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They don't know what we do.
October 3, 2010 7:38 AM   Subscribe

"For a lot of soldiers, there are two kinds of people: those who serve, and those who expect to be served, and those who serve are pretty noble.'' The U.S. Army now begins its 10th continuous year in combat, the first time in its history the United States has excused the vast majority of its citizens from service and engaged in a major, decade-long conflict instead with an Army manned entirely by professional warriors.
posted by bardophile (218 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sorry, but no one is serving me or my family by fighting a war of aggression and occupation in Iraq. In fact, they have probably made all of us less safe.
posted by cjets at 7:51 AM on October 3, 2010 [30 favorites]


"They don't know what we do,'' said Col. Dan Williams, who commands an Army aviation brigade in Afghanistan.

"I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested."

Yeah, we've known what you all do for a long, long time.
posted by cmonkey at 7:53 AM on October 3, 2010 [37 favorites]


Ten years? Is it 2011 already?
posted by dougrayrankin at 7:57 AM on October 3, 2010


cmonkey is referring, of course, to Smedley Butler.

But it raises the question, would you prefer a politicized military?

I still blame congress and the white house for this situation.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:03 AM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ people, enlisted soldiers don't make deployment decisions. Take your drum and beat it against the politicians and the people who elected them. Civilian control of the military means you don't get the right to blame the GIs for wars you disagree with. Get out the vote, educate your fellow Americans, and get off my lawn.

Great article.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:05 AM on October 3, 2010 [56 favorites]


2011 will be the 11th year. I double checked this by counting on my fingers.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:08 AM on October 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, we've known what you all do for a long, long time.

I see this start of statement as different side of the article's thesis, i.e. that the ongoing wars have created a separate class of Americans. cmonkey's comment seems to reinforce that idea in its painting of the military in a negative light, consciously choosing to set it apart from mainstream American society. Perhaps in doing so we deny them their bit of humanity as we unwittingly give up some of our own.
posted by nomadicink at 8:10 AM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


enlisted soldiers don't make deployment decisions. Take your drum and beat it against the politicians and the people who elected them

Very true. To be fair, however, this article does contain a number of soldiers making moralizing statements implicitly or explicitly judgmental of civilians who don't pay what they consider a sufficient amount of respect to the nobility and heroism of soldiers. So it's kind of provocative.

It is quite possible to believe, all at the same time, that a) many soldiers go through hell the resrt of us will never have to experience; b) that huge numbers of them do this because US society leaves them no other real economic option, and anointing them "heroes" is what society does to paper over its guilt at sending the poor to die; and that c) any given war is justified or unjustified.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:10 AM on October 3, 2010 [51 favorites]


Some day, a latter day Gibbon is going to be wondering why no-one realised what was going to happen.
posted by atrazine at 8:10 AM on October 3, 2010 [9 favorites]


I see this start of statement as different side of the article's thesis, i.e. that the ongoing wars have created a separate class of Americans.

The poor have been around for a long time.
posted by squorch at 8:11 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The poor have been around for a long time.

Where does the American military get its officers from? I'm not really familiar with the US military but I know that in the UK, a very large percentage of the upper class serve in the forces. (Not to imply that all British officers are public schoolboys, but there are rather a lot of them)
posted by atrazine at 8:20 AM on October 3, 2010


game warden to the events rhino writes "Very true."

Partially; anyone who signed up in the last few years knew where they were going.
posted by Mitheral at 8:24 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's incredible to me is the way it all seems to slide off most people's brains, like we're only sometimes reminded that there even is a current war and the rest of the time it's mostly irrelevant to our lives. That has to be deliberate, surely. What other war has been so utterly disconnected from society? even the Falklands, which was both distant and volunteer, was pretty well imprinted in the UK national consciousness.
posted by shinybaum at 8:25 AM on October 3, 2010


in the UK, a very large percentage of the upper class serve in the forces.

In the post-World War II (and especially post-Vietnam) US, the opposite has been true, as this book discusses.
posted by jonmc at 8:25 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


From my understanding of things, the US doesn't have upper and lower classes the way the UK does. In the US, the classes are based more on a financial rather than on a hereditary basis. The wealthier in the US are pretty unlikely to give all that up for a chance to go camping in Afghanistan.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:27 AM on October 3, 2010


2011 will be the 11th year. I double checked this by counting on my fingers.


Operation Enduring Freedom began in October 2001, 9 years ago. I may be missing something, but I can't for the life of me think of any wars the US was involved in in 2000.
posted by dougrayrankin at 8:28 AM on October 3, 2010


Jesus Christ people, enlisted soldiers don't make deployment decisions.

No, but they did decide to join an organization that's killed millions of innocent people with little or no justification (for fun, try asking your favorite hawk why the US invaded Vietnam) and, in this article, are now spouting off on their moral superiority as a result.

At the risk of Godwining the thread early, between Indochina, Central and South America, and the Middle East, during my lifetime the US military has killed over half the number of innocent people that died in the Holocaust.

If you accept the "economic reasons" argument for joining the military, are you willing to forgive poor people who hold up gas stations for money? If not, why not?

Oh, and this article is bullshit in another way - it isn't "ten years" - the US has been continuously fighting somewhere since WWII - that's "over sixty years". When a reporter writes something like "It might have been easier a decade ago, when the Army was a sleepy garrison force sent abroad on occasional forays as peacekeepers," you really have to wonder about their very sanity.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:33 AM on October 3, 2010 [18 favorites]


2001 1st year
2002 2nd year
2003 3rd year
2004 4th year
2005 5th year
2006 6th year
2007 7th year
2008 8th year
2009 9th year
2010 10th year
2011 1th year

Yes, subtracting 2001 from 2010 gives you an answer of 9, but that isn't the correct way to figure out the answer to the question to how many years something has lasted.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:34 AM on October 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


The consequences of this unique milestone in American history are many -- the rise of a new warrior class, the declining number of Americans in public life with the sobering experience of war, the fading ideal of public service as a civic responsibility. But above all, I think, is a perilous shrinking of common ground, the shared values and knowledge and beliefs that have shaped the way Americans think about war. Without it, how will soldiers and civilians ever see this war and its outcome in the same way?
It surely doesn't help to insist on calling soldiers "warriors." If that little piece of re-branding wasn't intended to further and deepen a separation between civilian and military life, then I don't know what it was for.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:35 AM on October 3, 2010 [17 favorites]


No, but they did decide to join an organization that's killed millions of innocent people with little or no justification (for fun, try asking your favorite hawk why the US invaded Vietnam) and, in this article, are now spouting off on their moral superiority as a result.

Lumping Vietnam in with the Middle East and Central America is kind of unfair since enlisted men in Vietnam were draftees.
posted by jonmc at 8:37 AM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh it's a semantics thing. Badly worded then, it gives the impression that they have been fighting for ten years, instead of the actual nine which they have. You see, in October 2002, they had been fighting for only one year, 2003, two years and so on.
posted by dougrayrankin at 8:37 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The article said we are beginning the 10th year.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:38 AM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Once again, my bad.
posted by dougrayrankin at 8:40 AM on October 3, 2010


Let's go back to the Roman system. Put the Senators and Representatives on the front lines. Then we'll see how many wars they get into.

Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:42 AM on October 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


2011 1th year
Ah, that must be that Y2K+10 problem I heard about

or y2k+11? Seriously, I suck at these calculations.
posted by deliquescent at 8:46 AM on October 3, 2010


anyone who signed up in the last few years knew where they were going.

Agreed, but as I said this is not very meaningful unless you also factor in the degree of real choice they had in signing up. And even if they signed up with huge enthusiasm, you'd then have to factor in the degree to which, in some parts of the US, they'd have been propagandized since infancy about the merits of doing so.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:53 AM on October 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Warfighters, come out and pla-a-ay!
posted by box at 8:55 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the results of abolishing compulsory military service has been the creation of a military expressly for the purpose of foreign adventures like Grenada, Panama and Iraq. The draft acted as a brake on military adventures. Now, the military becomes an interest in favor of such adventures, as well as a political base to elect politicians who support adventurism.

Citizen soldiers democratize the military. Professionals can erode civilian control, as we are seeing with the Oath Keepers.

It seems historically typical of late-stage empires with shrinking resource bases. Think Athens and Sicily or Showa era Japan for two examples.
posted by warbaby at 8:58 AM on October 3, 2010 [20 favorites]


There are two types of people I have disdain for when it comes to discussions about the military. The chickenhawks who are quite happy to send someone else to go do the fighting, and the people who never served, yet somehow feel qualified to rain judgment down on those that have, and continue to. To both of those groups, i would like to remind you, it ain't no disco.
posted by timsteil at 9:02 AM on October 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


For the unfortunate stop-loss retained servicemembers, the $500 a month per retroactive payment program is scheduled to end later this month.

Sheffer's 10th mtn comments kinda sum up the year 2001 off to war we go now ethos.

Iraqastan has been an imperfect way to professionalize the military and make advancements in combat survival rates.
posted by buzzman at 9:04 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Joel Stein:

I don't support our troops. ... Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there -- and who might one day want to send them somewhere else. ... I understand the guilt. We know we're sending recruits to do our dirty work, and we want to seem grateful. ... But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. ... But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. ... I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:05 AM on October 3, 2010 [28 favorites]


Forever War
posted by homunculus at 9:06 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.

I don't think that would fly. It would anger the soldiers and their families, furthering the divide between those who fight and those who don't.
posted by nomadicink at 9:15 AM on October 3, 2010


Forever War

Money quote:

Let’s keep two things in mind here: just how narrow were the options the president considered, and just how large was the surge he reluctantly launched.  By the end of the fall of 2009, it was common knowledge in Washington that the administration’s fiercely debated Afghan War “review” never considered a “less” option, only ones involving “more. ...

The military’s chosen option was for those 40,000 troops and an emphasis on counterinsurgency.  Between them lay a barely distinguishable 30,000-35,000 option.  The only other option mentioned during the review process involved a surge of 85,000, and it, too, was ruled out by the military because troops in that quantity simply weren’t available.  This, then, was the full “range” of debate in Washington about the Afghan War.  No wonder the president, according to Woodward, exclaimed in anger, "So what's my option? You have given me one option."

posted by Joe Beese at 9:18 AM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


...and the people who never served, yet somehow feel qualified to rain judgment down on those that have, and continue to. To both of those groups, i would like to remind you, it ain't no disco.

This attitude puzzles me.

I don't know what it is to be a dictator, a carnival cook, an architect, a filmmaker, or an athlete. I don't know what it is to wake up in the morning and have a cup of coffee and do what they do all day. And, yet, in our culture, I can disapprove of this, this, this, this, and this, and, by extension, the people that made them possible. And, to an extent, I think this is good. Public disapproval prevents myopia and enables cultural dialogue, although it can be a dulling influence on those who wish to be widely successful. And we should strive to understand the circumstances of those who criticize. Often, we don't. However, we're allowed to criticize all the same.

However, in our culture, (I'm Canadian, but I think this is true of North America as a whole) I'm somehow a pariah if I criticize soldiers who participate in illegal resource and spectacle wars. Can't you see how this is dangerous? That soldiers are uniquely absolved in this way? I'm a human: I can pity the unsuspecting reservist shipped off to Fallujah, or the poor black teenager in Gary, Indiana, for whom fatigues and a rifle appear to be the only way out. But, still, can't you see how this is dangerous?
posted by voronoi at 9:19 AM on October 3, 2010 [28 favorites]


professional warriors

You mean mercenaries?
posted by cmoj at 9:26 AM on October 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


or the poor black teenager
sure are from Canada. sorry, didnt mean to lump you in with a group.

Citizen soldiers democratize the military. Professionals can erode civilian control, as we are seeing with the Oath Keepers.

oath keepers, heh.
The military is not democratic nor should it be.

Think Athens and Sicily or Showa era Japan for two examples.


bad examples as Showa period ened in 1989. Unless you were refering to first Showa era? which would be worse.
posted by clavdivs at 9:35 AM on October 3, 2010


oath keepers, heh.

Perhaps you're not familiar with the Oath Keepers or what their existence actually implies. I find them scary, and they're not just in the military, but they extend to uniformed law enforcement too.
posted by hippybear at 9:46 AM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


A few months ago I took a flight from Dallas back home to San Francisco. I'm a small guy but I can give off a look that prevents anyone but the most desperate from sitting next to me (Thanks New York!). Well, on this flight the most desperate person was an army private coming home to Oakland after his second 10-month deployment in Afghanistan.

He was a huge guy -- about 6' 4'' and broad-shouldered, trim and well-muscled. His face had deep lines in it. I had him pegged for about 30 before he told me he was 22.

He had a couple months back home, and then would be heading back to Afghanistan for another go-round.

He was blind drunk. Apparently, you can't walk through the Dallas airport in fatigues without being offered a few free beers, and he had accepted every offer.

He sat down and immediately started talking:

He told me about how killing civilians happens all the time because soldiers feel it's safer to kill anyone who isn't American, rather than watch someone you thought wasn't dangerous turn around and kill you or your friend.

He told me he had been bumped back down to private for getting caught smoking hash on duty.

He told me he had PTSD.

He told me about prostitutes and bar fights in Germany while on leave.

He told me as far as he could tell nothing was getting better in Afghanistan, and that we'd be there forever. I asked him about the new general taking over and changing tactics and he didn't seem to care. I asked him about making the world safe from terrorism and he didn't seem to care.

He told me about using his binoculars to watch Afghani tribesmen fuck their goats.

He told me about where he grew up in Oakland, and how most of his friends were in prison or heavily into selling and using drugs, and that he was afraid he would get sucked back into their lives while he was home.

He said when he got out of the military he's like to go to school and become a counselor for other soldiers with PTSD.

He tried to explain what it was like to watch his friends die, and to kill people, and to fear that at any moment in your day, you might have to do one or the other.

And then our flight landed and I wished him luck.

I work from home in a nice neighborhood in San Francisco, and I make myself French press coffee every morning before I have a nice hot shower. I can not relate to any of the experiences this soldier has had in Afghanistan. The only thing I understand is that I DON'T understand and that, while he is not innocent of any of the things he's done, he did not start or decide how to fight this war.
posted by thebergfather at 9:49 AM on October 3, 2010 [54 favorites]


It surely doesn't help to insist on calling soldiers "warriors." If that little piece of re-branding wasn't intended to further and deepen a separation between civilian and military life, then I don't know what it was for.

The word warrior is the first thing I noticed. I don't think it is intended to separate civilian and military life, so much as it is just branding to convince teenagers that being in the military will be awesome.
posted by ssg at 10:12 AM on October 3, 2010


Jesus Christ people, enlisted soldiers don't make deployment decisions. Take your drum and beat it against the politicians and the people who elected them. Civilian control of the military means you don't get the right to blame the GIs for wars you disagree with. Get out the vote, educate your fellow Americans, and get off my lawn.

We are all responsible for our own actions. When a superior orders you to do something wrong, you should not do it.

Or, in the words of the Nuremberg Principles: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

A soldier is not a robot with a gun. He has a mind and a conscience, and he is expected to use them.
posted by JDHarper at 10:13 AM on October 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


There are two types of people I have disdain for when it comes to discussions about the military. The chickenhawks who are quite happy to send someone else to go do the fighting, and the people who never served, yet somehow feel qualified to rain judgment down on those that have, and continue to.

We don't want you to serve. We don't want you to serve. We don't want you to serve. We don't want you to serve. Should I say it again? We don't want you to serve. Maybe if you could see past your "authenticity," your self-righteousness and your sense that military people are better than everyone else, we might actually have a productive conversation. I'm not going to treat the military with kid gloves just because you can't take criticism.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 10:15 AM on October 3, 2010 [24 favorites]


there are other ways to serve your country besides putting on a uniform and using a gun
posted by pyramid termite at 10:21 AM on October 3, 2010 [12 favorites]


Civilian control of the military means you don't get the right to blame the GIs for wars you disagree with. Get out the vote, educate your fellow Americans, and get off my lawn.

Amen. Listen, we vote here. That means that sometimes, people we disagree with get into power and they do things we disagree with. But venting anger at people who have volunteered to serve in the armed forces is exactly the wrong way to go about it. You do not convince your fellow citizens that these wars are a bad idea when you do that. Emotional attacks stop people from thinking, which is the exact opposite of what you want to do.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:22 AM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


outlandishmarxist: We don't want you to serve. We don't want you to serve. We don't want you to serve. We don't want you to serve. Should I say it again? We don't want you to serve.

Yes, I don't think I can present my opinion of the current military better than this. I understand that those of you who joined, were well intentioned, but you are not 'serving' the country by joining while we are engaged in these counterproductive and harmful wars overseas. If you want to 'serve' the country, stay out - they don't have the support they'd need to do a draft, so if people would just not join they'd have to stop these wars and bring everyone home. Thus, we could stop ruining our own people with PTSD and wasting a fortune we can't afford. "Fixing" Iraq or Afghanistan in the manner we attempt is impossible and will never occur no matter how many lives or dollars we throw away.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:25 AM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


It surely doesn't help to insist on calling soldiers "warriors." If that little piece of re-branding wasn't intended to further and deepen a separation between civilian and military life, then I don't know what it was for.

