Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Military (page 1 / 1)

Veterans Day Is Not a Christian Holiday

I've been growing and evolving my religious beliefs and political positions over the past 15 years. I may have changed the most in my attitude towards the American military and the hero worship that American evangelicals have for our military. I grew up in a conservative household, in a Navy town. I was surrounded by active duty and retired members of the military, both in my extended family and among my friends' parents and my parents' friends.

Our church was typical of many. Every July 4th, we'd celebrate America and its armed forces. Representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines would carry their service's flag down to the front of the church, as the service's march was played. The American flag would be prominently honored as well. Every Veterans Day Sunday, we would ask all members of the military to stand, to be honored for their service. I thought this was only just and right, as America was a Christian nation and these men and women protected us and helped to enact America's will and — by extension — God's will.

That's all changed. I can't abide churches mixing the worship of God and the worship of American military might. Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Our first allegiance should be to God. If He is a jealous God, as we say He is, we shouldn't be bringing other powers into His church, to praise, honor, and venerate. God's house should be holy — set apart to God and God alone.

I've also become a peacenik. I no longer see American military might as a good thing and I no longer see the demonstration of American power as something to desire. Violence is violence and we should always mourn it and do everything we can to prevent it. In Foundation, Isaac Asimov's character Salvor Hardin says that "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent". I'm idealistic enough to believe that's true. I haven't become a full-fledged pacifist, but I do believe that we should avoid military force unless we've truly exhausted every other solution and we have no choice.

In that light, I read Brian Doherty's recent article for Reason.com, "No More Vietnam Syndrome". Here, he's talking about the results of America's military efforts since 9/11.

After September 11, 2001, the U.S. military fully re-entered the world stage. The last 17 years have seen a variety of wars, quasiwars, and ongoing interventions with a mix of shifting rationales, from revenge for the attacks to spreading peaceful democracy in the Middle East to targeting specific bad actors to simply helping our Saudi allies as they work to reduce Yemen to a charnel house. None of these more recent efforts have worked out well on a geopolitical level. Meant to end Islamic terrorism worldwide, our post-9/11 warmaking multiplied it. A 2007 study by NYU researchers found that the average yearly number and fatality rate of terror attacks rose by 607 percent and 237 percent respectively after we entered Iraq in 2003. If you exclude violence in that country, the increases were still 265 and 58 percent; most jihadis in subsequent years were radicalized by the invasion itself.

Meant to crush Al Qaeda, our interventions have expanded its breadth and numbers; meant to create stable democracies in the Middle East, they've helped reduce Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen to the same sort of chaos that bred the terror in Afghanistan that began this whole bloody, pointless process.

These various post-9/11 foreign policy failures have cost our debt-riddled nation at least $1.5 trillion in direct costs, according to a recent Defense Department report, and more than $5 trillion in ancillary costs—such as interest and future veterans expenses—according to a 2017 analysis by the Watson Center at Brown University. In constant 2018 dollars, the Defense Department will spend this year in excess of 50 percent more than it did in 1968.

But the more hideous cost—especially poignant for those who remember the cries of "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"—is in lives. That same Watson Center study estimates that there have been 370,000 deaths from direct war violence since 2001; 200,000 civilian deaths; and over 10 million people displaced by the harm to property and municipal functionality. Alas, this human and social misery is obscured by consistent, deliberate use of bloodless rhetoric. American foreign policy professionals and pundits somehow manage to look at our costly failings and the world's suffering—all that money, all that death—and think the answer is that the U.S. military should have done more, and smarter, and harder.

If only the lessons of Vietnam, or even of Iraq, would actually stick. We can't expect the aftereffects of this century's foreign policy sins to be short-lived. Laos still suffers dozens of deaths a year because of 80 million unexploded bombs left behind by the Vietnam War. The casualties of our drone wars may be their own variety of unexploded ordnance, as generations grow up in the literal and figurative shadows of insufficiently discriminating robot death machines in the sky, courtesy of the United States.

