In one of my email lists, one of the correspondents, who is ex-military, voiced his concern that, if America collapses per Obama’s plan, enlistments and re-enlistments in the military will collapse too. After all, why should a young man or woman enlist if there’s nothing left to fight for. His question was well-timed, because a visit to Goodwill yesterday (where I, the ultimate cheapskate, love to buy books) left me thinking along those same lines.
One of the books available was Generation Kill, about a Marine unit that was one of the first to head to Baghdad. I opted not to get it, despite the cheap price, because of how the book jacket sold it: reading the book would allow you to spend time with young men who loved to kill. You’d get up close and personal with Mafiosa style murderers outfitted in American uniforms. I don’t know if that’s what the book actually delivered, but that’s how it was sold.
As it was, though, that book jacket got me thinking. First, I thought about George Orwell’s famous quotation that “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Given that there are men who are warriors to the bone, we should all be grateful that they are willing to take on the jobs that the weak, effete, lazy, scared, inept and ideologically opposed among us are unwilling to do. I also thought, thank God these men are on my side and not on someone else’s.
My friend’s question this morning, about whether there’ll be anything left for these men to join, forced me to expand upon my thought process.
If we no longer give these men a moral Army in which to fight, if we no longer provide them with an outlet for their warrior spirit, where will that spirit go? Instead of willingly donning a uniform to fight abroad to keep Americans safe at home, will these same men become the predators in our land? In the latter case, they won’t be driven anymore by a positive ideology, but they’ll still have that craving for battle and excitement that will have to have some outlet. And the 19 year old who earns medals for exemplary bravery in combat, deprived of a meaningful outlet for that energy, could very well become the gang leader preying on innocents in some American city.
UPDATE: A couple of my milblogger friends have expressed concern that I’m implying that Americans who serve in the military are killers who will kill wherever they go. I clearly expressed myself badly if that’s what my friends thought. Here’s the response I gave to them, in which I try to make my point more clearly:
I don’t mean to imply that guys in the military are mindless killers, who will kill no matter the venue or circumstances. I do think, though, that young men need a place to take their entirely appropriate male energy. A society that closes those avenues is creating problems for itself. If the military becomes useless because it no longer stands for anything, the young men have to go somewhere. A lot of them will just work — assuming there is an economy in which to do so. But if there’s no work, nothing to fight for, and nothing to lose, all of you’ve get is a lot of natural testosterone floating around, looking for something to do. And that’s when trouble can happen, not because these guys are bad, but because we’ve shut them down at every turn.
In other words, I’m not talking anymore about the military and the young men (and women) who serve in it. I’m talking more broadly about a culture that ignores male needs. Incidentally, I think the fact that so many young men today engage in mindlessly dangerous activities, such as cliff jumping and other extreme sports, is because they need precisely that adrenalin-rushing outlet. In the old days, those guys would have been naturals for military service, but they’ve been raised in homes that characterize the military as irredeemably evil, so they take that same verve, and energy, and bravery, and jump off a cliff. Likewise, I think the proliferation of computer war games is another sign that the energy is there but that, culturally, the doors are shut for so many boys and men.