The term is a generic one for member of the armed services. Its used so that you don't have to say "soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen."
posted by Ironmouth at 10:32 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


so if people would just not join they'd have to stop these wars and bring everyone home.

History is really, Really, REALLY not with you on this one.
posted by Cyrano at 10:35 AM on October 3, 2010 [9 favorites]


Voronoi,

Your points are well taken, well considered by me, and refreshingly thoughtful on a subject that can often turn so stupid and nasty on topics like this.

I don't know what it's like to be a dictator either. But I do know what it is like to be a poor kid without a lot of options. I know what it is like to leave my pregnant wife, and fly to another hemisphere to help train the military of a dictator, who was there because of a CIA assasination, and feeling very conflicted about what I was doing.

I went out on drug interdiction missions high as a kite. I entered foreign soil in violation of all kinds of international law. I went through the most intense training and situations most folks could even imagine. When a half a snake looks good to you for dinner, well I just don't know.

I really don't want to be "if you didn't serve" guy, but I would like to just try to explain a little.

It's a brotherhood I guess. Regardless of where you are, and for what reason, whether you personally believe in the cause or not, service members are all in the same stinking ship together. You have all been through the same stuff, and that kind of comes with an unspoken understanding, that I got your back man. That might be on a battlefield, or in an internet discussion.

It's probably as elusive to some folks as Freemasons or bikers or Cubs fans or any sort of group that has this weird loyalty that you just don't get unless you're in it. I'm not sure there is any way to truly explain it to folks with opposing feelings.

I was in some dicey places. I've had friends die. Still, I look back at my time in service as something, while I'm not in any hurry to re-enlist, that I still take pride in. I really don't have any patriotic fantasies about it like I was out spreading the American ethos to an unknowing third world. But I know one thing for sure.

I went in as a boy, and came out a man.
posted by timsteil at 10:36 AM on October 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


I can not relate to any of the experiences this soldier has had in Afghanistan.

Interesting, he seems to make perfect sense to me. Put in the situation of kill or be killed, all bets are off and people naturally escalate things to prevent them or their friends from being killed. Killing civilians is horrible thing, yes, but to many soldiers, it probably beats being dead or have your friends brains splattered all over you.

There's no real glory in war, just darkest side of humans brought to light.
posted by nomadicink at 10:45 AM on October 3, 2010


To Arms!

Capitalists, Parsons, Politicians, Landlords, Newspaper Editors and Other Stay-At-Home Patriots

your country needs
YOU
in the trenches!!

WORKERS
Follow your Masters

posted by enn at 10:49 AM on October 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


there are other ways to serve your country besides putting on a uniform and using a gun

i agree, who wants to be civilian killing, hash smoking, A.W.O.L. solder explaining afghan culture studies and war related afflictions to strangers on a plane.
posted by clavdivs at 10:49 AM on October 3, 2010


heh
posted by clavdivs at 10:49 AM on October 3, 2010


outlandishmarxist: We don't want you to serve. We don't want you to serve. We don't want you to serve. We don't want you to serve. Should I say it again? We don't want you to serve.

Yes, I don't think I can present my opinion of the current military better than this.


I guess there's two ways of looking at it. One view might be that a consequence of democracy, sometimes those with whom we disagree set policy. While working to change the policy, we don't attack those who have decided to engage in public service, because they are not the object of our policy differences and when persons we agree with are in charge, we can use those who serve to effect those aims we see as good. The other view could be summarized to say that when those we disagree with are in power, we should attempt to disrupt their ability to put their political aims into practice, even if it means that we disrespect the choice that the majority has made. This disruption might take the course of emotionally attacking soldiers who are implementing the foreign policy we disagree with and discouraging enlistment.

The problem with the latter is two-fold, it encourages those who disagree with us to similarly disrupt our use of the government machinery when those we agree with are in power, while making it harder for us to call sanction upon them for not cooperating. Second, it discourages support for democratic institutions by creating a situation where it is seen as ok to undermine the government when you are not in control.

In essence, democracy is always getting half a loaf. Dictatorship does mean getting a lot more of what you want if you win via naked force.

Personally, I prefer democracy.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:51 AM on October 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


Stop paying your taxes, or eliminate the military. Stop paying your taxes, or eliminate the military. Stop paying your taxes, or eliminate the military. Stop paying your taxes or eliminate the military. Shall I condescend to you more?

Maybe if you could see past your sheen of self-righteousness and moral superiority based on a foolish petit-bourgeois notion of political change through individual action, you might be able to conceive of military personal beyond a tired stereotype and projection. Just because you are "anti-military in some particular context" doesn't make you immune from the same utopian blue-sky demands you make on them.

No one living in a Western European/North American country is somehow less responsible or morally purer than any given member of their military. You benefit from the status quo, and are part of the body politic that has control of the government and military, and your arrogant appeals apply to you as much as, if not more so, then they do to them.
posted by Snyder at 10:57 AM on October 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


Maybe if you could see past your "authenticity," your self-righteousness and your sense that military people are better than everyone else, we might actually have a productive conversation. I'm not going to treat the military with kid gloves just because you can't take criticism.
posted by outlandishmarxist


Well Bless Your Heart. And I mean that.
posted by timsteil at 11:00 AM on October 3, 2010


I remember looking at the Green Party forums where someone had posted a comment on improving the VA. He asked why we should support people who volunteer to kill other human beings. All I could respond was that because servicemen (Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Sailors) all exemplify service to the state, and through that the community. We honor them because they honor the state itself by handing over order, life, and power to the community as a whole and its collective action. We honor them because the impetus to serve something greater than yourself, to be force of unification is a good impulse however twisted it can become. We can no further disown the concept of the warrior than we can disown the concept of state. In short, they subordinate themselves to a greater (and wishfully moral) power, and we must acknowledge that at some level.

They might by our decisions, but they fight in our name, and so we can never just leave them. Individual veterans might fail, but the quintessential veteran must not.

Perhaps this is too close to home for me. I'm an active duty Sailor and many of my fellow Academy grads are serving in Afghanistan these days. The citizen part of me, yes, is dominant and understands the need for not killing anyone and making the military as sheathed blade, but the uniformed side of me all too well understand the meaning of ethos, order, devotion, selflessness, and service that my comrades aspire to. Perhaps I'm caught, like many others, and so in absence of my voice, those who have a more simplified view will fill the public discourse instead.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:00 AM on October 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


My dad served in the Marines during Korea, and my brother recently retired from the 82 Airborne after 22 years in. They had different reasons for serving - my dad went in to avoid jail, my brother because he watched too much Rambo and read too much Soldier of Fortune (seriously). My brother has been seeing US culture through the prism of the US Army since he was 18, it's almost impossible to have any type of conversation with him about the deployment of our service people. As far as he's concerned, anyone who hasn't been in the service is a (lesser) alien being.

I think the glorification of the US soldier - both in the rhetoric and in the civilian population does these people a huge disservice because they forget something very important: this is a job. Yes, there are vows, and traditions and "you wouldn't know 'cause you weren't there," but in the end, this is a business contract. The enforcement of this separation - by the military culture and especially the government/military leaders, keeps discussion of deployment, working conditions, benefits and rights divided and confused. Of course our service people are told they are heroes, with the deal they're getting, no one would take the job otherwise.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:04 AM on October 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


The term is a generic one for member of the armed services. Its used so that you don't have to say "soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen."

Because "warrior" works so much better than "armed forces member" to describe a cook, a radio operator, or a doctor. This is a bullshit excuse and I wish people would stop repeating it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:22 AM on October 3, 2010 [12 favorites]


Cyrano: History is really, Really, REALLY not with you on this one.

I can't really think of many good historical analogues to Iraq and Afghanistan. What comparisons are you making?
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:32 AM on October 3, 2010


This is a bullshit excuse and I wish people would stop repeating it.

I would prefer it if you kept saying things I disagree with.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:34 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Durn Bronzefist, usually if you wanted to be overly dissociative like that, you would use "service member", not "armed forces member" or whatever. Anyway, we use warrior to help reduce the rift between those radio operators and infantry, especially as many radio operators, cooks, and the like have been involved in firefights. As such is the case, why would the military want infantry looking down on non-infantry by privileging them above all the other Soliders, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines that make their job possible?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:34 AM on October 3, 2010


Seriously, people are frightened by the Oath Keepers?

Shouldn't you all be more afraid of soldiers that have no problem shooting their fellow countrymen?
posted by Sukiari at 11:42 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't really think of many good historical analogues to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Really?

What comparisons are you making?

I wasn't making a specific comparison. Merely pointing out that conscription is far closer to the norm than throwing a war that nobody comes to.
posted by Cyrano at 11:44 AM on October 3, 2010


Durn Bronzefist writes "Because 'warrior' works so much better than 'armed forces member' to describe a cook, a radio operator, or a doctor. This is a bullshit excuse and I wish people would stop repeating it."

Isn't the term war fighter?

Anyways whatever the assorted branches do want to refer to themselves as it's polite to use that term. Even if you personally find it to be loaded term selected for it's propaganda value.
posted by Mitheral at 11:44 AM on October 3, 2010


No one living in a Western European/North American country is somehow less responsible or morally purer than any given member of their military. You benefit from the status quo, and are part of the body politic that has control of the government and military, and your arrogant appeals apply to you as much as, if not more so, then they do to them.

People have choices. They can choose who they vote for, but their vote is only one among many. They can choose whether or not to join the military and potentially put their finger on the trigger of a gun aimed at a civilian. No one else can make that choice for them, while the choice to go to war is made (purportedly) on behalf of many.

By your logic, every citizen of Germany (including many Jews) was equally responsible for the Holocaust.
posted by ssg at 11:53 AM on October 3, 2010


The Oath Keepers don't seem too bad:

The Oath Keepers, feeling that their sworn oath to the American Constitution, grant them not only the right, but the duty to refuse unconstitutional orders. The Oath Keepers organization has published a list of orders that they claim they will not obey, the list is as follows:
1. We will NOT obey orders to disarm the American people.
2. We will NOT obey orders to conduct warrantless searches of the American people
3. We will NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to military tribunal.
4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state.
5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.
6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.
7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.
8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control."
9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.
10.We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

Of course I would like to believe that most people would not obey such orders.
posted by Shit Parade at 11:55 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course I would like to believe that most people would not obey such orders.

Ask yourself why they are taking oaths not to obey fantastical orders that haven't been issued yet, and who they think will issue them. Essentially, they're declaring that they will not follow the orders of Obama when he tries to take over the United States by military coup.

That is something to be worried about.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:58 AM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hating on soldiers for fighting in the current wars is misplaced and pointless.

Until I see an an anti-war protest shut down DC or NYC, or similar city, then I have to assume that the war opposition really doesn't exist in significant numbers in the US, therefore soldiers are only following the wishes of the majority.

(Disclaimer: Canadian, and anti Afghanistan war as it's currently being waged, but we can't just pull out tomorrow)
posted by Artful Codger at 12:00 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Being in the Armed Forces is a dangerous job. The same as say, working in a steel mill. Much like people who work in steel mills, I generally hope people in the armed forces don't get killed or hurt at their jobs.

But I don't "support" our troops right now, any more than I support anyone else voluntarily doing something I think is immoral. And if I did, I would do something useful like sending packages or writing letters, not a meaningless exercise in conformity like sticking a sticker on my car.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:01 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ people, enlisted soldiers don't make deployment decisions.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:05 PM on October 3


No, but they do make enlistment decisions. And I hold them fully responsible for those decisions.
posted by Decani at 12:04 PM on October 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


Agreed, but as I said this is not very meaningful unless you also factor in the degree of real choice they had in signing up.

posted by game warden to the events rhino at 4:53 PM on October 3


I am so tired of this "argument". Oh, they're so poor, they had to join. Now I'm not an especially moral person but quite honestly I'd go on the street begging before joining the military. Doubly so since the Iraq crime.
posted by Decani at 12:10 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Until I see an an anti-war protest shut down DC or NYC, or similar city, then I have to assume that the war opposition really doesn't exist in significant numbers in the US, therefore soldiers are only following the wishes of the majority.

Well, the fact is that people in the US, like people everywhere, mostly care about things that affect them directly. The reason there were massive protests against Vietnam is that everyone knew someone who had been drafted, and tons of people knew someone who had been crippled or killed. And let's face it, young people were afraid of being drafted themselves. Not that they weren't genuinely concerned about the morality of the war too, but those other motivations are a hell of a lot more visceral. I think if you took a fairly-worded survey, a majority would acknowledge both conflicts are pointless and unwinnable- that in fact there is not even a coherent definition of what it would mean to "win" in Afghanistan.

But people just aren't angry enough to be out in the streets for the most part. The soldiers are mostly lower class people who volunteered, and most middle-upper class Americans have never even met anyone who served in either war (I don't think I have.) And since the wars have been endorsed by presidents of both parties, there's not really a clear political line in the sand. Obama has made vague promises of a pull-out after the 2010 mid-term elections but in time to position himself as anti-war for his 2012 re-election bid, and that seems to be enough to pacify most people who would otherwise be protesting.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:10 PM on October 3, 2010


Disclaimer: Canadian, and anti Afghanistan war as it's currently being waged, but we can't just pull out tomorrow

Ok, just to be clear, you're in favor of continuing the war in Afghanistan, at least for the time being, but there's some stuff you'd do differently if you were in charge. Is that right?
posted by ryanrs at 12:11 PM on October 3, 2010


JDHarper:
We are all responsible for our own actions. When a superior orders you to do something wrong, you should not do it.

Or, in the words of the Nuremberg Principles: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
I fully agree with those statements, but draw a different conclusion about modern service people. Obviously, I'm biased, having been one. My comment in a previous thread about this pretty much sums up how I feel about the enlisted soldier's moral choices involved.
posted by ctmf at 12:12 PM on October 3, 2010


There are two types of people I have disdain for when it comes to discussions about the military. The chickenhawks who are quite happy to send someone else to go do the fighting, and the people who never served, yet somehow feel qualified to rain judgment down on those that have, and continue to. T
posted by timsteil at 5:02 PM on October 3


Do you also have disdain for people who have never been bullfighters yet who somehow feel qualified to rain judgement down on those that have, and continue to?
posted by Decani at 12:16 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do you also have disdain for people who have never been bullfighters yet who somehow feel qualified to rain judgement down on those that have, and continue to?

No, but I do have disdain for people who make pointless and irrelevant attempts at analogies.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:20 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also: Decani, I stand by my decision. See link in my reply to JDHarper above.

I don't look down on anyone who was not in the military. I've never liked the euphemism "served our country." But I did what I did on purpose, and not because I'm an amoral dupe of the government.

Also not because I "had no other option." I have known some very young kids with families, though, and it certainly can be someone's best option for providing a living in the short term.
posted by ctmf at 12:21 PM on October 3, 2010


if you wanted to be overly dissociative like that, you would use "service member", not "armed forces member" or whatever.

I tend to find "service member" to be a little euphemistic, but either works, really. "Armed forces member" works because the forces are armed, even if the individual is not. It's not an omnibus term for army/navy/girl guides.

Anyway, I know it's a derail. I just hate the "it's inclusive" explanation proffered as if there were no propaganda issue. Not so unlike "support our troops", actually.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:25 PM on October 3, 2010


Yes, subtracting 2001 from 2010 gives you an answer of 9, but that isn't the correct way to figure out the answer to the question to how many years something has lasted.

Actually it is. 2010-Oct – 2001-Oct = 9 years, so 9 years have passed. How many years has it been? I would say, "9". And since it is not over, the 10th year has begun: hence the saying, we are in the 10th year. Subtraction correctly gives the duration. Merely add one more, to get the starting-date biased nominal date.
posted by polymodus at 12:27 PM on October 3, 2010


Jesus Christ people, enlisted soldiers don't make deployment decisions.

No, but they do decide to throw pupies off cliffs, tattoo their civilian kill count on their leg, or keep fingertips as souvenirs.

and the people who never served, yet somehow feel qualified to rain judgment down on those that have, and continue to.

So you never criticise anyone unless you've done it personally?

Let's go back to the Roman system. Put the Senators and Representatives on the front lines. Then we'll see how many wars they get into.

Julius Ceaser was a millitary genius. Wars were the engine for his personal advancement, and, ultimately, the toppling of the republic by ambitious men who realised millitary success could be converted into political power. They were quite happy to risk their lives for this.

...don't pay what they consider a sufficient amount of respect to the nobility and heroism of soldiers.

Yeah, well, Hitler was a war hero. So was ol' Julius.
posted by rodgerd at 12:29 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the military
system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation
to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been
given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This
plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed.
Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that does
by the name of patriotism--how I hate them! War seems to me a mean,
contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such
an abominable business. And yet so high, in spite of everything, is my opinion
of the human race that I believe this bogey would have disappeared long ago,
had the sound sense of the nations not been systematically corrupted by
commercial and political interests acting through the schools and the Press.


