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William Astore
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Sunday 5 February 2012
“Iran is supposedly an incipient nuclear terrorist; defined as such, the preferred solution for our nation of military enthusiasts is decapitation by kinetic action.”

The Peril of Idolizing Our Military

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Photo: DuncanLong.com

Do you believe with President Obama that our military today constitutes a "generation of heroes" and that their teamwork and courage in battle show us the proper path forward in civilian life? Do you believe that the deadly effectiveness of the Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden should inspire us to put aside differences in politics and to work together as a people?

As a retired veteran, such pro-military rhetoric in the president's state of the union address resonates with me, but as a student of history it makes me more than uncomfortable. In democratic societies, armed forces are funded and fielded to preserve liberties, not to provide templates for personal and societal behavior.

When civil aspirations are guided by and defined within military matrices, one gets the Iraq war of yesterday, the Afghan war of today, and the Iran (or Syria or insert-new-terrorist-nation here) war of tomorrow. Forever war is indeed the price for a nation that glorifies its military as the very best of its people and their ideals.

The kinetic (killing) competency of our military is certainly impressive, yet it's a competency that we must use judiciously and with restraint. When we elevate it as an example of "I've got your back" teamwork that all should be emulating, we tend to devalue diplomacy and the level of patience and perspective our country needs to display in an increasingly turbulent world.

Our dedicated military and its matchless strength should afford us the luxury of being patient and of keeping threats in perspective. But our unbridled extolment of the military -- our deeply personal investment in its power and methods as pointing the way forward in all walks of life -- encourages us instead to deploy our armed forces time and time again. We act impatiently, injudiciously, against threats we often exaggerate.

Iran is the latest such threat that has the drums of war beating. Iran is supposedly an incipient nuclear terrorist; defined as such, the preferred solution for our nation of military enthusiasts is decapitation by kinetic action.

But is the solution really that simple? Past events suggest otherwise. Military enthusiasts like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld believed they could torture and kill their way out of the war on terror. They embarked on a deadly game of "Whac-A-Mole" with results as frustrating as that game. After criticizing them for this, the Obama Administration joined them. Like Michael Corleone in the Godfather saga, we keep whacking our enemies, yet a state of war and terror drags on, insidiously warping our nation's core beliefs and freedoms.

If we continue to focus on whacking terrorists (or terroristic nations), we suppress any chance of charting a less violent, less terrifying, course. Like Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part III, just when we think we're out of the war on terror, they'll pull us back in.

What we won't recognize is that the "they" doing the pulling will be us. We won't recognize it because we've invested so much of our national hopes and dreams into the killing abilities of our armed forces.

Yet however much we admire their competence in war, we must not allow that competence to inform our attitudes and aspirations for civil society. For when warriors become the civil elite, the role models par excellence, democracy is imperiled.

Professor Astore writes regularly for TomDispatch.com and can be reached at wjastore@gmail.com.



When Money is God, children

When Money is God, children die.When Truth is God, children live. As long as we have so-called leaders fleeing Truth in a dead-run, salivating, wild-eyed terror, we will continue to slaughter children for profit. The excrement on this planet that has the audacity to call itself leadership simply does not have the guts to actually lead.

Pride cannot exist without

Pride cannot exist without its shadow, shame. Build pride and you build shame. The same rhetoric that lauds the military's heroics marginalizes and exacerbates the tide of suicides, mental illness, moral decay, violent crime, domestic violence, divorce, substance abuse, and homelessness among those who still are or have been in the military. The machine called the military has become ever more terrifying; many of the individuals who serve that machine are fighting for their lives both over there and here at home. To lump the two together paves the way for egregious oversights. The latter--the men and women who serve--are like the canaries in the mine shaft; they'll let you know about the health of that mine shaft even as the shaft stays silent as if blaming the bird for its own death.

I dunno, what the heck, who

I dunno, what the heck, who cares? Thanks to the constant, ceaseless chanting of the media and conservatives that anyone and everyone who agrees to go somewhere, anywhere, overseas and terrorize and kill men, women, and children they know nothing about, in places they know nothing about, for reasons they know nothing about (and are too stupid or evil to bother wondering) - is a "hero", the word now means nothing. Zip. Nada. It is as meaningful as "wholesome" (what does that mean, exactly? The whole thing? It means nothing. It's advertising BS). So, sure, let them keep the word "hero", they can use it liberally (irony intended) with the word "patriot" and all the other words they have rendered meaningless. Those of us who are more sentient than they must simply stop using those words, find new ones, and make sure our kids understand the concepts of propaganda and meaningless and manipulative words.

Thank you Mr. Astore for your

Thank you Mr. Astore for your concise and honest and courageous reminders of the faux veil of patriotism that our militaristic sentimentality promotes. And our current president's thrall of the military establishment that reveals his almost childish worship of military force as a solution. He who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and spoke of war as peace. Astonishing times. May your voice endure and be heard.

Which might come first --

Which might come first -- that America scale down its expansionist militarism worldwide, or that its corporate interests reduce their high-finance-tandemed drives?

Maybe the only way to answer this is to ask when U.S. "higher" ed might ever reform, so all its silo departments, all conceits of depersonalized specialization, and all top-heavy admin don't ever combine to ape and model corporate habits.

Another great article with

Another great article with insight that has brought me to a realization... as our nation crumbles in all other possible ways, the citizens cling to the illusion of power and control our military prowess in the world seems to afford us. The reality is that the individual liberties our nation's constitution valued at its inception have slipped away in inverse proportion to the war image we have sought to portray. People in the US no longer have representative government. The wealthy elite and multi-national corporations have control of all rule-making bodies including the current mafia called the Supreme Court. What is to become of us if we cannot turn back to a sane and reasonable leadership? Is this the beginning of our own 'Spring'? I think yes, and I am in agreement with changing course rapidly.

....models par excellence,

....models par excellence, hmm..Plato said something about that subject..okay, then with all this excellence why the need to grow and feed mercenary armies at home and God only knows where?

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