And yet, increasingly, those most influential in making, supporting,
or protesting defense policy have no direct experience with the military
and no direct stake in getting it right. If they embroil us in some
fiasco it is not their sons and daughters who will be shipped home in
coffins. They have no personal stake, what has been called "skin in the
There is a strange and unintended symbiotic relationship between the "leave it to us professionals" attitude expressed by some leaders in our military today, and the "leave me alone" or "not with my child" attitude shared by many in the upper classes when it comes to military service. It is natural for military leaders to want to focus most narrowly on their immediate mission. That is their job. But civilians are the bosses of the military. The military does not exist to maintain itself perpetually. It exists as the expression of the American people as to how we want to defend ourselves and how we want to change, or not change the world to suite our long-term security interests.
The federal government is the place where the leadership class and the military leadership colide. There is no sense within Washington's marble halls either that we need to change. The upper classes, the government, and many in the military seem satisfied.
The lack of contact between the military and members of America's leadership -- its local and national politicians, academicians, media and cultural elites, and professionals -- is not the only cause of the decline in young people's service. There are two other principal reasons. First, we Americans have become people who increasingly see our country in terms of raw politics. Second, we have become extreme individualists. The lack of personal contact with military people, the politicization of American life and extreme individualism have combined to create a perfect storm militating against certain classes from volunteering for service.
As I said, General McChrystal's disdain for President Obama did not arise in a vacuum. The context is the long simmering resentment by the class of Americans who serve of those who don't. Had Obama served the flavor of this debate would be different.
America needs to understand that we have a professional military that increasingly looks on the culture it serves as morally inferior. And speaking as the father of a Marine who had plenty of neighbors who went shopping as my son went to war, I understand this feeling!
The resentment of the civilian world crops up in the publications of various military or veterans organizations. For instance in the American Legion Magazine there is a recurring theme on the need for veterans to constantly remind the public and legislators of their existence lest they be forgotten. In a special issue on veterans' benefits Congressman Lane Evans, Vietnam vet and advocate for veterans was asked: "What role do you see veterans fulfilling in the effort [to protect vet's benefits from budget cuts]?" He answered, "Veterans' groups should get out there and raise holy hell against what's happening." (American Legion Magazine, June 2005). In other words, vets have to raise "holy hell" to just get what is rightfully theirs from civilians and their civilian leaders, less and less of whom have served.
What you saw now between the White House and the general being fired is the tip of an iceberg.
New recruits are increasingly second generation military. This is
especially so in the officer class, a nation within a nation. We now
have a military "class." And face it they don't trust or like the people
outside that class who tell them what to do but with no skin in the
Our system was set up to have a civilian led military of mostly civilian non-professionals serving for a time then returning to civilian life. We now have a civilian leadership with no military experience in charge of a mercenary professional force with few personal (let alone empathetic) ties to our leaders.
And that force is no longer protecting America only but rather projecting imperial overreach that will lead to more and more loss of American lives for no reason. Expect more trouble.
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