~Albert Einstein
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:36 PM on October 3, 2010 [12 favorites]


Maybe if you could see past your sheen of self-righteousness and moral superiority
Did you even bother to read the entire exchange? I was responding to a particular post detailing who should be "allowed" to talk about the military. So moral superiority has nothing to do with it. In fact, the opposite: the professional army propagates a notion that military and civilians are a separate species. I was saying that this, in particular, is complete drivel.


based on a foolish petit-bourgeois notion of political change through individual action
I don't think you understand how individual and collective action function. Telling people not to enlist is, in some sense, "political change through individual action," but its horizon is social. So, individual yada yada yada. Don't start playing Lenin with me.


you might be able to conceive of military personal beyond a tired stereotype and projection. Stereotype of what? People who think they're better than civilians? Need I remind you how this post started: "For a lot of soldiers, there are two kinds of people: those who serve, and those who expect to be served, and those who serve are pretty noble.''


Just because you are "anti-military in some particular context" doesn't make you immune from the same utopian blue-sky demands you make on them.
Not sure what that means.


No one living in a Western European/North American country is somehow less responsible or morally purer than any given member of their military.
Not too worried about moral purity.


You benefit from the status quo
at the expense of the rest of the world


and are part of the body politic that has control of the government and military
(This, coming from the guy who just accused me of petty bourgeois individualism three sentences prior!) What control? That's precisely the problem. The part of the military that I resent the most is the institutional capture that it's shackled us with. We can't find a way out of the military-industrial complex because so many of our jobs and so much of our industry depends on having an active armed forces. Of course, ramping up war exacerbates that problem, and it seems that a major part of the impetus behind Iraq was precisely that. And do you know what happens when the military decides it doesn't like its civilian leadership? So keep on spouting your nonsense about control if it makes you feel better. Meanwhile, politicians on "both sides of the aisle" will continue to vote for military spending, all the while cutting funds for schools, healthcare, public parks, and anything else that might make the U.S. a half decent country.


and your arrogant appeals apply to you as much as, if not more so, then they do to them.
...
posted by outlandishmarxist at 12:42 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a brotherhood I guess. Regardless of where you are, and for what reason, whether you personally believe in the cause or not, service members are all in the same stinking ship together. You have all been through the same stuff, and that kind of comes with an unspoken understanding, that I got your back man. That might be on a battlefield, or in an internet discussion.

I do understand this, one of the attractions of the military is a sort of purity that is absent from civilian life for all but a very few people.

In 1914, Rupert Brooke wrote:


Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there's no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart's long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.


In a sense the life of the ordinary Westerner is dull and frequently filled with meaningless labour. You're working for middle aged boss with annoying mannerisms and dubious suits, doing a job that you probably know is mostly pointless. Every day you have to make so many small moral compromises that it makes you sick, everyone around you seems to have the same flabby malaise. When you have an important deadline and you miss it, nothing happens, your fat boss sighs and says "Well, finish it by the end of the day at least" It doesn't matter and you both know it. War offers a great moral clarity, a mission to accomplish.

Whenever I see or read interviews with British civilians and soldiers from WWII they often say that it was the best time of their life. Not the fighting itself, but the sense of a common purpose, a sense that they had something greater to work for that was worth dying for even.

It isn't new either. In the 1860s Robert E. Lee said that "It is well that war is so terrible - otherwise we would grow too fond of it".

I know that the US doesn't have a hereditary upper class, but there are certainly old families that have been wealthy for a number of generations. Maybe it's my old world upbringing, but that seems pathetic to me. Then again, I guess a hereditary warrior aristocracy is a recipe for war, so maybe I'm wrong.
posted by atrazine at 12:46 PM on October 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hm. The Einstein quote makes it sound so reasonable. And yet, who will stand up to the bullies of the world? Those who would use force against others for their own gain. Sure, why not - Adolf Hitler. Good thing we had some men "given their big brains by mistake" back then, eh?

Look, the rightness or wrongness of any given conflict is debatable. The demonization of all people who would take up arms is laughably idealistic. It's such juvenile "why can't we all just get along" hand-wringing that THAT is why military people look down on (some) civilians. Fucking eloi.
posted by ctmf at 12:50 PM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well Bless Your Heart. And I mean that.
Thank you. That's a good start.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 12:50 PM on October 3, 2010


Essentially, they're declaring that they will not follow the orders of Obama when he tries to take over the United States by military coup.

I could be on the wrong side of history on this one, but I am not especially worried about a military coup happening in American any time soon.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:51 PM on October 3, 2010


We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

I wonder how many Oath Keepers were among the NYPD officers during the 2006 Republican convention.

The demonization of all people who would take up arms is laughably idealistic.

And so is an unquestioned reverence for "our men and women in uniform."
posted by stargell at 1:14 PM on October 3, 2010


But people just aren't angry enough to be out in the streets for the most part.

i'm not so sure about that - today, i saw about a 1000 people lined up along westnedge ave in portage and kalamazoo with anti-abortion signs - at least 3 miles of them, and i didn't go south of the mall, where there were probably more

i've never seen an anti war demonstration that size around here

it really makes me wonder what's going on
posted by pyramid termite at 1:18 PM on October 3, 2010


You know what's really annoying about this whole situation? In 2001, Afghanistan's GDP was something like $10 billion. It would have cost the US only a few billion a year to seriously warp their economy. I'm not talking about foreign aid, or even legitimate trade and investment. For $5 billion a year, we could have made shiny pebbles Serious Fucking Business for your average Afghan. Just find some scarce resource, perhaps a rare snail indigenous to the region, and start buying them for $5/shell. Keep it up for a while and large parts of their economy will become dependent on this artificial snail market. Local farmers will give up food production and take up snail cultivation because it's more lucrative. Eventually they'll be importing most of their necessities like food and, uh, goats (or whatever).

Once they've shifted to a snail-based economy, we've pretty much got them by the balls. Their entire country eats or starves according to the price we pay for these fucking snails. The beautiful part is that we won't ever need to fuck them over on the snail market. The whole terrorism thing will basically take care of itself once all the young men are out hunting snails. It'll kill opium production, too.

But no, we had to go blow shit up. It's really too bad. The snail plan would have been awesome. It'd have been great for the US, too. Not only would it cost 1/50th of what we're currently spending in the region, we'd also have SO MANY SNAILS. Which is more than we're getting out of this stupid war.
posted by ryanrs at 1:21 PM on October 3, 2010 [30 favorites]


Ok, just to be clear, you're in favor of continuing the war in Afghanistan, at least for the time being, but there's some stuff you'd do differently if you were in charge. Is that right?

Not entirely. I acknowledged the inevitability of a counterstrike against al Qaeda after 9/11, but not a 9+ year occupation, and a near Quixotic quest to convert a feudal theocracy into a western democracy.

But this is off-point. Those who think that people are immoral for enlisting to fight these wars are letting the leaders and the government off the hook, and haven't considered all the reasons why people might want (or need) to serve in the military.
posted by Artful Codger at 1:24 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Civilian control of the military means you don't get the right to blame the GIs for wars you disagree with.

Sure we can blame them. They knew what kind of military they were signing up for before they enlisted, what it had done in the past, and what it would, based upon past results, do in the future. When they joined, they knew that they'd have to do the same things. And they were okay with it.

In a way, you could say they're worse than the civilian overseers of the military. The civilians in charge dream up the crackpot ideas, but without the military they could never actually carry them out. The civilians are the dreamers of violence, tyranny, fascism and death, but the soldiers with guns and bombs are the actual doers.
posted by overthrow at 1:30 PM on October 3, 2010


And so is an unquestioned reverence for "our men and women in uniform."

Agreed. I don't speak for the whole military, of course, but I don't remember ever asking for any unquestioned anything. Or even for any particular reverence.

I just find it offensive that statements like
"No, but they do make enlistment decisions. And I hold them fully responsible for those decisions"
sneeringly imply that if all these violence-happy warmongers would just stop enlisting in the military, nobody would ever get hurt. Are people who join the police force "fully responsible" for the existence of crime? For the abuses of some cops? We have threads on F-d up things cops do all the time here, and yet I don't see the same level of contempt for people who join the police force as a career, or the concept of a police force in general.

Certainly, the military has been used for some questionable things. Certainly there are some sociopathic soldiers who would more properly be getting some mental help. That doesn't generalize to "military members are scumbags" though.
posted by ctmf at 1:36 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't see the same level of contempt for people who join the police force as a career

Oh yeah? Memail me and I'll send you some.
posted by ryanrs at 1:43 PM on October 3, 2010


Agreed, but as I said this is not very meaningful unless you also factor in the degree of real choice they had in signing up. And even if they signed up with huge enthusiasm, you'd then have to factor in the degree to which, in some parts of the US, they'd have been propagandized since infancy about the merits of doing so.

Oh, good god.

Why does it feel like the only two options people like to exist are 1, look at those finger-collecting sociopaths, or 2, those poor kids were forced by their circumstances.

I'm not sure there's any attitude I hate more than the people who pity the little enlistees. Jesus. Clearly we were all too poor, too uneducated, too naive, too desperate, too-- whatever-- to do anything but join the military. (I was a well-off northeastern college student, for the record.) I have many complicated feelings about my decision to enlist, which I made in a time of war, and about all the things I did overseas, but don't remove my agency from that. I'm not a victim. I'm responsible for the choices I made. I sometimes struggle with that, but that's kind of how it should work.
posted by lullaby at 1:46 PM on October 3, 2010 [10 favorites]


By your logic, every citizen of Germany (including many Jews) was equally responsible for the Holocaust.

Well, congratulations for Godwining the thread. Also: you may or may not be aware of this, but some well-respected historians have made exactly this point.

Yeah, well, Hitler was a war hero.

He wasn't, actually. He was injured in WWI and nearly went blind and didn't achieve any great honors beyond just being some dude in a trench. Not a hero by any stretch of the imagination. It's been posited that his lack of glory was one of the factors that pushed him to start WWII:Electric Bugaloo.
posted by sonika at 1:48 PM on October 3, 2010


I know it's an over-the-top polemic, but this is what I think about whenever someone starts talking about supporting our troops, or using economic arguments for why we need a stronger military. I really believe what we're seeing in Afghanistan and Iraq is war corporatism, and it's not going to make the world a better place.
posted by sneebler at 1:49 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


who will stand up to the bullies of the world?

Unless it is directly to our benefit, not the US military.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:59 PM on October 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Shit Parade: "I could be on the wrong side of history on this one, but I am not especially worried about a military coup happening in American any time soon."

That's because it already happened in a form you didn't recognize. Isn't that Woodward's point -- our Generals gave Obama one option, which he was forced to take? What would be the goal of an old-fashioned coup-d'etat? Forever War and a vastly disproportionate share of GDP? Think of the American Military as the largest/most successful corporation (biggest budget) on earth. What do you think this organization's self-interests are?


And timsteil, thanks for both your service and your perspective here.
posted by psyche7 at 2:01 PM on October 3, 2010


I don't remember ever asking for any unquestioned anything. Or even for any particular reverence.

It's the demagogues who exploit (or demand) this veneration of the military for their divisive political ends that troubles me.
posted by stargell at 2:06 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


"For a lot of soldiers, there are two kinds of people: those who serve, and those who expect to be served, and those who serve are pretty noble.''

So, where do all those queer people who aren't allowed to serve fit in? And why should we accept the idea that joining the military is the only or highest service? At least queer folks can run for Congress. This looks less like a brotherhood (note the gendered term) than just another parochialism, and a pretty retrograde one at that in what it asks us to overlook in the name of service.
posted by Marty Marx at 2:08 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


sonika: Well, congratulations for Godwining the thread. Also: you may or may not be aware of this, but some well-respected historians have made exactly this point.

If you think that the conclusion I present does not follow from Snyder's position, then argue that point. I've used an extreme example to illustrate the extreme nature of Snyder's position. That's very much intentional and I don't really care about Godwining.

Also, you have missed the point of my argument by a country mile if you think Goldhagen is making exactly the same point.
posted by ssg at 2:42 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, well, Hitler was a war hero.

He wasn't, actually. He was injured in WWI and nearly went blind and didn't achieve any great honors beyond just being some dude in a trench.


Except for that Iron Cross, First Class, part.
posted by MarshallPoe at 2:50 PM on October 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


...cmonkey's comment seems to reinforce that idea in its painting of the military in a negative light, consciously choosing to set it apart from mainstream American society.

I have to conclude that you are not familiar with 2-time Medal of Honor winner General Butler's full exposition, which cmonkey excerpted a small part of. As a veteran, I think you ought to read it. It does not support the idea you think that excerpt does.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:53 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's go back to the Roman system. Put the Senators and Representatives on the front lines. Then we'll see how many wars they get into.

what ignorance. They would almost all be in uniform, because booty is the name of the game.
posted by clavdivs at 3:05 PM on October 3, 2010


That's because it already happened in a form you didn't recognize. Isn't that Woodward's point -- our Generals gave Obama one option, which he was forced to take? What would be the goal of an old-fashioned coup-d'etat? Forever War and a vastly disproportionate share of GDP? Think of the American Military as the largest/most successful corporation (biggest budget) on earth. What do you think this organization's self-interests are?

It is their job to advise the President and to give the best advise they can. Did you read COIN? The situation is grim in Afghanistan and most commentators I read were not very hopeful of any positive outcome with a troop increase much less without one.

Last I checked there is civilian control over the military and that lead recently to a top general being fired. And that Forever War article that was linked is filled with overwrought rhetoric and transparent fear mongering.
posted by Shit Parade at 4:03 PM on October 3, 2010


And so is an unquestioned reverence for "our men and women in uniform."

Actually, I don't want unquestioning reverence for service members. If I could ask for anything, it would be the questioning reverence for them. I wish that people saw at least the concept of the ethical warrior as a good, or maybe even a necessary evil. We should question it, and wonder about it, and think about the terror of war, or try to uncover when evil is done in our name. We shouldn't unquestionably venerate them as we should unquestionably despise them. We should hope, I suppose, and understand that there are those in our society—whether they be school teachers, politicians, police officers, pastors, fire men, regulators or what-have-you—that do what they can to serve the community and thus its gratitude. Of course, that's a long way away from not knowing the sins they commit in our name, and we should rightly hold them to a higher standard, for we put greater trust in them than the common citizen.

Anyway, it doesn't matter. Many here will despise them (and me) the same, and thus we will have to adjust to derision from some as well as the unquestioned worship from others. We will survive regardless despite your scorn, for most in these professions do not do it solely from the gratitude given. You hate me and my brethren and think us foolish for the choices that we make, though I do not hate you at all. You're entitled to your hate. I can only hope that some day we will be worthy of your respect.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:08 PM on October 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


From Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution: "The Congress shall have Power ... To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years"

James Madison, at the Constitutional Convention: "A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people."
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:25 PM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ten years? Is it 2011 already?

"now begins its 10th continuous year in combat"

We began the 1st year (i.e. began the whole thing) in October '01.
posted by John Cohen at 4:39 PM on October 3, 2010


During his Presidency Madison entered the war of 1812 and the second war against the Barbary pirates(1815). I suspect his views evolved during his later years.
posted by humanfont at 4:50 PM on October 3, 2010


from wikipedia:

An appropriation bill is used to actually provide money to "discretionary" programs. Appropriations are generally done on an annual basis, although multi-year appropriations are occasionally passed. According to the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 8, clause 12), military appropriations cannot be for more than two years at a time. An annual appropriation requires that the funds appropriated be obligated (spent) by the end of the fiscal year of the appropriation. Once the fiscal year ends, no more money can be spent via the prior year's appropriation. A new appropriation for the new fiscal year must be passed in order for continued spending to occur, or passage of a special appropriations bill known as a continuing resolution, which generally permits continued spending for a short period of time—usually at prior year levels. The Anti-Deficiency Act makes void any attempt to spend money for which there is no current appropriation.

I guess if people want to freak out there is little that can be said to stop them.
posted by Shit Parade at 4:53 PM on October 3, 2010


There are 1.5 million active U.S. military servicemembers. That's a pretty broad brush some of you are wielding. One of my closest friends is a Marine Judge Advocate whose deployment to Iraq was to oversee a detention center to make sure enlisted Marines charged with guarding detainees didn't fuck up like the Army did at Abu Ghraib. His service to our country was to help enforce the law and maintain order. Another Marine JA I know is assigned to defense counsel at Guantanamo. His service to our country is likewise to pursue justice - including in his case ensuring fair proceedings, whether by military tribunal or in federal court - to the best of his ability. I want to know who among you has the gall to condemn either of these men, or the countless people like them, for the moral atrocities you claim they're engaged in. I want to know who among you has ever sacrificed everything you've ever known and worked harder than you ever imagined to make the world a better place. I'm not deluded into thinking that every servicemember or even most of them have done that, but a lot of them have, and your dismissal of them out of hand reflects poorly on your judgment and character.
posted by thesmophoron at 5:12 PM on October 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Daxos: I see I was wrong to expect Sparta's commitment to at least match our own.
King Leonidas: Doesn't it? [points to Arcadian soldier behind Daxos] You there, what is your profession?
Free Greek-Potter: I am a potter... sir.
King Leonidas: [sarcastically mouths the word "potter" and points to another soldier] And you, Arcadian, what is your profession?
Free Greek-Sculptor: Sculptor, sir.
King Leonidas: Sculptor. [turns to a third soldier] You?
Free Greek-Blacksmith: Blacksmith.
King Leonidas: [turns back shouting] Spartans! What is your profession?
Spartans: HA-OOH! HA-OOH! HA-OOH!
King Leonidas: [turning to Daxos] You see, old friend? I brought more soldiers than you did.

inspired by the "professional warriors" part of the FPP
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:13 PM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


And yet, who will stand up to the bullies of the world?

