It's almost over, but I feel the need to observe it.* It has become the start of summer, a weekend of shopping, a day for barbecuing and sailing. It is supposed to be the day we remember the battlefield dead. Oddly enough, it doesn't seem to have acquired much more gravitas in the last 4 years when we actually have known battlefield dead again. Here's a little reminder:
Iraq: 2689 Total Coalition Deaths, 2456 Total U.S. Deaths.
Afghanistan: 378 Total Coalition Deaths, 296 Total U.S. Deaths.
It is my belief that any community of large enough size needs a trained and professional group of people, ideally volunteers, who are skilled in the use of force and able to be called on at a moment's notice to deal with that community's defense. It is an ancient lesson of warfare that such a group of people must have some measure of obedience "in the moment" and leave decisions about the wisdom of such a deployment to commanders. It is a fairly modern but brilliant assertion that a community wishing to rule itself, with some combination of democratic and republican ideals, should make such a group submit to the will of the community government as a whole--the civilian command. And so we have an Army and Navy and Air Force and Coast Guard and Marine Corps: people who volunteer and promise to fight and risk death when and where our government asks them to, and to be as obedient as possible. If you believe in the American system of government, and you believe that it is working, and you believe that when your government asks you to risk death and homicide, it must be doing so for the necessary defense of your community as you conceive of it, well then, this pledge of obedience is quite awe-inspiring. So as part of that community, I thank you for it. I may disagree with many of your beliefs, and try hard to dissuade you from them, but let us say, I appreciate the commitment.
Now another set of you may quibble with my basic, underlying belief. Assumptions have to start somewhere, and that is where I choose to start mine. I do not wish to quibble about it now, but to move on and make the next point. If we are going to send people to other lands to die (and more importantly, to kill) it is our duty to make absolutely certain that we understand what we are doing, that we know why we are doing it, and that we have thought and intelligently dismissed every single reason why we should not. The fact is, we do not do this. We citizens spend too little time considering our foreign policy, our military budget and organization, our treatment of veterans, our war crimes, and the repercussions of our opinions on war and peace and international trade. We spend too much time watching TV and shopping. We've been invading countries and overthrowing governments to please a fruit company here and a timber company there for well over a hundred years, spilling perfectly good American blood and, more horribly, staining its honor with the blood of innocent foreign civilians and foreign democracy. The best that can be said of most of us is that sometimes we take the trouble to recognize our absurdity and laugh darkly at our horror while watching the Daily Show, sometimes we take off a busy weekend to go protest an invasion, and sometimes we pat a traumatized soldier on the back.
It is my humble assertion that the best thing you can do to support the troops and honor the dead is carve out some time from your busy schedule to be a better citizen and pay attention to budgets and foreign affairs from an American perspective. It is not enough to know that there is civil unrest in a given country--one must also know how American companies are acting in that country, and what wealthy or otherwise influential Americans have a vested interest in that country, an interest they might be more than willing to let American troops risk dying and killing for. It is not enough to know that we are going to spend this or that percentage more on the defense budget--one must also know to whom we are handing over the money, and how much more they stand to make if someone decides their equipment and their help will be required for American troops risking death and homicide. And it is not enough to know these things, one must make noise if one does not like the way these things are going, if one might, just might, think they are a bad use of resources and perhaps, even, immoral. Make noise or something more forceful, but surely we should not be silent.
In the mean time please remember that the dead lie there in obedience to our command
, even if we give it sleepily and by proxy.
*Especially since I actually went to work today.