« The Sobel Problem Red… | Home | On V in Other Places:… »

Our Communist Military

To read the rest of "Our Communist Military", please click on the following links:

The Inspiration:

The Sobel Problem: Band of Brothers "Currahee"

The Sobel Problem Redux: Band of Brothers "Currahee" Round 2

The Implications:

The Most Greatest Institution in Human History...Our Communist Military!

        Our Politically Correct Communist Milblogs

On V in Other Places: “An Afghanistan/Iraq vet says Romney should run the Pentagon like Bain Capital”

Our Command Economy Communist Military

Our Pro-Veteran Communist Criminal Justice System

        Is Toys for Tots...Communist?

        Ronald Reagan Hated Our Communist Military

        Our Communist Milblogs Round 2: Blackfive’s Deebow Hates Team Rubicon?

        Our Communist Military’s Group Punishment

        What We Talk About When We Talk About Our Communist Military

        Who Would Casually Accuse Someone of Being a Communist?

Yesterday, in our conclusion to “The Sobel Problem Redux”, we noted that multiple Twitterzens think that officers are roughly equal in skill to enlisted men. (If not equal, than skilled in different ways.) Which sounded to us suspiciously...

Communist.

I mean, who else argues for a “by each according to his ability, to each according to his need” ethos besides communists? And what is less communist than the red-blooded American military? Yet the political values soldiers espouse--conservative, libertarian, free market--often don’t match the policies instituted by the Department of Defense. Not just don’t match; they directly contradict each other.

Don’t take our word for it, though. Rosa Brooks started a new blog on ForeignPolicy.com, “By Other Means”, with this bold first article, “Welfare State: Meet America’s socialist military.” E.J. Dionne, on The Daily Show, told Jon Stewart, “What I can’t understand is that the military itself is, in some ways, one of the most socialist institutions in our country.” (That point starts at minute 4:40):

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - E.J. Dionne Extended Interview Pt. 1
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

How can two (albeit liberal) opinion-makers accuse the military of socialism when it embraces conservativism? As I wrote yesterday, poll after Military Times poll shows that the military, especially its officer corps, doesn’t just lean but falls head over heels towards conservative thought. Only 12% of the military registers Democrat. When it comes to military blogs, they are either distinctly apolitical on domestic politics or rabidly conservative, with little in between.

Yet this conservative military...

- Votes for Republican candidates that hate Obamacare...but has its own universal health care system.

- Votes for politicians with NRA backing...but doesn’t let soldiers openly carry weapons on military bases.

- Venerates the free market...but subsidizes gasoline, housing and even cigarettes on military bases.

- Believes in a libertarian ethos where the government won’t push them around...but works for an organization that can tell them what to wear, how much to drink, and when to go to work (always on call).

Eric C and I don’t just want to call the military socialist or communist. We want to dive deeper into this cognitive dissonance in a new series, “Our Communist Military”, which leads us to the following ideas:

Theme 1: Hypocrisy and the conflict between ideology and life. Or philosophy and action. Or beliefs and practice. Embracing an ideology, but not living it. Political philosophies should be more than something we argue about in the op-eds pages and on blogs. Yet, this discrepancy--believing one thing but acting another--happens from the smallest units in the Army to the entire DoD as a whole...and even during deployment. While military leaders advocate and vote for a party which believes in small-government at every turn, they create a “big government” culture with “big government” solutions, steadfastly protecting the never shrinking Pentagon budget.

Either something is true or it isn’t. If you believe in an idea, but then oppose applying it, one of the following must be true: the action is wrong or the idea is wrong. For example, either the government should sponsor scientific research, which can create technological marvels (and jobs)--as it does in the DoD’s weapons procurement system--or it can’t. If it works for the Pentagon, then the government probably should support scientific research in non-military sectors.

Theme 2: We can’t have a reasonable debate about the military. In several of our posts, we will note that pro-military supporters--from military blogs to armed service associations to politicians--compete for votes by protecting the larger defense establishment from any and all criticism. Just pointing out the inconsistencies in unwavering conservative support for the military--for instance, Tricare isn’t a voucher program; it is a state-run health care system--can get one labeled a traitor, ungrateful, unpatriotic or evil.

As we mentioned yesterday, conservative pundits usually bemoan a “politically correct”, weak, self-esteem-praising American culture that “awards every child a medal.” Either our society has become too soft and politically correct, or citizens should be able to criticize the military without worrying about being labeled a “traitor”. Conservatives can’t believe in both ideals simultaneously.