Oh man. It's sad that anybody views the world this way. It's not a schoolyard, there are no "bullies", how reductionist can you get? And, it follows, there are no teachers, either - certainly not America.

They did so well protecting people all over the world from those "bullies" Noriega, Pinochet, Ky, and literally dozens of others. The idea that the US military - the US government - is interested in "protecting" or "standing up" for anyone but perceived US govt and military interests is sick-making.

The world is not a schoolyard. Foreign policy is not the White Man's Burden. The military are not super heroes with guns instead of laser-eyes.
posted by smoke at 5:27 PM on October 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is the topic that always leaves me disappointed in my fellow American Mefites. Normally, people here are very fair-minded and intelligent. Then we get talking about the military, and all the folks who've never served bitch about how all our people in uniform should throw down their guns and refuse to fight because the current wars are morally wrong. They claim nobody should enlist because of what has already come to pass. I'm always astounded by how horribly naive and judgmental the comment trail becomes.

These wars are not a failure on the part of our military. If anything, the fact that our military continues to pursue these conflicts show one of the few triumphs of our system, because a lot of our troops KNOW how fucked up the conflicts are -- much better than Mefites safe at home -- and yet they do as they are told by their civilian government.

You refuse to follow an illegal order. You do not rape. You do not torture. You do not mow down innocents. THOSE are failures of the individual serviceperson. There is context and terrible danger in taking that moral stand, and in the heat of the moment many of those things might be very tough judgments to get correct, but yes, as a soldier it is your moral (and legal) responsibility to do so.

Afghanistan & Iraq aren't failures, even moral failures, by our military. They are the result of our civilian government's failures of judgment and our civilian populace's failure to hold it to account. The failure is yours, American-Mefite-bitching-safe-at-home. Put down your fucking coffee and do something about it if you actually give a shit. If that doesn't work, do more.

Like it or not, those people signed up to protect you. They need you to return the favor when they're sent out to do something less noble than that. That is part of the deal. At least you won't likely get shot at while doing it.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:50 PM on October 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


> Lumping Vietnam in with the Middle East and Central America is kind of unfair since enlisted men in Vietnam were draftees.

Coming back late here... I completely agree with you here. It's not just that, but what could a soldier going to Vietnam know about the US military? There was WWII, fighting against Hitler, FFS! And the Korean war, which was a little less obvious, but still the US was in the right, and the later history of NK shows it.

So how was some poor guy going off to fight in Vietnam know he was doing something wrong?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:51 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


From my understanding of things, the US doesn't have upper and lower classes the way the UK does

Oh no, the US of A does.

The poor, the lower middle class, upper class et la.

The school you went to (although that tends to be a social networking thing)

Then you have language - the most crude example was about "ebonics" years ago.

Two other class dividers - credit score and criminal record. Both of these can effect your employment.

Based on what I know about the UK - most of those can 'officially map' into your more 'formalized' class system.

(the charge I've heard but never seen data for is that, to be considered for some levels of employment at the State Department you have to have graduated from the correct schools. Should be a provable position, yet never actually seen the proof. But the Internet is a big place and perhaps someone has tracked that data....)
posted by rough ashlar at 6:04 PM on October 3, 2010


During his Presidency Madison entered the war of 1812 and the second war against the Barbary pirates(1815). I suspect his views evolved during his later years.

That doesn't really speak to whether his earlier views were in fact correct or not. I would tend to argue, judging from our current situation, that his earlier views have been born out and proven to be correct.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:05 PM on October 3, 2010


people in uniform should throw down their guns and refuse to fight because the current wars are morally wrong

Wasn't the standard for something to be called a "war" there had to be a formal declaration by Congress per a document called "The Constitution"?

A lack of said declaration leads to things being called 'conflict' or 'police action'?

Mind you, the bar for calling "war" is lowered by:
The War on Cancer
The War on Hunger
The War on Poverty
The War on Obesity (I'm not sure Kennedy called it a War but he did sponsor some LPs)

But - where was the formal declarations of war for the present shooting-at-other-humans-it-what-sure-does-spend-like-a-war?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:11 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well Bless Your Heart. And I mean that.
Thank you. That's a good start.
posted by outlandishmarxist


Well. That's the second thing you don't get.
posted by timsteil at 6:16 PM on October 3, 2010


Forever War and a vastly disproportionate share of GDP? Think of the American Military as the largest/most successful corporation (biggest budget) on earth. What do you think this organization's self-interests are?

Chalmers Ashby Johnson and his 4 book trilogy:

Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic
Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic.
Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope

If the Military part of the Military Industrial Congressional Congress got the axe my memory was a quote of 50% unemployment.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:21 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I did what I did on purpose, and not because I'm an amoral dupe of the government.

You signed a contract and got a check - a fine Libertarian position!
posted by rough ashlar at 6:25 PM on October 3, 2010


Christ, there's some amazingly moronic black and white thinking in this thread.
posted by klangklangston at 6:29 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


His service to our country is likewise to pursue justice - including in his case ensuring fair proceedings, whether by military tribunal or in federal court - to the best of his ability.

Some might suggest that by participating in the Kangaroo Courts in Guantanamo, he deprived the people he was "defending" due process, on the grounds that, unlike everyone else, they had not been arrested or indicted or arraigned for any crimes, as guaranteed to everyone through the 5th Amendment of the Constitution.

The lesser of two evils is still evil.
posted by mikelieman at 6:37 PM on October 3, 2010


You signed a contract and got a check - a fine Libertarian position!

I'm not certain you're being sarcastic here, but . . . I'm no libertarian, but I don't know of one professed one that doesn't believe in military service, contracts, or the exchange of currency for period of labor.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:38 PM on October 3, 2010


Put down your fucking coffee and do something about it if you actually give a shit. If that doesn't work, do more.

Such as? Writing letters, marching in protest, voting... none of that made a difference. We even elected the right guy, in theory (i.e. the one not singing "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran"). All indications are that the powers that be don't give a shit what I think. What the fuck do you suggest I do?
posted by ryanrs at 6:39 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


> There are 1.5 million active U.S. military servicemembers. That's a pretty broad brush some of you are wielding.

I note you didn't mention the several hundred thousand dead. I hate to be rude and keep mentioning them but your friends, nice though I'm sure they are, participated in the process that murdered these innocent people.

Consider your Marine Judge Advocate. He's simply giving this entire, massively evil enterprise the veneer of legitimacy - he's participating in keeping Iraqis in detention camps in their own country. Each and every day he sees people kept in jail cells by the US who has no legal or moral right to do so. Most of these people are there for supposedly attacking the US military - if the Iraq military were wandering around Brooklyn shooting the place up, I might do some attacking myself.

Your Marine Judge Advocate is actively participating in a great crime. His personal role might be less immediate than someone who goes out and kills people, but he's just as implicated in the entire process.

> the fact that our military continues to pursue these conflicts show one of the few triumphs of our system, because a lot of our troops KNOW how fucked up the conflicts are -- much better than Mefites safe at home -- and yet they do as they are told by their civilian government.

So let me get this straight. You're saying that the troops literally go out and kill people, knowing that this conflict is fucked up, knowing that the people they are killing are mostly innocent victims... and you call this a triumph of the system?

The way most people reckon ethics, it's worse to do things if you actually know that they're wrong.

Why is this even a little bit good? Why do we want to have millions of heavily armed troops, trained as killers, who are willing to obey orders that they know are fucked up, orders that kill ungodly numbers of innocents?

The fact that the troops obey orders (or at least some of the orders) not to commit war crimes doesn't make this whole thing a positive, you know!

> Afghanistan & Iraq aren't failures, even moral failures, by our military.

An astonishing statement. What definition of "success" do you have that makes either of these wars successful in any conceivable way? They failed to hit their military objectives - how is that not a failure, even to the very many people who don't value the lives of non-Americans at all?

Where's Osama Bin Laden? Remember him?

What about those hundreds of thousands of dead? What about the trillions of dollars wasted? The thousands of American soldiers dead, the tens of thousands of young Americans, crippled for life? What did the US gain out of any of these wars?

Do you really think people in the rest of the world gained respect for the US military, seeing them fail to complete their missions in two tiny, tinpot countries, two countries which when put together don't even have the military power of the state of California (forget about economic power!)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:39 PM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some might suggest

Some, mikelieman? Would that be you? Or are these the same "some people say" guys that FOX references all the time?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 6:40 PM on October 3, 2010


I remember watching cheesy sci-fi shows where the aliens were split up in rigid groups: the warrior caste, the religious caste, etc. I always thought it was ludicrous that an advanced civilization would wind up like that.
Huh, whaddya know...
posted by nightchrome at 6:45 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


> people in uniform should throw down their guns and refuse to fight because the current wars are morally wrong

You got it, dude. That is 100% correct. "What if they gave a war and no one came?"

This isn't some simplistic "all war is wrong" pacifist crap. My grandfather was in a Japanese POW camp, FFS. The point is that these wars are completely wrong and stupid, and the majority of wars throughout history were wrong, misguided and stupid wars, and the world would be a lot better place if people had simply refused to fight in them, had refused to kill other people just because some other people told them to do it.

Let me put that question back at you. Why shouldn't they throw down their guns (or, more realistically, not sign up or go AWOL)? It's not like they're "defending our country" - they're invading foreign countries that never tried to invade us.

What negative consequences would occur if soldiers refused to fight in obviously stupid wars?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:46 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I hate to be rude and keep mentioning them but your friends, nice though I'm sure they are, participated in the process that murdered these innocent people.

No more than you are, tovarisch.

He's simply giving this entire, massively evil enterprise the veneer of legitimacy

Talk about begging the question. You're starting from the assumption that the "entire... enterprise" is "massively evil" in order to prove that... the entire enterprise (as opposed to merely some elements) is massively (instead of incidentally) evil.

You know what's way more evil than preventing rape and beatings and torture? Being intellectually dishonest in discussing the public policy of the mightiest military force in the history of mankind. If you're looking for someone to blame for the U.S.'s military missteps, the fault lies in the moral bankruptcy of your intentional sophistry and lies.
posted by thesmophoron at 6:48 PM on October 3, 2010


"I hate to be rude and keep mentioning them but your friends, nice though I'm sure they are, participated in the process that murdered these innocent people.

No more than you are, tovarisch."

So wait a second here. I did everything in my power to prevent this war from happening; someone else goes out there and actually participates in the wars; and we're somehow equal?

Care to justify this with logic?

> Talk about begging the question. You're starting from the assumption that the "entire... enterprise" is "massively evil" in order to prove that... the entire enterprise (as opposed to merely some elements) is massively (instead of incidentally) evil.

No, I'm saying that participating and aiding in an action that has massively evil results makes you partly responsible for those results, even if you're not actually pulling the trigger.

> If you're looking for someone to blame for the U.S.'s military missteps, the fault lies in the moral bankruptcy of your intentional sophistry and lies.

Again, an astonishing statement.

First, I'd like you to apologize for calling me a liar - or conversely, exhibit a lie I've written. I might well be mistaken - I have not lied here at all.

Looking back at my words, I'd call them the reverse of "sophistry". I'm hammering on one, single, unsophisticated, dumbass point - THE US HAS KILLED HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE. Your war has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

How is this sophistry? How is any argument I've proposed sophistry? Where are my "lies"?

The fact that you're blaming me, a fervent opponent of the war, for the bad results of that war boggles the mind. The fact that you just lash out and call me names like "liar" without exhibiting even an incorrect statement, let alone proving that I deliberately made it, makes me simply think that you're a Republican.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:59 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you're looking for someone to blame for the U.S.'s military missteps, the fault lies in the moral bankruptcy of your intentional sophistry and lies.

I also think that the failures of the US military are to be blamed on lupus_yonderboy's writings on Metafilter.
posted by ssg at 7:07 PM on October 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


What negative consequences would occur if soldiers refused to fight in obviously stupid wars?

Choice goes both ways. The other side of the coin would be the military independently making the decision to go to war anywhere else. Giving soldiers the choice to not fight wars is also giving them the choice to fight them.
posted by lullaby at 7:08 PM on October 3, 2010


Let me put that question back at you. Why shouldn't they throw down their guns (or, more realistically, not sign up or go AWOL)? It's not like they're "defending our country" - they're invading foreign countries that never tried to invade us.

What negative consequences would occur if soldiers refused to fight in obviously stupid wars?


Then we would have a military that does what it wants as opposed to what it is legally ordered to do, which would be no better than having a full-on military coup. All of those soldiers would rightfully belong in prison. Sad, but true.

I do not want to live in that society. I want a society that knows better than to abuse its military (both in its use on others and in the way people in uniform themselves are treated).

As an aside: I will never be convinced that invading Afghanistan was wrong. It was executed very poorly by a moronic Administration, who then made it ten times worse by invading Iraq (and planning to do so all along). We were attacked. We had every reason to go in there after the bastards. The problem is that Bush & Co. did so like they didn't really mean it. We should've gone in with greater purpose and direction, and then left. We'd have been out already.

Again -- not a failure on the military's part.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:09 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like it or not, those people signed up to protect you. They need you to return the favor when they're sent out to do something less noble than that. That is part of the deal. At least you won't likely get shot at while doing it.

Wait, what? I didn't sign nuthin, and even if I did, I really, really want to know 1) what is the "something less noble" and 2) what does "returning the favor" entail? 'Cause this sounds like some "Turn on your headlights for William Cally" kind of thing. (Yes, Carter actually proposed that).

This is, I think, the thing that pisses a lot of non-military people off: the demand for moral exceptionalism on the basis of military membership. (Also known as, "You don't know, 'cause you weren't there, man!") Whether or not joining the military at all is wrong, the idea that military issues are beyond moral evaluation certainly is wrong.

And while you're beating your chest about how the failure is the fault of civilians sitting at home, you seem to forget that soldiers can vote, too. They're just as responsible as civilians on that count, but I think we can all admit it's a bit silly to talk about "fault" spread that thin. After all, it isn't like the voters on the left-wing of the Democratic party supported the war in the first place or have any more realistic hope of ending the wars today than they did of preventing them in the first place. So if you're looking for people to holler at, the American MeFites sitting at home (some of whom, I remind you, aren't straight enough to enlist) are probably the last folks you'd want. Redstate might be a better target.


critics of the military don't and while I'm yet another non-military American MeFi, I point out (again!) that I'm legally prohibited from joining the military, just like any other openly non-straight person.
posted by Marty Marx at 7:11 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Of course, ignore the last graf. Leftovers from editing.
posted by Marty Marx at 7:11 PM on October 3, 2010


Let me tell you what sophistry is. The Iraq was was supposed to take a few months and a few billion dollars. Sophistry is looking at that war, at the same point eight years later, and calling it a success simply because most of the soldiers followed orders while knowing it was fucked up.

Sophistry is when you managed to talk around a pile of murdered bodies far taller than the World Trade Center and never justify them, assign blame for them, or even mention them.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:13 PM on October 3, 2010


I'm done with this, but I would like to say, Batman means a lot to me.
posted by timsteil at 7:13 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


A boys own adventure club. This is hands-down the most ra-ra you go girl I've got an apple pie up my ass piece of Starship Troopers civilians are sheeple circlejerk shit I've read in roughly ten years. Good times.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 7:14 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Choice goes both ways. The other side of the coin would be the military independently making the decision to go to war anywhere else. Giving soldiers the choice to not fight wars is also giving them the choice to fight them.

I am, again, astonished. I'm saying that, as individuals, soldiers should refuse to fight in wars because they are morally wrong. I'm saying that as individuals, soldiers should do the right thing.

No, refusing to kill when you are told to IS NOT THE SAME as killing when you are told not to!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:16 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Batman means a lot to me.

I hope you don't mean the most recent movie, because in this context, Batman is Col. Nathan "You want me on that wall" Jessep.
The last voiceover is the Batman version of that. Nolan tries to soften the, well, authoritarian flavor of it with Wayne's earlier exchange with Dent about vigilantism and some allusions to Cinncinnatus, but I don't think it works. This is a case in point.
posted by Marty Marx at 7:21 PM on October 3, 2010


"So wait a second here. I did everything in my power to prevent this war from happening;"

Bullshit. You did, as did we all, everything comfortable to prevent the war, or dissent from the war. You didn't organize a general strike, you didn't stop paying your taxes and go to prison, you didn't chain yourself to the gates of your local military base. You didn't spend your time out on the street corner in a sandwich board, you didn't try to jump the White House fence to call attention to your message. You didn't even slap a rainbow wig on and hide in an airport bathroom.

Fuck all this moral superiority. If you want to be absolutist, and from your demagoguery, it sure looks it, you even legitimized the system that sent the troops by voting. Not only that, you apparently wasted a lot of time and effort protesting something to absolutely zero effect.

