…is that a reporter might say what he actually thinks before an editor catches up with him and makes him stop. A case in point: William Arkin writes on “national and homeland security” for the Washington Post. Yesterday morning, in his blog titled Early Warning on the Post’s website, Arkin wrote a post that has to be read to be believed. Titled “The Troops Also Need to Support the American People,” the post comments on an NBC program in which soldiers expressed dismay at the lack of support for their mission manifested by some people back home. Arkin appears to take the position that the U.S. military is not worthy of the nation that it protects. Some highlights:
These soldiers should be grateful that the American public, which by all polls overwhelmingly disapproves of the Iraq war and the President’s handling of it, do still offer their support to them, and their respect.
Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform, accepting that the incidents were the product of bad apples or even of some administration or command order.
Arkin’s indulgence, for one, is apparently stretched pretty thin. One thing I don’t understand, though. If Abu Ghraib and Haditha were the result neither of “bad apples” nor of a “command order,” what did cause them? Is Arkin suggesting that they manifest an inherent or widespread depravity among the troops? If not that, then what is his point?
So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?
Yes, I think that’s a fair characterization of what our soldiers have in mind when they ask for our support. I’d be curious to know, too, what Arkin has in mind when he refers to “obscene amenities.” Serving in Iraq and Afghanistan–how cushy can you get?
If you can understand this next paragraph, you’re smarter than I am:
I can imagine some post-9/11 moment, when the American people say enough already with the wars against terrorism and those in the national security establishment feel these same frustrations. In my little parable, those in leadership positions shake their heads that the people don’t get it, that they don’t understand that the threat from terrorism, while difficult to defeat, demands commitment and sacrifice and is very real because it is so shadowy, that the very survival of the United States is at stake. Those Hoover’s and Nixon’s will use these kids in uniform as their soldiers. If I weren’t the United States, I’d say the story end with a military coup where those in the know, and those with fire in their bellies, save the nation from the people.
I have absolutely no idea what Arkin is talking about here. Who are the “Hoover’s” and “Nixon’s”? And why doesn’t someone who writes for the Washington Post know the elementary rules of grammar and punctuation?
Finally, the climax:
But it is the United States and instead this NBC report is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary – oops sorry, volunteer – force that thinks it is doing the dirty work.
In other words, I guess, “screw them.” I still don’t get it, though: what is the “price we pay” for having a volunteer army? The fact that soldiers are disappointed if the folks back home don’t support their mission? Wow, that’s a heavy price all right!
I’ll accept that the soldiers, in order to soldier on, have to believe that they are manning the parapet, and that’s where their frustrations come in. I’ll accept as well that they are young and na