The citizen-soldier: Moral risk and the modern military

takenoticeAs we move into Memorial Day weekend, and for once it legitimately is that, we are going to start thinking about the soldier, the sailor, the airman and the marine. More than most, they have made us what we are, and conversely, we have made them both what they are, and an image of us, and moreover an image of us at our best. And because of that, they have become the best in the world, and the best ambassadors of the American people. They, all of them, the quick, the dead, the maimed, the conservative, the liberal, yes, the ones who protest, as well as those who support, make us better.

This is long, it is also, in my judgment worth reading, and likely rereading, and a good deal of contemplation. By Phil Klay, and from Brookings.

The rumor was he’d killed an Iraqi soldier with his bare hands. Or maybe bashed his head in with a radio. Something to that effect. Either way, during inspections at Officer Candidates School, the Marine Corps version of boot camp for officers, he was the Sergeant Instructor who asked the hardest, the craziest questions. No softballs. No, “Who’s the Old Man of the Marine Corps?” or “What’s your first general order?” The first time he paced down the squad bay, all of us at attention in front of our racks, he grilled the would-be infantry guys with, “Would it bother you, ordering men into an assault where you know some will die?” and the would-be pilots with, “Do you think you could drop a bomb on an enemy target, knowing you might also kill women and kids?”

When he got to me, down at the end, he unloaded one of his more involved hypotheticals. “All right candidate. Say you think there’s an insurgent in a house and you call in air support, but then when you walk through the rubble there’s no insurgents, just this dead Iraqi civilian with his brains spilling out of his head, his legs still twitching and a little Iraqi kid at his side asking you why his father won’t get up. So. What are you going to tell that Iraqi kid?”

Amid all the playacting of OCS—screaming “Kill!” with every movement during training exercises, singing cadences about how tough we are, about how much we relish violence—this felt like a valuable corrective. In his own way, that Sergeant Instructor was trying to clue us in to something few people give enough thought to when they sign up: joining the Marine Corps isn’t just about exposing yourself to the trials and risks of combat—it’s also about exposing yourself to moral risk.

I never had to explain to an Iraqi child that I’d killed his father. As a public affairs officer, working with the media and running an office of Marine journalists, I was never even in combat. And my service in Iraq was during a time when things seemed to be getting better. But that period was just one small part of the disastrous war I chose to have a stake in. “We all volunteered,” a friend of mine and a five-tour Marine veteran, Elliot Ackerman, said to me once. “I chose it and I kept choosing it. There’s a sort of sadness associated with that.”

As a former Marine, I’ve watched the unraveling of Iraq with a sense of grief, rage, and guilt. As an American citizen, I’ve felt the same, though when I try to trace the precise lines of responsibility of a civilian versus a veteran, I get all tangled up. The military ethicist Martin Cook claims there is an “implicit moral contract between the nation and its soldiers,” which seems straightforward, but as the mission of the military has morphed and changed, it’s hard to see what that contract consists of. A decade after I joined the Marines, I’m left wondering what obligations I incurred as a result of that choice, and what obligations I share with the rest of my country toward our wars and to the men and women who fight them. What, precisely, was the bargain that I struck when I raised my hand and swore to defend my country against all enemies, foreign and domestic?

Grand causes

It was somewhat surprising (to me, anyway, and certainly to my parents) that I wound up in the Marines. I wasn’t from a military family. My father had served in the Peace Corps, my mother was working in international medical development. If you’d asked me what I wanted to do, post-college, I would have told you I wanted to become a career diplomat, like my maternal grandfather. I had no interest in going to war.

Operation Desert Storm was the first major world event to make an impression on me—though to my seven-year-old self the news coverage showing grainy videos of smart bombs unerringly finding their targets made those hits seem less a victory of soldiers than a triumph of technology. The murky, muddy conflicts in Mogadishu and the Balkans registered only vaguely. War, to my mind, meant World War II, or Vietnam. The first I thought of as an epic success, the second as a horrific failure, but both were conflicts capable of capturing the attention of our whole society. Not something struggling for air-time against a presidential sex scandal.

So I didn’t get my ideas about war from the news, from the wars actually being fought during my teenage years. I got my ideas from books.

My novels and my history books were sending very mixed signals. War was either pointless hell, or it was the shining example of American exceptionalism.

