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The military culture and dysfunction thread


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This thread is for the discussion of military culture and society: its causes, interactions and pathologies (or perhaps not). This is obviously a broad topic, as military culture is different in each country. Even so, specific examples and analysis of general trends may prove illuminating.

 

What has your experience of the armed forces been, as an insider or outsider? How do you see the role of the armed forces, and how does your society? What is right or wrong about how the military works (or doesn't, or does but not in the way you want it to)?

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No, you're supposed to look at the supporting evidence. That book you linked? Its thesis was already featured comprehensively in a pretty good article from 2009.     http://www.salon.com/2009/06/15

Again. I'm not going to defend or attack Chris Kyle. The umbrage I take is this comment. "When you go "volunteer" military, you actually get the dregs for the most part" which is rather demonstrably u

Posted on the WOT forums, our very own Zinegata weighs in on the issue:       I wish that the US presidency were a sham institution, concealing a king.  Tell me when elections are suspended and w

Some slightly more specific topics to mull over:

 

- The cult of supersoldier and the seemingly endless fascination people have for the Spartans (ugh) and the SS (double ugh).

 

- The public obsession with technology and individual heroism over logistics and clear-headed political goals

 

- War as an extension of geopolitics versus war as a function of internal politics.

 

- Public attitudes towards soldiers and the interaction between those views and policy (lifers vs. conscripts vs. volunteers; rum, buggery and the lash and so on).

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From my fairly limited experience and interaction with guys who went over and came back, my conclusion is that the majority of the problems was stuff they brought with them. It's just the unusual circumstances and pressures of combat that causes the problems to manifest more noticeably.

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What I find a little hard to understand is how there came to be a separate military culture in the USA so quickly, since Saint Nixon abolished the draft so recently.  There definitely is a separate military culture.  I have cousins and uncles in the military and consider myself fairly quick at picking up on the nuances and minutia of different cultures, and even then I don't always get the jokes on Duffelblog.

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I doubt the Secret Service will indulge in anything like that.

 

In my estimation, the US President just isn't that important.

 

gedankenexperiment; name a single Obama Administration policy.

 

ACA doesn't count; the Obama Administration didn't come up with it.  It's substantially Romneycare with a facelift, and even Romney didn't come up with that.  Mitt Romney is of above-average intelligence for an Americans (most politicians are, although with some amusing exceptions), but he lacks the specialized training and knowledge of the healthcare system to come up with meaningful attempts to reform it.

 

In fact, the same applies for American legislation generally.  Barney Frank and Chris Dodd had nothing to do with their eponymous banking reform act, aside from the largely ceremonial act of introducing it to largely ceremonial debate and voting.  Elected politicians simply do not know enough about the subjects they legislate upon to write meaningful regulations.  When a politician actually does try to write a new law, it's obvious because it's a mess.  Lawyers will look at it and go "WTF is this self-contradictory, redundant nonsense?"

 

This is why the vast majority of legislation, and the overwhelming majority of legislation that actually matters is written by lobbyists and civil servants.  Politicians are so ignorant of the highly-complex subjects they seek to grandstand on that any new rules they write about them fail to rise to the level of bad policy; it's just incoherent babble.

 

This is why it's a mistake to anthropomorphize politicians.  Don't think of them as people, think of them as imminently replaceable cogs in a machine.  If you're rich and powerful enough to play the game, politicians are tools to be used and then discarded when they develop delusions of personhood.  But don't think of them as people.

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This isn't at all surprising but some researchers have discovered incidences of PTSD in the Bronze and early Iron Age including examples in Ancient Greece and the Assyrian Empire. Except back then the disorders were blamed on the spirits of the dead.

 

http://ww2.anglia.ac.uk/ruskin/en/home/news/research_detects-ptsd_3000_years_ago.html

 

http://www.nepft.nhs.uk/_uploads/documents/esm_019_06_549-557_abdul-hamid_hughes_off.pdf

 

The second link details rituals used to ease the distress of individuals afflicted.

