Tuesday, October 16, 2012

American Combat Troops - Your Jingoism at Work

Stop it.  Just stop it now
It's a pretty good time of year to be someone who enjoys watching the mainstream American sporting events on the television.  We have the baseball playoffs, and we have the football season in full swing.  Lots of good story arcs, little narratives running through the larger tale, one building towards a climax while one plays out the inevitable surprises and disappointments.  But there is something that comes bundled with these televised events that is quite a bit less interesting - the inevitable and ubiquitous demands that we "Support our Troops™" and declare our eternal gratitude to them for sacrificing so much to protect us and defend our freedom.  At some point this foul bile just sticks in my throat and gags me.

First of all, they don't need our support.  They need health care, educational assistance and some kind of program to help them reintegrate into civilian life.  But you and me?  There is nothing we can do to improve their lives.  The best we can do is ignore them, they live in an alternate reality where they go places to fight utter strangers to the death with incredibly lethal modern weapons for reasons they cannot articulate, and then they come home and try to figure out how to live in a place where killing is not an option at all, let alone the preferred approach to problem resolution.  When you hear people spouting "support the troops" orthodoxy in America, it is due to peer pressure driven by guilt.  We know what we use these young people for, so we make up ridiculous narratives to try to convince ourselves that their actions are good and just, and we demand unhesitating 'support' for them, although, like so many other grand lies of guilt and convenience, we cannot explain what we mean by this.  Do we 'support' their mission, even though no one can tell us what it is?  Do we support their goal, even though it seems to be only to perpetuate the conflict?  Do we support their leadership, though it seems utterly unconcerned about the pointless death and destruction they bring about?

But there's more to it than that.   Americans, particularly those marketing products to a mass audience, like to pretend these soldiers are out there fighting and dying in order to, wait for it, here it comes, "defend our freedom".  This is the most toxic lie since Nagasaki.  Let's be clear.  The Iraqis didn't pose any threat to our freedom.  The great American democratic experiment was never threatened by the Taliban.  The Taliban is a small, local insurgency trying to take control of a poor third world nation.  They no more have the power to threaten American freedom than do deer in Argentina.  Americans in Yemen, in Columbia, in Japan and Korea are not defending America, and they certainly are not defending our freedom.  If anything, representing a secretive, autocratic and authoritarian government at its most violently aggressive, they are contributing, however individually unintentionally, to the erosion of freedom here at home.  If war is antithetical to freedom, perpetual war is antithetical to democracy.

We use our vast military power for reasons that are vague at best, and detestable at worst, but America as a nation or as a concept is not at risk from any foreign attacker, and our military is entirely unnecessary to protect us from attacks that will never come.  Let's be serious.  The only routes to an invasion of the United States are Canada and Mexico, and we don't see much in the way of massed armor on either border.  Beyond that, an enemy would have to sail across an ocean to even begin to attack, and with American air and sea power that seems, well, unlikely.  But if American military power is not defending America, and not, despite all the protestations to the contrary, defending American freedoms, then what role are they performing?

They are not the 'world's policemen', as they often like to assure us, because all around the world brutal unelected dictators are slaughtering their own people or those they occupy merely to maintain their grip on power, often with our tacit agreement, and often with weapons we manufactured and supplied.  And even when we raise our voice in condemnation of these atrocities, we suddenly find ourselves backpedaling, explaining why the most expensive, technologically advanced and brutally effective combat force in the world is incapable of solving that particular problem.  If we look dispassionately at American military action since World War II, the lesson we seemed to have learned in the blood and fire of the 1940s is to never go to war with a nation anywhere NEAR the same capability as the US.  We readily fought in Korea, but backed off quickly when China appeared willing to get involved.  We fought in Vietnam for over a decade, primarily because we weren't willing to fight the Russians.  In one 12 year stretch, we mobilized gigantic resources at a cost of trillions of dollars to invade and crush a small middle eastern nation, Iraq, not once, but twice.  It's like we decided they were our sparring partner or something.

The militarization of America is the number one threat to America's own survival extant today.  We need to stop bombing, invading, occupying and arming other nations.  We need to stop building bases.  We need to reduce our funding of a bloated and useless military force by 75%.  There is no direct path to these outcomes - the military is such an institutionalized part of the American government that it can use that very system to perpetuate its own power.  But there's one thing we can do.  We can think about what it means every time somebody demands that we 'support our troops'.  We can think about the costs of perpetual war, in terms of money and lives, but also in terms of basic human values.  And we can spend some time thinking about all the cities and towns those troops have destroyed, all the innocent twisted corpses they left behind, all the families ripped apart, all the lives destroyed.  And we can decide, no.  I don't support that.


  1. The military is America's corporate muscle.

    Like the mafia, it beats the shit out of any country that doesn't come up with the vig.

  2. The military is America's corporate muscle.

    I think that's a little reductionist, don't you?

  3. What's wrong w/ reductionism? You gotta cut stuff down to its essence.

    I'm afraid most of "us" can't decide not to support this crap, because it never seems to come to a vote, & most of "us" couldn't think their way out of a wet paper bag if they tried, which they wouldn't.

  4. Oh, but MB, America's military has so many more horrible roles that it fills....


  5. I'm afraid most of "us"

    Speak for yourself, Kemo Sabe.

  6. The military's the only subsidy that's safe. Apart from the airport testicle-investigation crew.