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Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

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Monday, April 03, 2006


LI recommends going to Tiny Revolution this morning – the brief comment on the Padilla case goes right to the heart of the madness.

And there is a discussion in the April Harpers about the culture of the military we also recommend, for more extensive reading. The discussion includes Edward Luttwak, Andrew J. Bacevich, Charles J. Dunlap Jr, and Richard H. Kohn, with moderation by Bill Wasik, and it begins with the dismissal of a military coup scenario and ends with a consideration of the rightleaning political culture in the military. Since I have been going to a lot of military blogs, lately, trying to decode them, in a way, so I can use their language and attitudes to create the perfect anti-recruitment message, I’ve been struck by something the panel talks about:

“WASIK: I want to address the question of partisanship in the military. Insofar as there is a "culture war" in America, everyone seems to agree that the armed forces fight on the Republican side. And this is borne out in polls: self-described Republicans outnumber Democrats in the military by more than four to one, and only 7 percent of soldiers describe themselves as "liberal."
KOHN: It has become part of the informal culture of the military to be Republican. You see this at the military academies. They pick it up in the culture, in the training establishments.
DUNLAP: The military is an inherently conservative organization, and this is true of all militaries around the world. Also the demographics have changed: people in the South who were Democratic twenty years ago have become Republican today.
BACEVICH: Yes, all militaries are conservative. But since 1980 our military has become conservative in a more explicitly ideological sense. And that allegiance has been returned in spades by the conservative side in the culture war, which sees soldiers as virtuous representatives of how the country ought to be.
KOHN: And meanwhile there is a streak of anti-militarism on the left.
BACEVICH: It's not that people on the left disdain the military but rather that they are just agnostic about it. They don't identify with soldiers or soldiering.
LUTTWAK: And their children have less of a propensity to serve in the military. Parents who describe themselves as liberal are less likely to make positive noises to their children about the armed forces.
DUNLAP: Which brings up a crucial point. Let's accept as a fact that the U.S. military has become more overtly ideological since 1980. What has happened since 1980? Roughly, that was the beginning of the all-volunteer force. What we are seeing right now is the result of twenty-five years of an all-volunteer force, in which people have self-selected into the organization.
BACEVICH: But the military is also recruited. And it doesn't seem to me that the military has much interest in whether or not the force is representative of American society.”

This rightward shift has been very speeded up by the Iraq war. In effect, the war has caused a near collapse of black enlistment. In fact, urban enlistment in general has sunk, and has been made up by enlistment from the country. This is a bad thing, over the long term. And, as we know, the officer corps in the Air Force has gotten awfully tainted with the worst, most bug eyed evangelical views. This doesn’t get the frightened attention it should:

