Friday, December 22, 2006

A Personal Exploration of Service with Views on Iraq

Well, this is going to be a lengthy section, hopefully with some cumulative value. At the conclusion I will discuss perceptions and military service in a personal way. Including some colorful history of my youth, for better or worse. Take it with a grain of salt, as my teen years were not full of exemplary character development. It begins with number one piece of mail from my esteemed sparring partner.
The Prez wants guys to volunteer for the Army!! Says he needs 20,000, or maybe 25,000, or was it 35,000..... well, some folks are saying 70,000 more troops to get 'Victory' in Iraq. I'll help get the USS Missouri ready for the surrender ceremony and YOU can rush right down and join the Marines! Hell, I mean, they're taking guys clear up to age 42.... I mean, gee, don't you want to fight for your country??? Red-blooded, patriotic, god-fearing guys ready to DIE for America? or or maybe just a disabling wound arm or leg....though head wounds seem more popular these days.... Maybe those who vote for war should have to go and fight it?

My response was mild as it is the Christmas Season of love and happiness.
I would love to serve in some capacity, yet they don't want oceanographers right now.... If Al Qaida gets a few submarines, maybe the navy's blue water budget will increase... However, I think we have a all volunteer force right now, and recruiting seems to be going well. I notice that our armed forces are better educated than the average American, and come from households of higher than average income.

Heritage Foundation Report on the Military

Gee, what happened there? I thought only idiots and the poor joined up, according to you leftists.

Who are you so desperate to surrender too? Idiotic. Did you know that we were taking the heaviest casualties in WW2 at the end? Your peacenik philosophy wouldn't have even gotten us to '44, let alone success. I bet the press of today transplanted to that generation would have sluffed off Pearl Harbor by '44 and ran around calling for peace "...'cause we will never take the Japanese mainland and too many people have died." In fact, they probably would have figured out that we really already lost the war completely by the Battle of Midway. As it stands in this day and age, they have confused dissent with disloyalty, leading to a Anti-American mindset. Stupid and self destructive.

As to serving, it would be great. I know doctors who have gone in, and gotten pretty good deals, loans payed off, competing pay grades. But I would literally have to declare bankruptcy if I joined the Marines! It would be fun to be a analyst as well, but I haven't any of the languages or politics in my CV. So that leaves DOD stuff, which may happen anyhow, but it isn't exactly combat. Later on, if given the opportunity, I could teach at Monterrey (NPGS), that would be interesting. But again, they aren't very interested in blue water science right now. The real threat is all in coastal stuff. Now, if the Chinese keep growing, maybe they could field some boomers, then the money will come back. Anyhow, if we were in dire straights I wouldn't have any problem hitching up, but I don't think the situation is as reported by your ilk. And to continually harp on those who "voted for the war", is just a sign of your sides failure to provide any solutions at all. Total ignorance. Total politics. Total BS.

Ok, so maybe it was slightly provocative, but you must admit, very low on the 'inflamimeter' (a device yet to be invented). Reading my response again now, I do sense a bit of duckedness in the explanation of why I am not running down to the recruiter, but they have other standards besides those stated. Things like age and fitness... Anyhow, here is the next bit in the saga:
A most amazing response!
I can see the lads at Lexington and Concord: 'Well, offer me a good deal. The GI bill, pay off my loans, give me a commission" How about, I'm here to defend Liberty and Freedom! You want a reward to defend your country?! You sound like a corporation that wants war time profits! If you REALLY believe in the war against Iraq, then join up and FIGHT! Become a rifleman in a USMC platoon. Get out on the front line and take the risks along with the rest of the guys. If, on the other hand, all this is baloney; the cause just doesn't mean that much; you're willing to let 'someone else' do the fighting, bleeding and dieing, well, that's a different story ain't it. Thomas Paine was right, The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this time of crisis shirk from the service of his county....

Ah, the accusation of surrender. Thought we had settled that yesterday with the Edward R. Murrow quote. You people always equate dissent with disloyalty and disagreement with surrender. It ain't so. I argue that the dissenters, as we were in Vietnam, the truer patriots because we are trying to save our country from making a huge mistake. We were LIED to about Iraq. No WMD's, no threats, no connection to September 11, and no terrorists (until WE bought them there). But George and Dick keep trying to make the link that isn't there. So, why ARE we in Iraq? The answer to that has changed several times over the past four years. George just keeps making things up as he goes along, lie after lie after lie. You people will have to face the facts at some point; 80% of the rest of us already have. There is NO reason to be in Iraq. George and his cronies lied to us and created a monstrous mess, and every day and everything he does just makes it worse. This is not a glorious cause leading us to victory over those who have attacked us. It is a lie. From beginning to end, a lie. Saddam had no WMD's, was not a threat, had no nuclear weapons program, was not making chemicals or biological weapons, did not sponsor 9/11, did not train terrorists etc etc etc. We still don't REALLY KNOW why George lead us into this war, but we do know that it has nothing to do with 'terrorism'. The war on terror, such as that is, is being lost in Afghanistan and across the world because the US is not meaningfully engaged in it.

