Official disclaimer: nothing in this post reflects the views of the Department of Defense, the Army, the Marines, etc. This is only the unofficially terrible, wrong and poorly written opinion of one person who happened to have served at some point since 9/11. You have been warned.
I already hit on this subject in my first post, if you remember. But since this is a WordPress blog written by three nobodies that gets maybe 20 hits a day, you probably do not. Anyway, to recap, one of my pet writing subjects is hypocrisy in the U.S. Army. Given that the Army is an organization that purports to be beholden to the highest values but in reality is filled with the same selfish, stupid assholes that populate the rest of America, Army hypocrisy is a never ending reserve of subject matter on which to draw. Last time I wrote about hypocrisy in the military as it applies to government entitlements. This time I will be tackling political hypocrisy, specifically conservative rhetoric among the ranks in juxtaposition to the reality of their existence. There will be some overlap, I get it – please continue.
This political hypocrisy is especially galling, as one of those higher values the Army claims to uphold is that it is non-political! We are supposed to follow the orders of the commander-in-chief, regardless of what party or side of the political spectrum he/she comes from. However, I often hear senior Army personnel, who are white and in positions on authority, loudly declare how conservative they are. How brave of you! To take a stand like that, to let the world know that you, a member of the American racial and economic majority in a position of authority in the Army who is surrounded by those who already agree with you or are afraid to say otherwise because you outrank them, are a proud conservative with strong positions on the issues facing the service and the country and are not afraid to say it…..well, that is just so inspiring. These motherfuckers act like they are staging a sit-in at a Woolworth’s in North Carolina in 1960 when they talk about how lazy people on welfare are.
As one who values intellectual honesty and basic philosophical coherence, the large number of libertarian and far right extremists in the Army is disconcerting. I have observed the rhetoric of Army conservatives grow more and more unhinged as the Republican Party has embraced its most vile elements. It is common to hear soldiers complain about the President’s handling of the Benghazi attacks, specifically his failure to deploy some sort of military force to secure the embassy there. These are soldiers who have deployed multiple times to combat zones, who should be brutally aware of the limitations of American military deployment capabilities. The military lacks the capacity to have a Special Forces team insert into any location on a moment’s notice – we do not live in a Chuck Norris movie, unfortunately. We could not have gotten personnel on the ground fast enough to save the Benghazi casualties. But since these soldiers have aligned themselves with an increasingly deranged political party that is using Benghazi to embarrass the administration, they have jettisoned all common sense and hard-earned military knowledge in service to political tribalism. It is no small measure of hypocrisy that these are the same soldiers who were quick to strike down any criticism of President Bush, no matter how justified, as outside the pale of acceptable military discourse, who are now openly insubordinate and disloyal to their chain of command.
I also cannot help but feel that the intense hatred of President Obama is rooted in his race. I believe that much of the vitriol directed the President’s way by civilian conservatives is due to racism, and it does not strike me as odd that this would carry over to conservative soldiers. I know a soldier who is a young white female from a lower-middle class part of Connecticut who thinks that Obama “is the devil.” When you talk to her about her preferred public policies, she is actually very close to a mainstream Democrat. She is pro-union, pro-gay rights and considers herself a feminist (based upon her views, she is). She is against the ACA, but cannot form a coherent argument against it besides “it makes businesses cut man-hours.” Which to me is a good argument, if true, for single-payer, nationalized health care, but here it serves to demonstrate that her opinions are based on consumption of conservative media as opposed to a thought-out, coherent ideology. Essentially, she is a Democrat unless the policy in question is tied to President Obama. What else can explain this but racism? What else would drive white lower and middle class working people to vote against their best interests besides a dislike of blacks and their President, especially with the intense vitriol that they speak of him?
This undercurrent of open racism against the chain of command is especially heinous given the Army’s view of itself as a leader in civil rights. You may remember that the Army integrated before any other institution. You might also remember that this was forced upon them by President Truman through executive order in 1948, but that it took until 1954 to complete (thanks, Wikipedia). The Army would not have done this itself at the time, obviously – so while it was first (along with the rest of DOD), it wasn’t like it was their decision; it was President Truman’s. Regardless of the history, the Army does see itself as a civil rights leader. Which it is failing at as an institution, as a large, vocal proportion of its white personnel are openly racist towards the fucking commander-in-chief. I don’t know why this needs explanation in 2015, but you can still be a racist even if you don’t say “nigger” in front of black people.
