10 May 2008

Competition for Resources and The Politics of Dehumanization

The time when anything remotely negative said about our military was deemed as “un-American”, during the flag-waving days following 9/11, are but a memory. The cost and length of the Iraq war and the economic downturn have made the military as a whole a ripe target for criticism among Americans as resources become more scarce amongst our tax base and the country’s debt runs out of control. I recall seeing a lot of bumper stickers growing up that said “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber”. Could the same line of logic be applied about tax dollars going to social programs for the general public instead of veteran benefits?

The politicization of the war has mostly been directed at the “neocons” (an undesirable label that is now morally akin to the Hitler Youth), but it can even explain how Hillary failed to win the Democratic primary, as Publius at Obsidian Wings explains. Whoever gets the proverbial “Iraq war” necklace hung around their neck is most likely to be characterized as a nuisance or evil for decades to come. This has terrible ramifications for Iraq vets and other personnel who have served in the military during these troubled times, as the Iraq war’s architects will retire to castles invisible in the public eye, but us vets will be amongst the general populace representing an endeavor Americans will resent. Take your pick on why the Iraq war has taken so long, been so costly, or how we shouldn’t have even started it, but we must deal with reality now or we could end up in a very poor position in our future society.

While directly criticizing the troops remains politically incorrect for the time being in policy circles and the media, there has been some low-level criticism of the military apparatus. The media’s preoccupation with the Abu Ghraib scandal after so many years comes to mind, but at least that can be conveniently chalked up to “a few bad apples”. Here are a few examples of subtle attempts to discredit the military as an institution, thereby discrediting those who are part of the organization. I recently found these and they aren’t the fringe neo-Trotskyite crowd on the streets with tinfoil hats, but rather from individuals that can communicate effectively to a broad audience. These can be extrapolated to a cultural paradigm that could sweep over large portions of Americans if we rest on our laurels.

Kathy G. over at Crooked Timber discusses how certain books on required military college reading lists have led to a culture of “racism” and “imperialism”:

Books and ideas can have a profound impact. I don’t think it would have been quite as easy for the Bush administration to do what they did if racist, imperialist attitudes were not so prevalent amongst the military and foreign policy elites.

It goes without say that the “racist” and “imperialist” moniker are phrases that have extremely negative connotations. The public does not have the understanding to distinguish between ranks and sees the entire military as one cohesive unit, and applied to our leadership will effectively characterize us all as ideological monsters. Glenn Greenwald decries the Pentagon’s information apparatus, which will effectively make us appear as liars and under orders from a Goebbels-style machine:

The Pentagon has posted to its website the roughly 8,000 pages and audio tapes it was forced to provide to the New York Times regarding its "military analyst" program. Anyone who reads through them, as I've now done, can only be left with one conclusion: if this wasn't an example of an illegal, systematic "domestic propaganda campaign" by the Pentagon, then nothing is.

Finally, famous author, Stephen King, portrayed military service as an inherent flaw of an individual’s character with these recent remarks.

The fact is if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don't, then you've got the Army, Iraq, I don't know, something like that.

None of these comments are particularly offensive, but they are a snap shot of a trend which will ultimately create a political and cultural atmosphere where we will need to be looking over our shoulders if left unabated.

This process of dehumanization will make it more viable for future pundits and politicians to ostracize the relatively small number of military personnel who served during this time of war. Campaign slogans will be more designed to sway large groups of voters and support for us could become political suicide as the American public views us as “those guys who signed up to go to Iraq”. Veteran benefits such as health care, the GI Bill, and treatment for our wounded brothers and sisters should be free from politics, as a country that sends men and women to a war should be contractually obligated to take care of them afterwards. But we all know that our government does not operate on principle, since it is “for sale” to the highest bidder or special interest groups. Also, by nature of our public service, soliciting substantial amounts of funding from the private sector would prove difficult. It will be necessary to compete with various other groups as crunch time in the economy approaches to get the benefits we need. The cost of treating our vets from these two wars will be tremendous, and big government staples like Social Security that give benefits to the general public have the backing of powerful lobby group AARP, which makes things even more difficult. Unfortunately, we do not make up a large enough voting bloc where we can vote things our way all of the time, so it will be necessary to play politics.

After espousing on the problem, give me some time to think up some solutions (I’d be a shitty officer otherwise), and I will post them up on VetVoice hopefully this weekend.
Competition for Resources