Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lions, Lambs, and Venn Diagrams

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.



KKTSews said...

Since you and I are both retired Military Officers, I do agree with you on this point. However, I am not surprised people see the recruiters with fear for their children. Like any other sales person with a quota, recruiters have a personal interest, not the interests of their recruits, at heart. I think that system rots, but with an all-volunteer service, don't think there is any other alternative. My personal preference to solve this is to have mandatory service for all--in the military, filling pot holes (OMG is there a job for that here in Ohio), maintaining public houseing, teaching in inner cities, etc. Then we wouldn't need the recruiters and maybe everyone wouldn't feel quite so entitled without giving something of themselves.

John said...

A hearty "Amen" to Bilbo and KKTSews.

Service has become a dirty word in our day. It's lacking in every aspect of our society and is quickly become something that we want others to have but want little to do with it ourselves. Our Armed Forces demonstrate service at the highest level and are seldom recognized for it.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

My father served in the Coast Guard during WW2 and his brother in Vietnam and Korea. My niece's husband will be in Iraq in a few months. My brother's wife's one daughter (from a previous marriage) is in the Navy as, was she.

That said, if I had children of my own right now, I would fear them wanting to join the services. Not because I don't believe in them defending our country, but because I don't want them killed fighting a war we have no business fighting.

lacochran said...

Gotta second what the mistress of the dark said and your comments that the blame of the current mess lies squarely on the administration's inept shoulders, not the military's valiant efforts to do their jobs.

Mike said...

Another angle - recruiters are pervs because they lie, lie, lie to the recruites. They will tell a potential recruit ANYTHING to get them to sign up. "No really kid, you can be a (fill in the blank). Trust me!"

And I agree with national service. After you graduate from high school (or drop out), off you go! The kid would pick what he/she wanted to do. And if you drop out the first thing that would happen in the national service program is you would get your GED.