U.S. soldiers in the battle of Fallujah, Iraq. Credit: Creative Commons

Last month Andrew Bacevich, a former U.S. Army Colonel and now BU professor, and journalist Ann Jones held a discussion titled “How the Wounded Come Back From War,” which morphed into a broader discussion about the U.S. military and its recruitment system. Bacevich, a conservative who blogs at MichaelMoore.com, has a new book calling for a reinstatement of the military draft. Meanwhile, Jones, who writes for The Nation and TomDispatch.com,argues for an end to all war. The “discussion” can be more accurately described as a high-minded debate between two seasoned people who recognize that the military status quo cannot be maintained, but have vastly divergent views on what direction to take. If the last decade of pointless wars has left you feeling betrayed by our government, bewildered by the American people’s reactions to these wars, or both, this Bacevich-Jones debate is Must See TV, and it can be found on C-Span’s Web site here:

http://c-spanvideo.org/program/HowtheW

One particularly interesting point of divergence between Bacevich and Jones is on the question of societal culpability for all the war and ensuing misery. Bacevich argues that Americans have been too selfish, unwilling to share the burden of war, while providing only superficial moral support to military servicemembers. Jones argues that most Americans are simpy too busy and stressed, struggling to survive in a cut-throat economy to give too much attention to the great questions of war and the military.

For most of the post-9/11 era, I would have been in the Bacevich camp on that question: namely, believing that the American people were too shallow, too self-consumed and too reliant on the “all-volunteer” military to take seriously, beyond the periodic wave of a flag, the momentous issues associated with taking the nation to war. Having lived longer and seen more, I’m now more convinced of Ms. Jones’ position. And that begs the question: If most Americans can manage to survive in this tough world without learning how to pick up a gun and kill people for a living, which is what the U.S. military currently teaches men and women to do, why should we intellectually and morally excuse those who do just that – engage in warfare to make a living?

Forgive, yes. Heal, yes. Provide and care for them in their hardships and trauma, yes. But excuse? That’s where I would part ways with most involved in the discourse on military reform: the more we morally excuse pay-for-warfare social consciousness, the more we make it an acceptable feature of our society and government. Endlessly spinning our wheels, if you will, in the mud of war and aggression.

From my standpoint, the key to resolving the larger issue of what to do with this violent, life-devouring, life-degrading behemoth that we call the U.S. military lies in the hearts and minds of every one of us who wants change. Do we have hearts of forgiveness? Can we forgive even those, including those we call chicken hawks – the ones who clamor for wars of aggression but never enlist themselves – who would have the audacity to question our love for our country, our values and commitment to humankind? As concerns forgiveness for those folks, I for one am not there yet.

Even if you can’t watch it now, I highly recommend putting the Bacevich-Jones discussion/debate on your weekly must watch list. I’d argue it’s one of the most important discussions of our time. Here again is the link:

http://c-spanvideo.org/program/HowtheW

UPDATED SCHEDULE INFO: C-Span’s Book TVwill re-air the Bacevich-Jones discussion/debate today, December 30th (7 PM EST) , January 1st (4:30 AM EST) and January 1st (6 PMEST).

Related Tikkun Daily post on military reform: “Let Them Be Slaughtered?”


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