Misunderstanding the Military

General Patton was famously quoted back during World War II that it wasn’t the job of the soldier to die for his country; his job was to make the other SOB die for his. Patton was correct, as is Rush Limbaugh when he says that the job of the military is to kill people and break things. But these two statements miss an important question; why should a military make someone else die for his country, and/or break things that someone else built? The answers to this are found in understanding why it is sometimes necessary to fight.

This question was tackled by noted science fiction author and philosopher Robert Heinlein, in his book Starship Troopers. Heinlein understood that sometimes it was necessary to fight because you were facing an enemy that presented an existential threat to you or to the human race. To do this he wrote of a race of insect-like “bugs” that could not communicate with humans and had no common ground on which to negotiate. Instead it was a case of the winning side getting everything and the loser being eliminated. It was the same sort of situation presented in the movie Independence Day.

The problem that we face today is that there are people who have made their way into government and do not understand the concept of an existential threat. Because the enemy in a confrontation is always another group of humans, as opposed to a science fiction alien, they assume that the enemy can be reasoned with, and that peace, satisfactory to both sides is always possible. This is only true in some cases. What is necessary to make this happen is a dispute where both sides are willing to give up one thing to get something else. But when one side makes non-negotiable demands the situation changes. In that case, a result similar to that of the 1938 Munich Pact will result; Negotiation that equates with surrender.

The basic premise behind such negotiations is one, which pervades much of modern diplomacy. It is a premise that stems from a school of thought known as “dispute resolution.” It assumes that a mediator can take two disputing parties, find points of agreement, and thereby arrange for the parties to work within those points of agreement and end the dispute. But it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes there are no differences to work out. Sometimes one party is unwilling to accept any terms other than the surrender of the other side. That is when the military option becomes important.

The present US government refuses to understand two critical facts. The first is that there is a legitimate purpose in the military in protecting the interests, borders and people of a nation. Because their underlying philosophy is transnational they are unable to comprehend that a nation has such interests. They also fail to recognize that the US Constitution mandates such defense. Aside from that, other nations still recognized such a need, although many of them had taken up the idea that they could rely on Uncle Sam to defend them, leading to demilitarization of their nations. The Japanese have, only recently, come to the realization that they had better take up some efforts on their own, or be left hanging out to dry when an attack comes. Thus, they have undertaken to circumvent certain aspects of their agreement of surrender in 1945 in order to assure their own survival.

The second fact is that the world is a dangerous place. Rivalry between the US, Russia and China is more than likely not to result in a war, because the interests involved can be better served by other means. But where the jihadist threat comes into play, the war is real, and has existed for over a thousand years. The people involved have declared war on the rest of the world, and are continuing to fight the same battles for universal domination today as they did centuries ago. They do not understand the idea of peace; they only understand winning and losing, combined with pauses in between to reorganize and rearm.

The world has always been a dangerous place, which accounts for why anyone needs a military. Assuming that a threat is not real does not make it go away. Calling it something else does not change its nature. But fools still make such pronouncements. It was called into sharp relief by a cartoon that appeared last week showing three characters making pronouncements. First Obama said, “ISIS is not Islamic.” Next the Pope said, “I’m not Catholic.” Finally came a bear who said, “I don’t #$%* in the woods.” The lesson is starkly clear.

The military option is not one that should be played lightly. In fact, many nations have realized that the best way to use a military option is to simply have it available so that no one will confront you. They turn it into a threat that they expect to never use beyond the threat stage. It is their last resort that they do not want to employ. But when you face an enemy that wants to fight; an enemy that sees the military option as its first choice, and intends to use it regardless, you are dealing with a different animal.

The biggest problem that America faces today in confronting the jihadists is overcoming the idea that they are “people just like us.” They may be people, but they are not just like us. Instead, they have more in common with the aliens in Independence Day than they do with the rest of us.

China, Russia, the USA don’t really want war. They have certain interests that they want to satisfy, but preferably without the expense, bloodshed and aftermath that a war brings. It is a lot better to get what you want without fighting, or get some of it now and some later by other means, such as economic activity. Certainly, that would be better than the alternative.

What the “progressives” also need to know is that the average American who stands for a strong defense is not a warmonger. Instead, they are the party of deterrence. Having a strong military so you do not need to use it. But because progressives do not understand deterrence, and think that they can create one big happy family by talking, they get it wrong every time.

It isn’t the average citizen in most countries that is the problem. It is the political troublemakers; the people who believe that they have something to gain by getting others to fight. The power of propaganda to get people to do things against their own best interest is extremely high. Those who wish to remain free should bear this in mind when considering the prospects for peace or war.

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