As a Christian — not as an American, but as a Christian — are you proud of these results? Can you truly look at them and say that America was "doing the Lord's work"? I can't. I supported the Iraq War in 2003, but I don't support it now. There is nothing to cheer in the ongoing military operations in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria, and in Yemen. And there's certainly nothing Christian in what the U.S. military is doing around the world today. Let's stop pretending that there is, let's stop treating Veterans Day as a church holiday, and let's stop confusing patriotism with religious devotion.

The Army Officer Who Committed Murder

The Army Officer Who Committed Murder →

Conservative commentators want the President to pardon Lt. Lorance.

A few minutes into that morning patrol, while walking through a field of grapes, a private named James Skelton spotted a motorcycle in the distance carrying three men and called it out to Lieutenant Lorance.

News media reports based on interviews with Mr. Lorance’s family and lawyers have described the motorcycle “speeding toward the platoon,” giving the lieutenant only seconds to act. But soldiers testified that the bike was about 200 yards away and could not have reached the platoon’s position in the grape fields.

Without asking for more information, Lieutenant Lorance, standing in a low spot where he could not see the motorcycle, told the soldiers to “engage,” soldiers testified.

“Nobody fired initially,” Todd Fitzgerald, a specialist in the platoon who was standing near the lieutenant, said in an interview. “There was no reason to. Then Lorance said, ‘Why isn’t anyone firing yet?’”

Private Skelton fired two shots that missed.

The men on the motorcycle stopped, got off and looked around, soldiers testified, trying to figure out what had happened. Lieutenant Lorance radioed a nearby truck that had a machine gun with an order to fire. Sergeant Williams, who watched through a high-powered camera at the outpost, saw two bursts from the gun truck take down the motorcycle driver, then, after a pause, a man with a wispy white beard. A third man fled into the village.

“I got on the radio and was, like, what the hell just happened?” Sergeant Williams said in an interview. “There was no threat from those guys whatsoever.”

Lieutenant Lorance then told the machine-gunner to fire at the motorcycle, but a boy had come to retrieve it, so the gunner refused.

“I wasn’t going to shoot a 12-year-old boy,” the gunner, Private David Shilo, testified.

Soldiers searching the dead men found only a pair of scissors, an identification card, some pens and three cucumbers.

Women and children came out of the village, screaming and crying, soldiers said. Mr. Fitzgerald said in an interview that the lieutenant turned to him and said, “If anyone tries to touch the bodies, shoot them.” Then, as the villagers confronted the platoon members, Mr. Fitzgerald said, Lieutenant Lorance swore at them and said, “Shut up or I’ll kill you, too.”

I think Lt. Lorance is fine right where he is—serving a 19-year prison sentence.

This entry was tagged. Military

Why Romney’s Right: Many Cheap Ships Safer Than Few Expensive Ones

Why Romney’s Right: Many Cheap Ships Safer Than Few Expensive Ones →

I think Bob Owens makes a lot of sense, in this post. (And Romney needs to do a better job of explaining his positions. I didn't have any idea that this was a plan, when I watched him debate President Obama.)

We’ve sunk — pardon the term — literally trillions of dollars into the development of nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered carrier strike groups and ballistic missile submarines, but the loss of a single one would be an overwhelming blow from which it would take years to recover.

We’ve created a Navy that is “too big to fail,” in terms of the importance and capital investment we’ve placed on just eleven ships — an incredibly short-sighted position. We’ve made similarly bad investments in the gee-whiz technology of the F-22 Raptor, where every accident or combat loss costs $150 million each, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will cost (if they are ever fielded) as much as a quarter-billion dollars each to replace for the Navy and Marine versions. We’re creating planes and ships that are too expensive to risk losing in combat. These technological marvels are backed by systems and support elements that are 50 years old, being used by the grandchildren of the men that built and used them.

It’s absurd.

What Mitt Romney has proposed is a shift in our way of thinking about the military that a community organizer simply can’t grasp.

Romney has proposed a Navy of lighter, more numerous, less expensive, and more deployable multiple-role ships that can be better geographically dispersed around the globe to more quickly respond to need, instead of having less than a dozen carrier strike groups chasing problems around the world.

