The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Once in a Lifetime: Military Policy Edition

Posted on | April 22, 2011 | 19 Comments

by Smitty

Just a few days ago, I sketched what I think are the major points in the last century that have marked our national course to ruin. Among the major inputs to the whole dog’s breakfast we face is military policy. Now, I grew up a Navy brat, enlisted in the Navy, took a commission, and am currently deployed on active duty. Thus, badmouthing anybody or any operation in detail would be rude. Nevertheless, I’d be a less effective supporter and defender of the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic if I neglected to pass along some points to ponder.

This post was prompted by That Mr. G. Guy, who writes:

Back when I served, it was thought that Military service was a good thing. You gained confidence, learned a possible career, and qualified for money for college when your enlistment was up. I don’t really know what to tell a young person now about joining the “service.”

He is reacting to Phoebe’s Detention Room, which featured a lengthy meditation on Military vs. Military Action.

The whole discussion started with a 16 yr old boy, who is an online friend of mine, decided he wanted to join the military when he was old enough, great, sounds good, another online friend of mine responded by asking him if he was sure that’s what he wanted to do and basically asked him to think long and hard about it. She also went on to talk about how Congress and the President are the ones who decided to send these young men to war to kill and/or be killed and talked about the long term psychological impact that killing someone would have on him.

This started a firestorm of anti American sentiment towards her and essentially demonizing her for daring to speak of the govts agenda with regards to the military. One person actually said, and I quote, “Young men and women do not set policy, they protect your freedoms.” My friend already said that it’s not the “young men and women” who set policy but govt does but when he went on to add “they protect your freedoms” that sorta stuck in my craw.

I think the confusion on what our military is used for lies in the question, how do you serve when your oath to both the Constitution and the President conflict. I know many people, including vets, that are conflicted when the President unconstitutionally orders the military into conflict and they are sworn to uphold the Constitution and the orders of the President, sometimes it’s not possible to do both so which one supersedes? Obviously the answer to that is the President so where does that leave the constitution?

This line of questioning gets at the heart of these States United, and how to think about the current crisis. Some points:

  • The Constitution is a minimalist document. That leaves quite a bit of room for interpretation.
  • The military is the original federal financial football. From the Booklist review at the link:

    Toll’s history of the U.S. Navy’s formative decades, from the mid-1790s to the War of 1812, rounds out affairs by anchoring the nascent navy to its financial supports. Navies are not inexpensive, and the costs of building and maintaining ships appear lightly but persistently in Toll’s narrative. It centers on the first vessels purpose-built for the navy, the half-dozen frigates of which the USS Constitution moored in Boston today is the last survivor. Besides money, their construction involved politics; the Federalists favored the naval program (creating the Department of the Navy in 1798), while Jefferson’s parsimonious Republicans were more diffident.

  • Notwithstanding the Great White Fleet, there just wasn’t much peacetime military activity until the National Security Act of 1947. Consider Billy Mitchell’s mixed results in getting an Air Force going, even after WWI. Before the era of Team America: World Police (TAWP), there just wasn’t any tradition of putting piles of cash into standing military forces.

That is the crux of the matter in front of us, as individuals, e.g. Phoebe’s friend, and as a country. TAWP. The Progressive State of America. Can we afford them? Some of the strongest GOP names think that TAWP is a good idea:

But foreign policy is Rubio’s calling. He relishes his spot on the Foreign Relations Committee, where he has been tapped to be a ranking subcommittee member. His portfolio focuses on the Western Hemisphere, building relationships with neighbors on trade and terrorism. His work from that post is piled about the room.

“There is no replacement for America in the world,” Rubio says. “If America withdraws from the world stage, it will create a vacuum, and that vacuum will not be filled by someone better than us.”

True, Senator, but if the US economy simply cracks up, that vacuum will occur, and it will indeed suck.
The bulk of conservatives love to pile on Ron Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy ideas. As I’ve briefly tried to show above, Paul is playing the classic American card. As much as conservatives love to fling poo at the Progressive State of America for trashing traditional constitutionalism and selling us into debt slavery, TAWP is a highly progressive approach. That’s the historical argument as I see it.
Allow me to suggest that a good operating point will be found between Paul and Rubio’s viewpoints. Somewhere. National defense is a proper Federal constitutional task, and the best defense is still a good offense. Has the past decade of serious nation building delivered results? You be the judge. We’ve laid down a few acorns. Whether there are oak forests, or Iraq and Afghanistan are stumped in a couple of decades is simply out of our hands.
How does TAWP interact with the notion of separation of powers in the Constitution? Poorly, I’d argue, since the War Powers Resolution of 1973. I mean, since Eisenhower begat the military-industrial complex, we’ve had a solution that must needs have a problem. And there are legitimate earthquakes (Haiti), floods (Pakistan), tsunamis (Indonesia) and nuclear meltdowns (Japan) aplenty, just to recall the last couple of years. Oh, and Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, with their various justifications.
Should a young person offer up a few of their best years to support all this? My personal recruiting pitch to American youth is that they should strongly consider serving their country. For the reasons cited by Mr. G Guy, it’s well worth keeping in mind as a default, if Destiny doesn’t seem to have anything clearer in mind. Go places, learn things. Learn how to take and give orders. Learn to deal with stress and privation. Have your liberties voluntarily constrained for a time, so that you can react with properly righteous indignation when some homo bureaucratus invertebrate would frivolously sacrifice your liberty for the glory of governmental power. War is indeed the Father Of Us All, disciplining his children in ways that the godforsaken twerp back in the office cannot comprehend.
TAWP isn’t cheap. The ongoing entitlement crisis has left the country economically vulnerable to global Davids chucking rocks at our Goliath forehead. Whoops. I anticipate that the country will face the choice between its relatively Constitutional TAWP wife, or the Socialist entitlement floozy that the Progressives (Republican and Democrat alike) have courted for these decades. That TAWP wife, and her military-industrial complex menopause, are sufficiently problematic. Wow, this metaphor will have me going down in flames, I know already.
Nevertheless, one hopes to have served up the question in a useful way. The answers will arrive over time with much other input.


Comments are closed.