we ought to declare war) and you or a loved one, or your child, or a friend's child were subject to being conscripted into fighting in that dubious adventure, then perhaps you would be out in the streets or marching towards DC to express your displeasure.
posted by CincyBlues at 9:38 PM on November 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


...then perhaps you would be out in the streets or marching towards DC to express your displeasure

Which is the reason politicians will never enact a draft again. Too many bad memories from the Vietnam era.

Also, the military prefers professional soldiers to amateur ones, but that's a minor reason we don't have a draft anymore.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 9:50 PM on November 10, 2014


The best kept open secret about our military in the US is that it's basically a government funded jobs program. I think it's time we let people like Ted Cruz in on the secret & watch the fireworks as the cognitive dissonance unwinds inside his brain.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:05 PM on November 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


To a degree, this trend, which in my mind includes singing "GBA" in the 7th inning of the world series (ugh) and singling out uniformed service-people on airplanes and all of the things like that, is related to the awful experience that soldiers returning from Viet Nam faced, and the 'guilt' that that generation has placed upon the US to treat soldiers with more respect than those were treated.
I hate it, but I kinda get it.


Please understand that the spitting/baby killer stories are urban legends. It probably did happen to some degree, but not nearly enough to change the nation's attitude toward soldiers.
posted by zardoz at 11:24 PM on November 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Hmmm.... You know, I'm not what one would call the most patriotic of guys. I wouldn't sing god bless america during the 7th inning stretch (is that really a thing?) I've had my eyes open about patriotism and how this country is run since watergate (read about it kids, it's where all of the other gates scandals get their names). As for the military being a jobs program, well it's a piss poor one at best. Frankly I think it would be awesome if we actually had a good one and there are certainly jobs that need doing. Honestly, I'd pay someone to spit in Ted Cruz's eye, but that's me. Like a lot of people, I have respect for folks that put their life on the line for whatever reason. I remember my time in the National Guard, and I didn't really have a good reason to to join up. Mostly I wanted out of Philly. I kind of forgot about the part that I was Nat. Guard and I would be going right back. I wish I could tell you I was all high minded and that I hated the military because I was a pacifist or something but honestly, when I was full time, I didn't hate it. I hated when I was back at my unit with the yahoos that wanted to run around the woods with guns. I'm not good with stupid. Or I wasn't then. I'm older and I've seen much more of it. Really, most folk in the military, well the non commissioned ranks are just trying to figure out life, and want to survive til things get better. Everyone (oh come on you know you do) wants to be respected. Some want to be thought of as standing for something bigger. Some want some stupid assed god damned parade. Whatever. I don't really have much of a point. There are & were some genuine heroes. I've never met one. Some people do sacrifice their lives, ostensibly for the rest of us. Sometimes the reason was because they really had nothing better to do. I can't fault them for it, I was one too. I was lucky and didn't go someplace more exciting than Denver. Luckily I rarely hear retired officer types bitching about their lot because fuck 'em. They aren't thought of as disposable. So do I think we need to give more to our veterans, yes. Better health care, better educational opportunities. Anyway, more than some two bit holiday that no one even gets the day off for.
posted by evilDoug at 12:52 AM on November 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Oh, I should mention that regardless of my (negative) views of the US military as a whole, I look favorably when I see US military experience on a resume.

All things equal, I'll hire a former military person before someone who has not been in the military.

This goes even more strongly for marines.

To the last one they're the hardest workers I've worked with, they're willing to do bullshit jobs if need be, they have the best work ethic (better than mine for certain).

I might argue in the lunchroom about US foreign policy with these coworkers, but they are great coworkers and even better subordinates (they take orders without question and implicitly understand and respect authority).

While it's good to have someone around who can question authority, I do that good enough myself for an entire team.
posted by el io at 1:24 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


My father was a World War II veteran, a Marine Airman whose plane was shot down over the Pacific... he had at least a mild case of PTSD long before the term was created, and all the GI Bill education and house-buying benefits didn't cure it. I don't want to go beyond my own anecdotal experience, but a lot more untreated trauma among 'The Greatest Generation' and the way it effected my generation, 'The Baby Boomers', seems to explain a lot about America for the last 70 years.

This is exactly what another friend of mine told me. His dad slept on frozen ground under no cover through nights of random death by artillery during the Battle of the Bulge, and upon returning home was grimly unable to connect with anyone who wasn't there. "The war turned all our dads into crazy sons of bitches. You could tell the kids whose dads weren't in combat. They had a normal home life."
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:45 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is a complicated one for me. I was raised as a devout pacifist (Mennonite, to be specific.) Yet the church I grew up in was only half Mennonite, the other half were just there because the next closest church was half an hour away. Quite a few of those were heavily into "God and Country" patriotism, and a good number of those ended up teaching my Sunday School classes. Just to make things even more confusing we had a couple of Vietnam vets who really were mocked and spat at when they came home. And then to top it all off, when I was in high school I discovered that my mother, at age six or so, was living in Arnhem, the Netherlands, just a few blocks away from a certain bridge during the battle that made it famous enough to make a movie about. She didn't talk about it much, but it explained her reaction when military recruiters started calling our house asking for me, and on that day when I was feeling rebellious and said I might join up. (I think I'd been reading Heinlein or something.)

So, lots of conflicting messages about soldiers and the military. I honestly didn't mean to go on this long about myself, because this day isn't about me. It's about people who joined up for all sorts of different reasons, and who generally had crappy jobs to do for not enough pay. Especially those that ended up in any of our recent wars, in situations I know I couldn't handle. Some of them couldn't handle it either. They came home and nobody spat at them, but nobody could understand them either. They say today's military is getting better at letting veterans admit how much they're hurting, instead of just telling them to "man up". I sure hope that's true, but the suicide rate among veterans says there's still quite a ways to go.

So, heroes or not? All I know is that it's dangerous to plant a single label on such a huge group of very different people with very different motives and very different experiences. Well, OK, I also know that there's more than one kind of heroism. Some die for their squad. Some give a quiet word of support to a buddy who's been through hell, even when it isn't "manly" or "heroic" to admit when it hurts. Some come home and live among people who'll never understand, not really, and carry a piece of the war with them, and yet still get up every day, live as close to a normal life as they can, and never give up because they have people who depend on them.

