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Military Right

March 11th, 2007

We’ve got this thing that so many military believe that Republican administrations are good for the military.  That is rarely the case.  And, we have to get a message through to every soldier, every family member, every friend of soldiers that the Republican party, the Republican dominated Congress has absolutely been the worst thing that’s happened to the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps.

–Major General Paul Eaton (retired)

There has long been a myth that Republicans are better on the military than Democrats, which is probably based upon the posturing that is done in Washington more than the actual constructive good. It is based on the idea that Republicans are more often hawks, and that they more often vote for “defense” bills. But being a hawk doesn’t mean that you are good for the military, and voting for defense bills often simply means that you are engaging in porkbarrel by getting a juicy contract for your district, or more likely benefitting some wealthy business that contributed to your campaign.

Additionally, the military has a history of pushing conservatism on the troops and establishing a generally right-wing atmosphere. Why is a good question. Although it may in part stem from a dislike for liberal ideology (soft-and-fuzzy touchy-feely take-care-of-people, peace-loving philosophy), that only explains why they would not try to incorporate liberalism into military culture, and does not explain why there is an active press to instill conservative values.

That can probably be explained by the idea of authoritarianism. A core principle in military training is to strip down the recruit’s standing identity as an individual and then rebuild that identity based upon their standing as a member of the military, with a strong emphasis on obedience, loyalty, and duty. The military is not a Democracy, it is an authoritarian organization–and the conservative ideology tends toward this structure. God knows that many conservatives would be ecstatic at the idea of changing the entire country to mirror the structure of the armed forces. And speaking of God, religion gets emphasized more in the military as well–another nod to authoritarianism.

As a result, the general political leaning of conservatism, including Republican issues, gets lumped together and infused in the military culture; as a single but highly visible example, you get the Armed Forces Radio Network playing Laura Schlessinger and Rush Limbaugh as well as other right-wing programming, with their “balance” provided by the occasional non-opinionated NPR news feed. You get automatic respect for Republican presidents and politicians even when their actions and policies harm the military, while Democratic leaders have to work hard to beat through the automatic suspicion and disrespect held for them.

But as the armed forces is discovering in a particularly painful fashion, Republican politicians are not necessarily the friends they are made out to be. Eaton is not alone in his opinion, and it is telling that the most vocal critics are the former generals, who had the best view of the right wing’s policy’s effects on the military. Whether this is filtering down to the troop level is a question I cannot answer, but it must be kept in mind that it is illegal for troops to criticize the current president, and criticizing the administration in general is severely frowned upon.

Whatever the troops’ views are, one thing is clear: the military, for its own sake and survival, must reorganize and fine-tune its self-identity more along lines that will serve it better. Its authoritarian roots will undoubtedly be preserved, but its blind allegiance to Republicans has to stop. In theory, the military must be apolitical, though in fact we know that can’t be realistically expected; the military is made up of people, and people are political. At the very least, it must focus not on generalities like political parties, it must not identify with anyone who lays claim to a similar ideology; rather, it must focus on policies and specific actions, supporting or criticizing those if they are not sound.

That might be difficult, however, as many of those weak-kneed pansies on the left actually do a better job than the hard-nosed hawks on the right, in terms of taking care of both the military establishment and the troops, including veterans no longer serving.

But if the military establishment can adopt that new paradigm, it will be far better off in the future, no longer giving automatic allegiance to people like today’s Republicans, who have decimated the military, crapped on the troops, and done even worse to the vets.

Hat tip to Crooks & Liars for the Eaton quote.

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  1. March 11th, 2007 at 23:48 | #1

    Take it from me, Eatons are always right. 😉

  2. Luis
    March 12th, 2007 at 01:09 | #2

    Can’t argue with that!

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