Thursday, February 01, 2007

America's Soldiery, Neither Mercenaries Nor Whores

Washington Post blogger William Arkin recently offered some opinions on American soldiery in his blog, Early Warning. Mr. Arkin was taken aback after viewing a news report detailing soldiers' frustration on the lack of public support for the war. Apparently, American soldiers are not paying close enough attention to the various news reports, editorials, and punditry on the dire situation in Iraq, Arkin must believe, so he takes them to task.

In one post he asks readers the question:

So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?

Later in the same post he argues that the aforementioned news report displayed something insidious:

But it is the United States, and the recent NBC report is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary - oops sorry, volunteer - force that thinks it is doing the dirty work.

Arkin's central point seems to be that the opinions of soldiers on the validity of a war they are fighting in should be held in no higher esteem then any other American. Rather than build his case logically, the Post's blogger descends into an ad hominem diatribe denigrating the character and motivations of American soldiers, and questioning the American military institution itself. In one paragraph he insinuates that the abuses of Abu Ghraib are the norm, not the exception of military conduct; later, he boldly refers to the American military as mercenaries, a word that connotes faithlessness and avarice, as does whore.

In a later post, Arkin apologizes for the mercenary jibe; nonetheless he goes on to state that

Evidently, far too many in uniform believe that they are the one true nation. They hide behind the constitution and the flag and then spew an anti-Democrat, anti-liberal, anti-journalism, anti-dissent, and anti-citizen message that reflects a certain contempt for the American people.

I have met many people in the military over the years. Some were liberal, some were conservative; many more were altogether apolitical. Some complain about the press from time to time, but most of those read their local paper each day (or check the early bird before tearing into the first few emails in the morning). My neighborhood right now is a mix of military, civilians, and military retirees here in eastern North Carolina, and you would be hard pressed to tell who is who on a saturday afternoon if you were driving through.

That's because the military today is truly a reflection of American society as a whole, with all its beauty, and many of its hangups as well.

And as to Arkins' accusation of soldiers hiding behind the Constitution, I beg to differ.

Every soldier, protestor, mediocre blogger, and the like takes solace from the rights and protections afforded us in the Constitution. Certainly, Mr Arkins should be grateful his screed is offered such protections (he should probably thank the stars as well that he found steady work at the Post, and that his blog does not have a "next" button at the top, like mine does). But every service member, upon enlistment, additionally swears an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies. Soldiers do this every time they reenlist as well. Thus, far from hiding from anything, those in the Armed forces are sworn to protect that which defines America itself.

WIlliam Arkin certainly should be aware of all this; after all, he served in the Army from 1974 to 1978. So why author a hit piece like this, an attack not based in sound arguments or strong but palatable political bias, but instead proceeding on an almost visceral level?

One can only wonder.

Perhaps there is an an inner demon that Arkin lashes out at as he angily dismisses the service of those in a war he utterly disagrees with. Maybe his time in uniform revealed some personal flaw that he has never come to terms with, and the ubiquitous presence of the military on cable news outlets, above the fold on every newspaper, and in each conversation held in the Post blogger's break room has opened an old wound, and rubbed it raw. These are just blind guesses of an overactive imagination, fueled by one too many sugar free Red Bulls at this point. In all actuality we may never know the real reasons why Mr. Arkin wrote these abysmal posts.

But if I am correct in my suppositions, let us hope that Arkin has exorcised his demons at this point, and is now ready to proffer logical arguments that are less steeped in apparent self loathing.

Update: Ace of Spades does a background check on Mr. Arkin. Nice guy . . .


2164th said...

Mr. Arkin has accomplished what he set out to do, get us to talk about Mr. Arkin.

Bob W. said...


I concur, and I am complicit in fanning the flames, I suppose.

It's too bad that the Post wastes electrons on a blogger like this, who turns his outlet into a vanity page.

There are better writers out there on both sides of the political spectrum who have more to say, say it better, and don't have to resort to ad hominem diatribes to get noticed (all you guys over at the Bar for instance).

Thanks for reading in any case, and I am fully recovered from my long journey (minus the chest cold I picked up), so you should see the posting tempo pick up here shortly.

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