I can only imagine, but never really understand. I have a comfortable life, and in a lot of ways, rightly or wrongly, I owe that comfort to people who joined up, for any of ten thousand reasons, and got sent by politicians to go do stuff they didn't necessarily believe in, and sometimes stuff that nobody should ever be asked to do.

So, if any veterans are reading this, I don't know whether to thank you. I hope I haven't given offense with my late-night meandering. I do know that those are ridiculously minor things to worry about, compared to what some of you have been through. I do think we, as a society, owe you better than you've been getting from us. Certainly we owe you more than one day a year.
posted by Zimboe Metamonkey at 1:48 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


We don't need a new draft.

What we need is a universal, unavoidable civilian public service requirement, that integrates conscripts by region and class, and puts them to work on public projects. Since this corps' mission would be non-military, it could even integrate physically handicapped people.
posted by lodurr at 2:39 AM on November 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


What a dismal pile of words. There's not a damn thing in there that's new, thoughtful, imaginative; it's Thompson-wannabe click-bait vitriol.

And he makes it about those who've chosen to serve and about himself with his snide little "you don't protect my...."

Full marks if he was going for being classless and disrespectful in getting that out right before Veteran's Day, without even brief, passing words along the lines of, "With vast respect for those who've made immense sacrifices...."

I note that the person who tossed those words together has indulged in kneepads journalism to squee over Garth Brooks.

He can literally put 'em on, get on his knees and use his tongue to clean my honorably discharged rectum.
posted by ambient2 at 4:13 AM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]




So ambient2, I'm wondering what kind of language and what kind of attitude would be permissible to discuss the things discussed in this article.

You want it to be new, insightful and imaginative. Well what the hell does that even mean? Does that mean you privilege flashy insults over an attempt at frank discussion?

You think the use of the first-person possessive in the title (which, just so you're aware, it's very likely the author didn't write) is 'snide,' and 'makes it...about himself'? And you'd like to have him insert some of the boilerplate homilies that are precisely the kind of thing he's trying to critique, in order to pay due respect to your honorably discharged rectum.

Perhaps you can reword it for us, so that its able to accomplish that critique, but do it while engaging in all the problematic behaviors it's trying to critique?

I'm gonna put this bluntly: "He can literally put 'em on, get on his knees and use his tongue to clean my honorably discharged rectum" is precisely the kind of bullshit that the author is trying to politely discuss, and you're doing nothing so effectively as illustrate why we need more pieces like this.
posted by lodurr at 4:50 AM on November 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


And here I thought the rectum licking was for pleasure's sake.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:53 AM on November 11, 2014


From a moral perspective, the reasons for a person's choice to serve don't have any impact on whether the outcome is good. Thanking someone for their service in a war to prop up the revenue-growth-stream of the military-industrial-complex strikes me as similar to thanking someone for producing the wonderful advertising that helps drive coca-cola sales. Soldiers and advolk alike need to make a living, and often work hard producing a high-quality product. But the product is not put to good ends; thanking them for their work on it basically just makes me complicit in the ends.
posted by lodurr at 5:32 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hahah, remember that MeTa where people were like "There's never been attacking soldiers on Metafilter! I don't know what you're talking about!" Good times.
posted by corb at 7:24 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


So not even "those who actually are heroic" are real heroes. I wish it surprised me more to see Salon arguing against itself in consecutive paragraphs.

Triple consecutive paragraphs, as it completely eliminates all soldiers who oppose the war, which is a larger and broader group than Salon clearly thinks.
posted by corb at 7:25 AM on November 11, 2014


Hahah, remember that MeTa where people were like "There's never been attacking soldiers on Metafilter! I don't know what you're talking about!" Good times.

Can you identify specific cases where this thread has 'attacked soldiers'? Or is merely having a discussion about the cult of the soldier an 'attack'?

And if so, how does that not make the author's point for him?
posted by lodurr at 7:28 AM on November 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Hahah, remember that MeTa where people were like "There's never been attacking soldiers on Metafilter! I don't know what you're talking about!" Good times.

Tone down the rhetoric. Words on a website are not "attacking soliders." There's no violent language being used here, and the other definition of an attack is, ironically, a direct reference to physical warfare.

This is one of the reasons its so hard to have an intelligent argument about the role heroism and war in society - because people routinely and deliberately misuse language as an tactic to derail the entire discussion rather than meet the arguments head on.
posted by buoys in the hood at 7:35 AM on November 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


But let's pick apart this bullshit piece.

Put a man in uniform, preferably a white man,

Pulling out tired racism tropes, when the military is one of the most diverse organizations, and has the most multiracial leadership out there. I defy you to find me a Fortune 500 company which has as many Hispanic and African-American individuals in positions of leadership.

childlike culture... a frightening cultural streak of nationalism, chauvinism, authoritarianism and totalitarianism,

Children are totalitarian nationalists? I never knew. It seems like the tag "childish" is just being used to say, "Things I think are stupid."

the horrific statistics likely fail to capture the reality of the sexual dungeon that has become the United States military.

I don't know if the author is aware, but sexual assaults are particularly high in any place where you have a preponderence of men in the 18-24 range. Like live-in colleges, for example. Sex assaults there happen at amazingly similar rates as the overall military. Yes, 1/3 of military women have been sexually harassed or assaulted - but probably also 1/3 of regular women as well. The military is no more a "sexual dungeon" than the rest of America.
posted by corb at 7:36 AM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also...

They would insist that veterans receive the best healthcare possible. Improving and universalizing high quality healthcare for all Americans, including veterans, is a much better and truer way to honor the risks

These things are not the same. It's possible to insist veterans receive the best health care possible, while not universalizing high quality healthcare for all Americans. And it's fucking repugnant for this shitty writer to attempt to dilute people pushing for that with his own political agenda while veterans are killing themselves left and right.

Veterans may or may not be heroes, but they definitely do deserve the appreciation and thanks of a country that was fine sending them to war, but didn't want to go themselves. This man is not "brave" for "sticking it" to the hundreds of thousands of traumatized veterans that did the dirty work no one else wanted to do.
posted by corb at 7:41 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hahah, remember that MeTa where people were like "There's never been attacking soldiers on Metafilter! I don't know what you're talking about!" Good times.

There's a vast difference between refusing to fall to our knees and worship someone simply for serving, and actually attacking. I'm not seeing any actual attacking, just a refusal to fellate people for putting on the uniform.

