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AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's…
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AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military…

by Kathy Roth-Douquet

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“The more critical someone is of the military or our actions using our military, then they are bound – if they want to be taken seriously – to encourage broad military participation.” This is, to put it lightly, just not a statement I take seriously. It does not make any sense.

The more critical someone is of the military, the less they want our country's human and financial resources to get chewed up by it, while problems closer to home get left to fester.

I find this to be a very patronizing statement, suggesting that the "serious" people are all in the military, and the rest of us benighted yokel peasants ought to understand how are fundamentally "not serious". Well, this book was not written in the Middle Ages, when much of the non-military population might have been peasants-- it was written in 2006.... incidentally when the military was busy wasting lives and dollars screwing up Iraq.... (thanks in part to the guy who wrote the preface!)....

I think that the fundamental idea of this book, that "non-military" equates with "slacker", is a lie. This is not "Downton Abbey" anymore, and we are not ruled by a military aristocracy that trots off to fight for King & Country..... and not all of us yearn for the days when we ruled by a patronizing landowning military class, clicking their boots with Prussian precision, although apparently some of us do.

If you are so privileged that you feel a hankering to give back, there is another way to do it, rather than getting packed off to some hellhole foreign country that you don't understand. You can support the solutions for social problems, and Lord knows we have enough of them. What is so lazy and useless about this is something that I don't understand.

I also don't think that the country is the same as its military, as if we owed our national character to the people overseas.... "I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, not the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend." Tolkien-- someone who knew what a real bloody fiasco of a war was like....

And much of our national character at the current time-- which the authors I suppose believe is defective-- we owe to the generation of the 60s, which was probably the least military in disposition, to everything from the tapering off of institutionalized discrimination, to the best music before or since (and, yes, many of those bands were American, e.g., the Byrds).....

(..... And much of what the authors is saying is, why doesn't the Ivy League just act exactly the way they did in 1955.... sing "Texan love song" and go on back..... better yet, they could get back in touch with their 18th-century Anglican Christian roots, and go back to preaching, "Wives, obey your husbands....." Did it ever occur to them that re-militarizing the academy and going totally retro like that is just plain reactionary? Or do they just not care?)

(Even they realize how it relates to Vietnam-- and the costs of war are serious enough, it seems, if it hurts *the military*....)

..... I suppose that peace & love doesn't come across as "serious" enough to some people, compared to war & gore.....

..... I'm not usually a very political person, (in deference to romantic sentiment, which abhors the stuff), but one of the few positions I hold pretty firm is that of anti-war. I realize that there are people in the military who think that they're doing the right thing-- nobody does what they think is wrong, or else they wouldn't do it-- but I just don't think that the military and these wars are a good thing for our country, or a healthy influence on our culture.

It's a morbid culture that glorifies war. And it's not necessarily a radical one that shuns it-- (not to mention Jane Austen)-- in 1918 there was alot of disgust with the military in Britain especially, in what was still then a Victorian-esque place.....

.... I suppose that some people might say that you need Prussians to defend against Prussians.... All I can say is that they would have been pretty darn isolated if all of Europe at that time hadn't gone along with their militaristic-imperialist spirit.... If you are your enemy, culturally, then you don't have much to rest on, morally.... And then all you have left is tyranny, which is pretty tottering thing, in my opinion. If nobody believes.... Ideas can do what force can't.

Also, militarism has a precarious place in America's national character. The academy de-militarized in the 60s and 70s, and before the 40s and 50s, there just wasn't much a military establishment in this country. Certainly not in colonial days. Americans didn't like military discipline; it was something alien to them. Washington's recruits were more like cowboys than Prussians. Even at the top, Jefferson went off about how standing armies were the root of tyranny and so on. Some of those guys were anxious about creating a government that could tax an army into existence, to begin with. There certainly weren't many bent on re-doing feudalism, with its noblesse-oblige, military-style.

..... But the authors think that if you're not in the military, then you're just being *sheltered*. (Not having visited Asbury Park, I guess, or many of the other places in America that are not sheltered. Ocean Grove is sheltered, but incidentally it's a place that might welcome a good conservative rant.) You're just a sheltered little hobbit according to the one guy-- well, maybe if he had read the bloody book he would have known the Faramir quote that I gave above, about the sword and its sharpness, not to mention the fact that the pretentious big people who were used to fighting all the wars and patronizing the little folk who didn't-- a lost world! everything!-- ended up *needing* the little man. And Tolkien himself said, (somewhere in The Hobbit, I think), that it's foolish to underestimate the little folk, the little elves, who seem so musical and unmilitary in their abilities. The fey-like little people seem so irrelevant, so easy to patronize or forget, but there's a magic in them that a coarser people can't understand.

But that's what you get from reading the book, not from watching the Peter Jackson slasher flicks.

So much for that.

And I also don't buy the class war cr--nonsense. I don't believe in class war. (Conservative class war, incidentally. This is why I love politics. Makes so much sense.)

There is no draft that rich people get out of, because there is no draft.

And if people joined the military because they lack career options, then what you'd be arguing is that they deserve pity, for being so limited in their options. But no one argues this, they'd rather say that it's a matter of being tough vs. sheltered or something. Because they *want* to do it, because they're the ones with guts, etc.

Well, if they *want* to do it, it doesn't follow that they were obligated.

(But, of course, they'll have it both ways. They join the army because of their social class, because they're not privileged..... they join because their morals are different than yours, because they're just tough on the inside, etc. The fact that these are not the same answer seems to elude them. Either you had no options (pity) or you were soaring to a higher plane of existence (glory). But pity and glory kinda clash, don't you think?)

(Although they do want a little of both-- I am proud that I do this, and when anyone objects, I pity myself.....)

