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I have never been in the military. I did not grow up in a military family, although my dad did serve a tour in WWII and my brother one in 'Nam. My closest connection to military life was my uncle, who was a career Army officer. On occasion, when his family was in transit, my two cousins would live with us for awhile. So what the heck am I doing writing a diary for the Military Community Members of Daily Kos?

More below.

The new DK4 is a funny place. One day I stumbled into one of angelajean's rescued diaries "Help Military Families by Limiting Moves". The diary was so well-written and thought-provoking that I clicked the follow button for angelajean. So now I get military families in my stream.

So I stopped by angelajean's MCM Open Thread and saw this comment from another diary angrily referenced by one of the MCM:

Excuse me (0+ / 0-)
I'm new to this blog, but Military Community Members? Isn't that the exact opposite of progressive or liberal? I've never met a liberal or progressive that supported killing people, and who don't advocate cutting the MIC. Has that changed?

As I said, I'm a non-military person and I'm a liberal, but this comment was so full of fail that I offered to do this diary for MCM and angelajean accepted. So here I am.

I'm not putting a username with the comment because the object here is not to beat up the commenter, whether deserved or not. Since this person admits he/she is new to DK, I would prefer to teach rather than excoriate. Teaching is what I do.

Where to start with that comment? First of all, let's examine the notion of what military service is in the United States and why I think citizens should respect and honor that service, even if one is personally a pacifist.

People who decide to enter the service of our country do so knowing that their ultimate boss is not the Commander-in-Chief but the people of the United States. To me, when a person swears in to the military, he/she is saying, "I love my country so much that I am giving my service--and my life if necessary--to the American people to do with as they see fit." There are a couple of long traditions in this country: One is that the military has always been subservient to civilians elected (directly or indirectly) by the people. Two is that the American military has never given its allegiance to a person or a party rather than to the country.

Sometimes we the people of the United States make poor decisions regarding our leaders, who in turn make poor decisions themselves about how to employ our troops. But, folks, it is with us, collectively, that the buck ultimately stops.

One reason we formed the United States was to provide for the common defense. The overwhelming consensus of the people is that we should provide for defense using the military. I understand that there are those who feel otherwise, but in a democracy, the people decide. Certainly there is much less of a consensus about the particulars of what the military should be and do, but most people, including a sizable number of liberals and progressives, believe it should exist. If one disagrees, one is free to try to change that politically.

If one accepts that the people of the United States want a military, then surely we want our military trained and disciplined. Since the military by definition operates in extreme life-threatening situations, obedience is necessary. You can't take a vote on whether to take out an enemy position. So the soldier must obey lawful commands. Sometimes those commands include killing--and being killed.

Our soldiers, remember, are here to serve us, so the chain of command ultimately leads to the people. To disobey an officer is, in essence, to disobey the people. We told that soldier to kill that enemy. As someone who lost grandparents in the Holocaust, I am glad our soldiers killed Germans in WWII. We had to, in my view.

So, personally, I want to have people defending me and my country. I do not hold our soldiers, sailors, and airmen responsible for the decisions our elected representatives make. I hold us, all of us, responsible. Our military is, in essence, a tool, not wielded by a dictator or a monarch, but by us, the people.

I strongly disagreed with our military intervention in Vietnam and in Iraq (among others). I hit the streets to protest those wars. I definitely want our military to adopt a defensive mode, and I want the Military-Industrial Complex chopped down to size. I want war to be an absolute last resort. I'm a leftist.

But what the commenter also fails to understand is that there are many in the military who agree with my view. The notion that everyone in uniform is a Republican conservative is silly. That's not even true of the top brass, much less among the enlisted. In my sixty years, it has always been civilians, not the military, who fail to understand the price of killing, paid by both the victim and the perpetrator.

Now, if one is a conscientious objector, one is not forced to serve in the US military. One can and should advocate for pacifism if that is one's belief. Even if one feels that those who enlist in the military are fundamentally wrong because they are not pacifists, too, part of what separates liberals from conservatives is that we liberals do not insist that everyone think the same as we. We try to persuade and reason with people. That is the definition of pluralism. And even if one feels that soldiers are misguided by not being pacifists, the notion that we should disrespect those who place themselves and their families in our hands is illogical. The military puts itself in your hands, too, Mr. or Ms. Pacifist. If your view prevails politically, the military will obey you, too.

So, to me, people who serve in our military are serving me. Their families make sacrifices to allow them to do that. And there is always the chance that the ultimate sacrifice will be required. I am humbled in the face of that service.

I am not naïve or misty-eyed. I am aware there are some bad actors in the military. There are bad actors in every profession. Not everyone joins for a heart-throbbing patriotic reason; some just need a job and some want to kill people. But while I am certainly willing to criticize soldiers who deserve it, I refuse to stereotype the military and I certainly do not see our military as the exclusive province of the right wing.

I think another comment from the MCM Open Thread expresses the true liberal/progressive view:

My Father Taught At The Army War (4+ / 0-)

college. Military tactics. The first book he made his students read was Sun Tzu's The Art of War. If there is a thesis to the book it is that if you have to fight, you have already lost. Fighting is always, always the last resort.

When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

by webranding on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 02:17:29 PM EDT

Emphasis added.

So to our fiery new Kossack I would only add that while many of us oppose all war and almost all of us oppose wars that are not absolutely required, most of us respect our men and women in uniform because we understand they are pledged to us. It is liberals and Democrats who fight for the rights and benefits our military and their families deserve. It is Republicans who abuse their service and ultimately disrespect it by abandoning them after misusing them.

We need progressive civilian leadership for our military. We need to be smart enough to avoid war whenever possible. We need to work for a world that needs no military. Progressives in the military know that better than anyone. But until that day comes, I will honor and respect those who serve us.

I welcome the Military Community Members of Daily Kos, and I am honored to be invited to speak here. I will continue to respect and support those who have given me, a citizen of the United States, their service.

Originally posted to Military Community Members of Daily Kos on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 03:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by IGTNT and IGTNT Advisory Group.

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