One of the blogs I enjoy reading every day is “Indexed,” a very clever blog which reduces both simple and complex ideas to Venn diagrams or simple graphs on 3x5 notecards. It’s an interesting concept that is often funny, thought-provoking, or both.
This past Monday, in a post titled “But Mom, He Seems Really Nice,” the blog's author published this diagram:
My first reaction on reading it was outrage at what I viewed as a slur against military people. But after thinking about it for a while, my final reaction was sadness, mixed with a little irritation at oversimplified thinking.
Americans have had a schizophrenic relationship with their armed forces as long as there's been an America. It’s worth remembering that the framers of the Constitution, having had the experience of being oppressed by the army of King George III, made a special point of ensuring that their new nation’s army would be kept firmly under civil control. Article II, Section 2 makes the elected civilian president the commander in chief of the army. Within the Bill of Rights, many interpret the “right to bear arms” enshrined in the Second Amendment as allowing citizens to own weapons so that they could fight off their own government’s forces if necessary. And the Third Amendment specifically forbids the government from quartering soldiers in private homes in peacetime, and in wartime only as prescribed by law (King George’s quartering of soldiers in Americans’ homes was one of the actions listed in the Declaration of Independence as a reason for the break with England).
Today, as always in the past, there is a loud and vocal segment of American society which believes that peace is the natural state of mankind, and that military forces of any kind are both an abomination and a waste of money that could be used for better things. The members of “Code Pink” in California, for example, dedicate themselves to harassing military recruiters and forcing them out of their towns. I think these people are well-meaning but misguided at best, and ignorant and stupid at worst.
Much as we might wish it, the world is not a peaceful place (someone once said that the lion may lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won't get much sleep). Over the centuries evil leaders have arisen who could be dealt with only by war. Napoleon was not defeated at Waterloo by people waving “give peace a chance” signs, nor was Hitler vanquished by the wishful thinking of those who would have peace at any price. Ethnic cleansing in the Balkans was stopped only by force. The religious maniacs of al Qaeda murdered nearly 3,000 people (almost including me) on September 11, 2001. And the list goes on. Unfortunately, some people are so evil, and some threats so dangerous, that war is the only answer. And when war is the only answer, an army trained and ready to wage it is the only tool worth having.
So it may be clever and funny to equate military recruiters and perverts. It may be satisfying to poke a stick in an unpopular administration’s eye by protesting against the military. But there are a few points to remember when you do:
The armed forces of the United States don’t decide who to go to war against. The Constitution gives that authority to the President and Congress. You can rail against the military all you want, but you’re wasting your time and energy – the people you should be protesting against are in the White House and on Capitol Hill.
If you are attacked or taken hostage by terrorists, or if the country is attacked or invaded, who is more likely to save you: Code Pink, or the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines of America’s armed forces?
Is your ability to protest against your government’s policies without fear protected by Code Pink, or by the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines of America’s armed forces?
The answer is pretty clear. But only if you actually engage your brain…which, sadly, many people just won’t take the time and effort to do.
Lucky for them that America’s armed forces are full of brave men and women who listened to a military recruiter. And those brave men and women are willing to make the sacrifices to protect them no matter how ignorant and ungrateful they are.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.