Theme 3: The defense establishment can learn from libertarians and free-market capitalism, and our country can learn from the Army’s socialist policies. Eric C is an avowed liberal. I am an avowed moderate. In both cases, we agree on some points. We both agree that a properly functioning free market can inspire creativity and efficiencies. We also agree that unchecked capitalism can lead to inequality, unequal opportunities, poorly functioning societies and monopolization. In short, both libertarians and socialists have valid points. Our series will point out a lot of situations where the Army should liberalize (in a classical sense), but will also point out the amazing benefits of some socialist policies that our country should nationalize from the Army.

Because the Army definitely needs more free-market thinking. It needs the “disruptive change” that has caused such a stir on the blogosphere from Starbuck to Abu Muqawama to multiple writers on the Small Wars Journal. The army can learn from libertarians by encouraging individual initiative, rewarding personal achievement, and inspiring innovation/efficiencies from the top to bottom.

At the same time, our nation needs more socialist thinking. The Army has universal health care for all dependents because it makes for a more reliable workforce. The Army encourages education and provides generous benefits to soldiers so it can field a smarter workforce. And the Army’s incentive system (read: pay) doesn’t come close to approaching the excesses of Wall Street, while delivering similar performance.

All this leads to our most political point yet. For libertarianism and free-markets to survive--philosophies based on the idea that the free-market vastly outperforms government--they have to carve out a huge exception for national security. Instead of calmly, rationally comparing when the free-market both fails and succeeds, and when government does the same, small-government libertarians cling to their ideas lock, stock and barrel, while pretending the gigantic military/national security bureaucracy can do no wrong.

Either the Pentagon needs to drastically shrink with the rest of the government, or our society needs a calm debate over what government can and cannot do well--and a cost-benefit analysis of those decisions--but conservatives can’t have it both ways.

 

24 comments

It’s funny that all of those people calling for “disruptive thinkers” are the sort of “disruptive thinkers” that they’re calling for, yes?


Hard work, shared sacrifice, free health care. Wait.. what did you just call me


Don, don’t forget the pay structure. Oh the pay structure.

And AJK, kind of. The problem is many of the “disruptive thinkers” (I arrogantly count myself as one.) get out of the Army when they can’t disrupt anything.

Remember, Mark Zuckerberg would be a Major right now in the Army.


Perhaps they vote and lean the way they do because they have experienced those very things you mentioned.

After having Tricare who would want Govt Healthcare? (I once had a soldier whom had a scalpel sewn inside him after surgery) __


The military doesn’t practice democracy it defends democracy.


sam … the military defends corporatocracy

michael c … love the line about how zuckerberg would be a major now (probably a captain)

officers just have a list of phone numbers to call to get their stuff done .. give the same list to many non-officers, the same stuff would get done, and maybe better

the distinction between officer and non-officer is a strategic management decision for protecting the top leadership, as well as a functional division of labor.

and the captcha should be six letters, obomba


It’s funny how you point out all the things which are horrifically negative about the military and say they are “good” and should be applied to all of society.

90% of soldiers don’t do a damned thing, yet all get paid the same. And this is PRECISELY what you Marxists will get if you apply it to the rest of society.

Education has zero to do with success. In fact, it has less than zero to do with it. Our current broken Education culture will soon be like Europe, where you need a Master’s Degree to be a waitress. Our so-called “Education” system is producing generations of over-educated, yet worthless idiots. You know, kind of like in the Military.


What is sad is that you must write about this situation which is as obvious as the nose on your face. Still, it brings out those fanatics that squirm at silly labels.


The assumptions here leave something to be desired or, at least, show an immature view towards the defense of a nation. We are a volunteer force, a warrior class that freely sacrifice our participation in a free market,capitalist, and democratic-republic society in order to give it the protection it needs. We freely give ourselves to the military “way” of doing business for the good of the nation. SACRIFICE is the key. I haven’t been in for 20 years because I worry about my rights. I am more concerned about the rights of those of my my fellow countrymen.


Completely love the observations here (dichotomy of an institution (largely) of conservatives enjoying a very socliast lifestyle) but I am not digging your conclusions (that the US govt needs to be more socialist, and that the military delivers comparable performance to Wall Street with much less pay. Regardless, there should be some good posting coming up. I will ditto the observation about where Zuck would be in today’s Army. Theme 2 needs a lot more discussion, not just in the blogosphere, but in Congress. A lot of military personnel seem very in love with their perks and get cranky when their pegged-above-inflation-pay raise for the year is in jeopardy. Some, just some, are confusing selfless service with selfish service. For all the service members reading, if the shoe fits, wear it, if it doesn’t, then I’m not talking about you. For all the service members reading, whether they are selfish or not, thank you for signing up, because a lot of people decided not to.


