The Case For War, By Someone Whose Kids Won’t Die Fighting In It
January 9, 2020 2:37 AM   Subscribe

 
Again???

The last 2 weeks, all I see online is the reappearance of old GYWO strips with all the disgusting familiar faces.

It was painful 17 years ago to realize that the jokes he was using were 20 years old even then.

....These fascists never fucking stop!
posted by growabrain at 3:57 AM on January 9 [14 favorites]


This should be read into the Congressional record.
posted by Etrigan at 4:56 AM on January 9 [14 favorites]


As someone with a "useless postdoctorate" whose brother is the Army and cousin is in the Navy, I do wish it was possible to make people realize that we Americans are all culpable in the US's colonial project, regardless of whether or not it's your family who will be actively fighting in it, and that the class distinctions between academics and the US military are much less meaningful than those between academics (or the military) and the people profiting off war, and ALSO that demographics of who is in the military look different than a lot of progressives think they do.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:02 AM on January 9 [38 favorites]


The post title and link text misquote the actual title of the article; it's "Whose", not "Who's". Mods, please fix!
posted by heatherlogan at 5:24 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]


I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who once said: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots.” And if you replace “tree of liberty” with “Raytheon’s quarterly earnings report” and “blood of patriots” with “your children’s blood,” you’ll find that Jefferson’s words ring just as true today.
posted by eustatic at 5:27 AM on January 9 [26 favorites]


Always "my kids / your kids", never "myself / yourself" in these.
posted by Hypatia at 5:48 AM on January 9 [7 favorites]


...ALSO that demographics of who is in the military look different than a lot of progressives think they do.

So what do they look like?
posted by fnerg at 5:49 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


God. Damnit.
posted by hototogisu at 5:49 AM on January 9


As someone with a "useless postdoctorate" whose brother is the Army and cousin is in the Navy, I do wish it was possible to make people realize that we Americans are all culpable in the US's colonial project, regardless of whether or not it's your family who will be actively fighting in it, and that the class distinctions between academics and the US military are much less meaningful than those between academics (or the military) and the people profiting off war, and ALSO that demographics of who is in the military look different than a lot of progressives think they do.

Yes I super agree with this! I am very, very, VERY anti-war and I was expecting to nod along with this but I actually didn't love it? I get the conceit but I don't feel like this was super well excecuted and it just didn't have the punch I would have liked it to.

Also, the line "So try not to think about the fact that you can’t even spell some of the names of the people your kids are risking their lives to try and kill" rubbed me the wrong way. It feels like it exoticizes people with names that are not of European origin by being a subtler version of "those people with their crazy names" and it makes assumptions about who is joining the military (uh, there are people of Middle Eastern descent in the US military and I'm sure there are, like, kids of professional linguists in the military and plenty of people of all backgrounds and classes and levels of education are perfectly capable of spelling, plus it kind of implies that people whose kids are joining the military are uneducated). Also, like, many of these names originate from languages with non-Latin alphabets so they're transliterated so there are a lot of different ways to spell them if you're addressing an English-speaking audience? Which is fine, language is complicated? But that doesn't make the names dumb or weird and it doesn't make people who are unsure how to handle spelling transliterated names idiots. I don't know, this is a lot of words to complain about one sentence but it was packed pretty densely with some not-great assumptions.

That said, at this point I really fucking hate basically everyone on TV or at the NYT with the intense and fiery passion I usually reserve for people who stand on the left on escalators and I am appreciative whenever someone pushes back on, and normalizes pushing back on, their bullshit. Virtually no one who fucked up in the lead up to the Iraq war has suffered a single professional consequence and the way the media is behaving now (and many of the literal same people), when they really should have fucking learned some lessons, is reprehensible. Keep manufacturing that consent guys, look at how well it worked out last time, so I guess even though I didn't love this piece I do really really appreciate basically any pushback against the truly disgusting way the media is pushing/supporting this, implicitly as well as explicitly.
posted by an octopus IRL at 6:31 AM on January 9 [18 favorites]


[Pronoun in title has been possessified.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:46 AM on January 9 [15 favorites]


Here are some details:

Pew demographics - smaller, about half white, 1/5 women. 99.8% of active duty enlisted have at least a high school diploma or GED, 20% have some higher education. 44% of officers have BAs, an additional 41% have an MA or other advanced degree.

I'm not saying that people don't use the military to get more opportunities, but I think the narrative of "Poor kids are exploited because their only option is to join the military" removes a lot of agency and nuance from conversations about war and also makes it easier for well-meaning upper middle class white liberals to build up strawmen and imagine nobody they know is anything like the people who fight wars. It makes it harder for civilians to talk to veterans honestly, and vice versa.