Reading novels like Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, or Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, I learned to see war as pointless suffering, absurdity, a spectacle of man’s inhumanity to man. Yet narrative nonfiction told me something different, particularly the narrative nonfiction about World War II, a genre really getting off the ground in the late-90s and early aughts. Perhaps this was a belated result of the Gulf War, during which the military seemed to have shaken off its post-Vietnam malaise and shown that, yes, goddamn it, we can win something, and win it good. Books like Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers and Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation went hand-in-hand with movies like Saving Private Ryan to present a vision of remarkable heroism in a world that desperately needed it.

via The citizen-soldier: Moral risk and the modern military | Brookings Institution

And so, this weekend, as taps once more rings over the land, and volleys sound across the land, it is time, I think for us to think about what we owe these warriors, living and dead, who created America, and have sustained her, and us, across the last 240 years. Because yes, we owe them care for their injuries, and to make them as whole as we can, and to honor their memory. But we owe them, in large measure also, our way of life.

 

Lefty bishops rumbled. Thought for the Day is hugely biased against the market economy – The Conservative Woman

BBC_TV_CentreThis is interesting. Yes, it’s about the BBC, and so maybe not directly relevant to us. But then again, I think what Britain (and the world) think of us has at least some relevance. In addition, I wonder if it doesn’t apply full force to NPR also because it seems to me to have much the same set-up, and the same biases as well.

Of the many compelling arguments the respected Institute of Economic Affairsmakes today for privatising the BBC commercially the one that struck me most was the BBC’s bias.

Most TCW readers are more than aware that the BBC is no longer fit for purpose; that its market power – especially in terms of news provision – coupled with its compulsory funding method and its closeness to the political process is hugely problematic.

Many hope that commercial competition will soon render it irrelevant. But that’s not likely as long as it holds onto its licence fee monopoly. That’s why this new evidence from the IEA is so important – proving as it does that BBC no longer deserves its privileged position.

The IEA argues that all media outlets are likely to have biases. However, the BBC’s is more problematic for reason of its trusted reputation, the inability of its customers to withdraw payment and the fact it provides 75 per cent of all televised news and thus has a ‘monopoly’ over  public opinion.

The IEA’s new case studies are a shocking demonstration of  how the BBC fails the public’s trust.

To take just some examples:

Its analysis of Radio 4’s Today programme – from March 2004 to July 2015 – revealed gross bias by omission. One guess as to whose voices were omitted: those favouring Britain’s exit from the EU of course. Over the period the IEA found of the 4,275 guest speakers on EU themes only 3 per cent of these were explicitly in favour of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Seven in ten of these speakers were from Ukip, and over a third were Nigel Farage alone. We can but wonder where John Redwood, Richard North, Owen Paterson, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, John Mills, Jacob Rees Mogg, Dominic Raab, Sir Archie (now Lord) Hamilton, Frank Field and Kate Hoey were – to name but a very few leading Eurosceptics. In hiding? Were they refusing to take Today’s calls?

When it came to the official 2015 General Election campaign, Today fielded 25 business speakers to discuss the EU referendum. What did the IEA uncover? That over three-quarters of these speakers saw the referendum as a worry or a threat to business, despite the contemporaneous polling finding that two thirds of businesses back the holding of a referendum. […]

Of the 167 items that included discussions and opinion on capitalism, markets and business they found only 8 per cent gave any sort of positive perspective. Negative commentary outweighed positive commentary by a factor of more than eight to one. […]

There is more – our worst fears at TCW of the BBC’s biased ‘gender agenda’ were confirmed, demonstrating once more that the BBC in no way deserves its reputation for fair coverage.

The particular example the IEA’s scrutinised was the BBC’s News website coverage of the government’s new measures to try to combat the gender pay gap through imposing new requirements on large companies. It contained neither expert economic opinion on the use of crude average gender pay gap figures nor dissenting opinion on the effectiveness of the policies.

via Kathy Gyngell: Lefty bishops rumbled. Thought for the Day is hugely biased against the market economy – The Conservative Woman

Kathy’s right here, I think, and I think that because I too listen to the BBC (a lot), in fact as I write this I’m listening to BBC Radio Norfolk, which is my favorite office station. I even watch it a good deal, and that is how it sounds to me, as well. Sort of like NPR, but on some really good steroids. And I treat it the same way, in anything but the hardest of news, I simply disbelieve it. Hardly a trusted voice of news, but then few are, and as I’ve said, their biases are predictable, and so one can discount, and revise, and get within shouting distance of the news. But how many do?

They’re right, kick ’em loose, and let them sink or swim.

Lechery, lechery, still wars and lechery, nothing else holds fashion

Cartoon_-_Voters_v_GOPSo, yesterday I heard from several places, that the GOPe will, if we end up in a brokered convention, attempt to foist somebody like Paul Ryan on us. Frankly, I don’t think Ryan would be all that bad a President, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that if the party is going to select who they damned pleased, why are we screwing around with the sham of the primary system?

