Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey. Credit: Creative Commons

As Russia invades Crimea and once again throws international norms into the garbage disposal as it has done with its backing of Bashar al-Assad, a crash course in the origins of this early 21st century Russian aggression is offered by Uri Friedman of The Atlantic. The article is worth consulting if you want to understand how the foreign policy chest-thumpers in the U.S. – now predictably thumping anew in the Ukraine crisis – helped pave the way for the geopolitical conditions that have so emboldened Putin. Friedman cites a report from Russia specialist Nicu Popescu who attributes Russia’s assertiveness to four key factors, including “The retreat of the West from the world stage after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which creates an opening for Russia.”

Knowing that America overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan, and knowing that our body politic – including the formerly jingoistic freedom fry types – is swinging our foreign policy pendulum in the opposite direction, the gay-bashing blonde thug of Moscow has smelled conquest and control opportunities galore. To boot, Putin has to know that a nation that would sacrifice nearly 5,000 soldiers and hundreds of billions of dollars from its treasury to transform what was an effective no-fly zone over Saddam Hussein’s Iraq into an air bridge of weaponry from Iran to Assad’s Syria not only has A) no clue whatsoever about its own geopolitical interests, but B) has no clue because it has ceded most of its entire military to people who are motivated by their own pecuniary interests, not national ones, from the top of the ranks to newest 18 and 19-year-old for-pay soldiers.

Will anything change? Will the American people wake up and smell the coffee of the war profiteers, high and low, who are devouring the U.S. treasury and serving as de facto bricklayers for Vladimir Putin’s yellow brick road to multi-theater dominance, from Crimea to Syria?

When a nation has a for-profit defense apparatus that, despite its profit-driven strategic catastrophes, still manages to manipulate, control and define the word “patriotism” to suit its own ends, the picture is not very promising. Indeed, that the latter can still so effectively manage to manipulate what love for country actually means to suit the mood of America as it pulls the foreign policy pendulum back inward, suggests that the lyrics to Kenny Rogers’ classic country song “The Gambler” must serve as their morning, midday and evening prayers:

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

As evidenced by the press conference last week held by Chuck Hagel and General Dempsey announcing a reduction in Army troop levels, the increasingly pendulum-sensitive Pentagon can be said to be in full-blown “hold ‘em’” mold. Indeed, for Americans of all political stripes who started growing tired of this country’s post-9/11 descent into military adventurism about a decade ago – and have been growing tired ever since – Secretary of Defense Hagel is working on a nifty new window display at that national department store otherwise known as the Pentagon. The sign in the window display reads: “We’re Drawing Down to the Smallest Army Since Before WWII.”

In this war-weary political market, the sign is a guaranteed eye-catcher. For most Americans the sign is bound to have a comforting feel. Like one of those Country Time lemonade commercials from the 80s that shows a grandpa and grandson sipping lemonade on the front porch swing, Chuck Hagel’s Pentagon window display sign conveys to war-weary Americans a return to simplicity; a return to how things used to be, before the misadventures of the post-9/11 era. Yet effective as the sign may be for most war-weary Americans, the more difficult task for Secretary Hagel will be coming up with the military-uniformed plastic mannequins to put in the Pentagon window display: The mannequins are already demanding a pay bonus for their service. In a morally perverse subculture that incentivizes the sin of making war to secure a paycheck, eventually even plastic objects figure out how to get a piece of the pie.

Therein lies the greatest deceit of Secretary Hagel’s new sign in the Pentagon window display: By playing a standing army numbers game – as widely reported, a drawdown of a mere 50,000 soldiers less than the 490,000 that was already planned for the next several years – Hagel and his generals are subtly evoking the memory of the million-plus Americans killed and wounded in WWII. Unlike today’s for-pay soldiers, who on average pull in $99,000 in compensation, the men killed and wounded in WWII were draftees. They suffered, were wounded, and died to defeat the horrors of tyranny – not to secure a stable paycheck and benefits package. The contrast between those two types of soldiers could not be more stark: By defeating the fascists of Europe and Japan, WWII draftees crushed a global war cult that threatened world freedom. By contrast, today’s for-pay soldiers annually pump new blood into a Pentagon war machine that inexorably leads to the erosion of American liberty; an erosion that begins, first and foremost, with the Pentagon’s erstwhile efforts to put this country on a national acid trip, completely distorting the public’s very concept of love for country to suit their own petty ends and interests. The public’s confined discourse parameters on all things military are the tell-tale sign of said acid trip.

The exposure of scandal and criminality remain the only acceptable instances wherein civilian Americans are culturally permitted to speak out; to actually criticize the core values and motivations of the institution which lead to the scandal and criminality remains effectively off limits. A stark reminder of this came last year in a Senate hearing on the military sexual assault crisis, wherein Senator Kristin Gillibrand expressed her deeply-felt frustration that some military commanders, who are charged with the decision to prosecute military sex crimes, cannot tell the difference between a rape and a “slap on the ass.” In and of itself, Senator Gillibrand made an important point, but one that begged a much deeper question: Why are we continuing our national mental subservience to men who have perfected a “slap on the ass” culture in the first place?

Modern Americans are indoctrinated from an early age to believe that moral support for the standing, for-pay soldiery is a basic patriotic duty. It wasn't always so. Credti: Creative Commons

Massive Pentagon brainwashing is undoubtedly at play. As the New York Times reported in 2008, military-industrial-complex officialdom puts extraordinary elbow grease into its propaganda machine, foisting a totally bizarre, de facto two-tiered national conception of patriotism: one in which those who are employed by the military are construed as more patriotic, literally more willing to sacrifice for the good of the country, than the rest of us.


In fact, many of our own founding fathers had deep fears about the threat standing armies pose to a free people. As James Madison warned at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.”

The only moral justification in the modern age for anything that approximates a standing U.S. soldiery should be to come to the aid of foreign peoples in extreme, imminent danger – like the innocent civilians in pre-genocidal Central African Republic, for instance. Such a soldiery could only be cut from a cloth of mature men and women who have thoroughly examined their moral conscience, and made a determination that they are already in a life position – materially, psychologically, and spiritually – to help those in need.

Help, that is, without any pay incentive whatsoever, and without any illusion that their personal decision makes them more patriotic than other Americans.

Until we achieve that kind of military reform in this country, we will continue to be indirectly insulted by the war-profiteers of the Pentagon, both high and low, that the American people simply don’t have what it takes to defend our country, and assemble a soldiery, should we ever be under threat of a ground attack from Russia or some other country, thus their “justification” for the standing for-pay soldiery; the same for-pay soldiery, that is, that was the very linchpin for the massively-dangerous geo-strategic failures of Iraq and Afghanistan. Failures, of course, that the gay-bashing blonde thug of Moscow is now using to his utmost advantage.

Indeed, we allow the Pentagon war-profiteers to play head games with love for our country at our own peril.

See also:

The legendary Kenny Rogers in the original 1978 video for “The Gambler”

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