More on the military

Fewer than 1 percent of the population currently serve in uniform, and 7 percent are military veterans. The number of Gold Star families — the term for those who lost a family member to combat — is about 7,000 from Iraq and Afghanistan. Among  military families, veterans and scholars there is a basic premise — that civil society and military circles are culturally, socially and geographically separate This represents a form of isolation with real consequences for the country.

There is a prevalent attitude in some military and veteran circles — a feeling of pride for taking on a tough job in some of the most dangerous places on Earth, coupled with a simmering resentment that civilians are oblivious to their mission.  White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly suggested that discourse about those killed in action can only reasonably occur in the walled-off segments of society where losses on the battlefield are most directly and painfully felt, a dreadful comment. Geography heightens the separation. Military families and veterans tend to come from the South and Midwest, and recruitment often draws on those who already have military ties, making service in uniform a family business of sorts.

If military people  feel that America is disengaged from the never- ending wars, the problem is not going to be fixed if only people personally involved have the right to ask questions. We should value military service, but still critique  missions and the way they are conducted. We are paying the servicemen, after all.  On the other hand , as  one commentator remarked: “Military courage is something society needs to have and we should value it.  But we also need a civic body that makes this a country worth fighting for”.   Quite!  At the same time the public is tuned out because it is never consulted about new military commitments, or their outcomes.  Why, for instance, are U.S. forces in Niger?  We can sort-of guess, but nothing is explained.  There has to be more dialogue.  Personally, I think we need more military personnel back in their barracks, re-training.  And we need to retire swathes of senior officers and give opportunities to young officers with new ideas.


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