The other problem is that it will elect Clinton. I’m no fan of Donald Trump, as all here know, but if he wins or comes close, he wins. I suspect Trump’s too lazy to be as bad a president as he sounds like he could be, and he’ll end up relying overmuch on his advisers, just as Obama has. So if he ends up with reasonable advisers, it might be OK. All that goes for Cruz as well, except that I think he’d be an outstanding president, advisers, or no advisers.

In any case, if the party pulls off this coup, and by the rules, I think it legal, it will pretty much destroy the party. I think the GOPe knows that, perhaps dimly, and they think it more important to ally with the Democrats to protect their rice bowl. For those of us who are proponents of American exceptionalism through the Constitution, this debacle will be horrible, pretty much the end of the America which we love.

A commenter over at Ace’s said it well.

It doesn’t give a shit if it loses to a Democrat because all their money making ability is retained. The GOP is an enterprise – at this stage a criminal enterprise – that is interested only in one thing: keeping itself and its members fat, happy and paid.
Winning an election is almost a secondary thing.

But keeping those who would take away its influence, power and MONEY is job #1.

The Democrats want to destroy the country for ideological reasons. The GOP is perhaps more contemptible because they want to make money off of it.

I really loathe them.

J.J. Sefton

That’s where I am this morning.

The Destroyers

THE strength of twice three thousand horse
That seeks the single goal;
The line that holds the rending course,
The hate that swings the whole:
The stripped hulls, slinking through the gloom,
At gaze and gone again —
The Brides of Death that wait the groom —
The Choosers of the Slain.

Offshore where sea and skyline blend
In rain, the daylight dies;
The sullen, shouldering swells attend
Night and our sacrifice.
Adown the stricken capes no flare–
No mark on spit or bar,- —
Girdled and desperate we dare
The blindfold game of war.

Nearer the up-flung beams that spell
The council of our foes;
Clearer the barking guns that tell
Their scattered flank to close.
Sheer to the trap they crowd their way
From ports for this unbarred.
Quiet, and count our laden prey,
The convoy and her guard!

On shoal with scarce a foot below,
Where rock and islet throng,
Hidden and hushed we watch them throw
Their anxious lights along.
Not here, not here your danger lies
(Stare hard, 0 hooded eyne!)
Save where the dazed rock-pigeons rise
The lit cliffs give no sign.

Therefore – to break the rest ye seek,
The Narrow Seas to clear
Hark to the siren’s whimpering shriek
The driven death is here!
Look to your van a league away, –
What midnight terror stays
The bulk that checks against the spray
Her crackling tops ablaze?

Hit, and hard hit! The blow went home,
The muffled, knocking stroke
The steam that overruns the foam-
The foam that thins to smoke-
The smoke that clokes the deep aboil –
The deep that chokes her throes
Till, streaked with ash and sleeked with oil,
The lukewarm whirlpools close!

A shadow down the sickened wave
Long since her slayer fled:
But hear their chattering quick-fires rave
Astern, abeam, ahead!
Panic that shells the drifting spar
– Loud waste with none to check-
Mad fear that rakes a scornful star
Or sweeps a consort’s deck.

Now, while their silly smoke hangs thick,
Now ere their wits they find,
Lay in and lance them to the quick–
Our gallied whales are blind!
Good luck to those that see the end,
Good-bye to those that drown–
For each his chance as chance shall send–
And God for all Shut down!

The strength of twice three thousand horse
That serve the one command;
The hand that heaves the headlong force,
The hate that backs the hand:
The doom-bolt in the darkness freed,
The mine that splits the main;
The white-hot wake, the ‘wildering speed–
The Choosers of the Slain!

Rudyard Kipling,

Weighed in the Balance

Oobie is one of my favorite bloggers. Why? Because she writes from knowledge of her subject, and with plain common sense. For me, it’s a winning combination. here she outlines her problems with this election, which parallel mine rather closely, but the meat of a fine article is in these final two paragraphs.

Here’s the problem for me. Can I in good conscience vote for somebody I think is unfit for the presidency? That of course includes Hillary Clinton in first order, so a vote for her is out of the question. That leaves me facing the prospect of voting for somebody else of very dubious qualifications. If I say affirmatively about Trump, “This is the man for me!” — what then? What if he gets in and then breaks all his promises (and he will — he might build a bit of wall, but it won’t be a serious endeavor), or starts to behave irrationally? What kind of satisfaction would I then have from a mindless insurrection? What good would have been achieved? Or what if he turns out to be as bad a candidate as I think and lost? And then again, if I sit home and withhold my vote from Trump, I automatically give that vote to the much worse criminal and lunatic, Clinton. And that can’t be right, either. I don’t see a happy ending here.

