…about what they're doing to my Army was brought to the front of my mind by this from Glenn Greenwald
...the most consequential force pushing Americans to lose their instinctive resistance to war was probably the First Persian Gulf War -- everyone's favorite. It was the first fully televised war, and it made war seem like nothing more significant than killing bad people by zapping them from the sky with super high-tech, precision weaponry that risked nothing -- war as video game, cheered on safely and clinically from a distance.
To no small degree, public acceptance of the notion of video game warfare was essential to the Bush/Rumsfeld vision of a reformed military. Before the current carnage in Iraq, people had started to accept the idea that other people, the "boots on the ground" people, were largely irrelevant to modern warfare. Mundane tasks could be contracted out - the developing world seems to be chock full of people who want to cook and clean for American G.I.s, after all - and other than the guys who would guide the radio controlled drones and smart weapons all we would need would be a couple brigades of Green Berets to handle special, generally covert, missions, whether raids or rescues.
We're far more aware today, sadly, that there are still wars that require thousands of our fellow citizens to be maimed and killed. We seem less aware, or less concerned at any rate, about how small the distribution of that risk has become. A in response to my post about the extension of a Minnesota National Guard unit's tour of Iraq as an element of the Bush escalation brought that to mind. If, the commenter opined, they didn't like it, "They shouldn't have joined the National Guard."
Why? Because they should have known that the commitments in force at the time of their enlistment, commitments about the conditions required for, and the duration and frequency, of a call-up to an overseas combat deployment were just silly putty to the government they serve? Because they understood that a radical restructuring of our force structure was being undertaken that would require extraordinary sacrifice by the remaining troops to maintain a deployment that is, at best, modest to the point of inadequacy?
Of course they should have joined the National Guard. Or the Army Reserves. Or the active duty military. Lots of people should, many more, in fact, than do. That, of course, is a general proposition. I wouldn't counsel anyone to join this Army, at this time. It's not just the insanity of the current conflict. Deployment to combat is
an undeniable risk of military service. It's the responsibility of leadership, military and civilian, to insure that such a deployment, however, is vial to the interests of the American people, lawful in the world community and that it is the only means by which America's vital interests can be served. The present circumstances are clear evidence of leadership failure, both civilian and military.
To sweep the sacrifices of our ground troops, from any force component, away with "They shouldn't have joined…," though, is nonsensical. We need a National Guard, and an Army Reserve, and an Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine Corps. Some Americans will always have to wear the uniform in service to the rest of America. More, in principle, should. Of course, principles have a way of running up against hard facts, and the hard fact is when the Commander in Chief is contemptuous of the sacrifices he demands, the recruiter's office should become a lonely place. Contemptuous? Well, there's this, from Bush's 60 Minutes appearance (via mcjoan
Pelley: In Vietnam as you know, you served 365 and you were done.
Bush: This is a different situation. This is a volunteer army. In Vietnam, it was, ‘We’re going to draft you and you’re going to go for a year.'
Only a man who never kept a short-timer's calendar could say that. Of course, it's not true. My entire basic training platoon was made up of Regular Army (enlisted) troop. Most of my unit in Vietnam was made up of R.A.s. Our tours were identical to our conscripted comrade's tours. It had nothing to do with being drafted or not. In Vietnam it was "If you get sent, it's for a year. You might be asked
to extend, and if you re-up you might get sent again. But you're being sent for a year." Bush is making the same comment as my dismissive commenter - if they didn't want successive extended tours of a war that a majority of their countrymen don't want them sent to at all, let alone again, they shouldn't have enlisted.
Of course, no one enlists in the National Guard with that kind of expectation. Their recruiter doubtless spun tales of crowd control and emergency response, but the sandbags they expected to fill were to hold back floods, not bullets. Even active Reservists have traditionally expected their first call-up to consist of picking up some home front slack when the 'big' Army gets sent away.
There's no big Army left, alas. The Army today is a third smaller than the one we had for the video game war. Recruiting claims turned out to be, well, what recruiting claims have too often been.
But we can't blame that on the recruits. Some degree of blame rests on anyone who imagined that war would no longer require thousands of other Americans to be maimed and killed, that war could somehow be clean, or cheap. It's not a matter of whether people should join the military, but whether we'll create a military they should join. We need them. We need a lot more of them, actually...