The Military and the Left
That's why I've started urging all the bright young liberals I meet to join the military.
Sure, U.S. military policy is flawed in many respects. But that's not a reason for progressives to shun the military. On the contrary, it's one of the main reasons that liberals need to reexamine their long-standing aversion to military service.
There is a significant and growing gap between military and civilian cultures. While about a third of the general public identifies themselves as Democrats and another third as Republicans, a January 2005 Military Times poll found that 60% of military respondents were Republicans, 17% were independents and only 13% were Democrats.
A generation ago, the military was far less partisan in its composition: A plurality (46%) called themselves independents, while only 33% were Republicans. On numerous key social and religious issues, military personnel today are far more conservative than the typical American.
In today's polarized political atmosphere, anyone who finds this troubling needs to be willing to work for change from inside the military, not just from the outside. Otherwise, the cultural and political gap between the military and civilian society will only widen.
If the Democrats are smart (but they are not), they would try to peel away this bloc of military voters hence significant weaken the Republican Party. A similar strategy works for the Republican Party concerning minority votes. By winning a very small percentile of Black voters (a gain of merely two percents), Republicans weaken the Democrats in the 2000 and 2004 election. To repeat this strategy for the Democrats requires the Left to treat the military with more respect.
An unwillingness to participate in the killing of innocent civilians, known in military parlance as "collateral damage," is a key reason for low enlistment rates among those who consider themselves liberal. Conspicuously absent from Rosa Brooks' recruitment broadside is any mention of such killing in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Having a different sense of compassion and a stronger belief in diplomacy, liberals share with revolutionary patriot Thomas Paine distaste for what he called "offensive war" but would doubtlessly sign up if the American homeland is imminently threatened. President Bush joins Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon as a leader who has failed to make the case.
Of course, I am not gloating about the number of Republicans in the military despite being one myself. It is an expression of great concern. If it is unhealthy for the Black community to vote overwhelmingly Democratic; then it is equally unhealthy for the military when most of them vote Republican. It is also unhealthy for the Republican Party when the party has no strong opposition. The country needs a strong opposition Party that is not on crack. But I am very pessimistic about the state of the Democratic Party and the prospect of them supporting the military.
Another issue in reverse is former and current military joining entity associate with liberal leftwing cause – such as the Peace Corp. Colman McCarthy wrote an op-ed on the Washington Post arguing that the Peace Corp should encourage former soldiers to join the Corp instead of opposing it (as they are currently doing). And not to neglect academia, I also propose a closer interaction between the military and college campus. Thucydides said that "The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools." This is why we produce such dismal academics such as Juan Cole or Ward Churchill. It is essential that Ivy League institutions bring back ROTC programs and encourage their student to serve in the military after graduation. And the Pentagon is not entirely blameless either. For years, the Pentagon has created an anti-intellectual culture. This is why General Abizaid ascendancy was noticed by many Pentagon observers as unique and exceptional, not because the General was of Middle East descent, but that he was a scholar. The Pentagon should take step to recruit more officers from Ivy League institutions and in the process bring an end to the separation between academia and the military. It would benefit the country greatly when a scholar and a warrior is the same man.