I guess I’m going to pray fervently that Ted Cruz can pull it out or Rubio is in as a brokered candidate. And otherwise, to cast a vote for Trump. If I do, it won’t be in the expectation of being proven wrong about his lack of character and irrationality. The Democrats were stupid. They should have run someone like Evan Bayh of Indiana, a mild-mannered, likable guy who is Mr. Middle of the Road. Then people such as I could have voted for him. But no, the parties are in the grip of the true believers now and things are not going to go smoothly.

via Weighed in the Balance | Ooobie on Everything.

Yup, that is exactly the problem isn’t it. Clinton, a crook, and a more or less proven national security threat, or Trump, a buffoon, and perhaps more of a threat to civil liberties than Obama, and supposedly of the same party as Congress.

Hobson’s choice, isn’t it? Well, sort of, it’s really more of a variant of Morton’s Fork, I think. But in any case, it’ll be a sad day in the history of the Republic if we have to make a choice between Clinton or Trump. I just don’t know what I’ll do if they are the nominees, I hope it simply doesn’t happen. Ted Cruz, I’m looking at you. I know, and refreshingly you know, that you’re only a man, although an ambitious, thoughtful, and serious one, who believes in the lodestar of the Republic, The Constitution. That will do, I think.

Reclaiming the Protestant Work Ethic

Wiring a residential loadcenter

Wiring a residential loadcenter

Mark Hemingway writing on The Federalist the other day had some very wise things to say about why America doesn’t work, not only the way it used to but very badly for those of us trying to make a living and get ahead. It goes to not only the malaise we all feel lately, but to the very heart of why America is exceptional. Read the whole thing.™

So here’s my rather immodest proposal for making America great again. We need a sea change in our attitudes toward work. Those of us who have easy jobs, let alone ones we love, better damn well remain grateful for the opportunities we have. And all of us, especially our elected representatives, ought to start showing one hell of a lot more appreciation and support for those among us who do the hard work necessary to provide the services and produce the goods that make America a safe, secure, and comfortable place.

That this needs to be said is damning indictment of how debased American culture has become. (Mike Rowe is just about the lone significant cultural voice in America screaming into the void about the value of work.) Not that long ago, we were celebrated for our “Protestant work ethic,” although, as with a lot of theological concepts, most Americans no longer have any frame of reference for what that means.

Although often associated with Calvinism, it is was first rooted in Martin Luther’s doctrine of vocation, which posits that we serve God by accepting our callings and employing our God-given abilities to do the work that needs to be done. Not because we get to do what we love, but because we do what needs to be done out of love for others.

One does not need to even believe in God to see that an economic order that arises from a culture where naked self-interest is tempered by expressions of respect and gratitude for those who willingly accept responsibility to take care of others is preferable to every man for himself. It’s also vastly better than the other extreme of socialism, where the fruits of our individual labor are disproportionately seized and redistributed without regard to our families and the community members we care about most and are best positioned to take care of.

Proto-libertarian thinker Frank Chodorov described the salutary effects of this on American politics in his 1962 essay, “The Radical Rich”:

There was a time, in these United States, when a candidate for public office could qualify with the electorate only by fixing his birthplace in or near the ‘log cabin.’ He may have acquired a competence, or even a fortune, since then, but it was in the tradition that he must have been born of poor parents and made his way up the ladder by sheer ability, self-reliance, and perseverance in the face of hardship. In short, he had to be ‘self made’ The so-called Protestant Ethic then prevalent held that man was a sturdy and responsible individual, responsible to himself, his society, and his God. Anybody who could not measure up to that standard could not qualify for public office or even popular respect.

via Bernie’s Hatred Of Work Is Why Trumpites Are So Mad.

And he’s right, look at nearly any President before Kennedy, small town boy, who works hard, keeps his nose clean, and climbs to the summit – with the exception of the Roosevelts, neither of whom was particularly good for the country, to put it mildly.

We used to say, “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations’, meaning that we only appreciate the things that we worked hard for, when we inherit our wealth, we simply don’t value it, or others, the way we do what we earn.

There’s a lot in the column, you really should read it all, not least because it has much bearing on who we choose to be president this year.

Nancy Reagan RIP, and a bit from Jim deMint

Official White House photograph of Nancy Reaga...

Official White House photograph of Nancy Reagan, wife to then-President of the United States Ronald Reagan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before we start, word has come that Nancy Reagan died yesterday morning, this is how an era ends. made me think of a bit of T.S. Elliot from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled

She’ll be missed! RIP and enjoy being with Ronnie again.


The Reagans knew as much as anyone about building a conservative movement, and so it may be fitting to add this here because Jim deMint know a fair amount about it himself. Genevieve Wood tells us:

Candidates for federal and state office are running successfully on conservative ideas—cutting government spending, protecting religious liberty, repealing Obamacare—that have taken hold over the past five years, Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint says.
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