Kalroy Was Here

Eighth man from Adam, an artificer of metals

Monday, June 27, 2005

Warrior Caste

Karl and I have touched on the observation that the United States has started to develop a warrior caste. So here goes another disjointed rant about it. This idea/theory was first brought to my attention by Lt. Smash and Blackfive back in November of '03 but it occasionally bangs around in my head when I think about my children and my ancestors or when commenting on blogs and such. Both entries are very much worth reading, though I wish that Pierre M. Atlas' editorial, that sparked the discussion, was still online as I don't recall any of it (I'm old and my mind has been on overdrive for the last year studying head pressure charts and learning how clearances in the volute affect flow and pressure and don't even get me started on hydraulic theory, fundamentals and application).

They discuss the military as a family tradition, its values and touch on why it seems liberals don't seem to have that tradition.

As it turns out there really isn't much broad discussion on the subject. The mil-bloggers discussed it briefly but, like myself, quickly ended the discussion because of the limited information and applicability of the subject. Beyond that the subject will be briefly brought up when pundits and bloggers are discussing the chasm that exists between civilians and the military culture. I think this is a bit skewed and in reality applies more between military culture and civilians who are in the liberal to leftist political range. I base this on comments they leave in such wonderful bastions of military support as Indymedia, Jesus General, Military Free Zone and others.

So we know there is a military culture and it's subset the veteran culture, formed not through ancestry and language but by a shared experience, lifestyle, history and values. We know that it is a relatively small portion of American society and that every member of the military culture is also a member of American culture and other cultures (origins, heritage, lifestyle and residence). As an example I am, in addition to being a veteran, American, Hawaiian, blue-collar, and desert rat. Phillip was military, Choctaw and American. My close friend Frency is veteran, American, French, computer geek, gamer and struggling college student. I knew someone (not gonna mention their name) who was veteran, mother, lesbian and liberal. You can pretty much make a large list and it will demonstrate that you can be a part of the military culture and a part of other cultural sub-sets.

So the military culture is not exclusive, in fact it is one of the few sub-sets of American culture that is extremely inclusive; among these are the political parties, political philosophy, religion and such. Others are quite exclusive, it takes a long time and a lot of work to become Hawaiian, but it is possible; many people, including myself, consider Dr. Kilolani Mitchel to be more Hawaiian than many Hawaiians.

So this warrior caste has been predominantly moderate and conservative and Republican. Mind you by moderate I don't mean moderate the way Neil Abercrombie or Charlie Rangel mean it. By moderate I mean classically liberal and not neo-liberal and more inline with mainstream America. I don't think race has much to do with it considering how varied the military is. Certainly some races/cultures have a higher participation in this class, both Hawaiians and Hispanics tend to join up at a rate higher than their representative demographic overall, Arabs and Asians below theirs. Hmmmmm, maybe it's an alphabetical consideration.

So why is the warrior caste predominantly Republican? Why do so few Democrats join? Perhaps, and we'd have to assume a large effect of the warrior caste, it is an effect that started at a time when the Democrats (and more especially the left-wing of the party) vilified the military and the effect has snowballed into the party split we see today. More Republicans were supportive of the military and joined the military, their children subsequently continued to join, with the reverse happening to the Democrats. I haven't a clue, though if we knew the numbers of volunteers and their party affiliation from pre-WWII to today we'd have an inkling whether this is true or not.

Perhaps Republicans identify more with the values of the military than Democrats. Well, this is certainly untrue of the extremists on both sides. It is true, however, that liberal, moderate and conservative Republicans, and conservative Democrats tend to share these values. Why don't I add moderate Democrats to this list? Because of where both parties sit on the values of mainstream America. Moderate and mainstream are not at the middle line of left-wing and right-wing, it's more on the conservative side, as is noted by the large support of initiatives regarding homosexual marriage, illegal immigration, bi-lingual education and other such voter direct lawmaking. The problem, however, is that moderate Democrats make up a large, though extremely quiet, part of the party (I'm intimately familiar with this part having been that part and still associating with that part) and so that doesn't explain it. I should also note that of the military caste are moderate Democrats. They tend to still be blue-collar, and don't resemble the Berkley, SF crowd in the least, but are union men (heck, I'm union).

