Monday, February 4, 2008

So Why Are People Joining the Military, Anyway?

I'm going to reproduce the first part of the article, not out of laziness, but because I think people should click the link and go read it. I don't have anything to add, plus or minus, I just thought it was a good read that brough up a number of key and relevant points.

Let's have a look at this article, shall we?

The Tenacity of American Militarism
What Progressives and Other Critics Don't Get about the U.S. Military
By William J. Astore

Recent polls suggest that Americans trust the military roughly three times as much as the president and five times as much as their elected representatives in Congress. The tenacity of this trust is both striking and disturbing. It's striking because it comes despite widespread media coverage of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, the friendly-fire cover-up in the case of Pat Tillman's death, and alleged retribution killings by Marines at Haditha. It's disturbing because our country is founded on civilian control of the military. It's debatable whether our less-than-resolute civilian leaders can now exercise the necessary level of oversight of the military and the Pentagon when they are distrusted by so many Americans.

What explains the military's enduring appeal in our society? Certainly, some of this appeal is obvious. Americans have generally been a patriotic bunch. "Supporting our troops" seems an obvious place to go. After all, many of them volunteered to put themselves in harm's way to protect our liberties and to avenge the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. For this, they receive pay and benefits that might best be described as modest. Trusting them -- granting them a measure of confidence -- seems the least that could be offered.

Before addressing two other sources of the military's appeal that are little understood, at least by left-leaning audiences, let's consider for a second the traditional liberal/progressive critique. It often begins by citing the insidious influence of Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex," throwing in for good measure terms like "atrocity," "imperialist," "reactionary," and similar pejoratives. But what's interesting here is that this is often where their critique also ends. The military and its influence are considered so tainted, so baneful that within progressive circles there's a collective wringing of hands, even a reflexive turning of backs, as if our military were truly from Mars or perhaps drawn from the nether regions where Moorlocks shamble and grunt in barbarian darkness.

If you want to change anything -- even our increasing propensity for militarism -- you first have to make an effort to engage with it. And to engage with it, you have to know the wellsprings of its appeal, which transcend corporate profits or imperial power.


No comments: