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By Capt. X, US Army
As an Army Officer who has watched the evolution of American support for the military grow exponentially since 9-11-2001, I am a little unsettled by the country's blind appreciation of the military and outrageous approval rating.
While it is nice to receive a 10% discount at Home Depot because of my service, I would much rather the country as a whole better understood the complicated problems that come with foreign diplomacy and the application of military force, than the blind appreciation we currently experience.
Your comparison of the F-35 and A-10 programs highlights the fiscal absurdity that we in uniform deal with on a daily basis. Aside from the preposterous budgetary issues, you hit the nail on the head with your segment on the military portrayal in popular culture.
As you note, there was a time when the country could laugh at the comical exploits of our men and women in uniform through shows like The Phil Silvers Show and Gomer Pyle, USMC. Now it seems like the general public views the military as completely infallible, which paves the way for rampant spending because we can, and no one is going to question us. In the wake of the release of the film American Sniper, several celebrities have been heavily criticized for their off-comment remarks about the marginally-true movie. Why are we so uptight about critiquing a branch of our own government?
Finally, you speak about the civil-military divide. That has begun to be a heavily-discussed topic within the military. Unfortunately, not enough of those outside of the military and government are speaking on the subject.
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This is JF again. I am grateful to these young men and the (literally) thousands of other people, mainly military-related but also civilian, who have written in with experiences and insights about the consequences of our chickenhawk age.
I am grateful for the care and (often, as here) the eloquence with which they have made their case, and also for their trust in the Atlantic as a forum for their discussions. I know the real identities of virtually everyone I have quoted, since that is important for assessing their credibility; but I have published their names or identifying info only when a writer specifically asks that this be done.
Please reflect, too, on the connection between this No. 18 installment and yesterday's, about the F-35 and A-10 airplanes. Each post was about operational details, but even more they were about questions of character, and its absence. These moral questions—about the military, and about its country—dominate the messages I have received.
Here is the running index of previous installments:
"The Tragedy of the American Military," my article in the Jan-Feb issue. A C-Span interview is here; an NPR "All Things Considered" interview is here; a PBS News Hour interview and segment is here. I will be doing the Bill Maher show tomorrow.
1) Initial responses, including an argument for the draft.
2) Whether Israel comes closer to a civil-military connection than the U.S. does.
3) "Quiet Gratitude, or Dangerous Contempt?" How veterans respond to "thank you for your service."
4) "Actually We Keep Winning." An argument that things are better than I claim.
5) "Get the Hell Back in Your Foxhole." More on the meaning of "thanks."
6) "Showing Gratitude in a Way that Matters." What civilians could do that counts.
7) "Winning Battles, Losing Wars." A response to #4.
8) "The Economic Realities of a Trillion Dollar Budget." What we could, or should, learn from the Soviet Union.
9) "Meanwhile, the Realities." Fancy weapons are sexy. Boring weapons save troops' lives.
10) "Chickenhawks in the News." The 2012 presidential campaign avoided foreign-policy and military issues. What about 2016?
11) "A Failure of Grand Strategy." Half a league, half a league, half a league onward ...
12) "Careerism and Competence," including the testimony of an A-10 pilot who decided to resign.
13) "Vandergriff as Yoda." A modest proposal for shaking things up.
14) "Lions Led by Lambs." On a possible generation gap among military officers.
15) "Is it all up to the vets?" Whether correcting the civil-military divide is primarily the responsibility of recent veterans.
16) "We Are Not Chickenhawks." A critique (of me) from the left.
17) "Genuinely Bad News About the F-35 and A-10." Whether new weapons are being assessed honestly.
18) The one you are reading now.
I will be on Real Time with Bill Maher tonight talking about these trends.