My Opa was a Buchenwald liberator. Purple Heart, Bronze Star. Carried shrapnel in his belly for the rest of his life after being wounded on the Front after the liberation of Buchenwald. He didn't expect any special treatment for that. He always felt that it was simply something that had to be done. I called him a hero once, and he told me that if I ever did that again, he'd wash my mouth out with Lava Soap. He taught me that blind nationalism and glorification of military service never went anywhere good, and if I ever had doubts about that, he'd show me his scars. "This doesn't make me a hero, Peach. It means I was cannon fodder."

He died 21 years ago today. He was buried with full military honors, but I guarantee you that if he had had anything to say about it, that would not have happened.
posted by MissySedai at 7:42 AM on November 11, 2014 [21 favorites]


Re: how to discuss these issues, if I were writing this article and I honestly wanted to advocate for vets (which the author claims to), then I'd start out "Veteran's Day is in a couple days, and 11% of our homeless in the United States are vets (citation). We still live in a country where a young person's best economic ticket out of town may be the military (citation). We put our soldiers in harm's way, both in the course of their service and in a military where (like many places in the U.S.) sexual assault is a real risk (citation). And then when they come home - with higher incidents of mental health issues and possible future health issues (we don't know what's going to happen yet to folks who were burning who knows what in Iraq, much like Agent Orange in Vietnam and veterans with lung issues from Desert Storm), we don't adequately provide them with medical attention (citation)."

Framing a criticism of the government and how this endless war has been handled, and how our troops have been treated, is totally doable without relying on the hero/demon dichotomy.
posted by joycehealy at 7:48 AM on November 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


Veterans may or may not be heroes, but they definitely do deserve the appreciation and thanks of a country that was fine sending them to war, but didn't want to go themselves.

The crux of the argument is that a significant group of people in any country are not fine sending them to war, and thus don't necessarily think that every solider is a hero for acts of service when they never wanted the service in the first place.

The nature of our immigration laws are such that you can't just live in the country that aligns best to your value system - so, being permanently stuck as a U.S. citizen does not mean you're "fine" with whatever the commander-in-chief decides to do because you continue to be alive in that particular part of the world.
posted by buoys in the hood at 7:56 AM on November 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm not seeing any actual attacking, just a refusal to fellate people for putting on the uniform.

"since they were fighting illegal and immoral wars they were still servicing evil."

That's pretty early in the thread. Another MeFite has referred to "servicevolk" in a pretty obvious attempt to skirt Godwinization. And I already quoted this: "truth is, there are greater enemies at home then there are overseas, and i don't see any of our soldiers fighting them - because, so often, they ARE them"

Are these really "attacks"? Meh. But if you're going to frame it as attacks or fellatio, then they go pretty squarely on the side of the former.
posted by Etrigan at 8:03 AM on November 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Are these really "attacks"? Meh. But if you're going to frame it as attacks or fellatio, then they go pretty squarely on the side of the former.

Again - "attack" is language with a specific violent context. Anything in the realm of passionate disagreement, even open contempt, is not "attack" language.
posted by buoys in the hood at 8:07 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]




"Fellate" has a pretty specific context too, but you're not rushing to police that language.
posted by Etrigan at 8:18 AM on November 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


This man is not "brave" for "sticking it" to the hundreds of thousands of traumatized veterans that did the dirty work no one else wanted to do.

I'm pretty sure the article was about the practice of referring to veterans as "heroes". There's a great distance between that and sticking things.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:48 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you want to criticize the ideology of people who sign up for the military then you have to ensure that there is a real choice for those people - that everyone has access to higher education and jobs that pay a living wage.

I can't remember if it was Frontline or some other show, but there was a documentary-type thing that showed the high pressure tactics that recruiters use in poor and minority areas. They flat-out lie to teenagers and brainwash them. Who, at 17 or 18, has a fully mature, consistent ideology? We don't even trust these kids to drink.

Criticizing troops is no different than scorning a Walmart cashier because you don't like the company's mistreatment of vendors and employees. The problem is at the top. So yeah, I do "support our troops." I support them in being able to choose the life they want, and I save my ire for politicians and generals.
posted by desjardins at 9:01 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't criticize the troops (or Walmart cashiers). I do criticize the glorification of military service, and the expectation that I should be grateful to any and all American veterans, and that the idea of "I support the troops" is beyond reproach.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:12 AM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


That wasn't directed at you, specifically, desjardins, but I now see that it might look that way. I'm just pondering.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:13 AM on November 11, 2014


Another MeFite has referred to "servicevolk" in a pretty obvious attempt to skirt Godwinization.

That would be me, and no it wasn't.
posted by lodurr at 9:24 AM on November 11, 2014


OK then, lodurr - what did you mean by that, if not an implication of famed German military actions? You could have said servicepeuple, or soldados, or...
posted by IAmBroom at 9:28 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it's an indication of how fraught any discussion of the cult of the soldier is that any use of the suffix "-volk" automatically registers as "GODWIN!!!!!!"

Because when I learned that term, it meant "people", with a vaguely agrarian-socialist connotation. That's how I use it.
posted by lodurr at 9:49 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Veterans may or may not be heroes, but they definitely do deserve the appreciation and thanks of a country that was fine sending them to war, but didn't want to go themselves.

Do you suggest I pick up a weapon and stand a post?

"The country" is a fictional construct: a lie. It has no real existence, let alone authority. I don't want to go to war, but I also have zero say in whether or not anyone else gets sent. Don't feed me any bullshit about voting, either. I vote, and my vote doesn't make a damned bit of difference.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:59 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Because when I learned that term, it meant "people", with a vaguely agrarian-socialist connotation. That's how I use it.

Yes, "agrarian-socialist" is definitely how one thinks of soldiers and advertisers.
posted by Etrigan at 10:00 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Dude, if you want to pick a fight about "-volk", look for it somewhere else.
posted by lodurr at 10:06 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't want to go to war, but I also have zero say in whether or not anyone else gets sent.

This is categorically not true. If leading the country to unnecessary war were thought of in the same breath as say, torturing small animals, the leaders desperate for the pulse of public opinion would not dream of doing so.
posted by corb at 10:43 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


the great challenge from a motivational standpoint is that we all have such a small say. But we do have one. And I suppose if we're willing to sacrifice a lot, we can make that say a lot bigger -- but it's never so big that any one of us is likely to ever feel like we made the difference.