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The zulu had a similar approach: before you could even go home you had to go to a sangoma and cleanse yourself of the spirits of those people you had killed.

I think having an entry and exit ceremony to sharply separate civilian and military life is a great idea. Especially when said ceremony is essentially about resetting the status quo and obtaining supernatural forgiveness for your crimes.

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Posted on the WOT forums, our very own Zinegata weighs in on the issue:

 

 

The giant elephant in the room here really is the reality that America is becoming more and more militarist and nobody seems to care or notice. This is why you have a movie on Chris Kyle end up earning $100M despite the fact the man's autobiography has more in common with SS fanfiction and he actually bragged about supposedly murdering several dozen American citizens during Hurrican Katrina to help restore order.

 

When you go "volunteer" military, you actually get the dregs for the most part - the rebel wannabes and the gun nuts - simply because most people are smart enough not to take a military job in the first place. Being in the military doesn't turn these dregs into outstanding citizens automatically no matter how much the military pretends otherwise; and then holding these people up automatically as heroes whose "heroism" is unquestioned due to a culture of impunity (with such arguments as "you weren't there!" or "you didn't risk your life!" even though Alaska fishermen probably had higher casualty rates than most services in the Iraq War) is how we ended up with the Republic falling to Caesar in the first place.

 

So yeah, that's not only appropriate, that's what the future of the US leadership is going to look like - suicidal teens further damaged by war, whose silly and stupid ideas aren't shot down because of vet-worship.

 

 

wish that the US presidency were a sham institution, concealing a king.  Tell me when elections are suspended and whoever the hell is in the big seat starts having big posters of themselves put up in urban centers and having Congress machine-gunned down.  Twentieth Century history has plenty of examples of what happens when a country slides into despotism, and it doesn't look like this.

 

The US presidency was probably best summed up by that great sage of our times, Hunter S. Thompson:

 

 

 

[A] man on the scent of the White House is rarely rational. He is more like a beast in heat: a bull elk in the rut, crashing blindly through the timber in a fever for something to fuck. Anything! A cow, a calf, a mare--any flesh and blood beast with a hole in it. The bull elk is a very crafty animal for about fifty weeks of the year; his senses are so sharp that only an artful stalker can get within a thousand yards of him...butwhen the rut comes on, in the autumn, any geek with the sense to blow an elk-whistle can lure a bull elk right up to his car in ten minutes if he can drive within hearing range.
The dumb bastards lose all control of themselves when the rut comes on. Their eyes glaze over, their ears pack up with hot wax, and their loins get heavy with blood. Anything that sounds like a cow elk in heat will fuse the central nervous systems of every bull on the mountain. They will race through the timbers like huge cannonballs, trampling small trees and scraping off bloody chunks of their own hair on the unyielding bark of the big ones. They behave like sharks in a feeding frenzy, attacking each other with all the demented violence of human drug dealers gone mad on their own wares.
A career politician finally smelling the White House is not Much different from a bull elk in the rut. He will stop at nothing, trashing anything that gets in his way; and anything he can't handle personally, he will hire out--or, failing that, make a deal. It is a difficult syndrome for most people to understand, because so few of us ever come close to the kind of Ultimate Power and Achievement that the White House represents to a career politician.
The presidency is as far as he can go. There is no more. The currency of politics is power, and once you've been the Most Powerful Man in the World for four years, everything else is downhill--except four more years on the same trip.

 

The US president is basically a celebrity, with all the prestige and mind-altering amounts of attention that go with it.  He has slightly more say in the legislative process than a typical celebrity, which is itself highly ceremonial legacy institution, but this is barely worth mentioning.  Rather, the president is constantly surrounded by people who act like he is an important individual, and the sort of person who tends to succeed in politics tends not to be the sort of person who's savvy enough to figure out the essentially theatrical nature of the whole thing. 

