All criticism of war is true.

I was in college when the Towers went down. I was at the library watching the events and news updates on a silent television.

How does one process a ten year war? How do we know if we won? What did the United States get for its colossal effort?

How many people died violent deaths who weren’t directly involved in the war? How many survivors will never fully recover from their suffering?

Can the President name five war dead?

The United States has a large population for the military to draw potential recruits from, so it does. In a sense, the US has an endless supply of personnel. However, we know there is no real, endless supply of any resource, only a seemingly endless supply for a particular generation. This fallacy of endless supply has to be acknowledged.

If the military is allowed to believe that there is an endless supply of service personnel, these personnel will be treated like rental cars; mere replaceable commodities, abusable and burdened like pack mules—for the wrong reasons.

If military decision makers believe they don’t have an endless stream of recruits, then perhaps decision makers will consider personnel with deeper resourcefulness, not necessarily care, but greater purpose.

The United States military has great power, not only in materiel, ordinance and intelligence, but in its window dressings.

The ability to attract recruitment candidates begins, literally, at the door step to the recruitment office.

I recall my first impressions of approaching the façade, seeing Hummers taking up two parking spaces, and viewing recruitment posters and stickers in the windows. I found most of the recruiters to be good natured and helpful (as it should be in any business) and the ability to make general promises concerning my future to be compelling. There were bonuses and tens of thousands of dollars for my college education.

Why is the military promising to fund education?

There is a disconnect here. What relationship is there between real military service and college life? Funding for college is offered as an enticement. It is to attract people who want to go to college and might consider the military. The enticement and benefits package attracts people who need to be enticed into military life, along with those who were born for it.

What I’m saying is that the appearance of military life isn’t Spartan enough!

The image of military life is not at all consistent with facts garnered from our wars, from the personal account of any war veteran, and an over-all historic perspective that “war is bad”.

The store front of the military looks great, but there is another hidden danger: patriotism.

Somehow the military has become a patriots’ cartel, holding mastery over and exclusive use of patriotic expression. Military service has become the highest form of patriotism, followed by police and firefighters. There are good reasons for highly esteeming our uniformed public servants, however, we must liberate patriotism from jingoism.

Are we a nation of demagogues?

A military monopoly of patriotism, or limiting patriotic expression to uniformed service, creates an atmosphere where force is expected, men must be leaders and weapons are needed. In this atmosphere, the current atmosphere in the United States, our most committed “patriots” are gladiators in an arena of conflict, and so the cycle of conflict continues.

If we ask most anyone, “What is a ‘patriot’?” we will commonly hear, “A patriot is someone who loves his or her country.”

A love of country is a general sentiment, but the expression of this love has become limited to military service; military service is what patriots do.

What about the millions of other US citizens who love their country? Are kindergarten students patriotic? What about nurses, baristas, bus drivers, or carpenters?

It seems that common people are patriotic if/when they contribute to the war effort. But the war effort is so far removed from everyday life that, quite frankly, I think people forget we are at war. Our lives are not disturbed by military affairs. There is no personal cost. I find this schism to be the greatest deterrence to effective war and effective peace.

Here is the schism: The military is committed to total war, but the nation is not. The nation is not called upon, or needed, to commit to total war. We the common people do not need to sacrifice anything as the war effort is the military’s job. In this sense, the military has a rightful claim in monopolizing patriotism.

Additionally, a divided national war effort contributes to the seemingly friendly, if not sanitized images presented in the military “storefront”. This again, is perhaps our choice and not the military’s.

Patriotism is not a true military concern. Neither is hero status. Such talisman are quickly abandoned during live fire exchanges, prolonged loneliness and other difficulties.

When the dream-state of patriotism and heroism dissipates, or is shattered, what is there to fill the void but bitterness, anger and raw survival? Perhaps this is where recruits should begin their military service, not end their service.

More has been said about this war, and other wars, than can be heard. I will close with a few rational suggestions.

  1.       A President who involves the country in war must read the names of the war dead from the previous conflicts. Families of the dead should be present, if possible.
  2.      The President must read the names of those currently serving in the military. The families should be present.
  3.      The President should read the names of those who are candidates for recruitment in the impending conflict. Their families should be present.
  4.     State Representatives must read the names of their constituents who are in the military in like fashion. Families should be present.
  5.     Government and military leaders must eat the same food as those fighting in the field.

There needs to be a personal connection between those who send and those who go. There needs to be eye contact between government and families. And war must always be shown as brutal.