If we change our lives to really operationalize, say, getting people to think of leading the country to war as at least equivalent to torturing small animals, it's going to have consequences for us. At a minimum, we're likely to start being thought of as 'that ideological guy with his war thing.'

Some people (probably a lot of people here) are willing to be 'that person'. I haven't been.
posted by lodurr at 11:06 AM on November 11, 2014


This is categorically not true. If leading the country to unnecessary war were thought of in the same breath as say, torturing small animals, the leaders desperate for the pulse of public opinion would not dream of doing so.

Are you listening? I have zero say. Me. The fact is, I am vastly outnumbered by people like MattD up there. Remember the protests against the Iraq war and what they accomplished? People like power, even (or maybe especially?) vicariously. I think it's a lot like "sharing" in the victory of a favored sports team. You didn't do anything whatsoever to make it possible, but you revel in it. Going to war will never be thought of as equivalent to torturing small animals.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:09 AM on November 11, 2014


You're speaking in absolutes ('zero', 'never'), and corb is speaking in probabilities.

As for what the protests against the iraq war did or didn't accomplish: they didn't win the day, that's true. but the fact that they happened was important.

and I wouldn't say 'never' to the equation of war and torturing small animals. in fact, i'd argue that we're pretty much doomed as a race if we don't get somewhere very like that. In your lifetime or mine? Probably not, but 'never' is a really big word.
posted by lodurr at 11:31 AM on November 11, 2014


One would have to define what a needless war is first. I'm sure there are many who believe basically any military action is needless and equivalent to torturing small animals. A very convenient belief for Americans living in relative security off of the spoils of genocide of native Americans, slavery, and many wars, in by far the wealthiest country in the world.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:44 AM on November 11, 2014


Actually, no, you wouldn't need to define it first. In fact, defining it first would be definitively irrelevant.

The reason is that if you actually ever got to a point like that, 'needless war' would already have been defined by the culture that expressed that belief in practice. How it was defined externally would be irrelevant -- they'd have their definition, and the definition we cook up here in 2014 would be irrelevant to that.
posted by lodurr at 11:49 AM on November 11, 2014


I do criticize the glorification of military service, and the expectation that I should be grateful to any and all American veterans, and that the idea of "I support the troops" is beyond reproach.

Yep.

I am, frankly, revolted by the notion that I have any need to be "grateful" to the hundreds of thousands of military personnel who served during peacetime, never saw so much as a second of combat, and have been free to go about their lives after discharge without any hint of PTSD or any other such issue. They didn't fight for or protect my freedom or anyone else's.

They sure as HELL didn't roll on into Buchenwald at the age of 19 and liberate people who had been subjected to the most gruesome conditions. Putting on a uniform does not automatically make you a hero, I don't care how loudly you claim it does, I don't care how many times you call me "unpatriotic" or "unAmerican" or whatever the epithet du jour is for people who don't think that a uniform makes you more important than everyone else. I lived with an ACTUAL hero, and he refused to claim it.

Yes, military peeps, I do appreciate your willingness to serve. Good on you! But it doesn't give you the instant right to be called "hero". You get THAT title when you do something more to earn it than simply show up. My oldest, dearest friend is in the Army, has been for 15 years. She plays trombone in the band. I love her dearly, but she is NOT a hero, and I am not "grateful" to her for her service.
posted by MissySedai at 11:52 AM on November 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


He can literally put 'em on, get on his knees and use his tongue to clean my honorably discharged rectum.

and that's precisely what i was talking about - people dying for our so-called freedom to serve assholes
posted by pyramid termite at 12:34 PM on November 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you put someone into battle and create a situation in which they have to be incredibly brave to so something -- which may include, say, saving the lives of their comrades -- you could say that you've created an opportunity for heroism.

If you're maneuvering these people into the situation through deception -- which is currently the case -- then I'd say you've manufactured the opportunity.

You've also manufactured an opportunity for the death of one or more people.

Does that make the heroism less real? I don't know and I'm not sure we need to decide. What we do know is that the opportunity for it was manufactured, and we can be pretty sure that the heroism serves a larger purpose.

That's a crime. It's a crime against the people whose lives were put at risk, and it's a crime against the people who are being conned in the game. (Overlapping sets.)

A lot of military people have understood this, historically. Smedley Butler, perhaps most famously. I've no doubt the man died proud of being a Marine, but he lived deeply offended at the use to which he and his fellow marines had been put.
posted by lodurr at 1:05 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Consider the case of someone who does something dangerous like trying to sail solo around the world.

That creates an opportunity for incredible bravery. And for stuff we'd call 'heroic' -- e.g., a rescuer taking great risk to perform a rescue when the attempt goes badly.

But it's not something that needed to happen, and a lot of us would get really upset about the frivolous risk posed to the lives of potential rescuers.

War really isn't any different. It's just a question of scale.
posted by lodurr at 1:11 PM on November 11, 2014


On This Veteran’s Day, You Can Save the Thank Yous, Rory Fanning, Moyers & Company, 11 November 2014
We use the term hero in part because it makes us feel good and in part because it shuts soldiers up (which, believe me, makes the rest of us feel better). Labeled as a hero, it’s also hard to think twice about putting your weapons down. Thank yous to heroes discourage dissent, which is one reason military bureaucrats feed off the term.


Which is remarkably similar to my feelings on the matter. It is good and proper to praise and honor the G. I. Dogface spending every day at the front fully conscious of their own mortality. At the same time, I'm sickened by the way that the brass and the war profiteers hide their incompetence and avarice behind the bravery of the enlisted and junior officers.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:48 PM on November 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Canadian here. When Nathan Cirillo was shot, you didn't dare say anything that portrayed soldiers as less than heroic.

A local newspaper columnist had the nerve to state his opinion that despite Nathan Cirllo's actual merits, he was not, in fact, a hero.

There was a huge, huge public backlash. It seems like my entire city is calling for this columnist to be fired. All for daring to go against the grain.

Here in Hamilton, all of our buses have displayed "LEST WE FORGET" ever since the day of the incident. Which is a nice sentiment, I suppose, but why is the life of a soldier so many magnitudes more valuable than the life of, say, a common firefighter? Or anyone else?

