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Reader Kevin Barrett recently commented to dispute my last blog post about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying,

A very interesting post, but I disagree with the premise – that wars are the fault of the military.

While it is true that our military-industrial-Congressional complex promotes wars for profit’s sake, it is unfair to lay the entire blame on the military. As Tom Clancy wrote: “Every time a bullet is fired, somebody is making money.”…

The wars continue, not because of the need to protect/root-out the couple of hundred Al Qaeda in Afghanistan (a country the size of Texas), but because there is still money to be made. But this is not the military’s desire… This is the desire of those who don’t have their kids at risk in the military and who have no intention of letting taxes go up so they have to pay for the wars…

The military fails at subduing the general populace because that has never been a job the military does well. Its job is to engage and destroy the enemy (normally an organized military of a nation-state). That our military excels at…

Now, [American civilians] don’t want to pay for the military and we particularly don’t want to pay for the injured (hence, the acquiescence on sequestration for the DOD) and rationing of Veterans benefits (slow down the whole process and we won’t have to pay out so much). But we do like all the parades and halftime shows.

I wish it were as simple as “blame it on the military”, but unfortunately, it is not…

I responded to his critique (and tried to clarify my last post) below:

Baron de Rothschild once remarked, “When there’s blood in the streets, buy property.”

Kevin,

I think you you may have mistaken my point, or maybe I didn’t express it clearly enough. My stance is not “blame the military”; in fact, I suggest the exact opposite. It’d be impertinent and ridiculous for me to say “blame the military.”

What I do blame is a system — which extends from American politics to American culture — which detaches active military personnel from civil society, while also insulating citizens, to a shameful degree, from the real struggles of our men and women in uniform. This works both ways, and civilians and politicians are certainly at fault. The fact is our society does not see enough of our active duty military; and when we do, it is so often in contrived situations (like during halftime of the ballgame), where we are made to feel good ‘n’ patriotic about cheering a single veteran’s safe return home.

But our actual support for the military is abysmal. I don’t exclude myself here. We send soldiers on a string of protracted deployments, from which they eventually return to a VA that is thoroughly backlogged and utterly inefficient. And underlying these operational disgraces is a strategic program that entrenches them (and us) in conflicts that are completely open-ended. There is no victory without objectives, and our objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan are, and have been for a long time, either muddled or unattainable.

My brother-in-law is a West Point grad and Army Ranger who is currently stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado. He was awarded a Purple Heart several months ago after taking grenade shrapnel to the thigh while in Afghanistan. He’s one of the most brave, humble, and honorable guys I know. I’ve sat up long and late with him many times — and Skyped with him while he was deployed — talking about the impossibility of his unit’s task in Afghanistan. He told stories about the corruption of the local and national Afghani governments, the continued collapse of U.S. installations there, and the chaos which is filling the vacuums left by allied withdrawal.

It’s ignoble to charge men and women like him with quixotic missions — missions which we as a people neither seriously engage with nor sacrifice for, except in meaningless, vicarious gestures.

Clapping or crying at a football game doesn’t count. Thanking the uniformed soldier you see in the airport doesn’t count. Posting on a blog (like I just did) doesn’t count. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t count. Bumper stickers and flag pins don’t count.

What counts is, first, adopting sound policy so American power is used justifiably and effectively in the world; and second, making sure we have the proper care and support waiting for those brave men and women when they return home.

As I see it, we are right now failing on both those fronts.