And again, that's also not to say that people don't use the military to escape poverty or find new options. I have a friend who was a dental hygienist in the Air Force; it let him escape cycles of generational poverty sand abuse. Another cousin joined the national guard right before the Iraq War because he wanted to get out of rural Missouri (he got out, alright). But there are also a lot of people who have many options and choose to enlist or commission for a variety of reasons, and I think they're just as important to these conversations.

I liked Drew Magary's essay, which was similar, a bit better: You Don't Support The Troops
posted by ChuraChura at 7:03 AM on January 9 [36 favorites]


But that doesn't make the names dumb or weird and it doesn't make people who are unsure how to handle spelling transliterated names idiots.

Maybe the point is about the cultural illiteracy of average American pundits, being an important clue to why we fight wars. Did Trump know the name of who he murdered, before it was whispered in his ear? (Did most journalists, for that matter?) He is known to be intellectually incurious, does not read, and spaces out in briefings. Former employees have described him in some circles as "moron", "idiot", and an "11-year old child". That we spell or misspell the names of those we kill is maybe an important symptom of why we kill them.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 7:04 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I couldn’t get the Magary piece to resolve. Here’s another link?

I love his sports analogy/jab right off the bat. The language of fandom for war and football is so similar. And the attitude of revering overwhelming force is pervasive in both. It’s not a very popular opinion.
posted by amanda at 7:23 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


Did Trump know the name of who he murdered, before it was whispered in his ear?

He had certainly heard it before:

HH: Joined now by Donald Trump. Donald Trump, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you.

DT: Thank you, Hugh.

HH: I would thought that today, this is our sixth interview, I’d turn to some of the commander-in-chief questions. Are you ready for that?

DT: Okay, fine.

HH: Are you familiar with General Soleimani?

DT: Yes, but go ahead, give me a little, go ahead, tell me.

HH: He runs the Quds Forces.

DT: Yes, okay, right.

HH: Do you expect his behavior…

DT: The Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated by …

HH: No, not the Kurds, the Quds Forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces.

DT: Yes, yes.

HH: …is the bad guys.

DT: Right.

HH: Do you expect his behavior to change as a result…

DT: Oh, I thought you said Kurds, Kurds.

HH: No, Quds.

DT: Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you said Kurds, because I think the Kurds have been poorly treated by us, Hugh. Go ahead.

posted by TedW at 7:26 AM on January 9 [17 favorites]


I do support the troops. That's why I want them home.

Or maybe they could go to Australia or something and help with the fire.
posted by freakazoid at 7:53 AM on January 9 [10 favorites]


oof, some of the comments. it's a short satiric piece.. limited time and space to pack a wallop.. i get that this may not hit everyone's sweet spot but all things considered are we really going to point out the rather more nuanced motivations for joining the military.. the way assumptions about who can pronounce foreign names (or not) just doesn't sit with you.. why tho
posted by elkevelvet at 8:07 AM on January 9


the way assumptions about who can pronounce foreign names (or not) just doesn't sit with you

Because "lol those wacky people with their foreign names" (and the assumption that they are "foreign names", there are plenty of Americans with names of Middle Eastern origin) is pretty fucking racist?
posted by an octopus IRL at 8:09 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


elkevelvet: I think they find it interesting to talk about. I'm here looking into finding enlisted combat infantry demographics and juxtaposing those over carceral numbers. My pet theory this moment is that, generally, the ruling class expects the very poor to go to prison or not exist, and the working poor to join the military or be heavily exploited for their labor. The entirety of enlisted military certainly had other options upon signing, but my wager is that those who sign up for infantry have far less, with the order going marines>army/navy>airforce/coastguard.

My brother and I were both raised middle class and he went air force and I went coast guard. Class rolls right through the armed forces just as it does society.

Like I said, still working on sourcing. Just hypotheses.

What would you like to talk about?
posted by avalonian at 8:14 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I think the narrative of "Poor kids are exploited because their only option is to join the military" removes a lot of agency and nuance from conversations about war and also makes it easier for well-meaning upper middle class white liberals to build up strawmen

Poorer people are over-represented in the military. I say that as a former commander of troops. I say that as a graduate of a well-regarded expensive private university. I say that as a former Army Recruiting HR officer. I say that as an upper middle class white(-presenting) liberal. I say that as a person who has been in conversations about where to locate recruiting stations in cities and suburbs. I say that as a parent of three upper middle class white suburban teenagers who have never. not. even. once been approached by military recruiters.