 

You can tell it's a scam pretty easily.  Nixon campaigned on the grounds that he would "clean up the mess in Washington," only to oversee an enormous expansion of the same.  Nixon had been a hard-line anti-communist as a senator, and would go on to normalize relations with the People's Republic of China.  I seem to recall a certain governor of Texas campaigning for a "humbler" US foreign policy, and I think we all know how that ended.

 

 Clinton may have been an exception, as Clinton was an unusually high-functioning president, but generally speaking the poor dumb bastards don't figure out the scam until it's too late and twenty years have been sucked out of their lives.

 

Twentieth Century history also has plenty of examples of what a country looks like when it slides into militarism, and it's not like this either.  For one thing we'd use all those beautiful nuclear weapons that are just collecting dust. 

 

The US military doesn't decide to go on ill-advised adventures to bring freedom to remote corners of the world that frankly don't want it.  That would be the State Department's job, although within living memory the CIA did this sort of thing also.  The US military isn't a quasi-jail for undesirables who can't hack it elsewhere.  There have been armies that have operated on this model; the Prussians come to mind, and they've all had revolting and horrifying standards of discipline.  See the French and Spanish Foreign Legions for other instructive examples.  Further, the idea that recent combat experience is creating an entire class of dangerously unhinged, traumatized vets is beloved of the media, but not particularly well-supported by evidence.

 

The US military exists primarily to waste money.  This is so it has a larger budget to waste the next year.  Occasionally they do spend money on useful things, but since inflating the budget by wasting money is easier than inflating the budget by buying useful things, a much greater percentage of the money goes towards waste.  In this way it is similar, perhaps indistinguishable, from any other US government agency.

 

The military does have an unusual relationship with the so-called "private sector."  There are basically entire sectors of the American economy that act as the retirement plans for officers.  Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, GDLS and their ilk are the most obvious ones, but speak to any officer in the US military and you'll hear of companies that largely employ officers and make all of their money by selling things to the US military.  They need US military officers to help them navigate the byzantine regulations regarding tendering to the US military, of course.  You may have heard the phrase "self-licking ice cream cone."  This is it.

 

Now, this essentially incestuous relationship is by no means unique among US government organizations; it's just very well developed in the US military (the SEC probably runs a close second).

 

A rather small portion of the military does fighting.  Part of this is reflective of the realities of modern combat; the logistical shaft of the spear is much larger than the spearhead.  Part of this is a result of years of bureaucratic decay; it's easier to waste money arbitrarily than it is to waste money equipping people to go fight.

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Yeah. When Zinegata gets it wrong, he really gets it wrong. Like cartoon baseball player swinging at a Bugs Bunny change-up wrong.

To call the guys and gals who volunteer for America's armed services "dregs" is not just insulting but wrong if you look at the actual demographics of folks who join.

Yeah. There are a lot of fucktards who shouldn't be allowed near a sharp plastic fork, let alone grenade launchers and automatic weaponry. But most of the guys are pretty alright, they join for altruistic purposes and they go on to lead productive lives outside of the service.

It's the same lazy prejudice that generalizes all sports athletes as spend-thrift, gang-banging, rapey, wife-beaters because a handful of individuals in the league are idjits.

So bullshit, I call. And respectfully so.

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Oh. And as I pointed out at WoT. I'm an Alaska fisherman. We do some hairy stuff. I've been through some interesting adventures. I'll tell y'all about them sometime. But what I do every summer is nowhere close to what my little brother went through in his one tour in Iraq back in 03-04 with his Stryker unit.

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Yeah. There are a lot of fucktards who shouldn't be allowed near a sharp plastic fork, let alone grenade launchers and automatic weaponry. But most of the guys are pretty alright, they join for altruistic purposes and they go on to lead productive lives outside of the service.

 

 

Based on my (admittedly brief time in a nontypical portion of the military) experience, this is broadly true.

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Yeah. When Zinegata gets it wrong, he really gets it wrong. Like cartoon baseball player swinging at a Bugs Bunny change-up wrong.

To call the guys and gals who volunteer for America's armed services "dregs" is not just insulting but wrong if you look at the actual demographics of folks who join.

