During the Bush years, when the Invasion of Iraq was proving to be an unjustifiable national risk engineered by lies and deception, I found myself caught up in a discussion as to soldiers at risk. One remark led me to post an article in 2005.
“Your son volunteered. He knew what he was getting into …”
So did I … in 1968, five months after the Tet offensive.
I dropped out of college and enlisted. And like the current volunteers who are described by worn-out conservative flag-wearers, I had a rough idea of what I was getting into.
That rough idea was based on trust; trust in a system and, ultimately, trust in a specific leader and a specific governing political party. The specific leader of course was LBJ, the specific party was the Democratic Party and the specific system was and is the system that allows us to hang our political opinions on buttons and sanctimonious drapery of stars and stripes from which we belch our prejudices.
When you sign up you endorse a contract on the bottom line. It’s a contract with specified written obligations on the part of both parties, but also with unspecified but powerful assumptions on the part of both parties.
Joining the military and knowing what you are getting into is based on very powerful unwritten but nationally accepted assumptions:
The integrity and honor of the Commander In Chief and that CIC’s skill, wisdom and understanding of all reasons when and why military citizens are to be placed in harm’s way.
As a volunteer you are at the mercy of that individual, his party and their combined priorities – with a strong expectation that those priorities extend beyond a desire to remain in the driver’s seat.
As a volunteer you are at the mercy of your own fellow citizens (including your own family) whom you trust to be willing and supportive in making sure the leadership does not waste your vital blood, devotion and patriotism in pipe dreams, self-interested agenda’s and ideologies.
Leaders are driven by a genuine desire to involve the country in on-going mutual participation and compromise regarding foreign policy before resorting to force.
Volunteering to become a soldier is volunteering to preserve and protect – with your own power and will – the country, its borders, its citizens and its institutions. It isn’t volunteering to keep a political party in power.
The only way to avoid that circumstance is for the citizens to assume their rightful role in the triangular relationship with the military and the CIC.
The military is expected to trust the CIC’s wisdom as well as the patriotic participation of the Citizens who will keep the CIC honest.
The CIC is expected to trust the troops to follow orders and expects to sustain by honesty and integrity the support of the Citizens.
The Citizens expect the troops to do their duties and expect the CIC to sustain his political authority with honesty and integrity. The Citizens must be willing to hold the CIC accountable and willfully resist when the honesty and integrity of leadership is absent.
The retired generals who have currently called the President to account are now Citizens doing their actual duty – perhaps more accurately and definitely more courageously than many of us who speak out from our keyboards.
The active duty military who are more and more putting careers at risk by criticising or outright defying the autocratic actions of Mr. Trump are also filling their Constitutional role in the triangular relationship with the President and the Citizens. We need to commend their courage.
They are not bluffing.
We Citizens ought not be bluffing. We are not to be cowed by presidents and heat-packing drugstore patriots posing for pictures with bibles and guns.
The president can bluff and bluster all he wants so long as we stick to our Constitutional duties.
Whether or not the President is understanding the precarious ledge upon which he postures is secondary to the fact that we as Citizens have an equal obligation to have the Military’s back.
None of us are under any obligation to sheepfully volunteer to keep any political party in power and pretend we are following the Constitution.