Many soldiers consider themselves “small-government” conservatives. This is ironic, given that they are employed by the largest American government organization to ever exist. Not to mention the rhetoric against socialism, given their inability to define socialism in any coherent manner besides “thing I don’t like.” These people are employed by an organization that provides cradle-to-the-grave services to them and their families. The DOD has its own schools, shopping malls, grocery stores, gas stations, liquor stores, parks, child sports leagues and housing. It will pay for your school, both before joining if pursuing a commission, or as loan repayment if enlisting. It will pay for your online school while serving after it has already paid for your undergrad degree before you joined. It provides free school to your children, with none of the property taxes that fund public schools. It provides minimal cost healthcare to you and your family. It will give you housing to fit your family, regardless of size, with no increase in your out-of-pocket costs. If these are not examples of “to each according to their needs” socialism, I don’t know what is. All of this is paid for by the U.S. taxpayers that conservatives say are under siege by a federal government that frivolously overspends on the undeserving. In this case, I have to agree with them.
For a group of people living comfortably on the taxpayer’s dole, there is a surprisingly large number of soldiers who are anti-tax extremists. This is anecdotal, and we know how useful that can be, but I once followed a car onto a military base with a bumper sticker depicting a finger-wagging Uncle Sam that stated “you don’t tax wealth, you create it.” When I drove past this car, I saw that it was driven by an older woman in civilian clothes, indicating that she was either a DOD civilian or a contractor. Her DOD sticker indicated that she was retired military. So this woman, who draws a taxpayer-provided retirement from a career spent in military service, is now employed directly by the government as a civilian, or by a firm who gets paid for her labor by the taxpayers. I would argue that it is not being hyperbolic to say that it is hypocritical being an anti-tax crusader while being paid by the taxpayer.
In recent years, as libertarianism has grown to be a popular philosophy on the right, many conservatives in the Army have embraced it. If this libertarianism was always present in the Army, I would have an easier time accepting it as a legitimate philosophical leaning, as opposed to the political tribalism that it so obviously is. In part, libertarianism among soldiers may be an overcorrection in response to the intense level of control that the Army exerts over their personal lives, but it is fundamentally at odds with the organization they claim to love. Army libertarians adhere to a political tradition that values individual rights over the collective good, almost uniformly described as government action, whether it be taxes for social services, regulated drug use or business regulations. But the foundation of the Army is the notion that soldiers sacrifice their individual desires and identity for the greater good of the mission. An Army unit cannot operate unless it is a cohesive team that puts the mission before the individual priorities of the soldiers in the unit. The entirety of basic training is built around this premise. This sacrifice of the individual that soldiers make in support of their mission is what makes service honorable. If the sacrifice of individual rights for the greater good is inherently corrupt, as libertarians believe, what does their service say about them – they have dedicated their lives to an organization that they define as immoral. Sounds exactly like the people you want serving next to you on the line when facing enemy fire.
You will often hear soldiers disparage civilians, especially government civilians, as not performing honorable service or useful jobs in comparison to themselves. One of the main complaints soldiers make against civil servants is that they are not subject to promotions based upon ability. Usually this goes hand-in-hand with an attack on unions, either in general, but typically against public sector unions. Government civilians, in their eyes, are worthless shit-bags because they get promoted only because of seniority. As long as you can stick around long enough while doing the bare minimum, the argument goes, you will get promoted. When you compare this to the Army’s promotion system, however, you will see how insane and hypocritical this line of reasoning is.
The Army has a minimum time-in-grade requirement before a soldier is considered qualified for promotion to the next higher grade. At the junior soldier level, commander’s can waive this minimum if the soldier performs exceptionally well, but only until the grade of E-6. After that, all promotion boards are centrally held at the Human Resources Command. At HRC, boards consist only of a review of a soldier’s records. There is no test, essay or other means to judge competency besides a review of the soldier’s evaluations. Here’s the thing – even if a soldier has negative evaluations they still go to the board automatically where there is the chance they can be promoted. Given the changing nature of Army requirements by Military Occupational Specialty from year to year, a sub-par soldier in a low-density MOS can get promoted to meet the needs of the Army, regardless of performance. When I was on active duty, the promotion rate to captain at first look was 98 percent! Think about that – how low or nonexistent were the standards to have an automatic promotion rate that high? What it meant was as long as you didn’t get a DUI, fuck one of your troops or kill a homeless man (and get caught) you would make captain first time. So this is the system, in which soldiers who hate civil servants because they supposedly get promoted only for seniority, work in and benefit from.
When a sane person compares the conservative rhetoric of certain soldiers to reality, you begin to see the vile hypocrisy, tone-deafness and massive lack of empathy that epitomizes the modern conservative movement, but to an extent multiple orders-of-magnitude greater. Try working with people who think this way and see if you can keep from hating your own soldiers.
(Politics and Military)