One of my favorite books ever is Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory. (Just as a “by the way,” another wonderful Fussell book is Thank God for the Atom Bomb.) In The Great War and Modern Memory, Fussell examines how the literary British upper-class men who participated in the British war wrote about it, from the unadulterated patriotism of Rupert Brookes (who saw so little fighting and died of an infected mosquito bite at Gallipoli) to the tortured trauma of Siegfried Sassoon, who spent too many years on the Western Front. Fussell gracefully weaves military history, literary history, and literary analysis into one seamless, tragic whole. It is an epic work.
Fussell’s book also makes one aware that there are always two wars going on: the war on the ground, and what I call “the war as perceived.” Only the troops know the war on the ground but, if one has a literate military, everyone can experience the war second-hand. Although not as excessively literary as the British, who were steeped in Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, etc., American troops did a fine job of bringing the war home, at least through the end of WWII. They wrote home from the front during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II. Not just that, but during all those wars, a critical percentage of the American male population was engaged in the fight, meaning that, not only were troops writing, a critical percentage of the people at home were reading what the troops wrote.
Things changed after World War II. We still fought wars and American troops still wrote home, but the audience was shrinking. Fewer and fewer families had someone on the front. Americans who did not have a friend or family member in the war lost sight of the “war as perceived.” Into that vacuum stepped the Leftist propagandists. They vigorously filled this informational void, most notably with John Kerry’s despicable Winter Soldier lies. With Vietnam, on the home front, the “war as perceived” began to have a great deal to do with hostile sources — our home-grown communist fifth party — and nothing to do with the military’s own experience.
The internet has changed all this. In the ordinary course of things, between my environment (blue, blue Bay Area) and demographics (I’m too old to have friends who fight and my children are too young to be part of the fighting generation), “the war as perceived” would have passed me by. Or, to the extent I did learn something about it, that knowledge would have come from the MSM filter, which is alternately maudlin or hostile when it comes to our fighting troops.
But with the internet . . . well, that’s a different thing entirely. We get front line reports, not from reporters, enemies, and propagandists, but from the troops themselves. We also get “back line reports” (for want of a better phrase). We don’t just learn from the troops about the blood and smoke. We hear, first hand, about the camaraderie, the training, the boredom, the skill sets, the loss, and the foolish fun.
This first person war reporting is incredibly important. It’s one of the reasons why, all efforts notwithstanding, the Lefties have been unable to turn Americans against the troops. Because of the blogs, we know the troops, unfiltered. They’re young men and young women who train, fight, play, dream, love and hate. They are us. We cannot pretend that they are some alien killer beings because the troops themselves won’t let that pretense exist.
The other thing milblogging teaches us is that so many of those who serve in our military our excellent writers and thinkers. They are well-informed, thoughtful, funny, intelligent and generally people with whom it’s nice to spend time. When I read my favorite milblogs, I always think to myself “Gosh, I’d like to have lunch with that writer.” (To my favorite milbloggers, that’s a hint. If you’re going in be in town, drop me a line.)
I’d therefore like to introduce you to a few of my favorite milbloggers. I’d also like it if you’d use the comments section to introduce me (and everyone else) to a few of your favorite milbloggers:
And a newbie, a female Marine: Tin and Phoenix