It's even easy to invent a hypothetical in which going to war would do more direct good: A moral soldier who, while still attacking and killing those who kill both other Americans and Afghan civilians (who, if you only read MetaFilter, you would assume are solely killed by psychopathic Counterstrike-addled American marines), has through their proximity prevented more deaths than any of the flyers you put up over a weekend when you weren't out trying a new Thai place or catching Iron Man 2.

Knock off your simplistic tribalism, your Manichean hectoring and pretending that your righteousness is deserved or interesting.
posted by klangklangston at 7:37 PM on October 3, 2010 [9 favorites]


klangklangston: Sorry, I don't buy your sophistry (correct usage I believe?)

You're claiming that because my efforts to oppose the war were ineffectual and I didn't pursue them to the exclusion of all else in my life, I'm no different from someone who actively participated in the war.

Sorry. I might be a loser if I watch someone stab someone else and am unable to prevent it - but I'm not a murderer.

Your hypothetical is a comic book situation - and even if you could manufacture a better one, it has zero bearing on the fact that I am recommending that soldiers refuse to act - refuse to cooperate, refuse to participate.

(And if you think I'm going to watch glorifications of the military like the Iron Man movies, well, you really haven't been paying attention to this thread, eh?)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:49 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm telling you, we should have gone with the snails. It'd be fucking beautiful. You'd have tribal warlords assassinating each other over control of lucrative snail habitats. Osama bin Laden releasing videos denouncing the Haraam snails (because they're totally killing his recruiting effort). We'd be taking otherwise-unemployed youths, stuffing money in their pockets, and throwing all their energy into digging under rocks. And a kid getting paid by the shell doesn't have time for jihad.

If a bomb goes off, we drop the market price of snails by $1/shell for two weeks. Just enough to mess with the monthly budgets of the regional Snail Kings that run the snail fields where the poppies used to grow. So every time something explodes, it pulls money out of the pocket of the local warlord. So maybe a would-be bomber suddenly finds himself on the steps of the local snail depot, cuffed and pretty roughed up. More likely, they're out picking snails like everyone else.

This goes on for a while and people become pretty invested in the snail market. Daily snail prices are posted in every villiage. People are engaging in snail arbitrage. Like the S&P500, the snail prices are somewhat unpredictable, but that just makes people watch them more closely. The numbers have credibility—not because they mean anything, but because the downstream economy rises and falls with the snail index.

Then comes the announcement: snail prices will increase to $10/shell for six months on delivery of Osama bin Laden's head. Six months, across the entire country. In a cave somewhere, bin Laden packs his shit and gets the hell out of Afghanistan.

Four weeks later, snail sales mysteriously drop off. The Afghans are hoarding snails. There are rumors that some of the regional warlords did something big, maybe crossing into neighboring Iran. The Iranians are pissed. Then things are quiet again.

About a month later, bin Laden is delivered to the main snail depot in Kabul. The snail index immediately hits $10/shell and Afghans around the country redeem a billion dollars worth of snails in one week.

—MISSION ACCOMPLISHED—
posted by ryanrs at 7:54 PM on October 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


"You're claiming that because my efforts to oppose the war were ineffectual and I didn't pursue them to the exclusion of all else in my life, I'm no different from someone who actively participated in the war."

I'm claiming that they had the same practical effect toward ending the war. How weird that you acknowledge relative culpability for everyone outside of the military, yet don't for those in the military!

"Your hypothetical is a comic book situation - and even if you could manufacture a better one, it has zero bearing on the fact that I am recommending that soldiers refuse to act - refuse to cooperate, refuse to participate."

But that ignores the point: It's trivially easy to give a scenario in which a moral military actor is able to do more good in a military situation than even the most moral civilian who has no power to act in that situation.

Fair enough on the Iron Man line; instead assume that you were constructing an aesthetic identity in which you were morally superior for watching some Michael Moore joint or the newest import flick. Whatever leftist masturbatory fodder you need to make that statement accurate. It still points out that you did not, in fact, do everything in your power and are pretending you did. You drew your line, but are demonizing others for doing the same thing.
posted by klangklangston at 7:55 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's even easy to invent a hypothetical in which going to war would do more direct good

Therefore, ... what? You can invent all kinds of hypotheticals. If you'd like to use those hypotheticals in some kind of argument, then by all means do so. Otherwise, what's the point of your hypothetical?

If you just want to complain that this thread is not interesting enough for you, then I'm sure you can find something better to distract you.
posted by ssg at 7:56 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Therefore, ... what? You can invent all kinds of hypotheticals. If you'd like to use those hypotheticals in some kind of argument, then by all means do so. Otherwise, what's the point of your hypothetical?

If you just want to complain that this thread is not interesting enough for you, then I'm sure you can find something better to distract you.
"

Therefore, arguing that any given hypothetical soldier is immoral or less moral than Lupus is bullshit.

I mean, unless you believe that Lupus was considering the actual actions of individual service members and weighing them all independently, but since that's clearly nonsense, both sides are simply inventing the hypotheticals that flatter their narrative.

If realizing that takes too much empathy or intelligence, I'm sure there's a 9/11 truther site you could be reading.
posted by klangklangston at 7:59 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bullshit. You did, as did we all, everything comfortable to prevent the war, or dissent from the war. You didn't organize a general strike, you didn't stop paying your taxes and go to prison, you didn't chain yourself to the gates of your local military base. You didn't spend your time out on the street corner in a sandwich board, you didn't try to jump the White House fence to call attention to your message. You didn't even slap a rainbow wig on and hide in an airport bathroom.

You know lupus_yonderboy in real life? If not I suggest you knock it off.

It's even easy to invent a hypothetical in which going to war would do more direct good: A moral soldier who, while still attacking and killing those who kill both other Americans and Afghan civilians (who, if you only read MetaFilter, you would assume are solely killed by psychopathic Counterstrike-addled American marines), has through their proximity prevented more deaths than any of the flyers you put up over a weekend when you weren't out trying a new Thai place or catching Iron Man 2.

I could invent a hypothetical where monkeys fly out of my ass but that doesn't mean it bears any relation to reality. Again with the assumptions about lupus_yonderboy's personal life. Are you spying on him?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:02 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: You drew your line, but are demonizing others for doing the same thing.

That's a ridiculous bullshit argument and you know it. Because you don't devote your entire life to fighting something, doesn't mean you are as bad as those who deliberately advance it. You didn't devote your entire life to stopping muggers, but that doesn't make you as bad as one yourself. Same thing....

The problem is not that others drew a line, but where they drew it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:05 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


> leftist masturbatory fodder

Always the charmer, eh, kk?

> It still points out that you did not, in fact, do everything in your power and are pretending you did. You drew your line, but are demonizing others for doing the same thing.

You just tried this; I rebutted your argument in that very post.

Let me repeat - I admit that my attempts to prevent America from committing these great crimes was inadequate; I admit that I did not pursue this to the utmost of my ability.

However, as I said before and you edited out, being unable to prevent a crime is very very different from participating in it.

I'm going to explain this a third time, just to make sure I'm clear. If you commit a crime, and I attempt to prevent it and fail, that does not make me a criminal like you.

So is this clear? Would you like to actually address that argument now? Or are you just going to repeat that my failure to stop your team from its killing spree makes me equally culpable?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:06 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's a ridiculous bullshit argument and you know it. Because you don't devote your entire life to fighting something, doesn't mean you are as bad as those who deliberately advance it. You didn't devote your entire life to stopping muggers, but that doesn't make you as bad as one yourself. Same thing....

So how about me? How about the JAG that was spoken of prior to this? We don't directly engage in killing, but we're obviously culpable, just as everyone else that's a citizen is. The thing is, I know what I'm doing, I know my culpability, I'm not hiding from it, and if that makes me a murderer, all I can do is be the most ethical murderer I can be. I won't disavow to claim a moral superiority. Perhaps that makes me scum to people like Lupus and other, but as said, I still have to put one foot in front of the other and live as best I can.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:14 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I have to say that I'm enjoying all the little fantasies about my life, too... it's cute!

And let me honestly say that it just makes your arguments look bad. My aim isn't to vilify you - it's to convince you to stop the war.

Now, if in order to do this I have to convince you that there's blood on your hands, well, that's too bad, but there's that huge stack of bodies of innocents just sitting here in this conversation and I haven't heard one person (on the "other side", how sad that this conversation is like that :-( ) actually admit that there's any blame consequent to their murders - or even, actually mention their existence at all even though I keep bringing them up.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:15 PM on October 3, 2010


"However, as I said before and you edited out, being unable to prevent a crime is very very different from participating in it.

I'm going to explain this a third time, just to make sure I'm clear. If you commit a crime, and I attempt to prevent it and fail, that does not make me a criminal like you.
"

This is begging the question and requires all service members to be criminals. At best, it's guilt by association; at worst, it's more demonizing dudgeon.

It goes beyond the idea that a mugging is a crime — is everyone who serves breakfast to drug dealers implicated in any murders they may carry out that day? No, of course not. But that's just as moronic to suggest as to suggest that every member of the armed services is a criminal, which you repeatedly and offensively have suggested.
posted by klangklangston at 8:16 PM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Now, if in order to do this I have to convince you that there's blood on your hands, well, that's too bad, but there's that huge stack of bodies of innocents just sitting here in this conversation and I haven't heard one person (on the "other side", how sad that this conversation is like that :-( ) actually admit that there's any blame consequent to their murders - or even, actually mention their existence at all even though I keep bringing them up."

That's because arguing that there's direct culpability for anyone involved tangentially is absolutist horseshit. It's the same as arguing that because you buy things that require oil, and oil was a justification at the policy level for the Iraq war, that you're responsible for Abu Ghraib. It reduces moral culpability to an absurd level and is good for nothing besides demagoguery — your inane rhetoric certainly can't be shown to have stopped the war.
posted by klangklangston at 8:19 PM on October 3, 2010


Now, if in order to do this I have to convince you that there's blood on your hands, well, that's too bad

Of course there's blood on my hands, and your hands, and many people's hands (perhaps different degrees). Of course there's murder being carried out in your name. Once again, you can't disavow these things, you must accept them and either understand that terrible truth or run away from it. I'm part and parcel to this, as many are. But guilt does not mean failure, and there are many degrees of falling. Just as horrible things are done in your name, so is nobility and honor too. Perhaps the great strings of history weigh on one side presently far more than the other, but it cannot undo either side. It probably means very little to you to know that there are good things being carried out in your name in the face of evil acts likewise committed, but it's there for you none-the-less.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:22 PM on October 3, 2010


> we're obviously culpable, just as everyone else that's a citizen is.

Wait for it... I'm not a US citizen! bwahahahahahahaha!

It actually bothers me a little pretty well every day that I'm supporting all this shit by paying my taxes. I partly fixed that by having my income drop by 90+% but it's still hard not to worry about the culpability... and yet in another sense, it seems ridiculous, as I have no idea at all what else I could reasonably do.

I've thought about this and talked to some ethical people about this and the best answer is that the world is a very complex machine and complete refusal to participate in it or deliberately trying to break it are both poor choices - that you need to try to "do the right thing" and walk as lightly as you can on the Earth, but you can't be blamed for the actions of others in society that are unconnected to you simply because you are a member of it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:25 PM on October 3, 2010


Well, Lupus, my mistake about assuming you were from the US. Perhaps I simply misheard a previous comment when we were talking about taxes.

Yes, the world is a complicated place indeed, one that we all find ourselves in. I don't blame you for your choices, as I imagine that you're doing the best you can to make the world a better place from where you are. You have my understanding, in fact, and my empathy too. These things are tricky, and don't think I haven't struggled with the ethical ramifications of being a US service member. I've (mostly) made my peace with it, and though perhaps I'm not walking as lightly on the Earth as you, I do hope I have your understanding too.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:30 PM on October 3, 2010


LC, I admire your moral purity, but I can't really agree, because at that point everything loses meaning, which allows the culprits to escape scot-free - and to do it again.

Sorry, I don't have Dick Cheney's blood on my hands. Sorry, I don't have Abu Ghraib's blood on my hands. I have my own sins to account for, but I feel not the slightest guilt for the crimes committed by the American military and the Republicans. I'm not even sure I wish that I'd tried harder, as it's clear in hindsight that there was nothing we could do, that the Republicans and their team were Hell-bent on committing mass murder and even if we'd all destroyed our lives in opposition to them, they would have done it anyway.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:31 PM on October 3, 2010


"I've thought about this and talked to some ethical people about this and the best answer is that the world is a very complex machine and complete refusal to participate in it or deliberately trying to break it are both poor choices - that you need to try to "do the right thing" and walk as lightly as you can on the Earth, but you can't be blamed for the actions of others in society that are unconnected to you simply because you are a member of it."

Great first step! Now, take a moment and ask yourself whether you could legitimately substitute "the armed forces" for "society."

Now take a moment and wonder if whether, since [spoiler alert] you totally can, if refusing to do so might be both hypocritical and offensive to refuse.
posted by klangklangston at 8:34 PM on October 3, 2010


LC: I live in the United States but I'm not a citizen.

I agree that some culpability comes to me as a taxpayer. I think the citizen thing is pretty artificial, anyway. I frankly think more culpability comes to me as a "consumer" (I try quite hard not to be greedy and buy too much but I do love those musical gadgets and magic tricks...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:34 PM on October 3, 2010


Well then, there you go. Perhaps you did everything within your power. I'm still seeing what I can do in the grand scheme of things, though I certainly don't fault you for not wanting to be a party to all of it. Though there are great evils in the world that I have not been able to stop, perhaps there are lesser ones that I have or powerful ones that I have helped stall bit by bit (having a more introspective military, preventing military coups, etc). These are things that I will never know whether I succeed at doing going; I will only know if I fail. I'm sorry that we can't agree, but we still have to go from here. I know you would rather have me not sign up for the US Military and lend my strength to something you see as so grotesque, but here I am, after ten years, doing what I can to shape good to evil. In time, I'll leave it and perhaps be more like you, and maybe this will be a step forward, or perhaps just a step to the side.

I understand, is all I can say. I know we can't agree, but I understand. I speak only for myself, but I feel great anger sometimes too, but not at you. I hope for both of us in this world. In the end, that's all I can say about all of it.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:40 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I might be a loser if I watch someone stab someone else and am unable to prevent it

Not unable. Unwilling. And contemptuous of those who would be willing.
posted by ctmf at 8:46 PM on October 3, 2010


Good question, kk, and the answer is, "No, it's unethical to participate in the invasion of foreign countries as a member of the armed forces or as a member of society."

To me - and probably to most people - there's a huge difference between living my life in society and taking a weapon, going to a foreign country, and killing people there who've never offered me any harm.

Now, I would have served in World War 2. My grandfather did. There are times, rare times, when people need to go out and fight. I'm not a complete pacifist.

But sorry, World War 2 doesn't mean you get to invade random foreign countries for the rest of time. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Afghanistan, Iraq, Central and South America - these are criminal wars of aggression, millions are dead who never offered us any harm at all.

The US's foreign invasions are unethical, evil, and murderous - and if anyone gave a shit about international law, they'd be illegal too. Participating in them is wrong.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:48 PM on October 3, 2010


> Not unable. Unwilling. And contemptuous of those who would be willing.

Gosh, you guys are real sweethearts tonight!

And, um, I don't really understand how your analogy works at all. If I haven't made it clear, the crimes I'm thinking about are the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

So I certainly wasn't unwilling to prevent them! I did, actually, try. I certainly could have tried harder; but you bet I was never ever contemptuous of the people who were willing to put their asses on the line harder than I was.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:51 PM on October 3, 2010


Lord Chancellor, those are some pretty classy sentiments, in my opinion - and I say that as someone vehemently opposed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I admire your commitment to questioning your decisions; we all live in a state of uneasy compromise and arrant hypocrisy on a range of issues, especially when we are so powerless in the face of vested interests.

I wish you luck with your military career, and only wish that Bush, Cheney, the Generals using lies for war and trampling over basic human rights in the same process etc had your introspection. I'm genuinely interested to know if - when faced with these dilemmas in the course of your job/duty - you raise your misgivings/thoughts (or feel able to) as you have done here, where appropriate. I realise that such a situation may never have eventuated depending on your job.

I agree with your points that there are people doing valuable work in the forces. Major Michael Mori did many interviews in Australia when he was representing Australian Guantanamo inmate, David Hicks, and I was deeply impressed by his integrity, passion, and dedication to fighting what he viewed as unconstitutional and illegal trials - despite the fact the Australian goverment just wanted to forget about Hicks.
posted by smoke at 8:57 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let me put that question back at you. Why shouldn't they throw down their guns (or, more realistically, not sign up or go AWOL)? It's not like they're "defending our country" - they're invading foreign countries that never tried to invade us.

What negative consequences would occur if soldiers refused to fight in obviously stupid wars?


The military is not the "Do whatever lupus thinks is obvious" brigade. You fundamentally do not understand what civilian control of the military means. It really think that giving members of the military the authority to pick and choose where they go would somehow lead to lupus approved organization? Do you think they'd go only when you approved, and nowhere else? (They probably wouldn't go anywhere at all!)

