The US Military Catch-All Thread


#383

I mean…it’s the military, it’s kind of their job to be jingoistic.

I worked at stratcom and the pride in readiness is real. It’s not easy preparing for a mission that never happens … going on 70+ years now thank god … so these kinds of sentiments have real value for the people trying to keep ready. Twitter is a fucking cancer but this is probably just some stupid pr person forgetting that not everybody works at stratcom. Kind of like if an emergency room tweeted out some of the sick jokes that doctors and nurses probably tell each other.


#384

I appreciate your broader point, but no. Just, no. There is zero reason or justification for the military of a democratic state to be jingoistic. Their job is to defend the republic, at the behest and in the service of the people through their elected leaders. It is not their job to celebrate violence, trumpet their willingness to annihilate millions, or display any of the other myriad characteristics of militarism run amok that are increasingly common in this country.

The founders certainly did not envision a military like this. No one in American history envisioned a military like this until the at the very earliest the mid-Cold War era, though elements could be seen as early as the Korean War. it is a new phenomenon and a disturbing one. Maintaining readiness is hard, as you note, especially in strategic forces where the mission is essentially to ensure that they never do what they are trained to do. But that just makes it doubly unacceptable when the people charged with implementing doomsday display a rather unhealthy willingness to do just that.


#385

I think this is the central problem with social media, the breakdown of what should be internal vs external. I think it appropriate, necessary even, for a military to be jingoistic internally, but it’s public interface should be much more conservative


#386

That’s what bothered me, the public facing arm of Stratcom was a.little too hung ho. I would expect that leadership is more sober in regards to messaging and understanding it’s role, not acting like an 18 yr old with a chest to thump.


#387



As Charles said, it’s akin to ER doctors and nurses having someone hear their jokes they tell to keep themselves sane.

A PR blunder in some ways, but when your job is to literally end the world if needed, I’m more than willing to give you a pass on it.


#388

I still disagree I’m afraid. “Jingoism” is in and of itself a perjorative, and a quality that has no positive values. It’s plain and simple militarism, which is very different than having a “martial spirit” or a willingness to do battle or make war. It’s an acceptance of force and violence as the primary policy tool of a nation, and the willingness to use violence against anyone simply because they stand in the way. That’s not what the US military is supposed to be about. There is a very real difference between between being “gung ho” and ready to do your job, even eager to test your mettle, and believing that that there is some policy or moral imperative to use violence, or to believe in violence and war as somehow being a positive good.

A jingoistic military is what you get in a colonial imperial military of a decaying empire.


#389

I’m not. This sort of thing is not just internal banter of otherwise reasonable people accidentally made public. I think it’s a sign of a deep rot that is gutting our military from the inside out, a rot that started at the top when we pretty much gave up even trying to put a moral face on the indiscriminate use of violence as a substitute for policy, and then allowed the military rank and file to pretty much adopt whatever ideology they wanted as long as they were willing to go where they were asked and kill who they were told to. Hence we’ve gotten Christian fundamentalist commanders turning units into crusader armies, blatantly partisan political actions from active-duty military, and a general attitude widespread in the armed forces that somehow the only “real” Americans are those who are wiling and eager to blow stuff up–apparently with a strong bias towards blowing up non-white people.

Yeah, that sounds harsh, but look at the record over the past ten years or so. The US military is rotting from the top down.


#390

Wombat, do you ever talk to any active duty guys, personally?


#391

Gonna slightly agree with Timex here. Its MUCH less of that than you think there is a LOT of begrudgingly, “well okay, let’s do it then,” than you would think. The military, leadership included, is much more split, politically, than most know. There is much more contemplation of orders, especially so with leadership.

Think about it. Who is more prone to a deeper thought process to following orders, enlisted or officers? Certainly those with the income and ability to leave the military for better paying jobs.


#392

I was actually asking an honest question, although it was based on the fact that I’ve interacted with perhaps hundreds of active duty guys over the years, both enlisted and officers, in every branch of the military with the exception of the army, and what Wombat described is definitely not what I’ve encountered among those guys.

I was wondering if his impression was based upon actual first hand experience.


#393

Except there are well-known, public examples of the things he describes.


#394

Yes. In addition to working closely with the military throughout the 1980s, and then staying in touch with active duty folks afterwards through my academic activities, I grew up in a military family, have colleagues who have children in the military, and talk nearly every week with active duty folks at the gym where I go. Of course there are many who are not as I describe–it’s a big ass organization, and actually rather diverse, the US military. And anecdata isn’t going to bolster anyone’s argument much; I’ve discussed stuff with military folks who think like I do and I’ve seen far more talking in ways that make me cringe.

The rot I’m talking about permeates the senior political and military leadership of the defense establishment, and it has IMO filtered down to the lower levels by example. The problems of leadership and responsibility we have seen in the Pacific Fleet, the number of senior officers who have been found guilty of everything from personal moral misconduct to outright crimes, the documented incidents of officers encouraging or sanctioning racist, sexist, and xenophobic actions and words, it’s all part of what I see as the deterioration of the concept of actual service to the republic. In its place is being installed an almost Heinlein-like self absorption (“only the military matter because only the military does the real work of the country!”) and a replacement of what were at one time considered core American values with a shallow and mean obsession with physical destructive power as the only measure of national security and value.