And, you don't have to worry about how I'm reporting the war. Read the Commission report, authored by Republicans. Read the briefings from the Pentagon, authored by the generals that are there! Take a look at the actual events that are taking place in Iraq; what's the trend in civilian deaths? What's the trend in US military dead and wounded? What's the trend in security and public safety? What are the Iraq people themselves doing? (Those who can are fleeing) I don't see ANY signs of improvement in the country. The Army and Police are militias of the various sides, the politicians are corrupt and the money we send is wasted.

Now, about solutions. First, of course, it's up to those who are actually pursuing the war to come up with alternatives to a failed policy. As George keeps saying, he's 'the decider', or, more to the point, the commander-in-chief. Second, those people WERE warned that their policy would not work. And it didn't. Third, as the reception of the Study Group shows, George WILL NOT listen to any alternative policy. All he can comprehend is Stay the Course, and Victory. That just digs us in deeper. And he keeps offering up the 'lie of the week'. Fourth, alternative polices have been offered. Listen to Biden, Powell, the Joint Chiefs, the State Department, the Commission and on and on.

I'm afraid that the end, which will come before summer is out, is most likely to be a Stalingrad on the Tigris. We'll put in tens of thousands of troops into the urban area, who will stumble all over each other and accomplish nothing except providing more targets, because there is NO PLAN. Then the tipping point will be reached when the Iraqi government collapses into a failed state. Our supply lines are cut. The airport is under constant rocket and mortar attack. And provisions begin to run low. Tens of thousands of Iraqis begin to overrun the Green Zone. In such close quarters air power is useless. An American Stalingrad. Panic ensues. Defeat looms.

Well, that was fascinating. The "American Stalingrad"? What a amazing world peaceniks live in. So deep in the fertile imagination, so shallow in reality. I digress for a moment, so back to the beginning. First we must squash this idiotic notion about personally fighting a war you support. What ignorant emotional swamp gas. I will quote again, "If you REALLY believe in the war against Iraq, then join up and FIGHT!" Huh? This is a nation we are discussing, not a feudal state. I can fully support the war, fully support the politicians who will decide on fighting a enemy that threatens some of the foundations of our Republic. I have the freedom in this country to pursue virtually any law abiding lifestyle I want, thanks to many amazing giants of men who went before, some sacrificing everything so that I have that opportunity. If the country were to engage in a critical fight where the number of men in the military was a question, I would gladly join if I could be of use. If they instituted a draft, and I were eligible, I would again join before being drafted, even if the fight was not one that I personally felt worthy.

This attitude is something I arrived at in my twenties. If in my teens I would have had the same attitude, I would have certainly joined the military. But, during some of my formative years, I had a far different view of the military. In my household was very strong 60's antiwar sentiment, and some disdainful attitudes towards the commander and chief Ronald Regan. In turn, I was impressed with a similar disdain, yet unestablished by my own critical thinking. This brings me to a seminal moment which some may find entertaining.

Though my attitude toward the military at the time was quite cynical due to parental influence, it was also one of fascination with military history from the same influence. This is not unexpected for many liberals, who seem to disconnect the present history from glorification of the past. Clearly a function of Vietnam's influence, whether justified or not. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind was a growing concern that the past and present were not dissimilar, yet my maturity in placing the present in context was minimal. I was a self centered, emotionally and intellectually isolated individual. Yet there was within that a spark of interest in military service, a spark dimmed by the lack of compulsion or personal conviction.

At that time it was compulsory in my high school to participate in the ASVAB, which I did. My scores were not unexpectedly off the chart, except in one category. I scored a 86 on the clerical section of the exam. Unaware at the time that my ADHD probably hindered my performance in that section. In fact, I didn't even know there was a clerical component, and found it frustratingly amusing. Needless to say, recruiters were quite interested in discussing my future (albeit not as a desk clerk...). I accepted a invitation from the naval recruiters on a whim and went to visit. I remember my heart at the time was bitter. I had much hidden resentment and spite, which was looking for a outlet.

