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(Done with Mirrors)

(Statistical blah blah blah)

Other Blogs I Read
Regularly Often

Athletics Nation

Andrew Sullivan
(Daily Dish)

Kevin Drum
(Political Animal)

(Obsidian Wings)

 Friday, March 28, 2008
'Radical Anti-Militarist'

One purpose of Benzene's experiment with a daily post quota is to find out in what ways the demands of that quota change the nature of what I post. One effect, it seems, is that it inspires me to save for Benzene a discussion that I may have otherwise posted elsewhere.

Over on Done With Mirrors following up on our discussion of the same Gen McPeak interview I cited here two days ago, I somewhat carelessly referred to myself as a "radical anti-militarist". This prompted Callimachus to inquire:

O/T, I'm honestly curious if, as a "radical anti-militarist" you also would consider yourself anti-military? Is it possible to split that difference, and if so, how do you know when you've done it?

The rest of the discussion we wrapped up over there, but I saved this answer for here.

For starters, "anti-militarist" was a hasty choice of words. Many others were running through my head -- anti-interventionist, anti-imperialist. I didn't make a point to single out the military. I just wanted to contrast my general world view with McPeak's with respect to the way he is entirely at home with the idea that America should use its power to dominate the globe and I'm not. Is that a military thing? Yes and no.

One thing I almost said is that I'm of the Chalmers Johnson way of thinking on this, which I suppose raises more questions. Is Johnson anti-military? His views on foreign policy are certainly anti-militarist, but that's not quite the same. Personally, he's a military man himself, and I can't recall ever hearing him denigrate the institutions as such. At the same time he's blisteringly critical of corruption within the military, particularly with respect to the rapes and other lawlessness around overseas bases, but is that anti-military? I imagine many in the military would join with him on that point.

To answer Cal's question, no, I don't consider myself anti-military. But if I may indulge in a bit of introspection, I do have some anti-military culture in my personal background. Although the military tradition in my family (mother's side only) is not deep, my grandfather was a military man, an army officer. My two uncles both joined the Air Force, while my mother reacted strongly against the military culture. There's no doubt that her strong attitude has filtered into me in some way. I liken it to a friend who grew up in a racially bigoted family. He tries to transcend it and not be racist himself, but it's there in some of his instinctive reactions, and I suppose that may be true of me with respect to the military as well.

Splitting That Difference

Does being in favor of greatly reducing projection of American military force automatically make me anti-military? I suppose that depends on where one locates military identity. If I were to have my way on foreign policy, there would be far less demand for military people, so if you're someone for whom military identity means lots of opportunity for you and others like you to go make war, you might consider me against you.

In 2008 this is purely hypothetical, given how desperately our military is greatly undermanned. There are many things the military is relatively deprived of right now, but tasks to do is certainly not one of them. One of my biggest objections to the administration of the war is its wasteful misuse of military personnel as a resource. In my view, the administration has simultaneously overtaxed military personnel we have (ie, too many tours, etc); tied up too much of the resource in unnecessary wars, thus compromising its more important value of readiness to defend against another threat; and, least noted, damaged our capacity for recruitment for years to come, by making the military a much less attractive career choice. To me this an issue of bad resource management, and it's not too hard to draw a parallel complaint about the government's financial resources (ie, ran up a big debt, did it with some stupid spending, and crippled us for years to come with problems still in the pipe for the next decade or so).

But I digress. My point was that given the enormous need for more military personnel that has been built up over the past seven years, I'd hardly be putting anyone out of a job even if I could succeed turning America suddenly isolationist. If anything, it ought to allow us some breathing room to take better care of the military we've got. Yes, I dream of a world in which no military is needed. That's a fantasy and it'll never happen, but to whatever extent we can pare it down to only what really is needed, I consider that a good thing.

Aspiring to Obsolescence

But set that aside. If I favor a policy that puts a certain class of people out of a job, does that make me against those people? If I could wave a wand and cut crime in half, would that make me anti-police because we wouldn't need as many of them now? Or if my wand could magically make kids learn 10 times better than they do now would I be anti-teacher?

I work for a tax accounting firm. As a tax professional, I know as well as anyone how horribly our tax law needs reform. I would love to see some Milton Friedmanish flat and broad tax with as few deductions, credits, and loopholes as feasible and with the simplest mechanism possible to preserve whatever progressivity is required for social cohesion. If by some political miracle such a thing were to pass and it put my employer and other firms like it out of business, I most certainly would not grumble that the reform is anti-tax-accountant. I would sing hallelujah and find another job.

But that's me. Others have other ways of finding their identity.

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