If you genuinely, honestly, in your very bones do not believe that poor kids are being exploited by the U.S. military and bear a heavier portion of the bad effects of going to war than their less-poor counterparts because you know a few people in uniform who weren't poor... well, I just don't know how I can convince you.
posted by Etrigan at 8:17 AM on January 9 [75 favorites]


Also I was discharged during boot for... not dishonorable reason, per say, but not honorable either...

Not here to steal valor.
posted by avalonian at 8:18 AM on January 9


I think these kinds of satires underestimate the willingness of some warmongers to send their own kids to early deaths. I mean some don't want to because they have a tiny shred of humanity left but plenty have gotten rid of that vestigial emotional attachment.
posted by srboisvert at 8:31 AM on January 9


I did not say that.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:33 AM on January 9 [7 favorites]


Thanks for the the lesson on racism, octopus

On that note if there is another potato famine in Ireland we should definitely not eat infants because that is not a good thing.
posted by elkevelvet at 8:35 AM on January 9 [12 favorites]


Yeah, "can't pronounce the names" was an unforced error, but otherwise I saw zero to quibble about in this. Yes, 40-whatever percent of the officers have BAs and MAs; they could afford to pay for same, and that's why they're officers instead of cannon fodder. How many frontline enlisted people in the positions most likely to return in the pine boxes have BAs and MAs?
posted by Don Pepino at 8:42 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Because "lol those wacky people with their foreign names" (and the assumption that they are "foreign names", there are plenty of Americans with names of Middle Eastern origin) is pretty fucking racist?

Isn't "those wacky foreigners" basically the opposite of what it's trying to say? On the other hand it's sort of written in a way that implies that these poor kids going to war are particularly ignorant, which is kind of a sour note.
posted by atoxyl at 8:43 AM on January 9


I’ve stated in another thread that my brother is deploying to Saudi Arabia in May. He joined when was 29 because he was up to his neck in debt from the college degree he didn’t have (he dropped out of college the semester after our mom died), couldn’t get a decent job without a degree, and saw no reasonable prospects for a change so he joined the Navy. That was ten years ago and in the time since, the Navy paid his old loans, sent him all over the Pacific, got his BA degree, married a woman he met in Malaysia, had two kids, bought a house, and is up for promotion to Chief Petty Officer, which is basically as high as you can get as enlisted.

Joining the Navy has been the best thing he ever did for himself.

Of course, the downside is he doesn’t trust Trump to make prudent decisions regarding military operations in particular or foreign policy in general. This is compounded by the fact he got a hernia and complications from the surgery that disqualifies him from the sub service (his original assignment) and is now attached to a G-18 Growler squadron which got changed from a carrier attachment to expeditionary (land based) and now he’s deploying to Saudi Arabia for a year, which is twice as long as a typical sea-based deployment (among other negatives).

None of this is to say anyone should feel sorry for him — he knew what he was doing when he signed up. But I firmly believe we are better off when people like him serve and maybe, just maybe some of the worst, most egregious stuff we’ve read about is a little less likely to happen because he’s there instead of some knucklehead looking to live out revenge fantasies for their various prejudices.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want any more needless suffering for anyone in the Mideast — we are reaping what we sowed through seventy-plus years of active meddling — but right now I just want my brother to be safe, no matter how selfish that may be.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:47 AM on January 9 [11 favorites]


Chief Petty Officer, which is basically as high as you can get as enlisted.
This annoys me no end. WHY? Why can't you get higher than that as an enlisted person? I very much agree that we are better off when people like your brother serve, and people like your brother should be able to rise in the ranks and improve the officer corps if that's something they'd like to do.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:04 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


and ALSO that demographics of who is in the military look different than a lot of progressives think they do.
...
imagine nobody they know is anything like the people who fight wars.
...
Chief Petty Officer, which is basically as high as you can get as enlisted.
This annoys me no end. WHY? Why can't you get higher than that as an enlisted person? I very much agree that we are better off when people like your brother serve, and people like your brother should be able to rise in the ranks and improve the officer corps if that's something they'd like to do.


It's surprisingly easy to tell who has military experience, and who does not, in this thread.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:12 AM on January 9 [11 favorites]


This annoys me no end. WHY? Why can't you get higher than that as an enlisted person? I very much agree that we are better off when people like your brother serve, and people like your brother should be able to rise in the ranks and improve the officer corps if that's something they'd like to do.

It's the highest you can get in the enlisted ranks, if you want to be an officer you can switch over to the officer path as mustang officer. For instance Chuck Yeager started as an enlisted rank, switched to the officer ranks, and eventually retired as a brigadier general. Yea the enlisted track only goes so high, but there is nothing stopping someone from switching to the other track. (For instance the Navy has a program called STA-21 for this purpose).
posted by jmauro at 9:12 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


It's surprisingly easy to tell who has military experience, and who does not, in this thread.


