If you pay attention to military issues here at DailyKos, you'll notice a new theme cropping up in the diaries. To my jaded eyes, it looks like a pre-election push to make Democrats look less than supportive of the troops. It looks like a ploy to remind folks that those on the left hate the military because they are all out to kill people (this diary) or they are moochers of the system (this diary and this diary).
Except that it isn't just a new diarist or two. Our well-respected Rescue Rangers seem caught up in the fray, recommending diaries that say our troops are overpaid.
Full disclosure, I am an Officer's wife and an Senior NCO's daughter. My husband hasn't served a base level position for a few years and we are currently assigned where there are few military. But I know military family life, from both sides of the track, and I can tell you that we are not overpaid nor did my husband or our friends join in order to kill people.
As I was writing this response, I realized that it will take more than one diary. Thus, welcome to Part I - the killing meme.
Let's get the killing meme out of the way. Yes, military troops are used to kill people. That's a large part of the training for many in all of our services. But that does not mean that people who join are signing up to kill people. In fact, I would argue that service members return from war with PTSD do so partly because the act of killing goes against their ultimate goal, to help bring our world to a peaceful place. They don't join to kill - they join to defend American interests overseas and killing is what they are ordered to do. They put the needs of the nation before themselves and their families. I am not calling them heroes, mind you. But they believe in something bigger than themselves. Whether you believe in that same thing doesn't inform their choice to serve. And that's the ultimate problem, isn't it? Their world view and your world view are informed by very different experiences.
When my husband joined back in the 1990's, it looked as if our nation was on a path to prevent wars. We were actively working with the UN on peace keeping missions. Our diplomatic efforts seemed to us more important than our military ones. We believed that our military was a tool in the overall arsenal and could only work as a deterrent to more war if the people who served were well-trained and well-educated. Note that word, deterrent. Many who join do so because they believe our military prevents more war.
It's true that if we had no volunteers, we wouldn't have the ability to kill so many people. It's one of those horrible truths that I often have a hard time wrapping my mind around. I can't tell you how hard the conversations were when it came time for my husband to deploy to war. My husband's career choice means that he is asked to serve in jobs with which I personally don't agree. And he won't tell you whether he agrees or not. He will just remind you that when he signed that dotted line, he gave up his right to have an opinion and that he serves at the will of the Commander-in-Chief. In fact, a horrible truth is that many of our military members are told to do things with which they don't agree. And I know at times we on the left honor people who refuse to fight. I get that more than you can ever know. But that also means we need good and honorable people to serve in the first place so that when the really horrific acts take place, like the torture in Abu Ghraib, that we have stalwart and brave men and women to speak up and prevent such atrocities in the first place.
Do you really believe that if no one volunteered to serve our nation, the atrocities would never happen? That we would never be at war?
It's a utopian dream that we can live in a nation that has no military whatsoever, that we follow the example of Costa Rica and disband our military. Our nation's path, as much as we may hate it, has made us a target and until we learn how to change that status quo, I'm afraid the military will have to stay in some way, shape, or form.
I'm not saying that it shouldn't be our ultimate goal to be rid of our military but do you really believe that we can be without a military in today's world?
I can agree that our military should be much, much smaller. I can agree that we should not be engaged in wars of choice, that Iraq was a huge mistake and that the way in which we handled Afghanistan wasn't much better. But I can't agree that we should have no military at all. It would be giving up an essential tool in our diplomatic arsenal.
If you believe that, then we really have no common ground on where to even start a conversation. You see the world as a very different place than I do. In some ways, I envy you the ability to see a world where we don't need soldiers at all. I envy you the ability to see it all in black and white. Just know that my husband serves a nation that sees shades of gray and for that reason, joining the military for him and for the thousands like him, killing is not the ultimate goal. They want peace as well.