To read the rest of "Our Communist Military", please click on the following links:
Yesterday, in our conclusion to “The Sobel Problem Redux”, we noted that multiple Twitterzens think that officers are roughly equal in skill to enlisted men. (If not equal, than skilled in different ways.) Which sounded to us suspiciously...
I mean, who else argues for a “by each according to his ability, to each according to his need” ethos besides communists? And what is less communist than the red-blooded American military? Yet the political values soldiers espouse--conservative, libertarian, free market--often don’t match the policies instituted by the Department of Defense. Not just don’t match; they directly contradict each other.
Don’t take our word for it, though. Rosa Brooks started a new blog on ForeignPolicy.com, “By Other Means”, with this bold first article, “Welfare State: Meet America’s socialist military.” E.J. Dionne, on The Daily Show, told Jon Stewart, “What I can’t understand is that the military itself is, in some ways, one of the most socialist institutions in our country.” (That point starts at minute 4:40):
|The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Exclusive - E.J. Dionne Extended Interview Pt. 1|
How can two (albeit liberal) opinion-makers accuse the military of socialism when it embraces conservativism? As I wrote yesterday, poll after Military Times poll shows that the military, especially its officer corps, doesn’t just lean but falls head over heels towards conservative thought. Only 12% of the military registers Democrat. When it comes to military blogs, they are either distinctly apolitical on domestic politics or rabidly conservative, with little in between.
Yet this conservative military...
- Votes for Republican candidates that hate Obamacare...but has its own universal health care system.
- Votes for politicians with NRA backing...but doesn’t let soldiers openly carry weapons on military bases.
- Venerates the free market...but subsidizes gasoline, housing and even cigarettes on military bases.
- Believes in a libertarian ethos where the government won’t push them around...but works for an organization that can tell them what to wear, how much to drink, and when to go to work (always on call).
Eric C and I don’t just want to call the military socialist or communist. We want to dive deeper into this cognitive dissonance in a new series, “Our Communist Military”, which leads us to the following ideas:
Theme 1: Hypocrisy and the conflict between ideology and life. Or philosophy and action. Or beliefs and practice. Embracing an ideology, but not living it. Political philosophies should be more than something we argue about in the op-eds pages and on blogs. Yet, this discrepancy--believing one thing but acting another--happens from the smallest units in the Army to the entire DoD as a whole...and even during deployment. While military leaders advocate and vote for a party which believes in small-government at every turn, they create a “big government” culture with “big government” solutions, steadfastly protecting the never shrinking Pentagon budget.
Either something is true or it isn’t. If you believe in an idea, but then oppose applying it, one of the following must be true: the action is wrong or the idea is wrong. For example, either the government should sponsor scientific research, which can create technological marvels (and jobs)--as it does in the DoD’s weapons procurement system--or it can’t. If it works for the Pentagon, then the government probably should support scientific research in non-military sectors.
Theme 2: We can’t have a reasonable debate about the military. In several of our posts, we will note that pro-military supporters--from military blogs to armed service associations to politicians--compete for votes by protecting the larger defense establishment from any and all criticism. Just pointing out the inconsistencies in unwavering conservative support for the military--for instance, Tricare isn’t a voucher program; it is a state-run health care system--can get one labeled a traitor, ungrateful, unpatriotic or evil.
As we mentioned yesterday, conservative pundits usually bemoan a “politically correct”, weak, self-esteem-praising American culture that “awards every child a medal.” Either our society has become too soft and politically correct, or citizens should be able to criticize the military without worrying about being labeled a “traitor”. Conservatives can’t believe in both ideals simultaneously.
Theme 3: The defense establishment can learn from libertarians and free-market capitalism, and our country can learn from the Army’s socialist policies. Eric C is an avowed liberal. I am an avowed moderate. In both cases, we agree on some points. We both agree that a properly functioning free market can inspire creativity and efficiencies. We also agree that unchecked capitalism can lead to inequality, unequal opportunities, poorly functioning societies and monopolization. In short, both libertarians and socialists have valid points. Our series will point out a lot of situations where the Army should liberalize (in a classical sense), but will also point out the amazing benefits of some socialist policies that our country should nationalize from the Army.
Because the Army definitely needs more free-market thinking. It needs the “disruptive change” that has caused such a stir on the blogosphere from Starbuck to Abu Muqawama to multiple writers on the Small Wars Journal. The army can learn from libertarians by encouraging individual initiative, rewarding personal achievement, and inspiring innovation/efficiencies from the top to bottom.
At the same time, our nation needs more socialist thinking. The Army has universal health care for all dependents because it makes for a more reliable workforce. The Army encourages education and provides generous benefits to soldiers so it can field a smarter workforce. And the Army’s incentive system (read: pay) doesn’t come close to approaching the excesses of Wall Street, while delivering similar performance.
All this leads to our most political point yet. For libertarianism and free-markets to survive--philosophies based on the idea that the free-market vastly outperforms government--they have to carve out a huge exception for national security. Instead of calmly, rationally comparing when the free-market both fails and succeeds, and when government does the same, small-government libertarians cling to their ideas lock, stock and barrel, while pretending the gigantic military/national security bureaucracy can do no wrong.
Either the Pentagon needs to drastically shrink with the rest of the government, or our society needs a calm debate over what government can and cannot do well--and a cost-benefit analysis of those decisions--but conservatives can’t have it both ways.