(.... And they also come across a very culturally spoiled bunch-- constantly hailed by the media, in a culture where there are about a million war movies and movies that glorify war every single month.... they have the nerve to act like they're alienated and alone-- and whine about realistic movies like "Full Metal Jacket" that show bad soldiers as well as good, as though they were Trotskyite plots....)

..... (And if it's such a great and good thing, then why do you have to be disappointed that some people don't want it? Is it a burden, then? And not something to cheer about? If so, aren't there other burdens too? Is there really nothing of equal value?)

But what social obligation has a rich person-- especially if that rich person is a glorified computer tech and not a landed aristocrat-- violated by not joining the military? (Does having extreme success working in an office oblige you to go join the army?) Are we such a militarized society as that? For much of our history our standing army was vanishingly small, so where's this obligation for all the well-off kids to serve? Moreover, most college kids aren't headed off to join the army, so why should rich kids be especially picked upon to go get their arms blown off? (Class war, I guess?)

What is this great obligation being violated?

It simply does not exist.

.... You might discover the cure for cancer, but if your lab isn't a military installation in the middle of Afghanistan, then you're a sheltered good-for-nothing.

..... It's an idea that might appeal to those on the right disillusioned with anything and everything even vaguely from the left, but that's all it'll do.

..... I'm also not singing the praises of their prose, which is about as unique and alive as their ideas are coherent, sensible.... and peaceable.

(I guess it's what you'd call neocon-- I used to be so liberal, blah blah blah, now I am so wise, blah blah blah-- but whatever it is, they make it boring.)

[And they chose the wrong sentimental-thing-from-the-past to hang onto, because the military is not sentimental.]

..... In the end, like any other sort of class war, it depends of jealousy, I think. Here me and mine are, in a tough spot-- how dare other people be rich and happy!

In other words: if only there were more suffering.

How very.... pious.

..... They accuse others of arrogance, as the linchpin of their argument, but I find them to be very arrogant and patronizing.

..................................................​

Other thoughts: According to the authors, the upper class considers itself "too good" for military service nowadays, but in the past that they apparently idealize, the upper class, which was then the officer class, or the aristocrats, were the ones who thought they were "too good" for everyone else, for civilian work-- whether it be manual labor or even trade or business. In the past, the upper class *could* be too proud and haughty for certain types of work-- openly. But *today* if a businessman openly said he was too good for manual or especially military service, Twitter and the blog-o-sphere would erupt into condemnation. 'How dare you say you're too good for that'. But nobody told off a member of an old school aristocratic officer class for *anything*, practically. They just don't seem to understand what they're asking for, or how privileged they are in the present time, which they seem to be rather ungrateful for.

To take the guy's 'hardened' "rangers" and 'sheltered' "hobbits" metaphor again, he doesn't seem to understand that the "hobbit" is far from a parasite. While the "ranger" is wandering around in the wilderness, defending things, the "hobbit" is tilling the land, holding up civilization. He uses this metaphor, but I don't think he understands the affection John Tolkien actually had for his "hobbits".

In their belief in the superiority of military life, they essentially deny the value of civilization, which is settled life.

(6/10) ( )
  fearless2012 | May 13, 2014 |
This is a fascinating book, and well-justified call to arms, with very reasonable and well thought out arguments. The bottom line is we love America, and we love being American, and if our military is less than stellar we risk losing not only our position as a world power, but our daily creature comforts as Americans – which go hand-in-hand.
Kathy and Franks’ arguments transcend their respective democratic and republican leanings to come together on this issue of an all-class encompassing military. Their basic premise is that there is a dearth of upper class volunteers in the military and how can your political leaders make sound military decisions when they are not personally vested in the outcomes for our “warfighters”? They make the point that both Churchill and Roosevelt had children as active soldiers during WWII while they were making the decisions. (Churchill’s son was in his own Cavalry Regiment, his daughter, Diana, in the Women’s Royal Navy Service; and all four of Roosevelt’s sons were officers and decorated for bravery in WWII). One can argue whether this made Churchill and Roosevelt better military leaders themselves, but suffice to say their countrymen felt they had a more vested interest in the progress of the war, and would thereby feel more connection and make better soldiers, and in our era we would be more likely to have military volunteers.
One recurring theme in the book is that what is contributing to the lack of Upper Classes in the military is the fact that Ivy League and upper echelon colleges actually refuse to allow ROTC or military recruiters on their campuses for career fairs or otherwise. As Kathy points out, “As military sociologist Michael Meese commented to me one day, young people today are not anti-military,they are a-military – they don’t know anything about the military, or what service entails.” Being the children of Vietnam era parents whose primary reaction to enlistment is “not my child” means there is no home front encouragement to enlist in the Upper Classes either. Ultimately our military, and possibly our national security, suffers if our military never gets the opportunity to enlist from the educated and/or upper classes, both because the military lacks more whole country support and the benefits of these more highly educated individuals to make better decisions for the “warfighter”; and hopefully go on to politics where they can have a 1st hand impact on the future uses of the “warfighter”.
Frank sums it up, “The more critical someone is of the military or our actions using our military, then they are bound – if they want to be taken seriously – to encourage broad military participation.” Whether you like this topic or not, no matter your views, this is a must-read because our military is what allows America to be America, whether you like that concept or not….MAT 04_10 ( )
  mulberrymarsh | Apr 13, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060888598, Hardcover)

In America, it is increasingly the case that the people who make, support, or protest military policy have no military experience. As Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer assert in this groundbreaking work, the gap between the "all-volunteer military" and the rest of us is widening, and our country faces a dangerous lack of understanding between those in power and those who defend our way of life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:45 -0400)

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