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Over at The Atlantic, Steve Clemons has an in-depth interview with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. It is well worth reading. Clemons, who has opened up avenues of U.S. foreign policy discourse that were virtually nonexistent ten or fifteen years ago, is an unabashed supporter of Chuck Hagel. Therefore, don’t expect a Mike Wallace-style interview should you read it. Nonetheless, Clemons does draw Hagel out on a “whole host of issues” – as our dapper president would say – and that may not be such a great thing for Chuck Hagel, or the country. Indeed, if our nation’s enemies learn what a terrible dot-connecter the Secretary of Defense really is, we’re in more deep doo-doo than we thought.

Nowhere is the Nebraska-born Defense Secretary more open and transparent about his dot-connection issues than in his discussion about the crisis of military sexual assault. (By the way, this should not be read as a knock against Nebraskans. On the contrary, I find the state of Nebraska to be filled with the most polite people on the planet. I’ve driven across country several times in my life and I’m always glad when I enter Nebraska and sentimental when I leave. The politeness of that state is infectious. So for the record, there is nothing about the state of Nebraska which would suggest higher rates of dot-connection issues, which leaves the Hagel situation largely inexplicable.)

When Clemons brought up the current military sexual assault crisis, Hagel’s first response was to note his steadfast committment to holding regular meetings with a Defense Department advisory board that was established in 1951, back when Bing Crosby was still topping the charts.

It is not clear from the interview transcript if the so-called “Secretary of Defense Women’s Advisory Board” is the same group of military people with whom Hagel has “weekly one-hour” meetings to discuss military sexual assaults, but whatever the case, this much is clear: Chuck Hagel doesn’t want outsiders – like the American people, for instance – taking control of the U.S. military’s sexual assault epidemic. As Hagel explained to Steve Clemons:

I told the President one of the first times we talked about this, thisthis problem will get fixed in this institution. We need help. Absolutely, we needwe need some changes in the law. Absolutely. But you can’t take it [the problem and a solution] away or out of the institution because this is all about accountability. And everyone in this institution is accountable in some way. There are chains of command accountability.


That chain of command has failed over the years, obviously, for a lot of reasons. But if it’s going to get fixed, it has to get fixed here in this culture, in this institution, in each service. And that’s what we’re focusing on.

The good part – and it’s not polite to criticize someone without mentioning their good parts, which I learned from Nebraskans as I travelled about their polite state – is that Hagel is firmly recognizing that U.S. military culture is an entirely separate culture from mainstream American society.

In other words, Hagel knows he’s the boss of a lot people, albeit a teeny-tiny minority of the U.S. population, who make a living off the practice of hot war. The fact that he recognizes the wholesale separateness of U.S. military culture, the fundamental “we for-pay soldiers are from Mars, those pansy civilians are from Venus” nature of the institution, is a good thing.

Where the acute dot-connection issues come in for Hagel is that he fails to realize that the teeny- tiny minority of men in this country who are perfectly content to inflict violence on others – namely the act of war – as a way to actually make a living for themsleves, not for anything remotely related to the actual defense of the nation, which the Iraq and Afghanistan wars so clearly proved, will at worst have a higher propensity to inflict sexual violence on others, or at minimum, not be shocked by those who do.

Indeed, one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever seen on TV was a news clip of a U.S. military “sexual assault training session.” Grown, twenty-something men, in military uniform, and sitting around a table, were being “taught” that when women are being sexually assaulted in front of them they should step in and say to the other guy something like, “Hey, stop. That’s not the right way to treat a lady.”

It’s so beyond pathetic.

I hope the American people, including our beloved Nebraskans, will eventually connect the dots that Chuck Hagel cannot: A human conscience that is not instinctively morally outraged by the very notion of salaried war-making, in and of itself, is not going to be instinctively morally outraged by other forms of wanton violence, in this case sexual violence. Thus, such a conscience will have to be mentally “reprogrammed” or “retrained” at twenty-five or thirty.

The bottom line is that war-making as a lifestyle in this country – even if only a tiny fraction of Americans are partaking in it – has wreaked total havoc on our nation, both moral and strategic, and both domestically and internationally.

Related Link: Section 6 of the proposedconstitutional amendment, which can be found in the About section,wouldend the for-pay soldiery in theUnited States.

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