Wow, talking bubbles, drifting the conversation. Hmmmmm, we'll I'll keep going.

Whiskey Bar wrote:
The result - or at least a byproduct - of these cantonments is the creation of a separate military subculture, one which has less and less in common with the secular, culturally libertarian side of U.S. society - i.e. "blue state" America.

His observation is correct but deficient in two ways that are important. The military sub-culture has more in common with mainstream America (i.e. "red state" America) and the isolation is one-sided. His next observation is wrong, but helps to demonstrate how the isolation is one-sided, "It also tends to shield service people, especially long-service career professionals, from dissenting opinions and non-conservative, non-authoritarian values."


The media makes sure that liberal and leftist values are known to GIs. They are quite aware of it, as was I when I was in, they simply don't agree with them and see serious flaws in them from their much broader viewpoint. And yes, their viewpoint as a whole is much broader. They are just as intelligent as liberals, the officers and senior NCOs are just as educated, and the enlisted are often more educated than their corresponding demographic (i.e. high school diploma, no college degree). Many, if not most, have traveled outside the US and all have the added experience of military service.

This experience and knowledge of the is pretty one-sided. Whereas GIs are aware and know the values of the left and are bombarded by that point of view the left tends to be pretty ignorant of the military culture. From my own experience I've seen this while at Cal-State, and during my exposure to a part of California's gay and lesbian community. There are notable exceptions, but these come primarily from veterans in those cultures and they're beliefs are pretty moderate, that is they're quite conservatives compared to their peers in those groups.

Incidentally Whiskey Bar is wrong in his basic precepts that the military is headed towards a dictatorship supporting BusHitler. He neglects the very very basic fact that GIs swear to protect and defend the Constitution and not just obey the orders of their commander in chief. He’s also, probably unintentionally, very insulting by implying that members of the warrior caste are fascist ideologues ripe for a military coup. He demonstrates the disconnect (or is parodying it) by not knowing that GIs are NOT mindless, brainwashed automatons rife with support for a dictatorship. He seems to forget, or has never known, that GIs are a diverse lot whose values are towards the Constitution, freedom, liberty, honor, duty, family, god and country. In other words their beliefs are similar to his, though they know his political spectrum better than he, obviously, knows theirs. Heck, he might even be a vet, Kos “screw ‘em all” is a vet, though he has distanced himself from that culture and insulated himself from it with leftist extremism.

I've also been reading about the Army's recruiting predicament which pundits have blamed the Iraq war. I believe this to be true, though not in the way most pundits, especially on the left, believe. There is a strong anti-war force on the left, though much, if not most, of that is a side-effect, or collateral damage, of the left's "war on Bush." If recruitment were down by thirty percent their point would be stronger, but the percentage is down to about the same level as Democrats enlist. There is also a large anti-military effort that is known by many as the "anti-recruiters" and that calls itself "truth in recruiting" though that has been demonstrated false by their own rhetoric and who they ally themselves with. Strategy Page notes, "The U.S. Army, facing problems recruiting troops, has found that much of the problem stems from parents, grandparents, guidance counselors, teachers and others who, either for political, emotional or information reasons, oppose American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and influence young men and women to not join the military."

There’s not enough connectivity between the percentage that recruitment is down and the percentage of liberals and Democrats who serve to state a reliable theory, let alone demonstrate causality. It is enough for an interesting observation and for something to keep an eye on and to wonder if the anti-recruiting campaign has had a large effect on recruiting in general or an effect on that Demographic that joined at a lower rate to begin with.

The Army has begun to adapt to this, with commercials that emphasize more about the family, values and character and less of that ridiculous “Army of One” crap.

So will my children serve? Will they decide to do more than serve and actually become professional soldiers (airmen, marines, whatever)? I haven't the slightest idea. I doubt my parents knew I would serve before I enlisted. I was slated for college and teaching but found something greater. What my children choose will be up to them, and I’ll be proud of them so long as they don’t become leftists.

Kalroy