At this meeting I quickly narrowed down the possibilities to one thing I actually had desired in dreams of the future. Aviation had been in my families history from WWII, and I figured that would be exciting to explore. But, I have very poor eyesight... Its completely corrected by contacts or glasses, yet far outside a acceptable range for military aviation. No pilot for me, no copilot, no hands on the controls... No excitement for my teen self. So I got what I wanted, self pity and broken dreams. Then the unconscious plan floated to the surface, the plan of ensuring failure to insulate myself from not living up to or even attempting to meet high expectations (a common theme in my early days). I steered the question rapidly towards the 80's recruiting guidelines on prior drug use. Of course I had already done my homework, so you could say it was 'lock and load' time.

A prospect during this period could easily and knowingly 'lie' on the record when signing up. It was a unwritten guideline for recruiters to explain to their young eager plebes that 'no' could mean 'I don't recall at this time', or some such thing. They wanted real honesty in the verbal interview so as to gage a bit of your character, but for the record it needed to be clean. Tough sell in the town I grew up in as drug and alcohol abuse was pretty rampant. Yet for me it was more than special. I had a few questions for them about the policy. The result was quite interesting. If you had 'inhaled', maybe a few times, they were still very interested in pursuing you, yet pulled a bit of the stern 'your lucky for this opportunity' shtick. But when it came to other drug usage, the unwritten guideline obviously became null, because when I informed them about the level of my explorations with D-lysergic acid diethylamide (multiple trials over a period of years), they immediately lost the spark in their eyes. At the time I counted it a great coup d'etat, but in retrospect, it was another great opportunity that I had not the guts or discipline to recognize.

If I had enlisted, I would have still been in at the start of the Gulf War. A couple of decades can sure put things in strange light. This brings us back to the topic of the current conflict. What is a reasonable estimate of how long we will be fighting Islamofascists? Twenty years? Forty? What constitutes this crisis today? Is the military in a recruitment crisis? No. Are we currently engaged in heavy combat? No. Should patriotically minded men in the desirable age group 18-25 consider military service? Certainly, I would in such circumstance. Single and 18 would be a no brainer. Married and 25, you could both consider it a noble sacrifice. Easy to make that choice. Yet either one can be just as patriotic in pursuing other interests. There is no crunch for volunteers at this time.

Ignorant critics disdain those who do not agree with their political position, and impugn the personal choices of political opponents. This is just a lack of civility and character. The same people will give any pass to members of their own persuasion without flinching, clearly exposing the guttural partisan nature of the attacks. For instance in the above letter concerning personal service for a cause individually supported, there is a doubling back to denigrate the cause itself, as if anyone who supports the war actions of their government should make all effort to do so personaly in a military manner, and if the individual is not willing to do so, the cause is clearly not worth it. What elite tripe. It's the lowest form of persuasion, and supremely ineffective.

Far more odious is the use of a great Patriot like Paine to impugn the motives of those who do support Americas military, both its members and its mission. How short sighted to not make the real comparison between the contexts of the American Revolution and the emergence of a free and democratic Iraq. I can quote Paine a bit as well, just a few lines from his exhortation to support the Revolutionary Army, "Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered..." Contemplate with that in mind, whether this brilliant man would be in support of our effort in Iraq at this time. Do we need more convincing? Ok, how about "Heaven knows how to set a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated." Are you kidding me? Looks like he was a God fearing Christian man as well. Clearly a Bush supporter!

This pretty well negates the simian argument against being in Iraq. If freedom is of the most noble efforts, who needs WMD? I jest in part, but scoff at the fever swamp who can not see the any threat that does not serve their political purpose. Furthermore, I reject the insolent leftist poll quoters who will not ask the simple question, "Do you want Iraq to be a free, successful democracy?" In similar fashion, the reporting falls in step. No objective analysis paints a rosy picture, yet that same picture is very far from defeat. Certainly things could become much worse, yet even in that we would be ahead in the strategic picture. No where near the defeatist collapse eagerly hoped for by peacenik leftists.

That collapse is the solution for the left. The illicit thrill hoped for, like a necrophiliac visiting the morgue, the left excites at the prospect of defeat for Bush. "Cut and run, screw the Iraqis, bless the little pointy heads of the Islamofascist supporters of the Democratic party." What a mantra. No matter what the outcome, history will not be kind to the nutters. American Stalingrad indeed. More vile NAZI metaphor from the party of peace. What will it take for the scales to fall?

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