Part of the reality of being retired from the armed forces is that we gray hairs sometimes belittle those who followed us as being soft. Our generation had it tougher than the youngsters (not confined to a single generation, I’m sure Cold Warriors would be called “pussies” by those who fought the Nazis). More than once I’ve read complaints from my fellow veterans that kids today wouldn’t know a real conflict if it snuck up and shoved a bayonet up their ass.
I do my utmost not to echo these sentiments. Sadly, I’m not always successful. I’ll admit, the “cranky-old-man” vibe is often irresistible when I see Sailors (in camouflage uniforms-I’ll never get used to that) strolling through the local mall glued to their smartphones while holding a cup of kiwi frozen yogurt. Why, “back in my day” we wouldn’t have been caught dead doing that.
Never mind that smartphones weren’t invented until after I retired.
I wonder how the military would do if they were ever called upon to confront an existential threat. I’m not talking about bullshit gender wars or the fiction of widespread extremism. And don’t get me started about troops sporting face diapers. No, I’m talking about an Iranian submarine that decides to slam a few torpedoes into an aircraft carrier.
Would they blanch at the thought of risking life and limb to defend some ridiculously outmoded idea of freedom? Worse, would their civilian leadership not deem it a priority? Like in Vietnam, would the military be hamstrung by a geriatric dope in Washington who can’t even negotiate a flight of stairs?
While I increasingly worry about those leading them, I can’t help but admire those in the Middle East or who man our warships for months without a port visit. They’ve done admirably, so I pray we would be fine. Still, I wonder…
What would happen, for example, if China finally decided to invade Taiwan?
Speaking of “leadership”…
It is clear to any student of history that there are many parallels between the decay of the Roman Empire and the arguable decay of the United States.
In fact, many of these similarities are so clear that they could easily form the backbone of a Middle School research paper. Moral decline, military disasters, a tax burden spread on a decreasing tax base, “bread and circuses,” devaluation of the currency, deterioration of what it meant to actually be a Roman, and so on were all low-hanging fruit. When juxtaposed against American society in the 21st Century, the comparison is apt.
Trust me, when I was in Middle School (we called it Junior High School back then), I wrote such a paper. My history teacher, while giving me high marks, no doubt thought to himself, “Yeah, well, that’s obvious. But, he’s only in 9th grade, after all.”
Whenever the topic would come up, though, I always argued that the biggest difference between Rome and the United States was that the emperors counted on support of the legions. To them, the military was their own personal branch of government. True, some emperors were ousted by the army, but they fell at the hands of another man who used his legions as his own enforcers.
Not so in the United States, I maintained. The American military had since its inception been apolitical. The military swore an oath to support the Constitution. Not some emperor. Or president.
So, it is with that in mind that I find Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s mandate that the U.S. military conduct a 60-day standdown to root out “extremism” most disturbing. Of course, if there were widespread extremism and hatred in the armed forces, I’d applaud this effort. If this was in response not only to events on January 6th, but to the carnage wrought by Antifa and BLM last summer, he could count on me for support.
However, it’s not so he can’t. Even more, since Austin is a Grandpa Joe appointee, yeah, I’m cynical. Is “extremist” code for “Republican?” Has upper military leadership, officer and enlisted, been assimilated into the Borg-like collective known as “wokeness?”
It seems the Pentagon is increasingly more worried about diversity, social engineering, maternity flight suits, and whether we should pay for that lieutenant who wants to cut his dick off than the real reasons for which a country even has a military: breaking things and killing people. I’m sorry if this trods upon your tender sensitivities. Good time rock and roll touchy feely nonsense may be wonderful at Facebook or in faculty lounges, but to quote Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men, “…we live in a world with walls and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns.”
Sidebar, your honor? Jessup said “men,” but if anyone is qualified to do so when the need arises (not during post-op from a self-imposed
mutilation procedure), by all means they need to be allowed to do so.
I so desperately wish that we lived in a world where walls weren’t necessary (especially around the GD Capitol), a military wasn’t irreplaceable, or that all of mankind shared the same notions as our college campus social justice warriors or hypocrites who give a wink and a nod to these pinheads while grabbing all the power they can.
But, we don’t. There will always be barbarians at the gates. Worse, we have idealists within who would be thrilled to throw the gates wide open for them. After all, aren’t we all part of the same family?
Surely, all anyone wants is to embrace the better angels of our nature, you bigot. Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Josef Stalin, and Saddam Hussein were just misunderstood, is all.
When you concentrate on things other than why you put a weapon in the hands of young men and women in the first place, you put them in serious peril. When you become an arm of the ruling class, you put the entire country in serious peril.
Those of us who know history have seen this movie before.