Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How the American People Lost Their Military

Via Thomas Ricks at Foreign Policy site, a spot-on observation from Andrew Bacevich, writing in the latest issue of Daedalus:
'We the People' need to understand: it's not longer our army; it hasn't been for years; it's theirs and they intend to keep it. The American military belongs to Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright, to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, to Hilary Clinton and Robert Gates. Civilian leaders will continue to employ the military as they see fit. If Americans do not like the way the army is used, they should reclaim it, resuscitating the tradition of the citizen-soldier and reasserting the connection between citizenship and military service. … [A]s long at the tradition of the citizen-soldier remains moribund, reversing the militarization of U.S. foreign policy will be a pipe dream.

Indeed.  And Bacevich has been trying to make this point for a long time now. 

But I might add: it's not simply that "they" (Clinton, Bush, Gates et al.) took the military away from "We the People"; "We the People" gave it to "them" - and we gave to them total control of how the military were to be used. 
  • We lined up like good little lemmings as W led us over the cliff in the wake of 9/11.  When he told us not to worry - go shopping, buy big shiny SUV toys and McMansions, go on vacation - we did. 
  • When he chose to launch poorly conceived and disastrously executed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, without asking us to sacrifice - indeed, by cutting taxes and borrowing trillions of dollars from China - we said (effectively): "hell yes, why not?" 
  • When the wars began to go badly, when abuse and torture by the military and the CIA at Gitmo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib were revealed, and W dispatched Dick Cheney et al. to Rupert Murdoch's propaganda factories to tell us all that it really was OK, we swallowed it in big gulps, wrapped ourselves more tightly in our flags, ramped up those spectacular fly-overs at our sporting events, bought more Toby Keith CDs (to remind us about what "real Americans" do - "put a boot up your ass, it's the American way"), and chanted "U S A" even louder.
  • When the military began to have troubles recruiting enough bodies to fill uniforms as the wars dragged on, we silently acquiesced as the Pentagon lowered minimum qualifications and signed into the ranks thousands of people we wouldn't have wanted sitting next to our kids in schoolrooms, much less representing the nation overseas.

And when thousands of young troops did come home - often traumatized by their experiences, suffering from PTSD and worse, their marriages on the ropes, their family ties frayed, prone to suicide - what did they come home to?
  • To a country where, too often, their fellow citizens were oblivious to their experiences, even unable to locate Afghanistan or (as a current TV beer ad insists) Eye-rack on a map.  A country where (as a returning soldier commented a few years ago to the Washington Post; the printed clip is still on my office door) students spend more time on Facebook than learning about the wars.
  • To a country where - because WE the People let them - our leaders have run the economy into a ditch; where we no longer have the resources to get the economy out of that ditch - and to create jobs for those returning soldiers, thousands of whom are now homeless, destitute, living on the economic and emotional fringes.
And all because We the People stood back and let those leaders plow those resources into never-ending wars - with a military that WE the PEOPLE may never be able to take back.

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