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Hey, They Knew the Risks

June 21st, 2008 · 18 Comments

One of Sullivan’s readers writes:

I’m afraid that commercial is based on a lie, and a lie the left frequently tries to propagate.  It is the lie that politicians “make” people go to war. The United States military is a VOLUNTEER force. When Alex becomes an adult and therefore eligible to join the army, it will be his CHOICE to join the army, not John McCain’s or his mother’s.  So unless we have a draft instituted, it will be completely up to him whether or not to go to Iraq as a member of the U.S. military.  And since the whole premise of the commercial is that a John McCain presidency will continue the “occupation” of Iraq for the next 100 years, Alex will be fully aware of the consequences of his choice when he comes of age.

This is, I suppose, one of the perils of a volunteer force, but scratch the surface a bit to see precisely how ugly and desperate this argument is. People who join the military, of course, surrender a great deal autonomy to their superior officers and, ultimately, their commander in chief. It should be obvious why this is necessary for them to serve effectively, but it should be seen as part of a bargain that comes with a profound obligation not to abuse the enormous trust the enlisted must place in the political leadership by sending them into battle, or keeping them in the field, except when victory is achievable and the cause is vital. You can’t just brush away concerns about whether our leaders are taking their end of the deal sufficiently seriously, or exercising that trust with sound judgement, by suggesting that the troops deserve whatever they get because, hey, they signed up. This is the Animal House theory of military leadership: “You fucked up! You trusted us!”

Tags: War



18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sam McManus // Jun 21, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Do we really want to propagate the idea that if you don’t want to fight in bullshit wars, you shouldn’t join our military? And people talk about a recruiting problem.

  • 2 southpaw // Jun 21, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    And it’s not like this doesn’t exist:


    I’m sure John McCain would never even consider the draft, though. Right?

  • 3 southpaw // Jun 21, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Oops, here’s a proper link: Selective Service System

    Really, it does exist; I swear.

  • 4 Chuchundra // Jun 21, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    There are plenty of soldiers over in Iraq who, while they did at one time sign on the dotted line, certainly never signed up for this. How many National Guard and Reserve members thought they’d be deployed on multiple year+ long missions? What about those who served their agreed upon term and have been pulled back into the service off IRR. We could also mention those who have served their stint but can’t get out due to stop loss. We could also mention soldiers who’ve been injured and are unable to fight, but are sent back in “non-combat roles” because they Army is short of bodies, Last, and certainly not least, even those who signed up and who wanted to serve in Iraq deserve their full two years home before being deployed again. These days, they’re not even getting one year.

  • 5 Micha Ghertner // Jun 21, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    I agree with you, but I also agree with Herbert Spencer:

    “When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.”

  • 6 jwh // Jun 21, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Boy, based on some of your comments above, I think this county might’ve been better off if some of you had been in the WTC on Sep 11th……

  • 7 Micha Ghertner // Jun 21, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Giuliani, is that you? Subtle.

  • 8 Professor Coldheart // Jun 23, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Was that a “Boy” as expletive (a la “boy howdy!”) or a “Boy” as direct address (a la the Tuscaloosa highway patrolman leaning on your driver’s side door)?

  • 9 Aaron Haspel // Jun 23, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Isn’t there some kind of Internet rule against Animal House references in consecutive blog posts?

  • 10 southpaw // Jun 23, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Isn’t there some kind of Internet rule against Animal House references in consecutive blog posts?

    There emphatically is not.

  • 11 Josh // Jun 23, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
    We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
    Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
    The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
    But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
    An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

  • 12 Girbik // Jun 23, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Excepting IRR, stop loss muldoons, and natty guardsmen – not many left in today’s AVF can claim that they were duped into joining or didn’t sign on for the bullshit occupation of Iraq. I can understand doing one tour or two, but folks on their third tour or lower enlistees who’ve recently signed on knew what they were getting into – and don’t deserve the pity. Again, you can make an exception for a small number of stop loss victims (and after one tour these folks had ample opportunity to separate), and some guard guys and IRR folks, but a very large majority of our heroes in uniform are in fact quite ignorant and more than willing to go over and lord it over the sand people. Many really do think that they’re hunting terrorists and keeping the homeland safe via their rotations through Iraq. Try stopping today’s Joe Knucklehead and explain to him that you support him but not the mission, and he’ll likely encourage you to support the mission, for reasons that are pretty retarded (officers and enlistees are overwhelmingly conservative and supportive of W). So save your pity. The next time you see a young soldier or officer in an airport and feel inclined to buy him a beer or give him a pat on the back – please don’t. Remember that these guys are getting huge retention incentives and even the CPTs are getting incentive pay to stay in. See them for what they are – hired guns. They’re a cheaper date than the Blackwater and Lloyd Owen International mercs and more expensive than the local national Iraqi security forces and IP’s, but they’re all the same. And just like the mercs and the locals, chances are they’ve done some shitty things while over there and they don’t deserve your pity or your respect.