You call every single member of the military a criminal because they don't create the policy you want, even though to allow them this role, legally, would be to assign individual members of the military the ability to create foreign policy, except in your mind they'd somehow only do it for the very best of reasons, and who gives a shit about our elected representatives and the voters anyway?


I am, again, astonished. I'm saying that, as individuals, soldiers should refuse to fight in wars because they are morally wrong. I'm saying that as individuals, soldiers should do the right thing.

No, refusing to kill when you are told to IS NOT THE SAME as killing when you are told not to!


How is it not? Soldiers have the moral to decide when not to fight, but not when to fight? You get to throw them into whatever meat grinder YOU want, but boy oh boy, if they feel they should be doing something you disagree with, they're criminals? This is more than just an attempt at moral superiority, this is an attempt to remove yourself from any possibility of responsibility or blame, while retaining the rhetorical authority to do with the military as you wish. If YOU approve of the mission, then they should be ready to go tout suite, but if they're told to do something you disapprove of, if they participate in any fashion they're all a pack of criminals no better than common murders, the lot of them. You get to sit on the sidelines, trying to stop OTHERS from going to war, but bearing none of the personal responsibility, however small, that you gleefully assign to others.

YOU have nothing to do with it, you're just trying to make your way, it's those guys over there who are really at fault!

On preview: Ok, you assign yourself a tiny bit of responsibility, but, you know, there are mitigating circumstances in your case. I agree, we all bear a degree of responsibility, some more than others, perhaps. But still, I don't have a hard-on for trying to find a great mass of others more culpable than I, or demanding others make sacrifices that they are unwilling to do themselves. I'm not trying to find blood on people's hands.
posted by Snyder at 9:08 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Soldiers have the moral to decide when not to fight, but not when to fight?

Yes, I believe that is what is meant by "volunteer."
posted by bjrubble at 9:19 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The real reason that Rolling Stone was able to quote so many highly placed military people's disdain for members of the Obama administration is because the military sees itself as more moral and better -- and certainly more conservative -- than the types who serve in civilian roles today, especially within a Democratic administration...

With the end of conscription, especially for the large segments of society who chose not to serve, military duty ceased to be something one did for a greater good -- what the British call "doing one's bit." Military service was no longer seen as a part of citizenship, seamlessly connected to other duties like paying taxes, respecting the rule of law, serving on a jury or voting. Now it was just another "lifestyle choice"...

New recruits are increasingly second generation military. This is especially so in the officer class, a nation within a nation. We now have a military "class." And face it they don't trust or like the people outside that class who tell them what to do but with no skin in the game.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:20 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I'm not trying to find blood on people's hands.

This is why the same group of people running the United States has mounted killing sprees like this over decades... because at the end the US looks at the pile of bodies and says, "We have to move forward," and no one ever pays the slightest price for, you know, those hundreds of thousands of murders I keep mentioning.

Suppose I murdered someone you knew. Would you have the same attitude? "Everyone's guilty, we can't single people out."?

> Soldiers have the moral to decide when not to fight, but not when to fight?

Yes, I think you're getting the idea. Very good, yes.

We're talking about killing people. This is a Big Deal.

Now, there are two big classes of errors you can make. In the first case, you kill someone where you shouldn't have. In the second case, you don't kill someone and you should have.

Now, it's not just that the first type of error is morally worse than the second - it's that the first type of error, wrongly killing people, is vastly more common than the second, wrongly not killing people.

(And I'd also say that the first type of error is irrevocable, whereas the second isn't.)

This is a very weird argument. A lot of these arguments are weird, but the idea that suggesting that soldiers not kill when ordered to is the same as suggesting that they kill when not ordered to is... very weird.

Again - refusing to kill is nothing at all like refusing not to kill. That more than one person thinks these are somehow equivalent actually sort of wigs me out.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:21 PM on October 3, 2010


OK, I understand it better. If you consider killing unimportant, and obeying orders important, then of course refusing to kill and refusing not to kill are more or less equivalent - they're disobeying orders.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:24 PM on October 3, 2010


This is why the same group of people running the United States has mounted killing sprees like this over decades... because at the end the US looks at the pile of bodies and says, "We have to move forward," and no one ever pays the slightest price for, you know, those hundreds of thousands of murders I keep mentioning.

I was unaware that my girlfriend, or the aforementioned Marine JAG, or Lord Chancellor or Pfc. Fucko from Biloxi were the same group of people running the U.S. and mounting killing sprees.

OK, I understand it better. If you consider killing unimportant, and obeying orders important, then of course refusing to kill and refusing not to kill are more or less equivalent - they're disobeying orders.

Yes. That's the military's job. Killing people and breaking things. It's not not killing people. The people who tell them when and where and who are the civilian authority. You're telling me if you had full control of the military, and you told them to deploy against, I dunno, Hitler II, (or, more realistically, just supported such action as you've indicated you would,) if they just decided to say "Fuckkit, who gives a shit about a bunch of Euro-trash assholes," you'd be as sanguine about them as you would be about them quitting now?
posted by Snyder at 9:38 PM on October 3, 2010


"Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience and rebellion that progress has been made." -Oscar Wilde
posted by overglow at 9:39 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


> You call every single member of the military a criminal because they don't create the policy you want

Policy? Who's Mr. Sophist now?

No, I call them criminals because they are participating in a mass murder. Remember that big pile of bodies?

The US military is a gang has gone into a bunch of countries and killed many innocents. This would be a criminal act under any reasonable system of justice. The members of this gang are criminals because they are aiding and abetting these criminal acts, even if they do not directly pull the trigger. Under common law, anyone who aids and abets criminals, for example a doctor who ministers to criminals in a gang, is a criminal and deserves the penalty of the law.

That's the ethics. As a practical matter, if we wish to convince members of this gang to cease to support it, to give them absolution for being lesser members is a poor strategy.

It's like smoking cigarettes. "Your soul is stained now, but ten years after you've repudiated the military, it's almost like you were never a murderer at all."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:41 PM on October 3, 2010


> You're telling me if you had full control of the military, and you told them to deploy against, I dunno, Hitler II, (or, more realistically, just supported such action as you've indicated you would,) if they just decided to say "Fuckkit, who gives a shit about a bunch of Euro-trash assholes," you'd be as sanguine about them as you would be about them quitting now?

We're always back to "one day, it might be Hitler", aren't we?

But I spoke very clearly about the necessity of fighting Hitler.

I'm calling soldiers to refuse to participate in foreign invasions. I'm calling on soldiers not to fight in wrongful wars.

And the reason is that by fighting in a wrongful war, you are doing something wrong and yes, that results in a stain on your soul, on you "having blood on your hands" because you are participating in the mass killing of innocent people.

And yes, it is the soldier's moral responsibility to figure this stuff out. Before you go off and kill strangers in their own home, it's your responsibility to make sure, 100% sure, that you really need to do it. It's not one of those things that you should do if it's a "better than even" chance it's the right thing...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:50 PM on October 3, 2010


The problem is that on metafilter this gets cast into the realm of individual decision making , i.e. "what if people just chose not to be in the military." Individual choice isn't good enough-- there has to be an organized effort to bring the military under civilian control again. And that's not happening.

It's interesting to me how people will, on the one hand say that "the troops are under civilian control, you can't blame them" and then on the other hand say "we're at war, you have to support the troops." Then, if the civilian leadership says that it wants out, or some elements of the civilian leadership wants out, then it's "you're not supporting the troops." Glenn Greenwald gets it about right, that what you have is de facto support amongst the elite for perpetual war.

The widening gulf between civilians and the military is not good either. You have a lot of left wing civilian policy makers who think the military "has" to listen to them, which, it doesn't. That's right, from a realistic point of view, all that keeps the military in line is it's faithfulness to the ideal of civil control. When that wavers, as it seems to be doing, you have serious problems. Which is what we're having now. Just remember, that the security services have the guns, and the nice "liberal" policy makers, don't. The fact that we have a professional military is a problem because by definition you end up with a military caste that feels superior to the non-serving civilians, while at the same time feeling aggrieved because they are the ones getting shot at. This is a serious problem.

To my mind, the answer is to have compulsory military service, because this would even out the divide. Let's suppose the US pulls out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe and Africa. There would still be a pretty sizable military requirement just to secure the continental United States, and we could meet that via a conscript service, or some kind of state militia programs. Think Switzerland. That's probably better for democracy because it keeps a wide variety of people in the service.

Let me be pretty clear here that I am a leftist, and I want the US out of Afghanistan and Iraq. I also want to end the exclusion of gays from the services, and I want civil control of the military.

I'm just not naive enough to expect that a strictly volunteer force will always remain loyal to people that they hold in disdain.
posted by wuwei at 10:14 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm calling on soldiers not to fight in wrongful wars.

define wrongful - i wasn't thrilled about the war in afghanistan, but there was certainly a strong element of self-defense to it when we started it - we were attacked and they did give shelter to those who attacked us

unfortunately, we seem to be many years past that point and now i don't know what we're trying to do

i can see why someone would have signed up to go to afghanistan in 2001 - but once you're signed up, it's pretty hard to get out without breaking the law - and soldiers have ended up involved in much more for longer than anyone thought was possible

at what point does a war of self-defense become something else? - and if you're in the middle of it, trying to fight it, just at what point do you decide you've crossed the line? - especially when people are still trying to kill you?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:14 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


And yes, it is the soldier's moral responsibility to figure this stuff out. Before you go off and kill strangers in their own home, it's your responsibility to make sure, 100% sure, that you really need to do it.

The soldiers, or potential soldiers, are generally in no position to figure this out. What you're suggesting would paralyze the military. Maybe you'd be fine with that because you don't want the military to do much, but then why not just make that argument directly?
posted by John Cohen at 10:19 PM on October 3, 2010


"No, I call them criminals because they are participating in a mass murder. Remember that big pile of bodies?"

Really? Every single member of the armed forces participated in that?

Now, remember, if we're counting any indirect culpability at all, your fancy consumer ass is right there with them. So, you're either claiming that every armed forces member had a hand in whichever big pile of bodies you're on about now, directly, or that their additional level of culpability is meaningful. But given that you have in no way demonstrated this outside of outright claiming it as fact, and given that it's easy to show both that there are plenty of service members that have no direct involvement in any given pile of bodies, and that it's easy to give scenarios where service members are involved in projects that all of us would rationally consider good, the argument that merely being a service member meaningfully increases your culpability in any given killing is bullshit.

Your moral code is incoherent and you have achieved none of your objectives by protesting or demonizing members of the armed forces. If your goal is to decrease the killings of civilians, you're doing a pretty amazingly shitty job at it. If it's to make yourself feel better than people who choose to join the military, hey, A+ number one!
posted by klangklangston at 10:38 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, well, Hitler was a war hero.

He wasn't, actually. He was injured in WWI and nearly went blind and didn't achieve any great honors beyond just being some dude in a trench.


Wow, I didn't realise they handed out first class Iron Crosses to everyone in the trenches.

Oh, wait they didn't. Study harder.
posted by rodgerd at 10:50 PM on October 3, 2010


The problem with requiring individual soldiers to figure out the difference between rightful and wrongful wars is that you can't set up an organization that will wage a rightful war effectively if every military action has to be agreed to by each individual soldier before it can be carried out.

This isn't an easy issue. I'm surprised so many people see it as black and white. My brother served in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he and I have never REALLY been able to talk about his decision to enlist, because I tend to be so adamantly anti-military.

Over the years, though, I have come to see why the military is so disdainful of individual civilians who hold each soldier individually responsible for the actions of the armed forces/military industrial complex/however-you-want-to-frame-it without recognizing the parallels in their situations.

If you believe that there is such a thing as a just war, then you recognize the need for standing armed forces that are trained to wage this just war in the event that it is necessary. Once you accept this possibility, the lines start to become very blurry. Because now you have to balance the moral responsibility to wage just war against the ability to wage war effectively. And just like ANY other socio-political institution, there are people who will want to use the armed forces for their individual best interest. Nevertheless, the armed forces sets up a system whereby it is supposed to work. The rules of that system are fashioned, in the US, at least nominally, by civilians. Or at least civilians have to approve them. When anyone enlists, they swear to abide by those rules. One of the rules is that they have to obey lawful orders. So, as a soldier, in a military action approved by the Commander-in-Chief, when your officer orders you to fire on a given target, you are required to do so. In this process, you may well kill innocent civilians.

Now someone who serves as JAG, for example, is there to make sure that members of the armed forces follow the rules set up by the civilian government. So they're trying to make sure that military action is conducted within the sphere defined as legitimate by the majority decision of a civilian body. To say that the individual JAG officer is then more guilty when a soldier kills innocent civilians than the average civilian citizen is a bit unfair.

UNLESS you question the need for the existence of a military to begin with. But once you accept the idea of just wars, you have to respect the people who try to make sure that wars are fought justly, not condemn them for being a part of the organization making war.
posted by bardophile at 10:58 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just . . . stop. You can't win this, any of you. Some will think they (and I) are criminals and some won't. There isn't a damn thing that can come out of anyone's mouth that Lupus hasn't heard already that will change his mind. Maybe he will someday or maybe he won't, but it won't happen here on the blue. Sorry to say, we've reached an impasse where all we are doing is trying to score rhetorical points. Just let it end. Everyone put down your metaphorical swords on this because there's no victory. I know Lupus wants to keep the past alive (perhaps for very good reason), but let's move on for now. It'll be here when we get back. Just . . . stop.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:58 PM on October 3, 2010


(I'm only mentioning Lupus because I've had a dialog with him. The same could be said for most of us on this message board. Sorry for the unwarranted mention, Lupus.)
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:00 PM on October 3, 2010


Hitler was a "rear area pig," mocked by his unit. He was not a war hero.
posted by klangklangston at 11:07 PM on October 3, 2010


> i wasn't thrilled about the war in afghanistan, but there was certainly a strong element of self-defense to it when we started it

"self-defense"?


Might I remind you that 9/11 was perpetrated by Saudis? That not one of the hijackers was an Afghani but 16 were Saudis? That Bin Laden was Saudi? That Al Qaeda is a Saudi organization? That the Saudis bombed the WTC on the previous attempt? That they blew a hole in... URG!

No one - not the FBI, not the CIA, no one - has claimed that any Afghani knew about 9/11 before it happened. (And if you were Bin Laden, would you tell people?)

Do I need to remind anyone here that Afghanistan offered repeatedly to give up Bin Laden under rapidly weakening conditions and Bush refused to even negotiate with them?

About the worst you could say is that Afghanistan didn't eject Bin Laden from its borders before 9/11, even though they probably had a pretty good idea he was up to no good.


It's pretty hard for me to be polite here. I just think you're all such suckers :-( I'm sorry, I hate to let it spill, but it's true.

I mean, Bush didn't even pretend to do a good job on catching Bin Laden - he didn't even pretend to be interested. I watched at the time, open-mouthed. How could you possibly not see this?

Consider the timeline! September 11 happens. Bush announces that they will invade Afghanistan in the first week (I couldn't find a date)... but the invasion happens October 7... four weeks later!

And do they bring a fast, light force capable of extremely fast progress through challenging terrain? No, they bring a classic heavy war force - it was obvious at the time that they were settling down for a long war.

Let's not go through "Bush let him go at Tora Bora" (though it's obvious to me). Let's not rehash Bush's "I don't know where Bin Laden is and I don't care" or the later, "We know where he is but we have to respect sovereign borders" (COME ON!)

The fact is that we didn't catch Bin Laden and we didn't even get close to catching Bin Laden and we didn't even pretend to be interested in catching Bin Laden after a very short time.


Now, at the time I did some calculations. The US military is an astonishingly rich entity; by my reckoning it's the largest project humans have ever undertaking (if you don't include "governments"). The US has astonishingly large numbers of troop carriers of all sorts and astonishingly large numbers of troops scattered all over the world. I computed at the time that if the US military had put their mind to it, they could have had a full division, say 50,000 men, in Afghanistan within 72 hours.

Impossible? Not at all. I've had this conversation with multiple military experts (or so-called experts) and they said this - I go over the numbers with them and they say, "Sure, there are enough troops not too far away, and I guess there are more than enough air transports and even enough fuel ready to go, but you don't understand how difficult it is to organize a modern army!"

Now, I know some little military history so I have various examples - what about this and that in WW2, what about the Berlin Airlift... but it's always inconceivable, no matter how I run the numbers or compare this to previous military adventures.

(And it's not like there aren't enough quartermasters and sergeants and "middle managers" to handle the logistics.)

When it comes down to it, they're trying to convince me that the US military just isn't really very good - that they are literally unable to respond in a timely fashion to threats on the country.

I personally believe that Bush didn't want to catch Bin Laden - but when it comes down to it, it's the same thing - a massive military failure.


Well, guys, you've spent trillions on this "defense" system of yours. You got 0 out of 4 on 9/11 - even though your leaders were warned in advance about exactly this threat, even though you have a huge system, NORAD, that was designed to protect against many threats including precisely hijacked airplanes.

Then it took a fucking month for that "best in the world" defense to mount a counterstrike, which did not catch the criminals, or really, accomplish anything at all.

And you started two wars with tiny stupid little countries of poor, uneducated people, countries whose GDPs are literally less than the revenues of many individual corporations - and yet you're unable to make progress on either of them, or extricate yourselves - reduced to claiming that the Iraq war is over when there are still 50,000 soldiers there and active fighting.

