Monday, December 19, 2005

What is the military?

I knew some professionals (consultants, bankers, etc) who talked about joining the military after 9/11. The thought was short lived, however, and I don't know anyone personally who made the transition - which is fine because our current system can't function without these essential functions. A WSJ reporter on Friday, however, wrote about how he had just joined the Marine Corp at age 31. Having seen the world and what America meant to it, he decided he needed to be part of protecting and promoting our way of life.

Having served, I have mixed feelings about how to view the armed forces. As a Service Academy graduate, I was given four years of training centered on honor, duty and country. A feeling I loved, but largely out of touch with how our political process runs now. Up to a certain time period, politics was filled with men and women who had served in the armed forces. There was more give and take between the military and the political establishment .... it was less of a tool to coldly wield when you needed to apply force. Now, however, most of the politicians ordering the military into risky situations has never served - many seem to view the military as any other tool, like fiscal policy. The difference is that the military is a tool which necessarily results in death when wielded. I would think politicians would understand this even if they didn't serve, but for some reason many of them separate the objective of a military campaign versus the cost.

The issue is still mixed in my mind, but my main question is whether the armed forces should be viewed as something other than a tool to be wielded without emotion or as a direct extension of our political process? The former implies a mercenary type military where we really don't need to overdue the concepts of patriotism, honor, etc - it is paid well and does what it is told when it is told to do it. The latter implies that we need more of our society represented in the military.

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