This blog is good stuff. As a military person for 27 years, I am pleased to find people, who can think critically, and who want to understand something that is foreign to them. U.S. citizens are often criticized as being a-cultural. Even the efforts by an outsider of the military to understand a segment of their own U.S. culture, the military person segment, raises the opinion and outlook I have of other persons to understand why I do what I do.

We use theories we understand or comprehend the best to understand what we see and experience around us to explain for ourselves and others what we might not understand. Truly, the authors of this blog do not understand the military but that is not a bad thing or to be criticized. Some of the theories applied here in this blog in explaining why the military does what it does, i.e apply organized violence, accept direction from a civilian executive and administration, procure and requisite equipment required for function and roles; fall short of explaining why we need, for example, a garrisoned and deployed military organization. Why could we not have a citizens militia to call upon when security or other threats imperil our society? The why of how the military conducts its daily regimine and business is not the central issue to the authors. They just do not understand, yet. Two ways of gaining understanding is to study it closely or to immerse oneself into the culture a person seeks to understand. If the points of this blog are really important for the authors to gain more understanding, I would suggest they try the latter of the two suggestions, if their questions remain unanswered and their comprehension remains vague.

As for myself, I believe I have a advantage in understanding compared to the authors comprehension. My 27 years of military service includes a part time military career, full time military career, academic study, and civilian vocations. My preference of life style and what I consider societal norms lies somewhere in between that of a civilian and military officer. My thoughts are that both parts of my experience and life, up to now, have advantages and disadvantages as well as conflicting spheres of understanding. I am a conservative in my political and social preferences but I am not without a discernment or willingness to compromise on some things.

Back to the three themes: Socialist Army efficiencies, lacking a reasonable debate about the military, and hipocristy and conflict between ideology and life (military). Number three; our country can learn from the Army’s socialist policies… Socialism is a economic theory model where a government controls the ways and means of the economic inputs and outputs. As a theory applied to military organization and policy, socialism seems to fit in describing, for example, the Army. The Army is owned, organized, and administered by the federal government in the United States. The Army’s commodity inputs and outputs are controlled by the ‘civilian’ leadership and legislative bodies in our government. So on a Macro-description of socialism, it is agreeable that a person without understanding of military lifestyle would use socialism as a model of understanding. Is the Army a purely socialist example? No. It is efficient in the socialist model? No. But these assertions are not for explaination, discussion, and debate at the moment. Does a socialist theory and model to understand how the Army functions possibly lead to better civilian social efficiencies? The conservative, capitalist soldier in me says no. What are the choices for modeling the Army? Two come to mind, one we have just discussed — Socialism. Another, might be to use a capitalist model. Indeed, the Army does not fit this model but the two should be compared. What would a capitalist modeled Army look like. It would likely resemble a Mercenary organization, be paid when it is needed, contracted for specific purposes, would be without public goods support for equipping and manning, and possibly influenced by other interests to provide services to whomever might present a better price. As a solider, I would like this arrangement in many ways, perhaps I could finally be compensated for putting it all on the line for a fools venture. Mercenary organizations were historically the way it was done during the Thirty Years and Hundred Years Wars. It did not always prove the most efficient or produce the best outcomes. So, between the two models which do we need more of? Hard to say or even suggest that one is better than the other. Because this discussion is about the military and the points are reasonable to debate, I think the second theme has been put to rest — we can have reasonable discussions and make conclusions as to what is better or the least worst. Which brings us to hipocrisy and conflict of in the soldiers life, who would choose to live in the social structure of the Army? I think a person would have to experience it to understand it. The theories in this blog do not seem to peel away the curtain and lead to understanding. The soldier (as a volunteer to the military) is a unique individual of a society. Why does he do it? The choice and utility of each soldier varies. It must be experienced.


The military can not operate as a democractic construct due to the needs of the organization. Yes there is a hierachical structure of Senior Officers/Officers/Senior Enlisted and Enlisted. But when all is said and done there are differences n duties amongst all. Just as within the Communist System there are members of the political elite, functionaries, political commisars, work leaders and drones. Not all are equally up to varios tasks.

The Military Officers and Non Commiioned Officer Corps take years of training in differing fields to achieve competencies that can not always be transfered from one job position to another with as much freedom as assumed by those who have no connection to the military. Aviation Captains and Infantry Captains have skill sets far different from Medical Captains and Maintenance Captains but the only similarity they will present is that they are Company Commanders. The same would apply for all the various skill sets within the military based upon ranks alone. And one can not truely compare the differing branches as the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force have vastly differing and somethimes over lapping duties. You can’t plug and play trained service members like a video game.