Romney’s plan to use COTS (commercial off the shelf) technologies across the entire military may not be as sexy as spending billions to mount futuristic lasers and rail-guns on ships, but what it will do is put more ships and sailors on the water.

It’s a stunning turnaround offered by one of America’s best turnaround artists. Romney proposes to toss the bureaucratic dead-weight out of the military, out of the Pentagon, and replace them with real war-fighters and practical weapons.

It's a fairly fundamental issue. Do we want a Navy that has few ships that are each massively powerful and massively expensive? The downside is that it would be disastrous both economically and militarily to lose even one ship. Or do we want a Navy that has many, cheap ships that are each relatively weak? The upside is that we could afford to lose a few ships without crippling the Navy or the budget. Romney is in favor of the latter while Obama is in favor of the former.

America’s Drone Terrorism

America’s Drone Terrorism →

A look into President Obama's war strategy in Pakistan.

In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the U.S. safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.

This narrative is false.

Those are the understated opening words of a disturbing, though unsurprising, nine-month study of the Obama administration’s official, yet unacknowledged, remote-controlled bombing campaign in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan, near Afghanistan. The report, “Living Under Drones,” is a joint effort by the New York University School of Law’s Global Justice Clinic and Stanford Law School’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic.

The NYU/Stanford report goes beyond reporting estimates of the civilian casualties inflicted by the deadly and illegal U.S. campaign. It also documents the hell the Pakistanis endure under President Barack Obama’s policy, which includes a “kill list” from which he personally selects targets. That hell shouldn’t be hard to imagine. Picture yourself living in an area routinely visited from the air by pilotless aircraft carrying Hellfire missiles. This policy is hardly calculated to win friends for the United States.

I can't imagine how horrible it must be to not that drone fighters are constantly flying over your village and that you risk being killed anytime a far off leader thinks you represent a threat. For innocent Pakistani citizens, this is the definition of unprovoked war and aggression. And they're going to hate us, a lot, for it. We're creating enemies, not friends.

An Inside Look at the SEAL Sensibility

An Inside Look at the SEAL Sensibility →

This is a great profile of the SEALs by a former SEAL. I have an absolutely incredible respect for these men.

What kind of man makes it through Hell Week? That's hard to say. But I do know — generally — who won't make it. There are a dozen types that fail: the weight-lifting meatheads who think that the size of their biceps is an indication of their strength, the kids covered in tattoos announcing to the world how tough they are, the preening leaders who don't want to get dirty, and the look-at-me former athletes who have always been told they are stars but have never have been pushed beyond the envelope of their talent to the core of their character. In short, those who fail are the ones who focus on show. The vicious beauty of Hell Week is that you either survive or fail, you endure or you quit, you do—or you do not.

Some men who seemed impossibly weak at the beginning of SEAL training—men who puked on runs and had trouble with pull-ups—made it. Some men who were skinny and short and whose teeth chattered just looking at the ocean also made it. Some men who were visibly afraid, sometimes to the point of shaking, made it too.

Almost all the men who survived possessed one common quality. Even in great pain, faced with the test of their lives, they had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear and ask: How can I help the guy next to me? They had more than the "fist" of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others, to dedicate themselves to a higher purpose.

SEALs are capable of great violence, but that's not what makes them truly special. Given two weeks of training and a bunch of rifles, any reasonably fit group of 16 athletes (the size of a SEAL platoon) can be trained to do harm. What distinguishes SEALs is that they can be thoughtful, disciplined and proportional in the use of force.

Re: Fort Hood's Shootings (Joe's Take)

I believe this post finishes our site's libertarian conversion. We now occupy the same portion of the libertarian spectrum that LewRockwell.com occupies.

I don't like America's wars of aggression. The problem, as I see it, is that it can be hard to tell the difference between a war of aggression and a good preemptive defense. For instance, I'm still not convinced that going into Iraq was the right thing to do. I'm not sure what risk we were defending ourselves against.

