Saturday, November 5, 2011

With Their Shields or On Them

I'm sitting in front of the computer whilst the kiddos indulge in some truly reprehensible Saturday morning TV - a ritual as old as MY childhood, at least - and came across this Krugman column that ends with a comment that I thought went right to the heart of the discussions we had around here about what I considered the unfortunate narrowing of the social arc of military service in the U.S. circa 2011:
"If people can’t comprehend what it means to work for larger goals than their own interest, if they actually consider any deviation from self-service somehow a sign of phoniness, we, as a nation, are lost."
The Krugman essay is in reference to the apparent difference between "conservatives" - who seem willing to shove any sort of public-figure misbehavior down the memory hole so long as the offending politician continues to vote for their regressive policies - and liberals, who immediately defenestrate their own "leaders" if the personal lives of those leaders vary from the public positions.But in the course of his post Krugman brings up someone I had forgotten; Ed Luttwak, who wrote back in 1995 that any hope the U.S. (and other Western societies) had of returning to a widespread national service was doomed by the replacement-level birth rates of their peoples. Luttwak's "post-heroic" societies had developed such an attachment to their children "...(b)ecause most couples have only one or two children, the loss of any in warfare becomes intolerable, and conscription becomes unthinkable..."(and)"...child-centered Americans (and Europeans and Japanese) will be forced to rely in the future on allies, mercenaries, and maybe robots to fight on their behalf."So; here I am, looking at my own precious offspring (one inert on the couch, the other somewhere in the back of the house - I can hear her chatting to herself there, anyway...) and wondering - would I give them up if my country demanded it not for existential defense, but for some abtruse foreign policy objective? Would I be "convincible" that burying my son or daughter for some transient geopolitical advantage in part of my country's imperial corona was worth the end of my own personal immortality?And I honestly don't know the answer.

But it certainly raises some difficult questions for me.

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