It is I think the most profoundly un-American trend in our history, and a dangerous one.


#395

I quite agree. Power doesn’t change your character, it magnifies it. Like most hierarchical organizations, the military selects for aggressiveness, arrogance, ambition, and the ability to excel at political infighting; so it shouldn’t be a surprise when we discover that the top ranks are filled with aggressive, arrogant, ambitious people. Occasionally you get an Eisenhower or a Marshall or a Grant, almost by accident. Far more often, you’re going to get McClellan or MacArthur or Patton or Westmoreland or Petraeus or McChrystal, etc.


#396

And those guys act like you describe? This part here:

a rot that started at the top when we pretty much gave up even trying to put a moral face on the indiscriminate use of violence as a substitute for policy, and then allowed the military rank and file to pretty much adopt whatever ideology they wanted as long as they were willing to go where they were asked and kill who they were told to. Hence we’ve gotten Christian fundamentalist commanders turning units into crusader armies, blatantly partisan political actions from active-duty military, and a general attitude widespread in the armed forces that somehow the only “real” Americans are those who are wiling and eager to blow stuff up–apparently with a strong bias towards blowing up non-white people.

That’s how those guys you know act and behave?


#397

Some, yes. As I said, this sort of anecdotal stuff isn’t that useful. Hell, I imagine there are people who have met and get along with individual Nazis or Stalinists or ISIS types or whatever.

But yes, in casual conversation, the attitude from many of the people I talk to is pretty much as I describe, wrapped up in self-deceptive prattle about defending the country (usually, it turns out, from non-whites).


#398

Well, I can certainly see how that would give you the impression you have of the military then.

Best I can offer is that in direct interactions with tons of active duty marines, seamen, and airmen, both enlisted and officers, I’ve never encountered that kind of attitude… certainly nothing like guys turning units into christian crusaders or whatever.


#399

I ran into a few of those guys while I served. It always made me uncomfortable, but they were constrained by rules and regulations of the military. I’ve was very concerned by the Air Force Academy scandals with evangelical Christianity, though I didn’t see anything that blatant during my naval service. Most serving, officer and enlisted, were doing things for the right reasons. I don’t know if it has gotten better or worse since I left.


#400

As long as they aren’t insulting Americans, who cares? It’s not America’s job to be the “nice guys”. And all this shit about peace was invented by Communists, anyway. /s


#401

Well, this is one area where i’d be more than happy to be proven utterly wrong, because what I’ve seen has been truly disturbing. The Cold War era, my era, at least had the benefit of a strong moral aspect to our military mission and foreign policy. Yeah, the USSR was far from the stereotypical “Red octopus” and in hindsight it’s pretty clear that post-Stalin at least they were less interested in world domination than in simply holding their own shit together, but during that era we could with justification situate ourselves as the good guys moreso than not. This made it much easier to inculcate a more responsible and positive approach to the mission, as it was pretty clear that we had to “win” but not in a way that would undercut our moral position. It didn’t always work, by any means, but it was generally there.

Post 9-11, though, I think the lack of the combination of a clear-cut moral position and a clear-cut organized foe has eroded that certainty. This I blame on the civilian and high ranking military leadership, not the rank and file or even the mid-level really. It’s easy to grasp the concept of national security when you’re facing a nation like the USSR with nukes, and a world-wide military presence at a level that could give us at least a run for our money. It’s very hard to do so when your foe is a few guys with AKs and bombs living in fly-speck villages, or even a bunch of loosely-organized bandits with a big social media presence and a penchant for ultra-violence, but whose actions vis a vis the USA are more in the line of criminal activities than the military actions of a nation state.

This is a tough mission environment, to be sure. And I fault the military and defense leadership, civilian and military, for not, well, leading. Democrat and Republican, they resorted to vague generalities alternating with stereotypes and exaggerations designed to inflame and enrage rather than craft actual, you know, policies and guidance for the nation or the armed forces. It seems like a version of the old Army saying “do something, even if it’s wrong” became our sole national military strategy, and our civilian leadership seemed to forget about any other type of responses to complex world issues.

Well, twenty years down the road almost what do we have? Perpetual wars that have accomplished very little, the worst image abroad perhaps in our history, and IMO at least a military that, from the evidence we see on a too regular basis, is moving in a direction that is definitely not positive. Meanwhile, because we have not identified our essential goals and have not developed actual policies, countries like Russia can pretty much make inroads into areas we used to think were vital, and because we’ve abdicated any policy other than war, and we can’t go to war with the Russians, we’ve backed ourselves into a corner. Same thing with China. There’s zero reason to be on any sort of collision course with Beijing in terms of military conflict, and every reason to be working with them as healthy competitors and sometimes partners in reinforcing each other’s economic positions; it’s not a zero-sum game IMO, but because we seem to have no vocabulary other than a war one (trade war, etc.) there’s no room for maneuver.

It is this climate that, to me, has shaped what I perceive as the rot in the military establishment. YMMV.


#402

My perspective is the same, but it’s literally 20 years afterward. Those I know still in are career folks and probably not the type @TheWombat is describing anyway, so things very well could have changed.