I want to start by saying that I know, respect, and love probably dozens of military service personnel. No one ought to doubt, on any side, that they see and deal with horrific situations that most of us can’t even guess, much less cope with. Courage is both tested and proved in their lives and stories over and over. But—and we’re quite good at saying the opposite—I don’t believe that bravery translates into policy. Frankly, I resent the suggestion that to urge a massive change in policy denigrates them.
A few weeks ago, on Memorial Day, I read and watched tributes to our “fallen heroes” and was invited to pay tribute to those whose “sacrifice” keeps us “free.” I feel compelled to point out that whatever its true meaning, we have no real personal claim on it. Furthermore, we should remove those leaders who have used that very special brotherhood forged in the fire of the shadow of death as a political shroud to cover the spectacular failure that is long-term American foreign policy. Whether our men and women are courageous and willing to give their lives has never been in question. Whether it is wise to send them to any particular place to give those lives is quite another.
That is not to say that this foolishness is a one-party affair; both parties have purged themselves of non-interventionists with equal viciousness. We are well on our way to a fascist Heinleinesque nightmare, and very few seem to care. Notice how our military is lionized, and the battles we send them into are as beyond question as their courage. One is either a Communist or suspected as such for daring to ask if it’s a good idea.
Let me be clear on the point: I am no sort of socialist. I have no fondness for Marxist regimes of the past or present, despite our dear Editor-in Chief’s gentle jibes in the direction of “Comrade Jason.” In fact, my endorsement of the president in the 2008 campaign was, if you’ll pardon the pun, predicated on the hope that some collection of peaceniks and reasonable people was coalescing around Obama. That’s exactly what did happen, but he has shown himself as much the militarist as any cowboy from Texas, not to mention most of our chief executives.
When I say that I do not support the imperial rule of the United States around the world, it is not because I have lost faith in the American experiment; quite the opposite is the case. I disdain our war efforts and mission precisely because I value the lives and dignity of the very living instruments of our foreign policy, not to mention the other people with whom they make contact. It is high time that we recall both that humanity and that instrumentality and ask if we understand their gravity.
We have had a naïve faith in our own benevolence and ability as a nation for too long. Whether our imposition of force is due to losing faith in the ideas for which we are known, or it is a salve for the consciences of religious people who know their adoration belongs now to metaphorical horses and chariots is not for me to say. But I do expect that I’ll be savaged with religious fervor, and that would be poetic, wouldn’t it?
I do not believe military servicemen are unthinking Neanderthals. I do not pine for the tents of our enemies. Instead, I wonder if we have so many because we prefer war to peace. Let’s get our countrymen out of the foxholes, and have a serious discussion about why we’re putting them there.
Jason Kettinger is a contributing editor to Open for Business.