I can't express those opinions anywhere except here or I'll be lynched. But it grates on me. I even saved some newspaper commentary from November 3rd because the comments are so foreign to me that I wonder if we're living on the same plane of reality. Apparently, our country's collective heart was broken by the events in Ottawa. Tragedy. Fear. National mourning. The value of our national symbols. The need for a military to protect the freedom of our glorious country.

My identity is not tied up in national symbols in Ottawa. My heart doesn't lie in Ottawa. I don't buy into the compulsory displays of "patriotism" where you have to state how shaken you feel, and how proud of our military heroes (because apparently they are all heroes), but we will fight back and defend our freedom, damn those terrorists anyway, and how anyone who thinks otherwise is a traitor or unpatriotic.

You want to support Canada's supposed glorious freedom? Then start by going after Stephen Harper and his crimes against the country. I'm generally highly politically involved, but because I refuse to consider all soldiers heroes by virtue of their association with the military, I suppose I'm a traitor and anti-Canadian. Oh well.
posted by quiet earth at 2:56 PM on November 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Apparently, our country's collective heart was broken by the events in Ottawa. Tragedy. Fear. National mourning. The value of our national symbols. The need for a military to protect the freedom of our glorious country.

And knowing that it's entirely or mostly a product of manipulation of the situation for political gain doesn't help in the least. I think Harper's going for that whole "banality of evil" thing for future generations to remember him by.
posted by sneebler at 3:42 PM on November 11, 2014


BTW, here's a thoughtful article by The Guardian's Harry Leslie Smith on Remembrance Day:

"However, I am afraid it will be the last time that I will bear witness to those soldiers, airmen and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph. From now on, I will lament their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world. I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy."

(This might make more sense to Canadians/Brits observing Remembrance Day, which has had more a sense of reflecting the losses of the two World Wars and the devastation thereof, unlike Americans who have seen more active service in the last 50 years (or at least up till recently). Like quiet earth, I very much feel that we're being betrayed by our government in this, and for money.
posted by sneebler at 3:50 PM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Related, from today's Toronto Star: Stephen Harper uses terror threat to tee up for election.

But the fates are gathering in Harper’s favour. In particular, the murder of two Canadian soldiers on home soil has provided cover and justification for his decision to join the U.S. war in Iraq against Islamic State radicals.

Patriotism is powerful tonic. The wanton killing of W.O. Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo reignited the militant side of Canadian patriotism, a side that — following the disaster of the Afghan War — had been in abeyance.

The prime minister understands this well. It explains his decision to abruptly interrupt a long-planned trip to China in order to make a cameo appearance at Ottawa’s Remembrance Day services Tuesday.

To miss the chance of publicly honoring military sacrifice would have been to miss a crucial political opportunity.

posted by quiet earth at 4:31 PM on November 11, 2014




I suppose this is a silly question, but: how, exactly does the murder of soldiers on Canadian soil justify Canadians going to war in Syria?
posted by lodurr at 5:31 PM on November 11, 2014


My grandfather lost a lung to mustard gas in the aftermath of Passchendaele. He was was a stretcher bearer in the New Zealand Medical Corps, one of those who go unarmed onto the battlefield to bring back injured soldiers. Apparently he "promoted" his age by a year in order to join up. He never talked about it to us. I only pieced all the details together a few years ago when enough information became available online.

Which leads into the observation that if people who have done nothing more valorous than joining the army are to be lauded as heroes, what word is left for people like my grandfather, or the doctors and nurses voluntarily fighting ebola in West Africa?
posted by Autumn Leaf at 5:33 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


... I mean, I get that that's what we say, and that's what a lot of them sign up for. But how does what they actually do, in any way, "defend our freedom"?

Their actual action doesn't. Their existence does in a deterrent sense.


Someone who does the right thing in a dangerous or risky situation, who would not have gotten any blame had they simply walked away.

In other words, if you sign up for a dangerous or risky job, doing that job may be brave, it may be bold, it may be courageous, but it is not heroic.


Well, sure, but the signing up itself is something nobody would have faulted them for passing on.

I don't think you can really say anything generally about why people are in the military; it's very individual for each person. I've said this before so I'll just paraphrase. There are people who feel like when they see a wrong being committed, standing idly by would be wrong. Would you let someone be robbed or raped, when you were (hypothetically) right there and able to stop it? We can see the sentiment in the catcall thread, the gamergate threads, etc. Call out the bad people.

So if you extend that on a larger scale to the country, should we stand by and let bad actors get away with their shit? Saddam gassing kurds? The Taliban? North Korea? Russia stealing Crimea? If we don't intervene, who will? It's a world's policeman argument, and there's plenty of room for valid points either way. Plus, it changes from specific situation to specific situation.

But I figured when I joined, if there's a situation like that, I want to be helping. Not standing around watching and not helping.

I feel like that attitude got misused a time or two. I don't regret trying for 20 years. I do hate being called a hero or being thanked for my service, because I'm just a regular guy. 90% of the time it's pro forma and insincere anyway. The other 10% I don't believe is sincere because of the other 90%. Just knock it off already, and vote for veterans benefits if you care that much.
posted by ctmf at 9:24 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Smith's piece in The Guardian is superb. This guy's an infant.
posted by ambient2 at 10:07 PM on November 11, 2014


You'd let an infant lick your rectum?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:52 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


ambient2, that's not very helpful. what exactly makes smith's piece in the guardian superior to this piece? What is it that makes "this guy" an "infant" (and how do you know that about him)?

I understand that there's something in this piece that you're reacting very strongly to, but you done nothing so far but make statements about it -- you haven't given us any examples (beyond use of "my" in the piece's title).
posted by lodurr at 3:57 AM on November 12, 2014


ctmf: Their actual action doesn't. Their existence does in a deterrent sense.

This may be broadly true -- but we have the largest, most powerful army in the world, by a very substantial margin. So the "deterrance" in this case takes on a rather ominous character.
posted by lodurr at 3:58 AM on November 12, 2014


Regarding deterrence: In the wild, animals that vie for dominance don't need to see overwhelming superiority to be deterred. They just need to see a probability that their fitness will be problematically reduced. So where we are with our military is really far beyond the pale of any natural deterrence theory. We're into egregious dominance territory.
posted by lodurr at 4:12 AM on November 12, 2014


So if you extend that on a larger scale to the country, should we stand by and let bad actors get away with their shit?

