'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Support the Troops (Part 2) 

On Wednesday, Charlie Davis posted an entry asserting that we shouldn't support the troops for their actions in the Middle East and Central Asia. As long time readers of this blog know, I have expressed similar sentiments for years, some of which can be accessed by clicking on the "Support the Troops" label at the bottom of this one. Most criticisms tend to focus upon the brutalities inflicted upon the populace in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and rightly so. But there is something that often gets ignored.

Liberal peace activists who have pushed the support the troops mantra reduce the people who enlist in the military and perpetuate these occupations into an amorphous, unthinking mass, a reduction that characterized the collectivizaton of the peasantry in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the determination by urban planners like Corbusier that proletarians should be required to live in sterile, strictly controlled environments. In other words, people who enlist in the military lack any free will and historical agency, a perspective easily refuted by the many people who have returned after military service and candidly described what they did.

Of course, we shouldn't be surprised. Liberals have adopted a similar perspective with the middle and lower middle class generally, as it purports to speak on their behalf while insisting that they continue to politically support Democrats that implement neoliberal policies to their detriment. There is a vanguardism here, one that appears to be driven primarily by the fear that the people from whom they purport to speak may actually begin to speak for themselves. Hence, the apparent contradiction between their espoused identification with progressive economic beliefs and the actual policies that they support is readily explained. By intensifying the insecurity of the groups for whom they claim to represent, they preserve their monopoly of speech, and all the power that it entails.

Prior to his death, there was a vigorous debate about the support the troops attitude at Steve Gilliard's blog, The News Blog, probably sometime in 2006. Steve took the support the troops line, while I, and a few others, insisted that those who enlist should take responsibility for that decision and their subsequent actions. At one point, I suggested that some troops may actually rebel, and that if that ever happened, we should publicly support any such action. Oh, my goodness! Now, that really terrified the liberals who posted there, because, after all, just think about all the terrible things that could happen if troops started disobeying orders. They might even disobey the President.

As far as many of these liberals were concerned, better that they continue to kill Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis, than refuse to do so. My response to this hysteria was straightforward: the Democratic and Republican parties have taken away far more of my rights in the last 30 years, and remain a threat to take away more, a much greater threat than the people enlisted in the military. The contempt that many of them had for people who served in the military, based upon intellectual and class bias, came out quite clearly. I came away with the impression that while many liberals claim to want to downsize the military, they believe that it perpetuates a necessary system of social control.

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