  • 13 Girbik // Jun 23, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    And one more thing – please cut the weird soldier worship stuff. I can understand that many on both the left and right who’ve never served in the military or lived near an installation have an overly romantic notion about those who serve. But it really is misplaced, and when you absolve soldiers and Marines of any and all responsibility for their actions in theatre and injuries sustained in Iraq it only encourages more to sign up. Remember, signing up for “respect” is a huge motivator for many who join. And while some figure that even though the war is unpopular, they figure correctly that they’ll still get the hero treatment when they return – because they’re just gunslingers after all, and can’t be bothered with the burden of having to consider what’s right and what isn’t. I’m not calling for folks to start spitting on soldiers, but they’re an integral part of the mess that Iraq has become. The blame doesn’t all rest on the shoulders of general grade officers and their political masters. The kid who spends a year kicking in doors and terrifying Iraqi families in pursuit of insurgents (usually on the most specious of intel or during large sweeps), and then signs up for more is just as responsible. The kid who knows that this war is unjust and makes no sense, but signs up nonetheless for the pay and adventure, is just as responsible. The young officer who sees job security and an an easy promotion in his future (as well as a 35K retention bonus), and ignores what’s going on around him and goes back for more is just as responsible. Once you start assigning some responsibility to these people and stop stumbling over yourselves to demonstrate how much you support, pity, and respect them you’ll hopefully see a real recruiting and retention bind, which will contribute more to bringing this thing to a close.

    By giving soldiers and junior officers a pass you’re engaging in a mild form of soldier worship, enabling the continued occupation of Iraq, and nurturing American militarism.

  • 14 Josh // Jun 24, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Well, thankfully Girbik’s hands are clean. I can sleep peacefully tonight.

  • 15 Sam McManus // Jun 24, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Girbik: How about feeling bad for mixed up 19-year-olds in life-and-death situations, is that allowed? Jerk. My brother, for instance. He signed up for the Marine Corps’ Delayed Entry Program 7 months before the invasion of Iraq, when Afghanistan was the bigger war; he left the day of the invasion. He was 17 on September 11th, and we happened to be living 20 minutes outside of New York City in a Jersey suburb. I could see the smoke from the towers from my school bus. Our television got knocked out. It was frightening and disorienting. My brother joined the military thinking that he would be fighting the people who just attacked his country in a very clear way, which is IMHO a fairly noble thing to do, but he ended up serving for 8 months in Iraq, and never saw Afghanistan. To say that everyone at this point in the military is there because they want to be is patently false. They can recall you for 4 years (discounting basic training time) after your 4 year deployment is up. It’s only 2008. I bet a lot of people in Iraq right now were post-9/11 recruits, people who thought they would be throwing their weight behind a decent cause. To say that to be fighting in Iraq is to approve of the Iraq War is incredibly silly.

    We don’t want to disassemble the American War Machine, at least not the whole way. We need soldiers, we need guns, we need tanks, if only because something MIGHT happen. We just don’t want those soldiers and guns and tanks to be blowing things up just for the hell of it, the decision to do which is almost entirely in the hands of senior officers.

  • 16 Dave W. // Jun 25, 2008 at 3:28 am

    Do we really want to propagate the idea that if you don’t want to fight in bullshit wars, you shouldn’t join our military?

    y. teach your children well.

  • 17 Jason // Jun 27, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    And on the 7th day the Lord said “Heed thee, the morals of Girbik”

    Just by chance Girbik, have you stopped paying taxes? Your tax dollars are allowing us to have heroes to worship. Makes you accountable as well.

  • 18 Jeri P // May 21, 2009 at 12:12 am

    The REAL heroes in this country are the ones who go unnoticed. The nurses who devote their entire LIVES to taking care of children in cancer wards. Do we ever see people saluting these nurses? Do we ever have a big ol’ parade honoring them? NO!

    And what about our school teachers who help shape our children into intelligent adults? Where’s their parade? Are they not important enought to be considered heroes?

    Or the farmers who put food on your table? Where’s their medal?

    THESE are real heroes. But these are the heroes that go unnoticed. That fall by the wayside. No one honors them. The ones that are honored as “heroes” are the ones who VOLUNTARILY sign-up to join the military.

    Just because one wears camo and totes a gun, doesn’t make that person a hero.

    Maybe it’s time that the rest of us get our own parade. After all, the military may be “protecting” our country, but some of us are feeding our country! Think about THAT the next time you shovel some food in your mouth