Well, when you sign up, you run the risk of enabling a bad actor, too. That's scary.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 7:16 AM on November 12, 2014


So if you extend that on a larger scale to the country, should we stand by and let bad actors get away with their shit? Saddam gassing kurds? The Taliban? North Korea? Russia stealing Crimea? If we don't intervene, who will? It's a world's policeman argument, and there's plenty of room for valid points either way.

That is the argument. In practice, it is total lipservice. When we intervene militarily, it is because our political leadership believes it is in someone in our country's best political or economic interest to do so, not because "it's the right thing to do".
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:25 AM on November 12, 2014


, it is because our political leadership believes it is in someone in our country's best political or economic interest to do so, not because "it's the right thing to do".

That, too, is often freedom. It's the freedom of consumption, freedom from want, freedom from misery, freedom from fear. The freedom for your loved ones to continue on in their fragile existence, that requires other actors to fear the wrath of the United States. The freedom to engage in outside wars so that we are not attacked at home. If we had actually engaged in a war for oil as many said - seized Iraq's oil fields for the United States - it would have at least been a more pointful war, as it would have given us the freedom of transportation.

I've seen serious arguments that have suggested we went to war in Iraq to preserve the petrodollar, thus preserving and continuing to prop up the American economy. I'm not sure I believe them, but if that were the case, that too would have been a freedom of sorts.
posted by corb at 7:35 AM on November 12, 2014


Freedom packaged up with a tyranny bow, maybe.
posted by agregoli at 7:39 AM on November 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


That, too, is often freedom. It's the freedom of consumption

That's the argument Jim Wright made. Personally, I think it's irredeemably gross.

The freedom to engage in outside wars so that we are not attacked at home.

I wish I was surprised that you can make the argument with a straight face that what's stopping the USA from being invaded (by whom?) is our stomping around in other countries, but I am not.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:14 AM on November 12, 2014


corb: That, too, is often freedom. It's the freedom of consumption [etc.]

I'd been thinking about this but figured someone else would bring it up, but since you did...

"Freedom packaged up with a tyranny bow" [agregoli] is a pithy way to put it, but it doesn't capture the experience of the person who benefits from said 'freedoms.' Which is all of us, all the time. Because that's what's clearly meant -- at least, subtextually, and I think not all that 'sub' -- when 'defending freedom' includes things like exhortations to go shopping [GWBush].

This is just not as simple as 'freedom packaged up with a tyranny bow', because we're all doing it.
posted by lodurr at 8:15 AM on November 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


... but as far as preventing attack by foreign powers? See my comment above. We're so far beyond 'deterrence' now that the concept basically has no meaning anymore w.r.t. us. And anyway, that type of deterrent is totally irrelevant w.r.t. international terrorism -- it always has been, and likely always will be.

The very most effective weapon against international terrorism is effective foreign aid. But heaven forbid we should do that....
posted by lodurr at 8:18 AM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, deterrence vis-a-vis a large, well-trained force sitting and waiting for someone to try invading is one thing to argue (and plenty do), but to argue that deterrence means actually invading other countries? Lord.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:39 AM on November 12, 2014


If virtually any action by any actor can be characterized as advancing "freedom" of one sort or another, I guess we should just declare all foreign policy debates moot.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:58 AM on November 12, 2014


One of the many theories I've heard advanced is that putting soldiers in other countries closer to the individuals that hate us makes it significantly more likely that they will seek targets of opportunity closer to their homes than ours. So if they want to attack Americans, it's easier and cheaper to train local jihadists than it is to train people who can pull off civilian attacks in the US.
posted by corb at 9:11 AM on November 12, 2014


That's the 'flypaper' theory: "attack us there, not here."

It's a really expensive way to prevent attacks on the homeland. Really, really, really expensive. In very many ways.

Again: effective foreign aid would be a hell of a lot cheaper, and a hell of a lot more effective.
posted by lodurr at 9:25 AM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.


  — Wilfred Owen, 1920
posted by Zarkonnen at 10:26 AM on November 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


corb: So if they want to attack Americans, it's easier and cheaper to train local jihadists than it is to train people who can pull off civilian attacks in the US.

Sure, if you ignore the fact that putting Americans (or Westerners in general) where they live creates more jihadis... Wait, even then that theory is still bullshit.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:37 AM on November 12, 2014


lodurr, I really don't understand what you're getting at, forgive me. I don't understand how anyone can call it freedom when the entire thrust is crushing other people and cultures, which is why I used the word tyranny as a decorative dressing on the concept of freedom. Freedom is always presented as gentler than that, and yeah, American freedom is carried on the backs of others. I'm not sure where I absolved myself or anyone of the falsehood of that, as an American. I'm not understanding you.
posted by agregoli at 11:35 AM on November 12, 2014


One of the many theories I've heard advanced is that putting soldiers in other countries closer to the individuals that hate us makes it significantly more likely that they will seek targets of opportunity closer to their homes than ours. So if they want to attack Americans, it's easier and cheaper to train local jihadists than it is to train people who can pull off civilian attacks in the US.

Yes, I have heard this, too. It is dumb. The jihadists exist in the first place largely because we are there and stomping around like a bull in a china shop, and this theory also presupposes that an attack on US soil is just as likely to happen as an attack somewhere else, which is falsified by asimple appeal to logistics.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:39 AM on November 12, 2014


lodurr, I really don't understand what you're getting at...

It sounds like you get it.
posted by lodurr at 12:52 PM on November 12, 2014


But speaking of the great war poets...
'Jack fell as he'd have wished,' the Mother said,
And folded up the letter that she'd read.
'The Colonel writes so nicely.' Something broke
In the tired voice that quavered to a choke.
She half looked up. 'We mothers are so proud
Of our dead soldiers.' Then her face was bowed.

Quietly the Brother Officer went out.
He'd told the poor old dear some gallant lies
That she would nourish all her days, no doubt.
For while he coughed and mumbled, her weak eyes
Had shone with gentle triumph, brimmed with joy,
Because he'd been so brave, her glorious boy.

He thought how 'Jack', cold-footed, useless swine,
Had panicked down the trench that night the mine
Went up at Wicked Corner; how he'd tried
To get sent home, and how, at last, he died,
Blown to small bits. And no one seemed to care
Except that lonely woman with white hair.

