Schadenfreude at the New York Times

When my friends make mistakes, I’m usually amused and rather pleased, not because I revel in their suffering, but because it shows our shared humanity.  When bad things happen to my friends, I feel genuine distress and wish devoutly for their situation to improve.

The opposite is true, of course, when people or institutions I fear, dislike, or distrust make mistakes or have bad things happen.  For example, if I hear about a would-be terrorist blowing himself up on his own bomb before he even leaves his laboratory, I’m delighted.  The Germans have a word for it:  schadenfreude, which means to take delight in someone else’s misfortune.

Given the smug pleasure a New York Times movie review takes in recounting problems within the American military, I’m pretty sure that the writers and editors at the Times fear, dislike, and distrust that institution — one that, in case they forget, is an all-volunteer organization staffed by ordinary Americans and subordinate to the Constitution the Left so much wants to “adjust” into oblivion.  Here’s the movie review, and please note the glee with which the review recounts the military’s travails (emphasis mine):

It hardly needs to be said that any armed force has the potential for internal as well as external violence. But “The Invisible War,” Kirby Dick’s incendiary documentary about the epidemic of rape within the United States military, is a shocking and infuriating indictment of widespread sexual attacks on women. Such behavior, the film argues, is tacitly condoned and routinely covered up; the victims are often blamed and their reputations destroyed.

This unsettling exposé, which won the audience award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, may be the most outraged film in the annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival, which opened on Thursday and continues at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center through June 28. It is likely to fuel a growing perception of the military as a broken institution, stretched beyond its limits and steeped in a belligerent, hypermasculine mystique that has gone unchecked.

Last week the Pentagon reported that there had been 154 suicides among active-duty troops this year, a rate of nearly one a day. The rate is higher than that of military fatalities in Afghanistan, and it is another sign of incipient breakdown.

The language I highlighted reveals that the liberal audience at Sundance also reveled in the Army’s alleged problem.  I say “alleged” because while I’m perfectly ready to believe that it’s a macho culture with all that this entails, I distrust the source.  In addition, the Army must be doing the world’s worst job in basic training if the women who graduate are incapable of defending themselves.

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  • jj

    Of course the women are incapable of defending themselves: they’ve had the same basic training as the men, and the men are bigger, stronger, and probably faster.  A good big man will beat a good small man every time – and twice on Sundays.  So: what would you expect?
    The military is, in some ways, a broken – or perhaps, “heading toward breakdown” – institution.  They are trying to do more and more with less and less, and the result of this is both inevitable and predictable.  There are tanks on the battlefield that are decades older than any member of their crews; there are guys in the air force flying and maintaining the same planes their grandfathers flew and maintained; and in the Navy there are people driving ships christened by the wives of important administration members back as far as the Kennedy administration.  When was the last time you saw a Boeing 707?  Every damn day, in the air force – they’re KC-135s, and they keep them flying.  (As long as they don’t run out of used chewing gum, spit, rubber bands, and paper clips.)
    It used to be that we couldn’t get along with fewer than 15 carriers and their associated BGs; then the world evidently got much safer while I wasn’t looking, and we only needed 12 – and the end result is we have 11.  Enterprise is on her last deployment right now – when she decommissions in a couple of months we’ll have 10.  (Boy – has this world gotten safer, or what?)  This means they’re out longer, trying to be in more places at once, all of which hugely increases stress on people and machines.  Hang around a bar with a 34 year old pilot (that’s an older one, who’s been around a while), and he’ll tell you that while he loves the F/A-18 and it’s a great compromise, that’s what it is: a compromise.  It doesn’t fill the fleet defense role as well as the F-14 did, nor does it carry sufficient ordnance to fill the attack role as well as the A-6 did.  But it is cheaper, no question, to only have to carry spares for one type.
    I grew up with the active duty air force getting new equipment, and passing previous generations of stuff along to the air guard.  The active-duty guys always had the best stuff, for the obvious reason that they’re active-duty: full-time.  In a 60 Minutes expose of problems with the F-22 a few weeks back, the part about it that was the largest surprise to me was that the guys talking about the plane were all guard guys.  The newest equipment we have went straight from the factory to the Guard?  When did that start happening?  (And it’s not like we manufactured 12,000 of them, either, enough to equip everybody.  They’re quite scarce, in fact.)  The answer to the question is that the active-duty force has been cut down so much that while it may still be the largest in the world, it’s a shadow of what it was not so long ago.  Fewer and fewer people, trying to do more and more.  The stress goes up and up.  Back when Clinton was “cutting government jobs” they were retiring F-15 hulls with fewer than 2,500 hours on them – even as the test-bed hulls were passing through 9,000 hours, establishing that they’d last for years, yet.  The air force flatly didn’t have the people to keep them in the air – they’re at D-Mont.
    And now Jug-ears has decided that what the world needs is a smaller US military.  All the services will shrink some more, which will stress the people in them even more, with more worn-out equipment and longer deployments.  (If you’re using the equipment more it gets worn out quicker.  When you have 300 guys and a hundred HumVees, there’s some down-time for both guys and vehicles to get repaired. When you’re trying to cover the same territory with 100 guys and 20 vehicles, the only time the guys are off is when they’re asleep, and the engines are never turned off except when the thing’s being fueled up at shift-change.)
    So: ancient equipment + too few people + too many deployments = stress.  That equals fights, rapes, general drunkenness and drug p[roblems on and off base, etc.  Of course it does – how could it not?
    I think there are problems in the military.  The biggest problem is that we expect them to just go do it, but we don’t want to pay what it costs to properly equip them, and back them up to do it.  Democrats run the military like GE ran NBC:  “why are there ten guys in this department?  Three of you are fired, seven can do it.”  A year later, when seven people are lying on the floor in end-stage exhaustion, back comes Jack: “See?  I told you seven could do it.  In fact for this coming year, two of you are fired.  I bet five can do it.”  And they can – for a while.  But then mistakes start being made.  At NBC they weren’t important – “why are you showing stock footage of L-1011’s in a story about problems with DC-10s?”  Because the fact-checkers and guys who knew the difference between and DC-10 and an L-1011 don’t work here any more. 
    That’s minor.  But when people are dying, and they can’t do the job because they need a bunch more people who don’t work her any more – that’s important.  And that’s where we are, and that’s where we’re headed.  So the problems shouldn’t surprise anybody.  The New York Times doesn’t have the nous to look in a mirror and notice that maybe they have something to do with this problem, and maybe so does their jug-eared knight in rusty armor – but that’s the fact, Jack.  The fix is obvious.  

  • JKB

    All the more odd, is they always present this as the women alone. The men I’ve known, not just in the military, would offer private counseling to gentlemen who picked a fight with their fellow soldier. Not to mention the whole defend the women, children and weak creed which the “neanderthals” who choose warrior careers tend to have in abundance. Historically, the problem with women in the military has been men who can’t switch out of protect mode and treat them as full comrades in arms.

    I worked with a woman once, in the private sector maritime world, she told me matter of factly that should she get raped working in her field, she wouldn’t complain and damage her career. But she also indicated her attacker would not enjoy a long and happy life. This was years ago and it is sad that she felt complaining would be detrimental but a dead rapist isn’t a bad outcome.