Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Liberalrob Hates the Troops

Posted on Megan McArdle's blog today:

One of my favorite movies about military culture is "A Few Good Men" (I'm also partial to "The Caine Mutiny"). Its plot clearly illustrates what I consider to be the main issue we're discussing here: line personnel with the most honorable of motives are ordered to commit a violation of the official code of conduct, because their commander thinks it necessary to enforce discipline. The thing goes south and they wind up accidentally killing the soldier the commander was trying to "train," and then rather than owning his ordering the action up front the commander tries to cover it up (or at least his involvement). When the commander is called to testify at the court-martial of the line Marines, he makes a long-winded speech about honor and duty and warriors manning the walls while effete sheeplike citizens sleep soundly in their beds secure in the safety he provides through his leadership; what moral right can the sheep then claim to criticize the manner in which he provides that safety? But the fact remained that he ordered the commission of an act that went against the code of conduct governing the military, and ordered that a crime be committed; and regardless of how lofty and high-minded his intent might have been, he did order that violation. So he was punished for it. We are a nation of laws, not of men, even in the military.

I have absolutely no criticisms at all for most of the people who carry out the orders and do the fighting and dying in Iraq, Afghanistan, and everywhere else they are called on to do it. They are all heroes. Like those Marines in A Few Good Men, they do need to exercise some basic moral judgment in carrying out orders; you don't give up your knowledge of right and wrong when you take the oath, and that's what some of the displeasure here is about. But I realize that there often isn't time to think about whether what you're doing is the right thing to do, and there is a lot of conditioning to push our troops to default toward following orders without questioning them; so a heavier responsibility HAS to fall on the commanders who are giving those orders. Those are the people who most deserve scorn, those people like Col. whatshisname Miller who came up with the interrogation regime used at Guantanamo and then exported it to Abu Ghraib. Where's his court-martial? Beyond that, where is the investigation into the people who ordered Col. Miller to come up with those techniques? Where is their indictment and trial?

That's what I'm talking about, whoever wants to think I "hate the military." I don't hate the military. I hate what's being done with it (and to it).