KOHN: And partisanship in the military overall, i.e., the percentage of the military that identifies with a party as opposed to being "independent" or nonaffiliated, is much greater overall. Not only are military officers more partisan than the general population; they're more partisan than, say, business leaders and other elite groups. I've tracked the numbers of retired four-star generals and admirals endorsing a candidate in presidential campaigns, and it's vastly up in the last two elections.
BACEVICH: Remember at the Democratic National Convention, where General Claudia Kennedy introduced General John Shalikashvili to address the delegates? Why were they up there? There was only one reason: to try to match the parade of retired senior officers that the Republicans have long been trotting out on political occasions.
KOHN: But is that to get military votes? Or just to connect with the American people on national security and patriotism?
BACEVICH: It's both. In 2000, the Republican National Committee put ads in the Army Times and other service magazines attacking the Clinton/Gore record. To me that was, quite frankly, contemptible.
WASIK: It seems as if the two are related: if it's reported that you have the support of the military-as was the case before the 2004 election, when newspapers noted that Kerry had less than 20 percent support within the military-then you get a halo effect among the rest of the voters. Does the partisanship of our military present a danger to the nation?
KOHN: One of the great pillars in our history that has prevented military intervention in politics has been the military's nonpartisan attitude. That's why General George Marshall's generation of officers essentially declined to vote at all, as did generations before them. In fact, for the first time in over a century we now have an officer corps that does identify overwhelmingly with one political party. And that is corrosive.:
Which leads into the most interesting discussion about an issue that hardly ever sticks its head out of the hole. After spending a trillion or so dollars every four years on the military in the States, would the military allow itself to be cut back? To be demobilized? At the end of the Cold war, basically – nothing happened. If this country can’t demobilize at the end of a war, then the structure of aggression has become simply part of what the U.S. is. If we could cut military spending (bracketing veteran’s entitlements) to about one hundred billion a year, which I think is something any even halfway liberal politician ought to shoot for – what happens when the military doesn’t allow it?
KOHN: Consider this glaring example of political manipulation by the military: After every other American war before the Cold War, the country demobilized its wartime military establishment. Even during the Cold War, when we kept a large standing military, we expanded and contracted it for shooting wars. But in 1990 and 1991, the military-through General Colin Powell, who was head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time-intervened and effectively prevented a demobilization.
BACEVICH: More accurately, I'd say that he prevented any discussion of a demobilization.
KOHN: That's right.
DUNLAP: We did have a reduction in the size of the military. There were cuts of around 9 percent, in both dollars and manpower.
KOHN: But it was nothing compared to the end of great American wars prior to that.
BACEVICH: Powell is explicit on this in his memoirs. "I was determined to have the Joint Chiefs drive the military strategy train," he wrote. He was not going to have "military reorganization schemes shoved down our throat."
KOHN: This was not a coup, but it was very clearly a circumvention of civilian political authority.”

All of which is on LI's mind. One of the side effects of anti-recruiting which I do not want to see is the strengthening of the rightwing peckerhead cohort in the military -- but I don't see any alternative -- surely the only way to withdraw American troops from Iraq is the strangle the army strategy, but this is why I want to design an anti-recruitment mechanism that doesn't discourage enrollment in the military after the Iraq war.


Brian Miller said...

Is this perhaps conventional wisdom, roger? Other (perhaps more biased) sources are increasingly indicating that Iraq is not a popular war, that disillusionment is spreading, etc. etc. Or, is that merely wishful thinking on my part?

roger said...

My sense of how popular or unpopular Bush himself is is limited by my world -- I know few people who ever liked the guy. But in terms of the war- I think there is a general sense that it was a bad idea, but there is not yet a sense that we should withdraw. There are two major reasons. One is the instinct for suttee -- sacrificing living soldiers to "honor" the dead. The second is the widespread idea that withdrawal will lead to immense Iraqi suffering. The first reason is primordial, but will gradually loosen of itself. The second is credible. It that were truly the case, the sense that we should stay would simply be responsible. I don't think it is the case: either the suffering will happen whilst American soldiers are there, and the chances are they will amplify it, or the suffering will be limited by internal Iraqi factors, which could better be addressed once the U.S. didn't quite have hostages to fortune on the ground.

I could imagine a rather fiendish argument that went, the more the American military is mired in Iraq, the less harm they could do elsewhere. Though always tempted by irony, I am not of the devil's party.

Brian Miller said...

Re: your last point. From a somewhat utilitarian perspective, perhaps your last comment is not of the Devil's Party. Especially if you are even more horrified by the thought of American troops facing waves of 12-year old boys. (And the economy in collapse after the closure of the Persian Gulf to oil shipments) Because, we would most certainly be in Iran by now.

On the other hand, shutting down the oil gluttony may be in the long run a good thing (vis a vis the post above). Proposed by a total oil glutton who drives far too many miles in a very fuel inefficienct sporty car :(

Brian Miller said...

You might find this very interesting, roger, if you've not already seen it. Maybe it's preaching to the choir, but still pretty eloquent.

"We can and should support troops-to-be, but do so before they become troops. We should post a warning sign, and disclaimer, in all recruiting stations. Prospective enlistees should be told that their new employer will not be the Department of Defense, but the Department of War; and that their service will not be in the defense of freedom and democracy, but in the building of an empire for America’s powerful elite. And that their countrymen, for all the yellow ribbons and pseudo-patriotic talk, will ultimately blame them for the added terrorism they instigate with their wars. Just like there is truth in lending, we should demand truth in recruitment."