Yeah. There are a lot of fucktards who shouldn't be allowed near a sharp plastic fork, let alone grenade launchers and automatic weaponry. But most of the guys are pretty alright, they join for altruistic purposes and they go on to lead productive lives outside of the service.

It's the same lazy prejudice that generalizes all sports athletes as spend-thrift, gang-banging, rapey, wife-beaters because a handful of individuals in the league are idjits.

So bullshit, I call. And respectfully so.

 

I do not, and refuse to, ever subscribe to the current insipid American fad of holding people who are in the military/police as being in an inherently morally superior position; and that we should instantly assume the better side of their angels. That's how you go from a Republic to Caesarism - if you hold the military man to be the superior man, subject to fewer questions and controls than a civilian, you are in fact a militarist state.

 

Which is why I have totally no problem calling an all-volunteer army as getting the dregs of society when it's been documented that the Army in fact has to increasingly resort to recruiting outright Neo-Nazis just to keep troop numbers up. In short, if you don't want to believe that someone like Daigensui is much more likely to sign up and be accepted in the military than someone like Walter, then you need to open your eyes and look more closely at how desperate the US Army's recruiting situation has become.

 

It's an actual, real problem now. You wanna pretend it isn't? Fine by me. Just don't blow up the rest of the world while you're at it.

 

===

 

Also, this is also why I haven't comments on the fiasco where 44 of the Philippine's "elite" policemen got killed in an operation to capture some terrorist in Mindanao. You might see a lot of social media now hailing these guys as heroes, but on any other day the Philippine social media would be deeply questioning how corrupt the whole police force is to begin with. In fact it's emerging those guys probably violated a cease fire against orders from the top, possibly to get a share of the bounty money, and that they totally messed up the OP which was why the Moros were able to kill so many of them.

 

This is where I stop you. This is shitpoasting, and we're not gonna have it here. The reality of American politics vis-a-vis the military and police forces is much more complex than your smash and grab post suggests, and Americans are far from a homogenous block, and have a wide variety of opinions about those in uniform.

 

Regarding the US Army targeting Neo-Nazis, prove it.

This post stays up, but you are strongly encouraged to control your emotions better next time.

 

 

I wish that the US presidency were a sham institution, concealing a king.

 

I didn't say it was a sham institution. What I said is God help America when the said war-damaged "Iraq vets" start entering Congress based on their record of "military service".

 

Don't believe they can't get elected based on a sham record? Look at Chris Kyle. Again, the man's kill count is not official. The only sources everyone quotes is his books. US Army special forces command said those numbers aren't official.

 

Heck, the only other source I've found corroborating the count is the Silver Star citation where they claim he killed 90+ of the enemy in Ramadi. But given that there were so few actual fighters killed in Ramadi (700+) it either means he was present in almost every engagement, he made the numbers up, or worse he did what he said he did in Katrina - which was to setup shop in a sniping position, picked off innocent civilians ala snipers in the Serbian civil war, and engaged in the exact same sort of terrorist sniper tactics that the US supposedly deplores.

 

But sure, let's just instantly assume he's a "hero" even though his record reads like SS fanfiction. Heck, unlike SS fanfiction he doesn't even pretend that he doesn't think he's a crusader fighting dirty, evil, Muslims.

1. I strongly suspect you haven't met any Iraq War veterans. If you were talking about someone in particular, this would be edging close to libel. Watch it.

2. Don't be an ass. There is a difference between official and claimed kill counts for Chris Kyle.

3. I don't recall reading about any Jewish suicide bombers in World War II, mate.

 

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Wow, things getting a bit intense here.  In Zinegata's defense, there does seem to be some legitimate controversy regarding Chris Kyle.  Since he wrote a book and put himself out there as a public figure, he is fair game.  As to the bigger issue of US troops and the volunteer army, I really don't have much to say.  I know some really amazing people that have served, and some that are not so impressive.  So in that regard it's not much different than most other organizations.  I have a friend that served from the late 90's until 2006.  He is a very sharp guy, recently ran for city commissioner (he lost, unfortunately).  I asked him once about the quality of the individuals in the US Army.  He said that in the late 90's when he started, it was pretty high.  He then said that by the time he left in 2006, they were, and this is an exact quote "letting in mutants." So there you go.