All I see is a bunch of excuses and a lot of murders of pathetic peasants. Every US soldier is part of the best equipped, best trained, best organized military of all time! That's what we keep hearing - we certainly have the bills to prove it - and in fact, this bills are so great that our grandchildren will seemingly still be paying for our wars (but in fact it'll all collapse long before that and tonight I'm frankly hoping it happens soon so that there's some chance that America will pick itself up again).

And yet you've been fighting people who have barely post-bronze-age civilizations, and you have been losing, and you have been doing this for the last fifty years.

Oh, and you've managed to destroy your civil liberties, destroy your economy, oh, AND destroy civil discourse in public while you were at it. And you've exposed yourselves as unrepentant torturers to the entire world, too, destroying what vestiges of moral authority you once had.

Tell me - was it worth it?


Oh, and just a reminder... the Chinese Army doesn't do "excuses" like the US military does. So you have the most expensive military in the world - what use is it if it fails to do the job consistently?

Quite soon, China is going to just snap Taiwan up, and the US will, essentially, not respond at all - how could they? What would they do or say? There will be little bloodshed: China has about a million troops "at the border" already. They will display overwhelming force, and Taiwan will capitulate.

Frankly, if I were the Chinese government, I might do it just after the Presidential election in 2012...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:20 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Your moral code is incoherent

Words have meanings, and precise and aesthetically pleasing words like "incoherent" should not be misused as generic terms of insult.

My beliefs may be "simplistic" or "naive" or even just plain "wrong". However, I have very steadily and coherently maintained one simple point - soldiers participating in a wrongful war bear moral responsibility for the crimes committed during that war.

> There isn't a damn thing that can come out of anyone's mouth that Lupus hasn't heard already that will change his mind.

Wrong shoe/foot. I am changing their minds. The reason they are yelling, LC, is because they aren't sure they're right. I've converted more than one person from the hard-core right.

And I'm a very flexible guy. It actually somewhat annoys my friends. We'll be discussing something and they'll emit some argument and I'll say, "You're right" and just stop arguing. They'll go on and I'll say, "No, your previous argument convinced me. In fact, it's even stronger than that... :-D"

But :-D I'm not budging on this. You people are obsessed with war and your country is collapsing. If you could stand back for a few seconds, you'd realize that you're on the same downward spiral that a cocaine addict is. That the so-called Socialist Mr. Obama could propose that the US freeze all discretionary expenses except for the military should be a give away....
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:29 PM on October 3, 2010


ryanrs writes "The beautiful part is that we won't ever need to fuck them over on the snail market. The whole terrorism thing will basically take care of itself once all the young men are out hunting snails. It'll kill opium production, too."

I doubt it would kill opium production because Afghanistan is such a large source. Instead as prices rose because because of a lack of labour marginal producers would find it profitable to resume production. Total volume would probably fall though.
posted by Mitheral at 11:47 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Over the years, though, I have come to see why the military is so disdainful of individual civilians who hold each soldier individually responsible for the actions of the armed forces/military industrial complex/however-you-want-to-frame-it without recognizing the parallels in their situations.

Oh, I have too :-D but our views are no doubt completely different.

If the military can tell its participants that they are free of the moral consequences of their actions, they can basically get them to do whatever they want!

> If you believe that there is such a thing as a just war,

Absolutely not, what a vile concept. What would that even mean? :-(

I believe that in case some cases even a rational person or organization has to resort to violence.

As for wars, well - very very rarely, very rarely indeed, does there appear a Hitler, and these cases are few and far between. If the world had been politically united when Hitler appeared and been able to pounce on him early, a lot of bloodshed would have been saved. Having independent standing armies did not help Poland, France, Austria, Belgium, Holland.... what saved us from Hitler was not individual standing armies but, as the D-Day proclamation says, "The forces of the United Nations".


> then you recognize the need for standing armed forces that are trained to wage this just war in the event that it is necessary.

Do you mean the UN? Sure! I'm a big fan.

I don't think "armed forces" is the right term. I think we need a seriouspolice force - military police, with tanks and shit, not just bobbies on a bike.

As for the US... well...

I think you've shown that you can't be trusted with a standing army. You've really killed too many people.

And what do you need it for? Who's going to invade you? Canada? Mexico? Noun verb 9/11 - but what good did your standing army do for you on 9/11? Nothing!

No, I don't think the US deserves a standing army. I think, frankly, you're a bunch of paranoid crazies. No one is every going to invade you.

I'm sure that criminals like Bin Laden will commit crimes again, and these need to be dealt with as police matters - by police, impartial people not beholden to any specific country, not by GIs and Marines shooting dark shinned people indiscriminately.

If you think of 9/11 as a great crime - which is essentially what it is - then the "police" response to it was ludicrous - it killed more US citizens than the initial crime did!

So no. You guys are nutcases. Until you get over this "invade some third world country for no reason, kill hundreds of thousands, lose interest, leave" syndrome, no armies for you.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:48 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Sorry for switching between "us" and "you" in referring to America. I've lived here for a long time and I moved here by choice, I'm still identified with this place but sometimes need to step back...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:01 AM on October 4, 2010


lupus_yonderboy: Just so we're clear, I'm -not- sure there is such a thing as a just war. I think it's disingenuous of you, however, to argue that fighting Hitler was good, but that standing armies are still unnecessary. How on earth were the Allies going to get together as "United Nations" (which is very different from the UNO, which didn't exist at the time of the D-Day invasion) if they didn't have standing armies to begin with?

I don't know if you're including me in the "guys who are nutcases." For the record, I'm Pakistani AND American, and have had to live with the ambivalence of that for a LONG time. Since one of the countries I belong to is in the process of conducting military strikes on the other country that I belong to, trust me when I say that I've probably given this more thought than most people who are not in a similar emotional bind.

UN forces as the world's police force are fun to argue. But in order for that to be a workable solution, you'd first have to change the way the UN works, fundamentally. The veto powers on the Security Council will always be a barrier to action when action is needed, even as they are a barrier to unwarranted action. The UN is founded on a charter that recognized the balance of geopolitical power at the time that it was founded, and is funded based on those principles, too. I'm not sure how you think the UN could ever constitute the kind of force you're talking about. Look at the relative success of UN peacekeeping missions around the world: where there are success stories, there are also pretty appalling failures. Corruption in the UN is no less prevalent than abuse of power is in the US military.

The war on Iraq in 1990-91 was officially sanctioned by the UN. Did you consider that to be any less a war of American opportunism than the second one?

And honestly, your tone just becomes more and more derisive as you continue to comment. This does not generally help conversation along. Far from convincing people, you're losing them. I started out for the most part in agreement with your views. With each progressive comment, you have lost me. I assume the same is true of many other people who have chosen to walk away from this conversation.

Lord Chancellor: Would that everyone, military and civilian, would continue to wrestle with the moral ramifications of their actions in the way that you have demonstrated here. Tip of the hat, sir.

With that, I am out of here.
posted by bardophile at 12:11 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well. This has gone well.
posted by verb at 12:30 AM on October 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


if anyone gave a shit about international law, they'd be illegal too

No, they are still illegal.

But how are you going to enforce that law? Force?!?!?

Who and what level of force would be needed?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:45 AM on October 4, 2010


What do you mean by "a Hitler"? What does it take to meet LY's ludicrous criteria? How big does a genocide have to be before it's okay for a multinational coalition to put an end to it? Kosovo? Beirut? Kurdistan?
posted by thesmophoron at 5:55 AM on October 4, 2010


I haven't heard one person (on the "other side", how sad that this conversation is like that :-(

It wouldn't have to be if you weren't polarizing the people who disagree with you by telling them that they have "blood on their hands." There are ways to go about being persuasive, and there are ways to go about making people defensives and further entrenching them in their opinions - your methods of discourse lead to the latter.

actually admit that there's any blame consequent to their murders

Like this. Whether or not you believe it's true, calling someone a murderer isn't going to make them see your point of view clearer, it's going to make them defensive.

Hitler was a "rear area pig," mocked by his unit. He was not a war hero.

Yes, what I was trying to say. As for "study harder," I'm not going to bust out my entire CV on MetaFilter, but I've taken advanced college level courses on the Shoah. This is not a subject wherein I am talking out of my ass. Note that I am not making pronouncements on the US military as no, I'm not educated enough on that subject to add more than what others have already said.

Medals =/ heroism.
posted by sonika at 6:06 AM on October 4, 2010


As for "it would be worth it to fight Hitler II" - the problem with Hitler is no one knew he was Hitler until it was already too late. I'm not saying that this justifies fighting Saddam or any other dictator, but by the time it's obvious that genocide is being committed... well... genocide is being committed.

I think that's worthy of prevention. As for whether or not bringing down Saddam counts as "preventing another Hitler" - I honestly don't know enough about the subject to have an informed opinion. But I do know that in the 30s and 40s the US and the other Allied countries honestly didn't believe that the Holocaust was happening and felt that the reports from the camps were being exaggerated, which delayed liberation of said camps for years. By the time you know the extent of the horror, it's already too late.

I'm not saying this justifies pre-emptive war. I'm saying it's a flawed argument to claim that a threatening power has to reach Hitler levels before it's worthy of fighting. I, personally, would rather see genocide prevented. Now, I don't know if military force is the right way of doing that, but I sure as hell hope that another Hitler would be stopped before s/he became Hitler.
posted by sonika at 6:10 AM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


With regards to a soldier's moral duty to stand up and refuse to fight in an immoral, murderous war on the other side of the planet, I point you towards the documentary Sir, No Sir! The Suppressed Story of the GI Movement to End The War in Vietnam.

Going to jail with your head held high as always an option rather than kill people and break things unjustly is always an option.

America loves to think of ourselves as a county that "never picks a fight, but always finishes it!" That's a lovely, John Wayne sentiment, but it doesn't really comport with the history of America's military interventions. The bad guy is always the next Hitler, and we were attacked (or maybe not)

Just because you signed up with noble intentions and traditions doesn't mean what you're doing is noble. Nor does calling it "service" excuse you from looking closely at what you'll be required to do as part of that "service".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:25 AM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure how you think the UN could ever constitute the kind of force you're talking about.

What a dramatic bit of sci-fi that would be.
Or, you could look at the U.N. Charter and see that was the way it was designed to be, before the countries involved got cold feet.

Article 43
All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security.

Such agreement or agreements shall govern the numbers and types of forces, their degree of readiness and general location, and the nature of the facilities and assistance to be provided.

The agreement or agreements shall be negotiated as soon as possible on the initiative of the Security Council. They shall be concluded between the Security Council and Members or between the Security Council and groups of Members and shall be subject to ratification by the signatory states in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.


You're right of course about the obstructionist power of the Security Council, but it's not as if a U.N. with its own "rapid response" force wasn't envisioned. It wasn't, once upon a time, just an exercise in wishful thinking.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:41 AM on October 4, 2010


If the military can tell its participants that they are free of the moral consequences of their actions, they can basically get them to do whatever they want!

Well, goodness, I'm glad you've got everything figured out.

I have never felt free of the moral consequences of my actions. I'm well aware that I have blood on my hands. And have, quite literally, felt blood on my hands often over the years. That was what I did. I was never a trigger-puller (of course, being female), but my job was in direct support of them. And not "I'm a military lawyer in DC" support. I don't need to draw a map to know how I'm connected to death and destruction, among other things, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And certainly my dealing with that now is the preferable position to be in, relatively. Compared to that pile of dead bodies you mention. Compared to the civilians still living there. Compared to my dead friends. Compared to the grievously wrecked and wounded troops I saw week after week. I got to walk away.

Obviously, you believe that soldiers ought to refuse to deploy and accept the consequences. Prison, dishonorable discharge, whatever. What an admirable moral stance to impose on others. The difference is, I think, that some of us recognize other consequences to doing that. If I had decided in, say, 2006 that the Iraq war was bullshit and I just wasn't going to go again, I would have left my unit down a medic before 15 months in Anbar and Diyala. That probably doesn't mean anything to you, but it's something with ramifications I would be unwilling to accept. You think I'm immoral for going? I would have considered it immoral to stay behind.

Our lives led us to different places and to believe in different things.
posted by lullaby at 6:50 AM on October 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


"[The US has] engaged in a major, decade-long conflict ... with an Army manned entirely by professional warriors."

To some of us, these "professional warriors" are one of the main reasons why we have been (and been able to be) involved in these wars for almost 10 years.

We don't think this is a good thing.
posted by moonbiter at 6:57 AM on October 4, 2010


If you accept the "economic reasons" argument for joining the military, are you willing to forgive poor people who hold up gas stations for money? If not, why not?

Because it's a ridiculously false analogy.

You don't join the army because you think that it's a license to rob with threat of violence (or at least if you do, there are systems in place to knock that idea out of you right quick). The violence of the soldier is (theoretically at least) severely restricted in time, place, motivation, and scope. The targets are (theoretically at least) lawful combatants, not innocent gas station employees. (And yeah, I get the irony. Gas station - oil rich country. Still a bad analogy.)
posted by IndigoJones at 7:03 AM on October 4, 2010


Or, you could look at the U.N. Charter and see that was the way it was designed to be, before the countries involved got cold feet.

I don't see the feet of the countries' involved getting any warmer. My question was specifically about the way that the UN actually functions in the world, not according to the way it was conceived in its charter.

To some of us, these "professional warriors" are one of the main reasons why we have been (and been able to be) involved in these wars for almost 10 years.

We don't think this is a good thing.


Amen to that. We can't, however, use that disapproval as an excuse to sidestep the complicated nature of a nation's perceived need for a military to defend them, and the consequences of maintaining such a force. Believe me, I would much prefer a world where a UNO run by some kind of democratic mandate maintained the only real military force in the world. But that really does sound like a pipe-dream to me. So I accept that I live in a world of difficult paradoxes, and appreciate it when I find other people who are cognizant of those paradoxes, whether they agree with me or not.
posted by bardophile at 7:10 AM on October 4, 2010


Well, you said "I'm not sure how you think the UN could ever constitute the kind of force you're talking about." Corruption doesn't have much to do with the particular problem being discussed. Where the forces are under U.N. command, there's little room for unilateral adventurism. One might also argue that coalition forces might see less behaviour not befitting soldiers given the additional exposure to soldiers of other nationalities as well as a command structure not beholden to the idea of "protecting their own".

But sure, we didn't go there then and we're not going to go there now. Hard to imagine, though? Hardly.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:45 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


  ... Then, it seemed, there approached from the northward
  A senior soul-flame
  Of the like filmy hue:
  And he met them and spake: "Is it you,
O my men?" Said they, "Aye! We bear homeward and hearthward
  To list to our fame!"

  "I've flown there before you," he said then:
  "Your households are well;
  But--your kin linger less
  On your glory arid war-mightiness
Than on dearer things."--"Dearer?" cried these from the dead then,
  "Of what do they tell?"

  "Some mothers muse sadly, and murmur
  Your doings as boys -
  Recall the quaint ways
  Of your babyhood's innocent days.
Some pray that, ere dying, your faith had grown firmer,
  And higher your joys.

  "A father broods: 'Would I had set him
  To some humble trade,
  And so slacked his high fire,
  And his passionate martial desire;
Had told him no stories to woo him and whet him
  To this due crusade!" ...
posted by No-sword at 7:52 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't followed the comments here, but I just have to say after hearing this same thing over and over from soldiers and those that place them on marble pillars:

I'd just like to know what he has to say about the sacrifice the child a Foreign Service Officer (a civillian mind you) that has to grow up in a compound somewhere in a dangerous, polluted, diseased-ridden nation while his or her parent serves the United States in an embassy or consulate abroad. This guy thinks he's sacrificed in service of his country? Try having to take an armored car to pre-school and do your homework in a safe room.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:53 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: I mean, unless you believe that Lupus was considering the actual actions of individual service members and weighing them all independently, but since that's clearly nonsense, both sides are simply inventing the hypotheticals that flatter their narrative.

Well, the FPP is about ten years of war, so I think everyone is talking about the actions of US soldiers in those wars. These aren't hypothetical wars. I'm not really sure why you want to focus on hypothetical actions when we are talking about real wars.

Obviously, we aren't discussing at the level of individual actions here, but that doesn't mean we aren't discussing things that have happened in the real world. You, on the other hand, can't seem to see beyond your hypotheticals to the very real wars going on.

If realizing that takes too much empathy or intelligence, I'm sure there's a 9/11 truther site you could be reading

Stay classy, klang!
posted by ssg at 8:16 AM on October 4, 2010


The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not war crimes. They were authorized actions under international law taken with the backing of multiple nations.
posted by humanfont at 8:39 AM on October 4, 2010


Wrong shoe/foot. I am changing their minds. The reason they are yelling, LC, is because they aren't sure they're right. I've converted more than one person from the hard-core right.

What bullshit is this?

(Sorry for switching between "us" and "you" in referring to America. I've lived here for a long time and I moved here by choice, I'm still identified with this place but sometimes need to step back...)

When it's convenient.

