Thursday, July 28, 2011

On the Response to Hating the Military

When I post things I know are offensive, I anticipate e-mail, and this time was no exception. As a rule, I don’t lift any private correspondence without permission, and frankly I don’t have anything I want to quote.

Instead, here’s the general summary, for those scoring at home: zero death threats, everyone admitted “problems” in the military, and the typical anger. So, bravo to military personnel and their wives and familie, you guys clearly beat Christians, Muslims and Jews. The level of denial and violent outrage within the military cannot compare to most religions.

Still, considering the responses I got, that’s probably the only part I really enjoyed reading.

Of all the replies I got, however, I am most grateful for Matt D.’s. I want to respond to what he said, and explain why I said what I said the way I said it. I stress “explain,” because I can’t justify my views to someone like Matt D. I make no illusions about the fact that some people will simply never see things the same way I do, but I can make an argument in a civil, reasonable fashion. Matt felt I deserve that, and I ought to return the favor.

Your broad-stroke generalizations read like the ramblings of an uninformed individual carelessly embracing their privilege.

This part sort of confused me. I’m not sure what privilege I’m embracing here. I assume the intention is the “privilege” of not having the serve in the military. Besides being “privileged” with health problems that would exclude me from service, even if there was a draft, it’s outright ridiculous to pretend the military is defending America from anything these days, but more on that later.

I have no idea what you consider justified, but I'd argue that not only does the mere presence of a strong military serve to protect the country (which should be justification enough), but the actual actions the military take (some that you wouldn't be aware of, even if you cared to educate yourself) serve this purpose, as well.

Let me throw a graph at you:


Source: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~jephrean/classweb/In%20Context.html

That was the situation around the time that we were attacked on 9/11. The idea that a large military magically deters people from harming us is primitive at best, dangerous at worst. It is our military build-up, itself, that is arguably our biggest diplomatic liability and the reason for the US being targeted on 9/11. The US has gone crazy with its meddling military actions overseas after WWII.

The Cold War and all of its proxy battles (Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, all over South and Central America, Afghanistan… where we armed the Taliban…) served only to militarize the world and increase arm sales for the US and its allies. Our policy with Israel has caused us to fund war crime after war crime, and provided all the incentive Muslim extremists need to motivate people to bring the fight to our doorstep.

In point of fact, we would be immeasurably safer if we toned our military down, way, way down. This is a point nearly everyone seems to be in agreement with… and yet that isn’t what I hear in the public forum, because everyone with actual power on both sides of the aisle kisses the ass of the military, because if they don’t, they’ll lose their job… since the military is the sacred cow in Washington.

Your case is roughly akin to someone claiming that the police don't actually do anything to protect us, and then trying to support this by pointing to selected cases of abuse.

There is always crime, there need not always be war. ’Nuff said.

Do you have some data to back this up? Can you cite any studios about the competence or character of military members? Have you actually served in a capacity where you had the opportunity to meet and evaluate these individuals to determine if they're scum bags?

Well, they seem to pollute any place where there’s a base with crime, and I guess I just took for granted that it was common knowledge, though politically incorrect to point out, that when soldiers come back, many “have trouble acclimating” and commit quite a bit of crime. Then, there’s the startling amount of abuse within the military itself that one can find if one digs for it, most of which (with the notable exception of Abu Ghraib) is ignored by the media.

Individual soldiers are not responsible for where they are deployed, but they are responsible for what they do when they get there and come back, and certainly are responsible for making the decision to enlist.

This myopic and skewed assessment of the military is absurd. While there's certainly a case to be made that some military decisions have been empire-building in their nature, that's hardly the case for all of them.

I think I quite clearly noted that there has been no serious direct threat to the US in my lifetime or the lifetime of my parents (who were born well after WWII). I don’t count 9/11, because a non-military group attacking US citizens is not a military act, nor did it call for a war that has devastated a nation and millions of innocent people, and we damn sure had no legitimate reason to use force in Iraq either time we’ve been there.

If anyone wants to take a stab at trying to justify any war after WWII, go for it (not to say there weren’t frivolous wars before that… like WWI, for example). I’m curious if there’s any support out there for the ridiculous violence we’ve been funding wordlessly for decades.

It may interest you to know that many of us who served in the past are unhappy with many of the decisions made with respect to recent military engagements - but few of us would resort to the sort of ridiculous generalizations you've made here.

What are you resorting to? It seems like a big, fat nothing. In fact, all I see is fawning over the military, which is why I feel like the military was ripe for taking a written lashing. If you want to talk about privilege, get back to me when someone in the public eye can criticize the military without getting fired (Bill Maher is better off on HBO, I guess). How American… nothing like guilting people into silencing opposition.

While I appreciate people telling me repeatedly in comments and e-mails that I have the right to say what I want (perhaps when sensing the dilemma), don’t bother to pay me lip service about how I’m free to say what I want. Say publicly what you think is wrong with the military, because if you leave it up to people who let their frustration boil over, you get… well, what I gave.

So, not being a vile murderer means you deserve a free college education and training? How did you reach that conclusion?

Plenty of first-world nations offer full-ride scholarships to all academically capable students. We could afford to make sure that college is not a barrier of entry open solely to the wealthy and a lucky few recipients of the pittance in public funding for higher education. We could afford it… if we weren’t paying criminals in uniforms to commit crimes overseas at the price of millions of dollars a day.

Also, how do you conclude that the education compensation that one receives for actually doing a job, especially a job that may put your life at risk, qualifies as "free"?

