Is the Core of U.S. Ethos Militarism?

We know that many  young people believe after talking with recruiters that military service might be a very good avenue for expressing patriotism, gaining  useful work experience, securing funds for college or  for other further education. There are other avenues (see Options for Life After High SchoolEng-Span compiled by: CodePink NYC & the Granny Peace Brigade).  A few months ago a young recruiter with whom I was talking said to me, recruitment leaflets in his hand, “I’m just walking up and down here avoiding people.”  At that point, realizing that some recruiters may have reservations about their assignment and being aware of what effects such reservations may have on them, I said something like “take care” and I no longer strike up conversations with recruiters.  My heart went out to that young man.

Less than gung ho views of the military are seldom focused upon in the popular media.  However,  such views have been expressed by some senior military managers and they deserve serious consideration by all of us, and especially by young people considering military service.  Here are a few such views —

1.  Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates  in a speech at Duke University on September 29, 2010, said that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the first protracted large-scale conflicts since the American Revolution fought entirely by volunteers, but with a force of 2.4 million of active and reserve members that is less than 1 percent — the smallest proportion ever — of the population it serves,  and that it was junior and mid-level officers and sergeants in ground combat and support who had borne the brunt of repeat deployments and exposure to fire.  He asked “How long can these brave young shoulders carry the burden that we — as a military, as a government, as a society — continue to place on them?”

2.  Andrew J. Bacevich, Retired Colonel and Professor of History and International Relations at Boston University in his book “Washington Rules — America’s Path to Permanent War,” expressed the view,  based on his experience, that those who are powerful decide for themselves about the telling of truth and about how it is told.  He referred to the strong opposition the decision of President Bush to invade Iraq brought forth in him, and in this connection he noted he found it to be contradictory that “an ostensibly peace loving nation” should commit itself to a “doctrine of preventive war.”

3.  Well known is General/President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961, farewell address to the nation, in which he said that “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex….”

4.  General Smedley D. Butler (at the time of his death in 1940, the most decorated marine in US. history), in his book “War is a Racket”  emphasized that in war profits are tallied in currency and that losses are tallied in lives.  War, he said,  is “conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the very many.”  He wrote also of his own stark fear in the battle zone.

In 2001 our country went to war in Afghanistan; in 2003 we attacked Iraq.  We invaded two countries which presented no military threat to the U.S.  We have caused the death of tens of thousands of civilians, displacement, destruction — untold suffering.  Over 6,000 U.S. military volunteers have been killed.  The monthly cost  is over 10 billion dollars.

It continues and expands.   The September 16, 2011, ‘New York Times’ article,  sub-heading ‘Dispute Over Latitude in Using Lethal Force Against Militants,’ dealt in part with “The unresolved question … whether  the administration can escalate attacks if it wants to against rank-and-file members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in  Yemen, and the Somalia-based  Shabab.”  In making recommendations regarding this matter, Senator Lindsey Graham who is on the Armed Services Committee said “This is a worldwide conflict without borders.  Restructuring the definition of the battlefield and restricting the definition of the enemy allows the enemy to regenerate and doesn’t deter people who are on the fence.”  We know we have bases — over 800 — around the world.  Is a worldwide conflict without borders to be our future?

I was 8 years old in December 1941.  When we arrived at school on Monday morning, December 8th, we were told we were at war and were sent home.  We ran home.  Scared, I crawled under the dining room table.  I think never have I been as scared since.  Children in the eastern hemisphere were also scared.  The bombs fell there but not here.  Are we callous in part because this continent has not known modern warfare?  And now in modern warfare the ‘battlefield’ is the town, village, home.  How many of us have seen Fallujah in Pictures; Afghanistan in Pictures via Google?  Awful! There just has to be another way for  major conflicts to be resolved.  Shouldn’t there be examination of cause and effect; action and reaction?  Shouldn’t there be action to eliminate  opportunities for war profiteering?

Several decades ago matriculation at the ‘Colleges of City of New York’ was free.  Former Secretary of State Powell knows this, I know this, as do friends of mine — we all attended  City Colleges.  Can we not have again financially accessible public colleges and universities and reasonable arrangements for financial assistance for those attending private colleges and universities?  This is just one area of concern. On what are our priorities based?   I feel that if the military continues to be who we are, we cannot become what we could become.

– Barbara Walkerfor the Granny Peace Brigade

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