Credit: Creative Commons

About the heightening conflict in the Central African Republic between that country’s Christian and Muslim populations, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said last week, “People in the Central African Republic are in profound danger, and we have a profound responsibility which we must meet to help them move away from the abyss.”

Reports of mass graves in that country’s capital have already surfaced. According to the AP, some twenty bodies were found in a hillside near the presidential palace; the dead appear to have been tortured before they were killed. According to a Central African Republic prosecutor, “Some of the bodies were bound, their hands tied together with rope. Other bodies were mutilated, with large wounds. Though we don’t know if they were caused by firearms or by machetes.”

The AP further reported “young men parading in the streets with the severed penis of one of their victims, and with the hacked-off foot of another.”

Since December 5th, 3,000 African Union peacekeepers and 1,600 French peacekeepers have been in the Central African Republic. One can only wonder how much worse the situation would be now but for the presence of even that small number of U.N. Security Council-authorized peacekeepers.

So far, Ambassador Power is working diplomatically to prevent further atrocity in that country. As an unabashed interventionist, U.S. military intervention to stem a slide into genocide is no doubt weaving its way into Power’s calculations. Yet already, eleven African peacekeepers have been killed, reportedly by the Christian militia. Under such circumstances, how much support for a U.S. intervention would there be?

Arguably, if the sight of innocent children being suffocated to death by sarin gas in the Syrian chemical weapons attacks last summer- which Western powers, and essentially the U.N. investigating body, firmly believe was perpetrated by the Assad regime – was not enough to mobilize American public opinion to support a military intervention to stem foreign atrocities, nothing will. President Obama himself conceded as much. During the height of last summer’s Syria intervention debate, President Obama stated that if the Rwandan genocide were happening now that a U.S. military intervention to stop the genocide “probably wouldn’t poll real well.”

Let’s face it: after more than a decade of pointless war, the ability of the U.S. government to make a convincing moral case for humanitarian interventions in global conflicts, including pre-genocidal conflicts, is toast.

How did America get to this place? Indeed, how did we get to a place where those of us who would like to see U.S. participation in efforts to stop genocide are even remotely associated with the values, mindsets and priorities of those who make money off of war? Here’s one answer: the latter’s total monopoly, material and ideological, over the United States military.

In a democracy, a military should resemble the values and interests of the entire country. Yet the military of the United States has become a province a tiny minority of Americans who, tragically, believe that making money off of active war is good and morally decent.

To adequately express my view on the proposition that actually getting a paycheck to participate in a war is a good and morally decent practice, I’ll borrow a very simple but effective line from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. In a recent Senate hearing, in which Republicans senators tried to score political points over the technical problems, Secretary Sebilius replied to one of their snarky questions by simply saying, “Yeah, whatever.”

Are military servicemembers more patriotic and brave than the rest of us? Here’s what I’d say: Yeah, whatever.

Take away their stable paychecks for pointless wars and then let’s have a real discourse about how much more patriotic and brave they are than the rest of us. Otherwise, a “yeah, whatever” should suffice.

The fact of the matter is that even long before our nation was savagely attacked on 9/11, the U.S. military sought to fill its ranks of enlisted, for-pay soldiers by crudely appealing to the masculine insecurities of American men. Throughout the 80′s and 90′s, the Army saturated MTV, and other youth channels, with slick recruitment commercials. The catchy jingle “Be all that you can be, get an edge on life in the Army!” would accompany footage of macho dudes roping out of helicopters and in other action hero-like settings. You too can be a Schwarzeneggar, a Stallone, or a Chuck Norris, said the U.S. Army, to young men trying to get their lives together and establish their personal dignity in a society that too often makes human dignity a conditional proposition.

Action movie actor, Chuck Norris, in the 1986 film "The Delta Force"

But what about Americans who already have their lives together? What about Americans who already have a well-developed sense of their human dignity and have nothing to “prove,” and who either have salaries or other means of sustenance that are not connected to war and violence, and as such are more concerned with ensuring the human dignity of others?

The fact is that throughout the post-Vietnam, post-conscription era, no peace and human rights-oriented political movement emerged in the United States that deplored these raw, U.S. military-led attempts to appeal to the insecurities of young American men in order to fill its ranks while simultaneously acknowledging that evil does exist in the world, and that the U.S. must have a military to defend against those evils and, if able, join the international community in protecting others from those evils.

The results could not be more apparent: a body politic that has been thoroughly brainwashed to believe that people who make money off of war are braver and more patriotic than the rest of us, and a nation that is increasingly hamstrung to intervene to stop genocide, precisely like the one that might be unfolding in the Central African Republic, and South Sudan as well.

Action movie actor Chuck Norris awards a U.S. soldier in Iraq, 2007. Credit: Creative Commons

America needs U.S. Army enlistment reform, specifically a reform that would attract men and women – including Americans with disabilities who have many other talents to offer – who would be confident examining their own moral conscience, not their bank accounts, and deciding for themselves if intervening in a foreign crisis, like the Central African Republic, is worth a risk to their own lives, safety and mental health.

No doubt, it will be impossible to achieve that military reform if Americans insist on taking cues from the military establishment: people who are hellbent on blunting the enlistment participation of mature, adult Americans who won’t check their God-given moral reasoning capacities at the door in favor of a paycheck.

It will take a constitutional restructuring to achieve that end: to put a firm bulwark between a democracy’s moral values, and how it construes just military actions, and the truly teeny-tiny minority of citizens who are content to make money off of live wars. A constitutional reform would take years, if not decades, to bring to fruition.

In the meantime, President Obama and Samantha Power should face the current political reality: the vast majority of Americans are simply too exhausted by the fallout of the for-pay U.S. soldiery and what it has done to our country, namely our domestic resources and foreign reputation, to even contemplate another U.S. military intervention, irrespective of any moral aims, including the highly moral aim of preventing genocide.

Thus, President Obama should harness all of his executive branch authority to allow, and indeed facilitate, all willing, able-bodied American men and women – as well as Americans with disabilities who certainly have many other God-given logistical and intellectual talents to contribute to international peacekeeping efforts – to join the French peacekeepers, whose mission in the Central African Republic has already been authorized by the U.N. Security Council.

In other words, these would be American men and women who believe in human rights and the universal sanctity of human life; men and women who need neither a macho fix nor a paycheck to stand against the evils of this world – just a fair chance to help stop innocent men, women and children from getting hacked to death.

*Author’s Note: If interested in U.S. military reform that would ban the for-pay soldiery, place primacy on the moral consciences of our citizens, and enable Americans to partake in peacekeeping efforts in accordance with each person’s moral conscience, please see Sections 6 through 9 of the proposed omnibus constitutional amendment at, in the About section, and the related article, “Change a Constitution that Turns Moms and Dads into Mercenaries.”

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