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Wow, things getting a bit intense here.  In Zinegata's defense, there does seem to be some legitimate controversy regarding Chris Kyle.  Since he wrote a book and put himself out there as a public figure, he is fair game.  As to the bigger issue of US troops and the volunteer army, I really don't have much to say.  I know some really amazing people that have served, and some that are not so impressive.  So in that regard it's not much different than most other organizations.  I have a friend that served from the late 90's until 2006.  He is a very sharp guy, recently ran for city commissioner (he lost, unfortunately).  I asked him once about the quality of the individuals in the US Army.  He said that in the late 90's when he started, it was pretty high.  He then said that by the time he left in 2006, they were, and this is an exact quote "letting in mutants." So there you go.

 

Oh, I agree. And it wouldn't matter if I didn't, anyway. Like I said, Zinegata is free to make any arguments he chooses, so long as he makes them well. I felt his post was very emotional.

...And emotions are fine, but emotions and arguments don't mix well with serious discourse.

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And yet we tend to want to argue when our emotions are touched by a topic...

 

I'm going to second the call for proof of some sort to back up assertions (unless you are explicitly providing something as a personal opinion and therefore expecting it to carry no persuasive value), but will also call to extend this approach to the wider discourse.

 

We should not be afraid to have our ideas and assertions tested by others: only bad ideas fail when they get hammered on a bit. We should also try to be patient with each other. It can take a lot of effort to understand a position you do not agree with, because our ape brains seem to be wired to think that understanding an idea is the same as endorsing it.

 

I'm inviting Zin to have another go, here. And not just because I've made some of the same arguments myself :P

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Yeah. I'm not here to defend Chris Kyle. There are quite a few folks who are infinitely better paid than I am who can do that. I haven't watched the movie yet. I probably will sometime in the next week or two (things have been busy in the Ward household). My opinion is that folks aren't going to the movie to specifically learn about Chris Kyle and his complicated life. What is happening is a lot of projection from families who have invested a LOT into the Iraq War, the soldiers and their families. The Chris Kyle in the movie is <insert your loved one's name here> who went to Iraq, fought and generally fought well, saw a lot of bad things, was forced to make some tough decisions and who came back changed, wounded or dead.

 

Also I've been assured that this is really the first movie that accurately portrays the rather heinous actions of the enemy that Coalition forces were fighting in Iraq, a foe who felt no compunction about suicide bombing little kids, blowing up mosques and murdering their co-religionists whether they were Kurds, Shiites or Sunnis.

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Replying from mobile, so can't put up a very long post. I will however make these two points:

If you want to debate Kyle's checkered record, fine by me. I can provide sources; or rather show that the US military in fact never officially endorsed his kill claims and everyone is just referring to his book. Accusing me of engaging in libel is also pretty ironic given that Kyle lost his own libel case against Ventura because Kyle's fellow SEALs basically said he was lying. Same as with the US Army resorting to recruiting Neo Nazis since the recruitment pool has dried up - this one actually has a whole book devoted to it.

That all however depends on the second point - which is I will plainly refuse to post in any forum where a mod power trips and edits another person's post in that manner. If it happens again I'll just leave and not wait for the place to collapse like every other forum that has that kind of moderation. If you want a discussion, attack the ideas discussed instead of declaring victory over shitpoasting. Anything else is just a circle jerk power trip.

And really, don't give me the shitty I knew a guy in Iraq line. I knew guys who were there too. This is the exact sort of hubristic "men in uniform are morally superior" nonsense that you play when you refuse to confront the very real trend of growing militarism in American society. If you were truly living in a state that didnt believe in militarism; i shouldnt even have to tell you i knew guys in Iraq.

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