Now on training and indoctrination. Because the differing services have disparate criteria for training and ordering of members, indoctrination is part of training. This is not however political indoctrination, but cultural history and customs.

An Individual is free to chose, or not, membership in political parties of their choice. All members of the Armed Forces are governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice in addition to National Laws and applicable state laws where they may be. One of these laws also forbids using ones official position to stump for a political party or candidate of his or her choice. it also forbids any pretext of using the uniform to show support or favor of any political position or leanings.

Yet the one thing that truely seperates those in the military and those who have served in the military from those who haven’t served is an understanding of the cultural differences with the Armed Services themselves. The Military isn’t as homogenous as it may appear at first glance. But the one thing the military does do is focus at a specific task and works in unison to deal with it. Now that may appear to be communistic in action to some. But there are other terms which apply much better and too many academics wouldn’t know where to begin looking.

Enjoy trying to figure out what you can’t understand due to not experiencing it in the first person.


@ SFC Q Ret. (“Enjoy trying to figure out what you can’t understand due to not experiencing it in the first person.”), the co-writer of this post is a veteran who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. For more information on this, pelase read our about page.


@ TD Baker – You have me on military service by 22 years (Are we counting ROTC time toward time in the military? I assume not.) So to say, “Truly, the authors of this blog do not understand the military” is—for the record—a 100% false statement. My biography is in the about section, and in the upper right section of the blog it says that this blog is run by two brothers, one a soldier and one a pacifist.

My time in the Army very much helped me to understand the Army and its culture. I hope you hang around to read future posts to understand our points in even more detail.

@ SFC Q – Again, as I said to TD Baker, I have served in the Army for five years, so I did experience it in person.


I think this will be a very interesting series. It elicited knee-jerk, barely coherent responses (complete with ad hominem and unexplained historical allusions that purportedly would disprove your misunderstanding of military health care – I didn’t really see an argument on the functioning, as opposed to the nature, of Tricare here, but maybe I don’t read so good) on FB, and even got the old “Reference a Greek philosopher to disparage this argument and seem intelligent while avoiding addressing the points raised” defense.


Zuckerberg didn’t Graduate. He would be lucky to have been picked up as an E6(promotable) by now. The purpose of lower level officers is not efficiency, as any former Lieutenant can attest. O1 and O2s have to go somewhere to learn the system, to learn from their enlisted, and mature so that they can eventually do something productive in their later years(that’s the rationale anyway).

To the Authors: Appreciate your work. Remember that the critical eye you focused outward must be focused inward as well. Keep it up.


TDBaker argues that the US Army fits neither a capitalist nor socialist model. In fact, it’s fit both models at different times – with a “hard lean” toward the opposite side even a particular model is implemented.

Specifically, proponents of a draft highlight how it “universalizes” service and requires something from everyone; a ‘true equalizer.’ Whether you think a draft is good or bad, requiring universal military service is a values-based expectation for sharing the security responsibility across a society. This is very communal – a la communistic or socialistic – in nature.

In reality, though, a draft really isn’t a universal tool. The US had a peacetime draft from the 40s, and used it to acquire Soldiers any time there weren’t enough volunteer enlistees. Prior to Vietnam, the policy was “oldest first” and the US never needed everyone to serve, leaving most conscription-eligible men free from the requirement. During this period, supply usually outweighed demand. [Capitalistic lean]

As we saw during the Vietnam era, however, the demand for Soldiers was higher than volunteers and thus required more draftees. This drove up the cost of avoiding service. There were various deferrals, draft boards were local and impacted by political and social considerations: if you could acquire a way out of the draft thru money (e.g. college) or influence, then you didn’t go. Switching to a lottery system rather than an “oldest first” policy increased volunteer numbers in some cases, as some men opted to choose their own fate/service rather than be fully drafted and at the government’s whim. [Market forces shaping the socialist system]

Move to today. TDBaker indicates the capitalist model doesn’t fit the US Army but if it did, it would “resemble a mercenary organization, paid when needed, contracted for specific purposes … influenced by other interests to whomever would pay a better price.” Presumably tongue-in-cheek, he says he’d like this because “he could finally be compensated for putting it all on the line for a fools venture.” In fact, he has been, and our army does fit this model. The analogy isn’t too bad, either.

With conscription, people are in and out. We don’t have to pay them much, but we have to spend a lot of money on their training because there’s significant turn over and variation in training foundations. We’re not keeping many, so no need to worry about long term. A volunteer army requires an exceptional amount of reinforcement to be maintained.