I'm done with this narcissistic twaddle.
posted by Snyder at 8:40 AM on October 4, 2010


Frankly, if I were the Chinese government, I might do it just after the Presidential election in 2012...

wow, more ignorance.

Oh, and just a reminder... the Chinese Army doesn't do "excuses" like the US military does. So you have the most expensive military in the world - what use is it if it fails to do the job consistently?

WOW. what does that mean "excuses"

HEY SWEETHEART, YOU SEE ENEMEY SOLDERS ON THE STREET BLOWING UP STARBUCKS.

wow, were you aware of the previous attempts by other countries to kill Bin Laden?

I think you've shown that you can't be trusted with a standing army. You've really killed too many people.

OMG....troll and it takes one.
posted by clavdivs at 9:35 AM on October 4, 2010


Obviously, we aren't discussing at the level of individual actions here, but that doesn't mean we aren't discussing things that have happened in the real world. You, on the other hand, can't seem to see beyond your hypotheticals to the very real wars going on.

?
posted by clavdivs at 9:46 AM on October 4, 2010


Holy fuck this thread is unhealthy. I don't even...
posted by Fezboy! at 9:59 AM on October 4, 2010


...your right...I take back my last two comments and follow the wisdom of Snyder.
posted by clavdivs at 10:18 AM on October 4, 2010


No, but I do have disdain for people who make pointless and irrelevant attempts at analogies.
posted by me & my monkey at 8:20 PM on October 3


Well, then let us remain safe and comfortable in our mutual disdain.
posted by Decani at 12:34 PM on October 4, 2010


it certainly can be someone's best option for providing a living in the short term.
posted by ctmf at 8:21 PM on October 3


I hear that prostitution and being a hit man can be quite lucrative, too.
posted by Decani at 12:36 PM on October 4, 2010


China hasn't been very successful in its foreign military interventions. Particularly when following the Americans. As historical evidence consider when China invaded North Vietnam. I have no idea what you mean by excuses but the US military has been highly successful during military campaign. See also Kosovo, Panama, Kuwait, just as a few examples. Looking narrowly at the blood for oil calculous Saddam does not control the Iraqi petroleum reserves and Iraq is no longer focused on using the incomes of those reserves to sponsor terrorism and regional unrest.
posted by humanfont at 1:03 PM on October 4, 2010


>Hitler was a "rear area pig," mocked by his unit. He was not a war hero.

>>Yes, what I was trying to say. As for "study harder," I'm not going to bust out my entire CV on MetaFilter, but I've taken advanced college level courses on the Shoah. This is not a subject wherein I am talking out of my ass. Note that I am not making pronouncements on the US military as no, I'm not educated enough on that subject to add more than what others have already said.

Medals =/ heroism.

.
I'm not sure if you skimmed over the linked article, but there was a better bit you could have quoted.

I don't want to get into an argument about semantics, but the article said Hitler was a suckass and a bit of a coward. Not a complete dickhead - eg. he was very respectful of rank and didn't hit the piss during leave - but his main job was to run intra-HQ messages well behind the front line.

The historian[s] quoted on the linked site says the supposedly superior Iron Cross he received was often given by HQ officers to HQ suckasses, and was no way indicative of heroism.

So in case you're confused, sonika, I'm agreeing with you and disagreeing with the "b-b-but he got a kickass bravery award medal!" crowd. I just thought it was a really interesting link and you didn't mention the best part.

But I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with anything else in the thread. Too scary.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:45 AM on October 5, 2010


And what do you need it for? Who's going to invade you? Canada? Mexico? Noun verb 9/11 - but what good did your standing army do for you on 9/11? Nothing!

Lupus_yonderboy you might as well say what did your standing army do for you on December 7, 1941. Your positions seem poorly informed on the history of diplomacy and military intervention. You also do not seem to understand the role the US plays in international security. As a result of our unique force projection and logistical competency and naval assets, the US plays a major role in protecting the freedom of the seas, humanitarian releif and support of international forces.
posted by humanfont at 2:37 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


there are other ways to serve your country besides putting on a uniform and using a gun
You'd think so, but...
This isn't some simplistic "all war is wrong" pacifist crap.
Yeah, if there's one group that lacks integrity, commitment, and the moral high ground, it's the fucking pacifists.

(Also known as, "You don't know, 'cause you weren't there, man!")
Everyone has the right to an opinion, even if they weren't 'there.' Typically we take the opinion of people who were there as "informed." Sometimes people get angsty about it when someone is aggressive in their ignorance, s'all.

In a way, you could say they're worse than the civilian overseers of the military. The civilians in charge dream up the crackpot ideas, but without the military they could never actually carry them out. The civilians are the dreamers of violence, tyranny, fascism and death, but the soldiers with guns and bombs are the actual doers.

*blink* This is the single craziest statement I've ever read on metafilter and I've had extensive experience arguing with Paris Paramus.

So if individual military members are to blame for carrying out policy and they should stop - does that mean we should overthrow Obama and the currently (and I anticipate future) Democratic congress?
It's what would have to happen. Which would require organization, a command structure, leadership ... meet the new boss
Does the matter? There are proportionately just as many idiots in uniform as there are civilians. This guy is a doctor as well. So relying on individual thumbnails to evolve into some bootstrapping resistance movement, eh, I'm not optimistic.

Of course wars are stupid. If there weren't passive aggressive assholes manipulating other people to fight to assert their own wrongheaded impractical points of view and kill by proxy the world would be a paradise.

You didn't devote your entire life to stopping muggers, but that doesn't make you as bad as one yourself. Same thing....

The 20 - 25 odd people stepping over the stabbed homeless man bleeding to death in the gutter are good, good people.

anyone who signed up in the last few years knew where they were going.

Georgia? Texas? About 1 and a half million people on active duty, only about 370,000 outside the U.S.

What negative consequences would occur if soldiers refused to fight in obviously stupid wars?
More mercenaries? Pretty much what happened in the past. Seems to be what's going on now too.


"Yeah, well, Hitler was a war hero."
'He wasn't, actually. He was injured in WWI and nearly went blind and didn't achieve any great honors beyond just being some dude in a trench.'
--Wow, I didn't realise they handed out first class Iron Crosses to everyone in the trenches.
Oh, wait they didn't. Study harder.--

There was a very very large increase in the numbers of second and first class Iron Crosses given out between 1914 and 1918. About 4 million for the former, 145,000 for the latter.
Wasn't all that hard to get one if you were hanging out around the high command as Hitler was.
Of course, he didn't really talk about how he got it much since it was a Jewish officer who gave it to the Grofaz.
He was though Time's man of the year. But then, so was I. And so were you.

It's not a schoolyard, there are no "bullies", how reductionist can you get?

Point taken on the oversimplification. But there are some very oppressive regimes and very oppressive, charismatic, individuals out there. And indeed, the U.S. has not devoted a great deal of resources to directly combatting those kinds of regimes.

But U.S. civilians make policy to a large degree. Larger than is being asserted. At least by elements crying that they're 'powerless.'
This kid is powerless. Most Americans of voting age, not so much among the powerless there David Hoy.

----

But the being sly stuff aside, with all seriousness -

The debate on these things always seem to fall into a self-justification spiral on both sides.
The 'I didn't do anything directly so I'm blameless' camp vs. the 'individual vs. command responsibility and civilian control of the military' camp.

Obviously I favor the latter but my patron saint is Smed Butler so I'm not exactly philosophically opposed to the idea that war is ever something that can be called good or prosecuted at the highest levels for reasons other than self-interest. (Yes, that there's understatement)

But that's not the debate.

The underlying assertion here is not just ignorance on the part of civilians to the demands of war - which is in fact part of the duty of the military: to prevent the horrors of war being visited upon the civilian population.

But also that service is inherently noble.

Well, setting aside the 'military' aspect of service, as said above there are other ways to serve your country, yeah it is inherently noble.

And it is disheartening to see, as the article states: "the declining number of Americans in public life with the sobering experience of war, the fading ideal of public service as a civic responsibility."

Voter turnout has been in long decline, general participation has been in long decline. With some recent exceptions, but those don't make a trend.

The military part though is not only the testing of one's personal resolve, but the immediate and sometimes life changing consequence of decisions.

The civilian side of this is obvious. ryanrs's comment for example: " All indications are that the powers that be don't give a shit what I think. What the fuck do you suggest I do?"

Divorce that from the words and absorb the attitude there for a moment. I'm not concerned with what he's saying, just the air of powerlessness and indecision.
And, to be clear, I say that without derogation or judgment. Perhaps ryanrs has been sweating bullets working for whatever ideal he supports and he's at the end of his intellectual and physical limits. Perhaps he's been riding the couch. It doesn't matter as far as what I'm saying goes.

There is this general lack of meaningfulness in the decisions made by many Americans. Most people will never take or save a life - the situational details that make up the morality of those relative hypothetical events aside - very few people make a decision that momentous or face a serious challenge to their resolve - whatever their ideals may be.

There's no test of fire. No great cause. No real sacrifice to be made and even when made very often no manifest results seen from that sacrifice. Regardless of the morality or immorality of almost any act there isn't much in the way of consequence. Most particularly long term.

The Romans had bloodsports and continuity to fill that gap. The Aztecs took people's hearts out and paraded around with them to keep the sun going. In the U.S. we buy stuff.

Whether this psychic paralysis is by (someone's) design or not can be a good conversation but is beside the point here. And whether civilians in the U.S. feel guilt for not being involved in any given conflict - while debatable is again beside the point.

It's not the 'war' part it's the 'participation' part that is the problem and the feelings of uselessness and/or helplessness they can engender.

Conversely, a given service member might feel great or lousy about their service but in terms of individual action, often a great deal of what they do has consequence. Or at least they feel connected to larger events unfolding.

I think it's damned unfortunate that the 'big show' of our time is still war. That should in no way be the centerpiece of our social drama. We've come so far technologically, socially, hell, even in terms of doing 'evil' we've gotten far more sophisticated, you'd think we'd be better than that.

Nope, same song and dance.

And if we continue to allow the dichotomy between citizen and soldier - quite contrary to our American tradition - we're sowing the same seeds of destruction it brought to every other civilization in history.

Which should be my last word, but...

Obviously, we aren't discussing at the level of individual actions here

Some people are. And assigning collective responsibility.
If we're talking about actions during war there either is a difference between combat troops and non-combat troops or there isn't.

Very little differentiation has been made here. Only between 'good' wars and 'bad' ones.
Yeah, good luck with that one.

Or choosing to serve at all or not. Again - any individual may have good intentions or bad in whatever they do. Someone might be a warhawk but also a physical coward or be a peace activist and be a coward or have noble intentions and be either.

You had/have military personnel working to protect wildlife and the U.S. coast from the BP oil spill. Doctors taking care of people, etc. I don't see how a guy who signs up to be a firefighter or coastal engineer doing that kind of job gets lumped in with some psychopath committing war crimes.

But to directly address one point along those lines:

My aim isn't to vilify you - it's to convince you to stop the war.
Now, if in order to do this I have to convince you that there's blood on your hands, well, that's too bad, but there's that huge stack of bodies of innocents just sitting here in this conversation and I haven't heard one person... actually admit that there's any blame consequent to their murders...
"

As I haven't bombed anyone, I can say I haven't indiscriminately killed any innocents.
I have however killed men deliberately and methodically.

In one instance there were elements systematically raping and murdering people. Because of the complete breakdown in security in the area, and what was going on there was no possible other way to stop them. Either I (and others) killed them, or they continued to do what they were doing. Immediately and, given the situation in all likelihood in an expanded role, in the future.
So there is most definitely blood on my hands personally. There is also the matter of the lives I (and others) personally saved at what was a pretty hefty cost. Not only in terms of physical danger (easy enough to deal with) but the larger situation. It cost us, and from our own people.

I can also be 'blamed' for aiding in the safe evacuation of and delivery of humanitarian aid to many many people over my career. And I (along with many others) had a small role in securing nuclear devices which could quite credibly have ended the world.

So all told I've killed some small number directly, which - directly - saved perhaps thousands of people and most certainly eased suffering and aided human dignity. I share in aiding the killing of some larger number of others which indirectly saved tens of thousands of people, and my presence has been used to secure certain areas and events in which I credibly may have killed some but for which I share some very small responsibility for saving perhaps millions, perhaps billions of people.

Yeah, I can live with that.

What I can't live with is inaction being extolled as some virtue. For every war we shouldn't have fought - and hell yeah there are a bunch, there are wars that we did not prosecute that we should have.

The blame for huge stacks of dead innocents is laid at the feet of the military collectively, but somehow not the leadership.

Are civilians and policy makers then not to blame for not sending the military to stop genocide?

Hundreds of thousands were killed by bombings and indiscriminate targeting, yes. Fucking horrible, yes. The entire thing in Iraq wrong, bad, and stupid and useless on top of the regular kinds of hell wars generally unleash. Hundreds of thousands dead. Yes. No excuse for it and the U.S. let it happen.

Didn't let a war in Rwanda happen though That's 800,000 people dead despite the attempt to enforce the Arusha peace agreement. Not that the people on the UNAMIR mission didn't try, but they didn't have the manpower. (And Bush encapsulated the U.S. POV fairly well before the election "We should not send our troops to stop ethnic cleansing and genocide outside our own strategic interest." bring 'em on! there George you bad ass. Thanks for the excuse buddy.)
We didn't go 100% into Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Spotnicks even enjoyed a slight resurgence). Restore Hope in Somalia was ostensibly a success but we demanded U.S. troops get the fuck out of Dodge when it looked too rough on t.v., 350K to 400K people dead there over time. We ignored North Korea until they started talking about nukes, God alone knows how many people Kim Il Sung killed. The one guy we should have deposed and could have, Saddam Hussein, we didn't. He killed hundreds of thousands of Kurds (Shalikashvili's operation aside)

JP Koroma killed thousands, to be fair we did airlift a bunch of people from Sierra Leone. Not enough (although the Para Commnados had a nice operation).
Darfur - how many?

But it's not like no one knows what the Hutus were up to. It's not like no one picked up on what was happening in Bosnia.
In WWII the Holocaust was, perhaps, of such an immensity people didn't believe it was occurring and/or it was kept out of communications well enough to be hidden from public scrutiny.

But this stuff? It had happened before. We knew what it looked like. And CNN was bringing it to the world. Yet Boutros Boutros-Ghali and everyone else in the west sat with their thumb up their asses doing nothing.

So, to paraphrase and contend an earlier connected point - I did everything in my power to prevent genocides from happening - to the point of being mortally wounded - someone else doesn't lift a finger, sits on their ass in the states while systematic rape, torture and mass murder goes on and on and on out there; and we're somehow equal?

But that's just trying to illustrate the assignation of blame for action or inaction.
I can't assign the same collective responsibility to U.S. civilians for not sending the military somewhere in the same way I can't accept the broad stroke painting of all military personnel for the execution of a given policy.

Moral and ethical action can be hard to discern. Rationalizations abound. Sometimes it's better to act. Sometimes it's better not to or to actively resist. I would never call the violence I've done, or any violence, 'good.' It's only value is its relative necessity.

And not doing what's necessary can be a crime as much as doing what is unnecessary.

I don't know that it makes a difference either way though in the long run. Is anything worth taking a life? Is saving lives enough seeing what people choose to do with them?
I don't know.
I know I won't step over a bleeding homeless man and I will die trying before I'd fail to prevent someone from being raped or murdered.

But I don't know how to settle the question of how far to go before you don't act on something like that.
Down the street? The next block? Ten miles? Do you stop at the borders of your own country? When is it bad enough to justify stepping over another country's borders? 1,000 people? 10,000? 100,000? Millions?
I don't know.
I know good intentions aren't enough to save lives.

And I do know that anytime someone asserts some inherent superiority and dehumanizes another, separates them from the experiences of others, trouble is inevitable.

Whether those who serve are noble or not, and I'm not arguing that point, or trying not to, that line of thinking is dangerous.

I think more is to be gained by recognizing interdependence and augmenting that than there is through opposition.

Heard a story about that a while back. There's a guy who wanted to know what the difference was between paradise and hell. He goes to hell and sees a long table full of food but everyone was starving and miserable. Their chopsticks were so long and thick they couldn't feed themselves so they used them as weapons to keep their neighbors away, fighting over food no one could eat.
He goes to paradise and it's the same thing. Long thick chopsticks, table full of food. But everyone is healthy and well fed.
He asks one of the people there how they fed themselves. The person said "Here we feed each other."

Not just sugary sentiments. Push comes to shove, humans don't work together we die.
We keep forgetting that and we will cut our own throats.

"If you want peace, work for peace."
posted by Smedleyman at 3:00 AM on October 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


"Are those faded "Support the Troops'' magnets enough to guide us through"

what

okay i'll just stop reading there

i need a kleenex

i seem to have developed a spontaneous jet of misguided tortured metaphor eye blood
posted by tehloki at 5:02 AM on October 5, 2010


"Operation Recovery": On 9th Anniversary of Afghan War, Veteran-Led Campaign Seeks to End Deployment of Traumatized Soldiers

Iraq War Veteran Who Rescued Wounded Children in 2007 Apache Attack Describes Emotional Toll of Witnessing Infamous Killings
posted by homunculus at 9:50 AM on October 7, 2010


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