-Siegfried Sassoon
posted by corb at 4:52 PM on November 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ok, sorry - felt singled out by you.
posted by agregoli at 6:48 PM on November 12, 2014


One of the many theories I've heard advanced is that putting soldiers in other countries closer to the individuals that hate us makes it significantly more likely that they will seek targets of opportunity closer to their homes than ours. So if they want to attack Americans, it's easier and cheaper to train local jihadists than it is to train people who can pull off civilian attacks in the US.

There is another theory I've heard, that after Vietnam, it was decided to reduce the standing army and rely more on National Guard units at the State level. This would theoretically make it more difficult to get public approval for a rush to war, since it would draw people out of local communities, instead of just taking them off military bases. The impact of a mobilization would be more immediate and more recognizable. The consequences of war would become more obvious, which would ultimately make it more difficult to ever go to war again.

But since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, another effect became apparent. In the post-9/11 hysteria, the march to war was probably unstoppable, and National Guard units were widely activated. But once the soldiers were deployed, they started seeing the civilians in the war zone as human beings that they wanted to defend, they were not so different than their own families. Many soldiers broke down when they were confronted with this reality. Others returned to the battlefield as civilians after their deployments were over, and became humanitarian workers.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:20 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf, that's an interesting theory. I've had another one that I won't go into because it really doesn't hold up as well (I'll just say that it has to do with the effectiveness of training and kill-ratios being out of whack with what they've been in the past), but I hadn't heard anyone put it that way before. Can you point to any more detailed explications?
posted by lodurr at 7:32 PM on November 12, 2014


lodurr, it has been so long since I heard that theory, I can't even remember the source. I think it came up during the discussions leading up to Gulf War #1, when there was debate about deploying Guardsmen. But it is not hard to document the drawdown in permanent military, you can look at the Rumsfeld Commission that shut down dozens of military bases and decommissioned many soldiers. This was supposed to be our "Peace Dividend," reducing the size of the military budget. Which is one more reason to be pissed off about Gulf War #2, they squandered that dividend on another war.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:02 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


i was most interested in the part about identification with foreign civilians. I also wonder if there have been changes to the culture of the Guard since the start of the Iraq war: Do people go into it now with different expectations, and so if this was true then, would it still be true now.
posted by lodurr at 5:26 AM on November 13, 2014


Interview with YPJ Commander in Kobane and Mishtenur Hill
In the previous interview we had, you mentioned that you thought of all the women of the world when you have your finger on the trigger of your gun.

Yes, certainly. When I have my finger on the trigger of my gun I think about Kurdish women, all the women in the world and those who think of freedom and peace in mind.

On November, the 1st, the whole world was on the streets to support you. What would you like to tell to the global public and especially the women of the world about the struggle in Kobane?

The war in Kobane is an international war. The liberation of Kobane would open the door for the liberation of the Middle East. Just at the beginning of the war, I said that the Kobane would be the Stalingrad of the Middle East and bring the peoples together. Many people asked why I said such thing. I stated that we wouldn’t be alone; that millions would see the injustice and support us. Because we are in our own country, in our own lands.

Those who defend human rights in the world cannot turn a blind eye to this truth in the 21st century. I thought every person, every country and every force with a conscious would take a stance against this injustice. Many people ask how I foresaw this. In the beginning, we were on our own; we fought alone against tanks and cannons with our will. But I had hoped. I believe that those in the right will get what they deserve.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:13 PM on November 13, 2014


So, what's your point? That it's a just war, and we ought to intervene in that specific just war? That war overseas in general is a good thing when it supports a fight against bad actors?

And are we meant to forget that this particular just war is the fruit of our whirlwind?
posted by lodurr at 1:18 PM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


lodurr, at least in my county, the Guard had a complete change in culture. Back in the 70s, if you got drafted but didn't want to go to Vietnam, you could enlist in the Guard before you went to the Draft Board. The local Guard group is a medical detachment, not primarily a fighting force, and in the most recent war in Iraq, they were the medical teams stationed at Abu Graib prison. In this particular case, they closed ranks and are covering for their possible complicity in the war crimes at Abu Graib.

But this is not the change in culture I'm talking about, quite the opposite. That is what happens when you become too isolated and are basically prison guards.

The actual stories coming out of the Middle East battlegrounds are mixed, and of course subject to propaganda. But a good example that is probably free from military propaganda is Pencils for Peace, this was about the first grassroots humanitarian campaign I heard of in Afghanistan. Local civic groups like the Rotary Club collected supplies and gave them to soldiers to distribute. Oh man, the story at the top of that FB page made me cry.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:50 PM on November 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've seen serious arguments that have suggested we went to war in Iraq to preserve the petrodollar, thus preserving and continuing to prop up the American economy. I'm not sure I believe them, but if that were the case, that too would have been a freedom of sorts.

Do you have any idea how Orwellian what you're saying sounds? Your view of freedom seems to include the freedom to enslave. The freedom of a boot to stamp on a human face - forever.
posted by howfar at 4:14 PM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


And are we meant to forget that this particular just war is the fruit of our whirlwind?

Our we meant to let thousands of men, women, and children get killed, tortured, raped and/or enslaved while we have the means to prevent it because of some pablum about it being "the fruit of our whirlwind?"
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:21 PM on November 13, 2014


Are we. Jeez
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:38 PM on November 13, 2014


Golden_Eternity: No. Why in the world would we be? You're reducing a complex issue to binary choices, which is precisely how hell gets perpetuated in the real world. If you ever want to take real steps to preventing thousands of men, women and children from getting killed, tortured, raped and/or enslaved, then you've got to deal with the fact that our military's continued presence as mob enforcers in the clothing of liberators is one of the main factors driving the risk of those people getting killed, tortured, raped and/or enslaved.

Pre-emptively dismissing the question as "pablum" is simply a way to avoid dealing with the issue.
posted by lodurr at 6:38 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


What are the real steps to take to prevent the Kurds in Kobani, the Yazidi's on Mt. Sinjar, and the christians and other minorities in Mosul and throughout northern and Iraq and Syria from being head-chopped, raped, enlsaved, and slaughtered? Humanitarian aid? I'm not sure what sort of aid someone needs while they are being beheaded. Maybe body bags and earth moving equipment for digging mass graves so they don't just leave the bodies lying on the ground I guess.