Go on...
posted by avalonian at 9:15 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


WHY? Why can't you get higher than that as an enlisted person?

As pointed out above, you can switch to commissioned officer track after having been enlisted. I’d argue the Navy likes those officers because they bring a wealth of experience that a lieutenant fresh out of academy/ROTC doesn’t have.

In my brother’s case, he didn’t get his degree until he was too old for the commissioned officer program. He is still eligible to become a warrant officer, if the opportunity arises.

All that said, any good commissioned officer knows to listen carefully to their chief and act on their advice when it is offered.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 9:50 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]


I've always been amazed that the very people forced to live in the worst parts of town, go to the worst schools, and who have it the hardest are always the first to step up, to defend that very system. They serve so that we don't have to. They offer to give up their lives so that we can be free. It is remarkably their gift to us. And all they ask for in return is that we never send them into harm's way unless it's absolutely necessary. Will they ever trust us again?
Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11

But that was way back when a Republican president lied us into a war in the Middle East. Old news.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:16 AM on January 9


True: I seriously know next to nothing at all. I just have one cousin who went renegade and went to officer school instead of majoring in finance at UVA or wherever. He is now at whatever is the rank under general in the Marines. The family was all baffled at first, but when he began zooming up the hierarchy and getting sweet assignments in, like, Japan and Portugal where they could now all vacation and have a place to stay for free, they quit complaining. Today he has not only made great strides in the Marines, he has arguably surpassed his filthy rich stockbroker brother in the family beach retreat hierarchy. Anyway, I am pleased to learn at this late date that it is possible to switch tracks. I still think it should be a lot easier to do, and I think that if it were easier, more people who enlisted out of no-other-options desperation and then found that they actually had an aptitude would make the switch. Maybe if it were easier, too many more people would do that and we'd run short of actual gun-firing soldiers, though. How old is too old to switch?
posted by Don Pepino at 10:31 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Now, to bring this back on topic. Trump and the various war hawks in his administration are courage vampires. By this I mean that giving orders and acting the part of a tough guy requires zero courage. Rather, they are coopting the bravery of the people tasked to carry out their orders.

It isn’t that they’re indifferent to the suffering of other people’s children but they’re using other people’s children to take something that is not theirs.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 10:47 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


He is now at whatever is the rank under general in the Marines.

Your cousin is a colonel. And a badass. But I repeat myself.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:56 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


It's surprisingly easy to tell who has military experience, and who does not, in this thread.

What does that have to do with the issues being discussed in this thread?

I can also talk the talk, though it's a pretty thin veneer... my father was career Navy, and made it to O-6 before retiring, and everything you believe about growing up in a house with a career Naval officer re: process and procedure is completely true
posted by Mayor West at 11:08 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Pew demographics
In 2004, 36% of active duty military were black, Hispanic, Asian or some other racial or ethnic group. Black service members made up about half of all racial and ethnic minorities at that time.
Even in the context, with the preceding paragraph also speaking of racial and ethnic minorities, the first sentence quoted seems to imply that belonging to a racial or ethnic group is something exclusive to minorities, not applicable to the default white American. Sorry for the derail, but is this normal or an instance of unintentionally bad wording?
posted by delegeferenda at 11:17 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


everything you believe about growing up in a house with a career Naval officer re: process and procedure is completely true

He forced you to wear uniforms, maintained a rigid schedule, and blew a whistle to summon you and your siblings until his whole attitude towards you softened after he fell in love with your governess?
posted by an octopus IRL at 11:18 AM on January 9 [36 favorites]


Chief Petty Officer, which is basically as high as you can get as enlisted.

I do not have military experience, but I have been on a tour of the USS Midway and I came away from that experience with the impression that Chiefs were the real bosses. At least, the Chief's Mess was pretty swank, and officers were not allowed there.
posted by jb at 1:08 PM on January 9


My (mostly uninformed) impression is that it is a strict codification of 19th century social class.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:55 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Or:

War Is God’s Way of Teaching Us Geography. [attributed to the American writer Ambrose Bierce] This can be true if you believe in neither Bierce nor God.

My experience was that military life was was a more intensely manifested microcosm of civilian life. The rules were a bit less vague, and transgressions were more quickly noticed. Also, while the hill that shit rolls down was steeper, the destination was pretty much the same.
posted by mule98J at 5:13 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


RE: The not spelling of names thing. I think this is just short hand for not knowing the first thing about the people you are going to kill and who are going to try to kill your children so basically WTF are you doing.
posted by Pembquist at 10:20 PM on January 9


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