Happy New Year to all. Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! Kotoshi mo yorishku onegai shimasu.
I , unfortunately had a quiet new years, definitely not the one I wanted to spend skiing. You can thank the S.O. for that because of continued inabilty to make a decision and her repeated failure to recognize that money is only as good as the experiences it buys you. So while I did allow my self the pleasure of getting reasonably intoxicated and watching the fireworks displays.
New Years day was also quiet, thanks primarily to the bad weather here-and the fact that nothing is open. I binged watched Netflix all day and evening.
When not doing that I took the opportunity to read the reaction to the Fallows article I wrote about a couple of days ago. There have been some excellent responses, many from military and former military who are not so blinded by simplistic thinking and ideology , which allowed them to see Fallow's main points and understand them-even if they did not agree with them. There are 7 follow up posts and everyone of them is worth a read. They can be found here, here, here, here, here,here, and here.
Of course there are the folks who didn't like the article and took the time and effort to use criticism to cater to their audience of sycophants. Now mind you, it is not as if there are not things to disagree about in Fallows article, what I guess is most troubling about this one overly long and other rather short criticism is that they basically are guilty of the same thing they accuse Fallows of: ideological snobbery. Both Phibian and ID spend more time shooting the messenger than discussing the message. That's to be expected these days on the mil-blog circuit, and as I have pointed out repeatedly before, the comment sections are more about shouting down any dissenting opinions than having an honest discussion.
You can read it all yourself and you should. But in particular when you read Phibian's rather long criticism you should ask yourself if he doth protest too much. Because the answer to that question is definitely yes.
Specifically I found the following that I think should be addressed:
1) First, whether or not, Fallows was drafted or not is really not germane to a discussion of the idea of a program of national service now. And its more than a bit elitist to use whatever happened in 1969-which was by far a different time and a lot of people did not relish our continued involvement in Vietnam. To continue to beat the tired old drum about how much one hates baby- boomers is really to miss the point.
2) For all the complaints about Fallows using so called left wing code words-Phibian does exactly the same thing.
Next are a few code words; note the use of "chickenhawk," an old school mid-00's moonbat clickbait word – the national security equivalent of "tea bagger." Usually not used by serious people in serious work, but by people who are intentionally trying to be insulting and to pick a fight. Smart move by Fallows, at it will raise the defensive barriers by all the "right" people … and therefor encourage them to keep reading while getting a nod of approval from his preferred audience ofHuffington Post readers, I guess. What he does do, and this is a shame as the topic deserves something better, is to raise a hint of a shadow of his old bugbear since the end of the first Nixon Administration, the draft (more on that later).
Next you have "careless spending." This is a tease, as most of this is just recycled arguments we all know about the amount of money we spend on DOD and what on … and for Fallows, that means getting his F-35 plushy out and beating it hard with the wiffleball bat.
"Strategic Folly" opens his review of how Obergruppenführer Wolfowitz, Darth Cheney, and Bushitler brought about the heartbreak of psoriasis because they refused to turn over the national security apparatus to the editorial board of The Atlantic and the Department of Homeland Security to Katrina vanden Heuvel's knitting circle over at The Nation.
Ummmmm. No. Chickenhawk is an excellent word to use because it quite accurately describes both the condition and the contempt that should be held for it. Serious people do use the words and for good reason-it pretty much captures the failures of those who plunged America down the rathole of the last 14 years. No one, certainly not Fallows, is proposing turning the National Security Apparatus over to anyone. They are asking that they be held to account for decisions that they should have known better than to make. Iraq, in particular, represents a foreign policy disaster and its not just liberals saying that. Plenty of conservatives have stated that too.
And as for the F-35, its killing the rest of Naval Aviation. So can't we really have an honest discussion about a program that is so expensive and for the Navy at least, so un-needed?
3) Phibian takes the opportunity to extol the virtues of the "real" Americans who live in "flyover" country. First of all, contrary to what he states, its not so great. Trust me I have lived among the
morons "our wonderfully diverse nation." Trust me, its not so great and if the comment section proves anything, it is not so diverse. He misses the real point that Fallows was trying to make-its also not the area where large populations of the people live. Many areas of his "real America" are the most economically depressed however, and don't kid yourself, that had a lot to do with who volunteers and who doesn't.
Which brings us back to the idea of national service. Several excellent authors have debunked Phibian's main assertion that "We are a representative republic that has no natural need or desire for a large standing army. Neither you nor I would want to live in a republic that used the police power of the state to randomly put its citizens (due to the small numbers needed and that could be afforded, a draft would be far from universal, and an exceptionally arbitrary lottery) under bondage without an existential threat just to make a socio-political point – or as Mike Mullen puts it – force pain on the population by intentionally keeping the nation weak until crisis. Let me be clear; a draft in peace is an anathema to a free society and is tyranny without an existential threat breathing at the door. Full stop."
Back the train up. The United States is a representative nation that has a large standing Army, and has had one ever since the second World War. And no matter who is in office it will have one for at least the next 20 years or so. It would be nice to man it more evenly-and national service is an acceptable means to do that.
Two other points. I always find it so interesting that the same generation who praise today's military leaders as being "so much better" than those of us who came in the late 70's and early 80's, finds the idea of dealing with reluctant Sailors and Soldiers so utterly frightening. Its a cop out-and not necessarily a fair representation of their ability to lead. They could deal with it if they had to-and a lot of folks would succeed in such a military, certainly far more than would fail.
But again it misses the real point that Fallows is making. Draft or no, too many of the American people got a free pass when the nation was supposedly in an all out "long war". If not asked to serve, they did not even get asked to pay for it-through either a surcharge on something everyone uses like gasoline, or skipping tax cuts that were clearly not in the nation's interest once the war was under-way.
And don't kid yourself either, a lot of people who could serve, don't-because they don't want to take the time away from getting to be a rich executive by the time they are 35. And service is a tradeoff, and don't let anyone tell you it is not. The longer you stay, the more certain doors close. True a lot of other doors open-but it does not negate the first statement. Furthermore-he is ignoring the role of national service in paying for schooling and leveling the society, as it does in Israel.
The second point is probably the more serious. Because I think the reaction to Fallows article in certain corners actually proves his point. The military is becoming insulated from the society it serves and that is not good. And certain segments from within do hold their civilian counterparts in contempt, all protestations to the contrary. The country is self selecting and not having the conversations it should have. The fact that folks want argue with Fallows is fine. But argue the points on their merits, not some self styled pedestal that with just a little effort you can be pulled down from. Get out of the echo chamber and see the way the world really is-not just the idealized vision you think you see.
And that, my friends is the worst thing of all with how we hold discussions these days in the blogosphere. I just had to get that out there.
UPDATE! Fallows himself published probably the best stated analysis of the views of those who disagree with him from mil-blog land. Its a great point and sums up the stupidity of the viewpoint well:
This kind of misunderstanding, inadvertent or purposeful, goes with the territory of public debate. It foreseeably leads to a kind of tribally minded angry response. Tribal? As in: 1) this guy seems to be against us; 2) since he doesn't like us, we don't like him; 3) therefore whatever he's saying is probably wrong.
That's a minority response; I'm touched and overwhelmed, in a good way, by the volume and sophistication of the submissions I continue to receive.