Where exactly are our troops present as "mob enforcers in the clothing of liberators." Are the troops handing out 'pencils for peace' in Afghanistan "mob enforcers?"
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:51 PM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Again with the binary choices. You want me to say 'it's wrong to help these people', and that's not what I'm saying. It's not what I said to begin with.

What I did to begin with was to ask you what you meant, and you still haven't told me.

If all you're saying is "this particular time we have to help these people," then that's a totally different claim from "we should help people whenever these situations come up." Becuase the latter claim -- as I pointed out -- ignores the fact that we cause most of these situations you would have us step in to resolve.

What I'm suggesting is that we need to be aware that we're causing the situations, and stop doing that.

And yes, that may very well mean not providing aid to resolve the situation in some cases. E.g., in this case, we seem to be making strategic and primarily military choices that will result in perpetuation of the Assad regime, in order to defeat the big-bad of ISIS -- who are absolutely the fruit of our whirlwind, whether you regard that as "pablum" or not.
posted by lodurr at 4:06 PM on November 14, 2014


perpetuation of the Assad regime

What's the alternative? You would rather see jihadis storm Damascus? An urban area of about 3M people, if I remember correctly. Most of the people who blame the current policy for "perpetuating the Assad regime," claim the US should have been fully supporting the FSA from the beginning.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:11 PM on November 14, 2014


Golden Eternity: My original question to you was "what's your point?" and I still don't know the answer to that. I asked you if you cared whether we caused the shitstorm; you dismissed that question as "pablum," stating that it was meant to avoid the issue of whether to intervene in Syria.

This is not a discussion about the Syrian intervention. It's a discussion about the cult of the uniform. If you want to talk about the Syrian intervention, go find a way to make an OP out of it. Either that, or relate these questions to the cult of the uniform. Which you could do by explaining whether you're trying to speak in general terms about interventions, or specifically about this one.

What I've said is that intervening to fix problems that we created can perpetuate the problems. I'll go further and say that this is by design, as is the promotion of the cult of the uniform, and the design is to further the hegemony of the military-industrial complex.*

--
*(Really, we should just drop the "military" part of that, they don't seem to have any shot-calling role in this anymore.)
posted by lodurr at 10:01 AM on November 15, 2014


> I consider military members heroes, because they have willingly volunteered to put their life on the line [...]

All of them? If you choose the right job in the right branch, your risk of being injured or killed is fairly low. The people who cook the meals for the people who manage the retirement plans for the people who drive the trucks for the people who work in the warehouses... they aren't going to be shot unless maybe they live in a bad part of Los Angeles.

For many service members, I wonder if it isn't more a gamble that they can start with zero money, zero job qualifications, and zero societal respect, and get steady government jobs and benefits (including college) and a good measure of the "hero" stuff thanks to an organization that will probably never lay them off if they continue to do their jobs and are not really dumb assholes. The dying part is something you might not imagine yourself doing, especially if your job is anything but the small percentage who are actually on the front line somewhere shooting guns at people and therefore being shot back at.
posted by pracowity at 2:46 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


All of them? If you choose the right job in the right branch, your risk of being injured or killed is fairly low. The people who cook the meals for the people who manage the retirement plans for the people who drive the trucks for the people who work in the warehouses... they aren't going to be shot unless maybe they live in a bad part of Los Angeles.

Our local National Guard unit has a field dental unit that has been deployed in Iraq. There is colorful military slang for this type of unit.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:24 AM on November 17, 2014


question: when you talk about a 'local unit', that doesn't really mean people join locally to do that work, does it? E.g., if a detachment based out of Centerville normally does dentistry, does that mean folks from Centerville will get assigned (or get assignment preference) for the dentistry unit?
posted by lodurr at 8:49 AM on November 17, 2014


If you choose the right job in the right branch, your risk of being injured or killed is fairly low. The people who cook the meals for the people who manage the retirement plans for the people who drive the trucks for the people who work in the warehouses... they aren't going to be shot unless maybe they live in a bad part of Los Angeles.

You are just fucking wrong about that. I'm trying to hold back my actual feelings about how very, very wrong you are, but there is no front line, and there are no guarantees when you join for a job that you won't go to a combat zone. There is no job I know of in the Army that has zero possibility of deploying to a combat zone. The most dangerous job in the Army right now is truck driver. The people who manage the retirement plans do so often directly in the combat zones. As do the cooks. As do the legal services.

Please try to think before you say dismissive, offensive shit like that. You are talking about jobs possessed by people I knew who are now dead believing in your ability to dismiss them.
posted by corb at 9:20 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


lodurr, it's local in that there are several units in the state, this one mostly draws from the nearby counties. The local unit is a medical support unit, so general enlistees without medical or dental training would support of the medical mission. There is a world class dental school here, as well as the world's largest State-run hospital, but I don't know how that would affect the unit. Certainly there are more than enough doctors and dentists around here for a few of them to staff a Guard unit.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:01 AM on November 17, 2014


when you talk about a 'local unit', that doesn't really mean people join locally to do that work, does it?

When you're in the Reserves/National Guard, you choose what unit you're in (from those units that have spaces available for your rank and specialty (with a few exceptions)). When people enlist in the Reserves/National Guard, they often choose their specialty based on what units are local. On the other hand, experienced service members coming into the unit will often have to go to school for a new specialty, but they're joining that unit because it's local to where they live. However, there are people who travel a long way because they can't find a local unit with a space at their rank or specialty. My battalion commander travels 400 miles to come to drill weekends; I travel 11 miles.

So Reserve and Guard units often cluster where people in those specialties cluster -- more medical units are near medical schools, logistical units that deal with petroleum are in Texas and Oklahoma, etc.
posted by Etrigan at 10:47 AM on November 17, 2014


So Reserve and Guard units often cluster where people in those specialties cluster...

Thanks, I'd sort of assumed it worked this way. So it's not really as simple as choosing a unit you think won't see combat or will be 'only in the FOB.'

(I'm not crazy about 'fobbit' -- if people in-country want to us it, fine, I'm not in their shoes -- but honestly shouldn't they show more respect to the FOB folks, too? In most cases it's not like they checked a box that said 'please don't let me see combat.' And it has to take a special kind of nerve to drive trucks in a combat zone.)
posted by lodurr at 11:27 AM on November 17, 2014


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