Economy Weak — Army Strong!

Gotta love the juxtaposition of stories here… First comes “staggering new numbers” showing that 25% of homeowners in America are “underwater” (i.e., their property is worth less than their mortgage), followed by dire predictions of continuing woe for the housing market, then a story about the millions of “boomerang” kids moving back with their parents (one in seven or 20 million between the ages of 18-34, apparently) to weather the recession… and then Fox News is “on the Job Hunt” — and whattaya know, recruitment for the military is surging. Ah yes, the Army, “where a taste for adventure can land you job security, great benefits and even money for college.”

Kind of sad really when a profession that might very well get your head blown off in combat in some dismal hell-hole on the far side of the planet or render you painfully crippled for life (as is the case with tens of thousands of volunteer recruits over the last decade) is now offered up as an enticing career prospect. Gone, I suppose, are the days when the Duke of Wellington quite aptly described his army as being comprised of “the very scum of the earth.”


3 Replies to “Economy Weak — Army Strong!”

  1. You know, I am mixed on this issue of automatically attributing an absolute and virtuous moral dimension to the military. I see a benefit of doing that as a there has to be a certain level pride being able to defend one’s country. Where I take issue is that such sensibilities border on jingoism and infallible self-importance. The most obvious example would be in the U.S. and to some extent, here in which anyone questioning the civilian decisions and control of the military were unpatriotic or disrespectful to the fallen soldiers.

    The fact of the matter is that this model has been in use across civilizations and histories as means of rationalizing the ugly truth of being a soldier, which by its very nature of the work negates any level of moral absolutism and demands ambiguity or amorality even. The discourse might be framed such that it gives the illusion of moral clarity, but such reasoning always hinges upon linking national interests with universal morality, a conflation I find highly suspect. Homer’s writings practically described the military forces with such piety and romance yet one would find little side jabs here and there about the mendacity, truculence, and childishness of Agamemnon and Achilles (at least from what I remember). Sappho was far more clear in her rejection of this type of romanticism.

    It would be more forgiving if the accolades and fawning of the military would actually translate into real respect such the soldiers should concretely be in a class all of their own. However, the lip service paid is only to make sure the ranks are filled, using financial incentive that seems to attract the Middle to lower class who are looking for a way survive and make money. This is a major driving factor because, as even commanding officers of the military have admitted, the economy is negatively correlated with military recruitment. As one C.O. told me, “a bad economy is good for the military.” One just has to look at Blackwater and other PMCs to see that for many, it really is about the money.

    I think implicitly it is generally understood that while the modern soldier aims to be professional and honourable, they still have to have to tenacity and grit of their predecessors because ultimately, they are paid to execute whatever orders they are given. Those abstractions tend to fly out the window when on the battlefield. It is no wonder why previous armies were considered to be the “scum of the earth.” They pretty much have to be by necessity. And I am perfectly fine with that, and I support them in that regard. However, I cannot go as far as most people, especially if it means not being able to question the decision and the fitness of military operations. One would think that with the harsh lessons of World War I for example that there would be greater discourse and intense discussion on how the military is deployed. That is one of the hallmarks of it being under civilian control.

  2. I see a benefit of doing that as a there has to be a certain level pride being able to defend one’s country.

    So do I… If defense was actually the purpose of our military then I’d be all for that. But how exactly is it “defending” us by spending billions of dollars mucking about in Afghanistan?

    One just has to look at Blackwater and other PMCs to see that for many, it really is about the money.

    Of course it is. And there’s nothing wrong with that from an individual standpoint, but let’s be straight up about the situation. How do we feel about paying mercenaries to help fight our wars? It’s nothing new, of course… most “Great Powers” have long engaged in the practice of contracting out their military to disreputable hirelings.

  3. But how exactly is it “defending” us by spending billions of dollars mucking about in Afghanistan?

    That is precisely the crux of the matter. The effort to bring this question to the fore has been hampered and people who are asking this question are marginalized in the most cynical ways. If we had a more sobering view of the military rather than it being continually romanticized, the citizenry would push the government to examine more closely just why we are there. I remember watching a documentary on the leading up to Afghanistan. In Ottawa, it wasn’t a secret that Chretien over committed Canadian forces not out of deep sense of wanting to help, but was genuinely fearful of the repercussions by the Bush Whitehouse for not going to Iraq.

    From my point of view, the rhetoric and discourse from the honourable days of defending against a hostile nation in the 20th century is being transplanted into this new geopolitical setting in which nation states are wanting to be more aggressive and offensive (one could argue it is a return to the imperialistic character that prevaded much of Europe before). From a dispassionate observer, there is obviously a disconnect because the reasoning cannot hold, especially when applying it to the “War of Terror,” a concept which is a tactic more than anything else.

    How do we feel about paying mercenaries to help fight our wars?

    It makes no sense to me as these companies are contracted most likely by nation states. This means that the treasury is being drained when it good allocate resources to shore up their own military. I seriously think it is a matter of practicality. The mercs can do what military cannot as they are not bound by ethical code. This raises the question though that when PMCs are brought in, isn’t it a concession that combat has to be cruel and harsh to the point that an honourable and ethical government nd military have to allow a more free lance group to do the dirty work for them?

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