On the other hand, Afghanistan was a necessary war. You give safe harbor to people who blow up part of a city, you die. It's just that simple. But I think that we should have left a while ago. I'm not sure that we're accomplishing anything worthwhile by propping up a corrupt Karzai government. I know about the fear that that terrorists will get Pakistani nukes and attack us with those. But I'm not sure how likely that scenario is or how fragile Pakistan's own government is. So I'm not sure if what we're doing is preemptive defense against a nuclear scenario or whether we're engaging in blatant imperialism for no good return.

But I am grateful for those who do decide to join the military and protect our borders. I respect their loyalty, their sense of honor, and their dedication. I don't always agree with their mission but I know that I'm not qualified to judge how necessary each mission is. As a result, I do sympathize with them and with their families. For this attack, especially.

The Army, for its own inscrutable reasons decided that stateside military bases should be gun-free zones. That strikes me as absolute lunacy. Had someone removed this nut months ago when it became apparent that he was a nut, soldiers would be alive today. Had someone decided to allow our soldiers to carry the guns that they were trained to carry, more of them would be alive today.

I have a lot of sympathy for people who are hamstrung and betrayed by their own leadership. Incidents like this raise a lot of questions about whether a bureaucratized military is the best way to protect a country. I'm not sure that it is. The institutional Army protects its turf quite fiercely, even when that turf isn't worth protecting. Instead, I'd like to see us get back to the old way of doing things: no standing army and a fully armed citizenry that stands ready to form an ad-hoc army as conditions warrant.

Michael Z. Williamson envisioned a heavily armed libertarian society in his book Freehold. I rather like it. And I can think a large portion of our current military would like it too. I don't think they're in the military because they're thugs. I think they're in the military because it's the only institution we have that will allow them to arm up and stand on the borders, protecting those within. Getting called upon to engage in dubious ventures is an unfortunate cost of being a protector. And that's why I sympathize with them.

And, just for the record, I think this LewRockwell.com post is more than a little nuts itself.

An Example of Bad Immigration Policy

Eduardo Gonzalez is a petty officer second class, in the U.S. Navy. He's a naturalized citizen. His wife, Mildred, is not. Eduardo is about to be deployed to overseas. His wife may not be in the States, by the time he gets back.

In Gonzalez's case, his wife, Mildred, came to the United States with her mother in 1989 when she was 5 years old. They were granted political asylum because of their status as war refugees from Guatemala.

In September 2000, Mildred's mother applied for legalization and included her daughter in that application. Her mother was granted legal status in July 2004, according to Gonzalez.

However, six weeks earlier, Gonzalez and Mildred got married, canceling Mildred's ability to apply for legal status through her mother because she was no longer an unmarried daughter under the age of 21. As a result, her legal status still remains in jeopardy.

A judge in June granted her a one-year extension to remain in the United States. If her legal status does not change by June 8, 2008, she will have 60 days to voluntarily leave the country or face deportation.

Why do we still have an immigration system that's more interested in kicking Mildred out of the country than in welcoming her into the country? Why did it take four years for her mother to be legalized? Will it take another four years for her to legalized?

Eduardo is serving this country, putting his life on the line. Are we really going to reward him by kicking his wife back to Guatemala -- a country she hasn't lived in for 17 years -- and making her go through "the line" for the next 4-10 years? Do we really want to send the world a message saying "Stay Out! America for Americans Only!"

It sure looks to me like that's what we're doing. And we don't have to. All we need to do is change immigration law. The law should treat relatives of the military as though we actually value the sacrifice that the military makes. That law should provide an easy, relatively painless process to enter the country -- not the labyrinthian mess that we have now. Why is doing the right thing so hard?

Finally, comments like this are hardly helpful.

That's just fine, according to Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which lobbies for tougher laws on illegal immigration.

"What you're talking about is amnesty for illegal immigrants who have a relative in the armed forces, and that's just outrageous," he said. "What we're talking about here is letting lawbreakers get away with their actions just because they have a relative in the military. ... There's no justification for that kind of policy."

Lawbreakers? Mildred isn't a lawbreaker. She immigrated and was granted asylum because her homeland was tearing itself apart. She spent her entire life her. She wants to spend the rest of her life her. And you're calling her a lawbreaker?

Give me a break.