I know it’s dangerous to be a soldier, but it’s dangerous to be a tight-rope walker, that doesn’t make them heroes or worth showering with money and benefits (like health insurance) that every American should enjoy (like they enjoy in numerous countries that, again, don’t blow their budget on blowing up brown people).

Which categories am I in? Am I scum bag, a socialized mooch, a communist killer, a violent asshole who wants to be paid to kill people, a jerk-off looking for "free" college or someone who couldn't get a real job?

I don’t know you, so that’s for you to tell me. Maybe you were just dumb enough to buy into “patriotism,” but I at least assumed that most people wanted to get something out of it, like a love for the job or the financial benefits. You’re right, though, there’s plenty of other dumb reasons for joining the military. Daddy did it, daddy and grand-daddy did it, hating Muslims, want to launch a political career… there’s plenty of flimsy and sleazy reasons.

Hopefully you'll eventually recognize that you're talking about real people who don't necessarily fit ANY of the libelous labels that you toss around.

Hopefully I addressed that above.

Of course! What a brilliant idea! I had forgotten that we lived in a Utopian wonderland where we had no need to protect ourselves and our allies from aggressors. How did I miss that change? It's so simple! Let's just get rid of the military that we clearly don't need, and everything will be peachy.

We could pull out of the conflicts we are in, close our foreign military bases, and reduce to 1/5th of what we spend and still have the most expensive and technologically advanced military in the world (the second largest is China, for comparison, which spends $114.3 billion compared to the US, which spends $687.1 billion).

Without all the collateral damage from unnecessary conflicts and crime around bases in foreign lands, I would bet the image of America would increase and we’d ultimately be safer. If not, we still have easily the largest armed forces, even if we gut the military by 80%.

Fuck you. No, seriously, that's about the only response that such a statement deserves.

Fair enough.

Every now and the, for the sake of fairness (and because some people make it necessary) we do an episode of our show on "stupid atheists". We highlight people who are engaging in particularly stupid lawsuits or who are demonstrating that they don't really understand how to think critically or rationally. We point out conspiracy theory nutjobs and hate mongers and people who are advocating particularly stupid positions - either under the guise of atheism or while linking those actions to an ostensibly atheist/rational platform.

To be fair, I associate nothing having to do with atheism with this view. Though, now that you mention it, the army is a Christian fundamentalist factory, from what I hear. Maybe that’s who I should feel sorry for, atheists in the military, or Jews or Muslims or regular Christians… who still signed up to bear arms against strangers.

I wonder which one I am: a nutjob, hate monger, or the decidedly less snappy “people who are advocating particularly stupid positions…” Can I be all three? Please?

I'd add you to the list for the next show, except that it's unlikely that your remarks here could have enough impact to make it worth mentioning.

Thanks for the almost bad publicity, I think? Maybe I’ll do a post where I remark on this comment… no, definitely, I am definitely going to post a remark to this comment.

On that note, I'll request that you remove any links to the ACA or our show. You, of course, don't have to...you're free to link to whatever you like. But it'd be nice if you did.

I’m not sure I have anything linked, but if you use full names (I’m sorry I’m not “in the know” about what ACA stands for) or point to direct places where I have linked, I will remove any content you wish that originated with you or your site. Not to steal your thunder, you aren’t the first person today to tell me to stop linking to them from my blog.

So that’s about it, my favorite comment in a while. Some good points, and I appreciate once again the occasional vague admission that there are problems. Word to the wise: there’s no point in trying to shame the shameless. The emotional responses are understood, but they don’t support… whatever case people are trying to make.

What point were people trying to make again? That I’m a douche bag? Oh… tell me something I don’t know.

3 comments:

  1. My goodness; Planet Atheism was down for a day so I must have missed that post.

    I agree almost entirely with your perspective. The U.S. Military is a huge, unnecessary expense which causes problems far outweighing any benefits it brings.

    The sole problem is the "I want you all to commit suicide" bit. As a bit of wish fulfillment, it makes no sense. Those who joined thinking they were making the world a better place were naive and/or stupid, and don't deserve to be told to drop dead. On the other hand, those who were callous enough to have other motives are probably thick-skinned enough to ignore you totally. If we're going to imagine totally unrealistic scenarios anyway, let's at least stick to ones which are less bloodthirsty, like insisting on cutting the military budget by 90% before making any other cutbacks, and then insisting that every cut made elsewhere be matched, dollar for dollar, by further cuts to the military budget, until it is eliminated entirely. That won't happen, either, but it would be fun to watch the talking heads have to explain why.

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  2. The sole problem is the "I want you all to commit suicide" bit. As a bit of wish fulfillment, it makes no sense.

    It's basically only there to inflame people. Being an atheist, I don't believe in wishes (I don't even have a lamp handy).

    Those who joined thinking they were making the world a better place were naive and/or stupid, and don't deserve to be told to drop dead.

    Well, I don't think being told "I hope you kill yourself" is a particularly harsh indictment of violence in the name of ignorance. If I said it about a criminal being vilified in the news, I would get raucous calls of approval, but since they wear uniforms and people are conditioned daily to respect the military, somehow that makes me a monster.

    Weird, I specifically did not pursue my aspirations of joining the Air Force because I didn't want to be a monster. You can't win them all, I guess.

    Still, I would prefer to be a monster for free speech who criticize killers than to be a killer myself. I merely suggesting people in the military do what they were trained to do: take a life. In this case, a life they actually have a right to take.

    Thanks for commenting.

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