Saturday, December 13, 2014

Defending Your Freedom and Your Way of Life - Or Something Like That

Manipulative, Jingoistic bullshit. But you knew that
Of all the smarmy platitudes our over-militarized society heaps on its soldiers and sailors, this is the most disingenuous. Of course, declaring that anybody who ever learned how to put on a uniform and salute to be a hero is ugly and stupid in a particularly American fashion that only serves to elevate mediocrity and denigrate those very rare humans who, by dint of luck, sheer will and skill at arms actually do something heroic in combat. I'm pretty sure the Quartermaster might have done a fine job, but his willingess to risk paper cuts in the name of freedom doesn't qualify him as a hero. But I saw this image on Facebook the other day and it infuriated me for its mindless misrepresentation of American military history. I think if we actually think about it for a minute, we'll discover just how dishonest this line of war-worship really is.

Let's start with the fundamental question raised here. When was the last time a foreign enemy threatened America to the extent that our 'freedoms' or our 'way of life' was held at risk? That would almost have to be an enemy that could land significant ground forces on the continent, take the capital, depose the leadership and impose their own leadership. Now the combination of things that allowed America to prosper in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were isolation - two oceans separated North America from any potential adversary; and size - the land mass is just so big, and the terrain so varied, that any thought that an invading force could take and hold the entire country was clearly ludicrous.

British forces took and sacked the capital of Washington DC in August of 1814, so the American troops in that war were definitely defending American interests - although it's hard to imagine a significant loss of freedom under British rule. But hypotheticals notwithstanding, that was definitely a case of defending America against invasion from a conquering power. It was also the last case.

Perhaps the Civil War is an example - American troops fighting to defend freedom and their way of life - but that would have been true of both sides. There was no external invader, and virtually all the combatants were American troops. So to decide that American troops defended our freedoms and way of life would only be true from a Northern perspective - and even so the beneficiaries of those freedoms they defended (and delivered) were their enemies, the Confederacy.

The closest the Spanish came to US soil in the Spanish American war in 1898 was Cuba. In World War I, the US only became involved after almost four years of bloody stalemate in Europe. The US declared war in April of 1917, and American reinforcements tipped the balance of power in a European theater exhausted and bled out from years of trench warfare. It was all over in November of 1918, and the continental US was never at any risk whatsoever in that 'World War'. In World War II, the US joined the conflict, already over two years old, when Japan attacked the American Fleet in Hawaii. The Japanese calculation was to eliminate American naval power in the Pacific, take Malaya and the Dutch East Indies to secure access to oil, rubber and resources, then sue for peace. There was never any real consideration of actually invading and occupying the US by the Imperial Japanese forces. Of course, if Germany had been able to consolidate and hold Europe and ultimately take Great Britain, that might have led to some fairly large scale global challenges in the coming decades. Except, one of the things they never teach American children in school, is that America didn't win World War II. Russia did. Even if American forces never went to war in Europe, Germany would never have been able to hold Western Europe, and the challenge would have been a Soviet Union that reached to the Atlantic, not a Nazi invasion force in Washington DC. The Korean War was fought over a small peninsula in Northeast Asia. The Vietnam War, similarly, was contained to the Southeast Asian nations. Despite the lies, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was never a threat to America, her freedoms and her way of life, and certainly the Taliban aren't going to take Washington anytime soon.

So there you have it. When have American troops truly defended America? When was it that our freedom, our constitution, our way of life was actually at risk from external forces? The answer is not for hundreds of years, and it's embarrassingly stupid to claim that a soldier in Iraq or Vietnam or Korea had anything to do with defending those freedoms. And if you think about it further, the only force on earth that has been taking American freedoms, destroying the American Constitution and wrecking our way of life is American domestic politics. We have authoritarian government, we have surveillance, we have capital punishment, we have local law enforcement infiltration of the political opposition, we have internet surveillance. All done by Americans, against Americans. They need to tell us this story, this narrative that we're somehow at risk from other nations, from external forces, and only our brave soldiers are holding back the tide. But those nations are either far to weak to attack us or they are strong but they know that war with American would mean a nuclear exchange. Nothing we value has been at risk since 1814, and yet this is the story we insist on believing. If we can't even look at history honestly, there is no hope for us...


  1. History:

    In 133 BC, Rome was a democracy. Little more than a hundred years later it was governed by an emperor.

    I suppose it's belaboring the point to note that the worst of the worst are the people loudly proclaiming their patriotism, wearing USA! flag pins, etc.

  2. Yeah, but I believe it is a point worth belaboring. Along with the fact that leaders on the barricades will have long grey pony tails and shaggy-ass white beards...