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Friday, June 27, 2003

Military Tradition

Kos has an interesting post up today about the military and it’s political leanings. He says:

First of all, most military people I served with (and I was in a combat arms unit -- artillery) were apolitical. I served overseas, so perhaps the hassle of voting absentee made people less likely to participate, but in any case most people didn't bother voting.

Of those who did vote, there were three blocs -- the officer corps, which was very Republican, the southern gun-culture whites, who were also Republican, and the northern whites, all African-Americans, and all Latinos, who were Democrats.

But there's a shift -- an important one -- amongst the top military brass. These are men and women who appreciate the social benefits bestowed upon our servicemembers -- benefits like housing and food and an aggressive affirmative action program that ensures we maintain the best trained, highest morale fighting force in the world. They do not appreciate GOP efforts to curtail such programs in the "real" world.


Generals Shinseki and Clark are the highest profile examples of this new outspoken breed of left-leaning top brass, but they are not alone.

I think the reason why the officer corps might be moving toward the Democrats is that, aside from the fact that, as Kos says, they are, “sick and tired of constant deployment, and see the damage that perpetual (and unnecessary) war causes with troop morale, reenlistment rates, and the general well-being of their troops,” they are also an inherently conservative group.

Their belief system requires a fealty to tradition, rules and personal honor. They might not be entirely happy with civilian cultural norms, but they have respect for the democratic system and over time they have come to accept the necessity for diversity and cultural change as part of their own military tradition. Along with a large part of the country and the world, the American military recognizes that a commitment to racial and gender equality and an appreciation for basic social services and educational opportunity is no longer an experiment in social change but an accepted bedrock conservative value --- a just and honorable tradition, made from well over half a century of successful implementation.

What is not a conservative value is dishonest, PR-style, opaque communication and lack of accountability. The military does not function well in a system of swirling, circular logic and post-modern cognitive relativism. The “War Show” is not Reality TV to these guys. It’s just plain old reality.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that you would see quite a few in the military being very disconcerted by what the modern Republican party is becoming. These are people who are actually conservative --- and the Republican Party just isn’t. They are radicals.

Kos points out an editorial in the The Army Times (subscriber only) that begins like this:

Nothing but lip service
(Issue Date: June 30, 2003)

In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap -- and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately.

This is a case where no amount of spinning and plausible deniability can deny to any individual service member that they are personally getting screwed.

I agree with Kos that this is an exceptionally good issue for the Democrats. I can’t imagine that Americans really believe that it is patriotic to give tax cuts to millionaires while failing to adequately provide for these guys and their families. If the citizens of this country do not find that kind of trade-off offensive, particularly when the President assumes the mantle of military leader as if he’s Ike and Black Jack Pershing rolled into one, then we are so far gone in delusional, irrational thinking that it may just be hopeless.