Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Soldiers and respect

Robert D. Kaplan argues that soldiers are not victims, and the media (or anyone else) shouldn’t treat them as if they were.

Read the whole thing, but I like this especially:
"As one battalion commander complained to me, in words repeated by other soldiers and marines: ’Has anyone noticed that we now have a volunteer Army? I’m a warrior. It’s my job to fight.’ Every journalist has a different network of military contacts. Mine come at me with the following theme: We want to be admired for our technical proficiency--for what we do, not for what we suffer. We are not victims. We are privileged."   

Discussions - 9 Comments

The purpose of treating soldiers as victims is not to appeal to soldiers. It is to dis-spirit civilians.

WM: And it works precisely because we are civilians and do not understand the soldier's virtue. We cannot (at least not without effort) understand the fortitude and the bravery that moves these men. We don't have much that compares to it in our daily lives. We only know that the dangers we hear described in media reports frighten us and that we might feel victimized or cowardly if we had to face them. We forget that these men choose to face these dangers so that we don't have to. I think this disconnect is particularly true in an era when so many people are unacquainted with soldiers in their own lives or families. The all volunteer army is probably the only way to go in the complicated world in which we live. It probably has more advantages that drawbacks. But it is not without its drawbacks. This is disconnect between the military and the civilians is one.

One way to bridge that gap is for civilians without military experience, especially young ones, to learn about the training that officers receive as they move up the ladder, and about the various evaluations they must satisfy. I have learned a great deal on that score from a brother (Marine helicopter pilot, retired as captain) and a cousin (also a Marine, retired as a colonel). Our military is volunteer, which means citizens become soldiers (etc) and leaders.

Let us hear from people who know how that is accomplished.

ST: Yes. And they should read more history--esp. things like Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose and For Cause and Comrades by James McPherson.

The other day on a flight from Tucson to Dallas I had the privilege of sitting across the aisle from a Lt. General in the U.S. Army. I did not know that at first for he was wearing civilian clothes. But he stood out, for it was Sunday and he was wearing loafers, a very nice pair of dress slacks and a jacket. Most everyone else -- myself included -- were wearing jeans.

I soon came to learn he was "active military," and it wasn't until he presented his card that I learned he was a Lt. General. Turns out, he has 35 years with the Army and is involved with recruiting and HR.

I asked him: "What do the kids of today respond to when it comes to recruiting messages? What are they seeking?" Without hesitation he answered: "A sense of significance and purpose."

It strikes me that a "sense of significance" is what every living soul desires. Some pursue that through things such as environmental causes (a common and favorite avenue for liberals), others through religion, still others through being a warrior.

It's no wonder that today's volunteer army would not, generally speaking, seek to be viewed as victims. There's little real significance in that. Sure, there's lots of phony significance as portrayed by today's media, but I doubt very much that anyone, deep in their heart of hearts, really wants to be viewed as a victim. Particularly not one drawn to the controlled warrior community that is today's military.

I should add to my comment above that the purpose of treating soldiers as victims is not only "not to appeal to soldiers," but not even to describe them as such. It is a characterization intended to have no real analytical content at all. Rhetorical manipulation, and that's it.

Don, let me suggest an amendment to your remark about the psychology of victimhood. Many people do want to be viewed as victims; this can be advantageous. What they really do not want is to be genuine victims. Rather, they want to be classified as victims, successfully gaming the system.

This, of course, is not to imply that there are no genuine victims with legitimate grievances and needs. At any rate, Don's main point strikes me as excellent.

Julie's selection of CITIZEN SOLDIERS is an apt one.

Thing is ... there should NOT be a disconnect.

I hope you will find this relevant to the topic.

The Military Service Totem Pole

In recent years, there has been considerable controversy in politics centered around the military experience of some of our politicians-or lack thereof. For example, Bill Clinton's avoidance of the draft during the Viet Nam War was an issue, but not enough of an issue to cost him 2 elections, in both of which he defeated distinguished veterans of WW2, George Bush and Bob Dole. George W Bush's National Guard Service during Viet Nam was an issue in both of his elections. During the second, Dan Rather of CBS used fraudulent documents in an attempt to show that the younger Bush had been granted special treatment to avoid active duty service in favor of the Reserves. John Kerry, himself a Viet Nam veteran who later led Viet Nam Veterans Against the War, had his service called into question by other Swift Boat veterans. Today, with the Iraq War on center stage, other Vets like John Murtha and Chuck Hagel have spoken out against the war and incurred criticism in the process-albeit not of their own military service. This leads to a question not often considered: Who has the standing to criticize or question the military record of another-especially in the public and political arena?

Being a veteran myself, I have some thoughts on this matter, which I would like to share. First, I am a Viet Nam era veteran who served 3 years in the US Army from 1966-1968. I hasten to add that I did not serve in Viet Nam. At the conclusion of my training, the Army assigned me to Germany, where I served the remainder of my time. I neither volunteered for Viet Nam nor did I choose Germany as my post of duty. The choice was the Army's. Had I been assigned to Viet Nam, I was prepared to go. The only other option was to desert.

These facts are always in my mind when I consider the military record of others in public life. To me, there is a scale of those I feel free to criticize and those I do not. Now, we must remember that lack of military service cannot be held against someone in and of itself since we no longer have a draft. (When I enlisted, there was a draft.) Having said that, my scale looks something like this: Highest on the totem pole are those veterans who have served in combat. There is no way I would question their service because it stands on a higher level than mine. That includes people like John Murtha, Chuck Hagel, John Kerry and Bob Kerrey. I will criticize them on other issues, but never their service. (I have written a critical piece on Murtha based on his pork barrel politics.) When John Kerry was dealing with the Swift Boat charges, I remained silent though I supported Bush. The Swift Boat commanders who condemned him had every right to express their feelings, but I remained neutral. Similarly, while others have questioned and belittled Al Gore's service in Viet Nam, I have never said a word. Both he and Kerry stand higher on the totem pole than I do.

As for George W. Bush: He did, in fact, fulfill his military obligation. Many of his biggest critics on this point never served a day in the military (Bill Maher, Howard Dean, and Michael Moore, most notably.) They are pure hypocrites. Did Bush get special treatment in getting into the Guard? Perhaps. In those days, many (like professional athletes) did, but I don't wish to impugn the service of those who served in the National Guard. Did Bush skip some of his weekend meetings? Perhaps, but as I understand it, you don't get a discharge unless you make up the required time. If I wanted to question Bush on this issue, I would since I served 3 years active duty, but I don't know the whole story.

Let me tell you who I don't hesitate to question: That would be those who used trickery, lies and deceit to avoid military service, especially during war. I am not talking about conscientious objectors here. I am talking about draft dodgers. Is a certain name coming to your mind? Bill Clinton perhaps? You bet'cha. This man used every trick and lie in the book to avoid military service during Viet Nam. Moreover, he went to England to study during the war, and while there, participated in anti-war demonstrations against his own country. I will blast him all day long as someone who was never fit to serve as Commander-in-Chief. He lies at the very bottem of the totem pole.

Our military is rightfully the most respected institution in the country. Having military service on one's resume is a giant plus and deserving of respect-especially when that service includes combat duty. In America, of course, no one is above criticism, and we all enjoy the right of free speech. However, whenever we hear someone's military service questioned, we should pay attention to the critic and their standing on the totem pole vis-a vis the target of their criticism.

Gary Fouse

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