Do you believe with President Obama that our military today constitutes a "generation of heroes" and
that their teamwork and courage in battle show us the proper path
forward in civilian life? Do you believe that the deadly effectiveness
of the Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden should inspire us to
put aside differences in politics and to work together as a people?
a retired veteran, such pro-military rhetoric in the president's state
of the union address resonates with me, but as a student of history it
makes me more than uncomfortable. In democratic societies, armed forces
are funded and fielded to preserve liberties, not to provide templates
for personal and societal behavior.
civil aspirations are guided by and defined within military matrices,
one gets the Iraq war of yesterday, the Afghan war of today, and the
Iran (or Syria or insert-new-terrorist-nation here) war of tomorrow.
Forever war is indeed the price for a nation that glorifies its military
as the very best of its people and their ideals.
kinetic (killing) competency of our military is certainly impressive,
yet it's a competency that we must use judiciously and with restraint.
When we elevate it as an example of "I've got your back" teamwork that
all should be emulating, we tend to devalue diplomacy and the level of
patience and perspective our country needs to display in an increasingly
dedicated military and its matchless strength should afford us the
luxury of being patient and of keeping threats in perspective. But our
unbridled extolment of the military -- our deeply personal investment in
its power and methods as pointing the way forward in all walks of life
-- encourages us instead to deploy our armed forces time and time again.
We act impatiently, injudiciously, against threats we often exaggerate.
is the latest such threat that has the drums of war beating. Iran is
supposedly an incipient nuclear terrorist; defined as such, the
preferred solution for our nation of military enthusiasts is
decapitation by kinetic action.
is the solution really that simple? Past events suggest otherwise.
Military enthusiasts like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald
Rumsfeld believed they could torture and kill their way out of the war
on terror. They embarked on a deadly game of "Whac-A-Mole" with results
as frustrating as that game. After criticizing them for this, the Obama
Administration joined them. Like Michael Corleone in the Godfather saga,
we keep whacking our enemies, yet a state of war and terror drags on,
insidiously warping our nation's core beliefs and freedoms.
we continue to focus on whacking terrorists (or terroristic nations),
we suppress any chance of charting a less violent, less terrifying,
course. Like Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part III, just when we think we're out of the war on terror, they'll pull us back in.
we won't recognize is that the "they" doing the pulling will be us. We
won't recognize it because we've invested so much of our national hopes
and dreams into the killing abilities of our armed forces.
however much we admire their competence in war, we must not allow that
competence to inform our attitudes and aspirations for civil society.
For when warriors become the civil elite, the role models par
excellence, democracy is imperiled.