The result?
o 1990s pay increases to ensure no gap between civilian & military pay rates,
o Bonuses to recruit or retain those we need more of (skill/ability/rank),
o Additional benefits for preferred skills & duties (some very simple: titles, uniform decorations – remember the hubub over the beret colors?),
o Improved housing, 2-man rooms, off-post housing for single SSGs+, etc.

When we needed more manpower?
o Waivers for age, weight, education, criminal offenses — for those who hadn’t joined and those who were already in.
o Increased family benefits across the board: improved childcare, increased freebies, developed wholly new housing areas, we signed Family Covenants and paid FRG leaders to exist and train other FRG leaders, and
o increased the FSA and HD/HF allowances, PDMRA leave, “free R&R leave” in Afghanistan, etc.

If you don’t think we’ve been compensated, I’d encourage anyone to go ahead and return to the civilian workforce. So many have no idea how to save for retirement, finance co-pays for everyone in the family, work every day a FULL DAY for a full 20 days and not get 30 days of leave every year (plus federal holidays, plus DONSAs and in some places, pay day activities).

But while all this capitalistic remuneration for services was going on to recruit and retain a fighting force, we still leaned the other, socialist, way.

That subsidized childcare? We gave it to senior officers just the same as privates. The new housing? Your neighbor may very well may be significantly different in rank. The infantry had that special sparkly and those truck drivers didn’t? Combat Action Badge. Overseas Service Ribbon not authorized for a combat mission? Well, you’re right, everyone else who’s overseas in that GCC gets the OSR when we’re not at war — okay, you can have that one, too. (Oh, what’s that problem the authors mention about pundits bemoaning the political correctness of every child getting a medal? We have that problem too. Usually it centers around the BSM, or the “universality” of unit/division rules for who/what ranks can get what kinds of medals).

Why did the Army do all this? Because anything else just wouldn’t be “fair” or “equal” or … the universally the same. Believe this juxtaposition was authors’ original point.

(and since it apparently matters to some: 3 tours (39 mos), 16 years, no I’m not a CIB-wearer & I didn’t perpetually stay on the FOB)


Please, make sure you tackle inefficient state-run businesses like AAFES and DECA in your series.

Also, please mention that the military’s budget woes are in no small part due to the same factors that affect society at large…namely, a growing population of retirees that’s living much longer, and out-of-control health care costs. All of which the taxpayers are paying for.


@ Starbuck – We should be covering both subjects, at some point.


And we should have a guest post tackling the pension system. I still need to write a post about the disparity between corporate CEO pay and General Officer pay and performance.


Interesting to think, though, is that income is distributed more equitably in the military than in the private sector.

If you think the income disparity between a private and a general is huge, take a look at corporate CEOs.


Re-reading many of the comments above, many people believe we’re unequivocally endorsing socialism. We’re not.

As we wrote elsewhere, we believe the military should adopt some free market reforms. We believe the military, in many instances, represents the worst of socialism, of command economies.

Unlike many commenters, we’re not on one side or another. We’re not all or nothing in this. let’s figure out what works, and go with it.


Random potshots from an anarcho-libertarian vet with syndicalist tendencies:
1.The military isn’t communist, there’s nothing economic about it. The military, by necessity, is totalitarian.
2.Both the neo-conservatives and neo-liberals are one-dimensional in their analysis of socialism. There are pre and post Marxist forms of socialism, ie. Trade union socialism, anarcho-syndicalism etc. that could be implemented at the state, county, co-op or factory level, provided the residents voted for them, these would work better than the crackpot Marx’s bankrupt theories.
3.Neo-cons and neo-libs are beholden to the lobbyists, banksters, wealthy scum who have their money in tax free foundations and capitalists. They do not represent us and many staff the regulatory agencies and judicial branch that are supposed to protect us. Monsanto prostitutes “Justice” Clarence Thomas ® and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsac (D) are the worst examples of such conflicted interest. Neo-libs and neo-cons alike are simply working for slightly different forms of fascism.
4.Neo-liberals have abandoned the working class and have been poisoned by Frankfurt school degenerates who seek to destroy Western civilization with Marxist deconstruction. The current President bragged up about being “educated” by Marxist professors, these educational quacks were undoubtedly Frankfurt school alumnus.
5.Neo-libs and neo-cons alike are willfully blind to the murder and mayhem their foreign policy misadventures have unleashed on the world. The republicans, via Operation Ajax gave us our present day troubles with Iran. The democrats started the Afghanistan debacle courtesy of Brzezinski’s machinations.
6.If you accuse me of being an America First, isolationist concerning military adventurism, populist, anti-globalist, anti-capitalist and pro-free market you’d be right. Just my view, socialist programs would best be funded and administered at the state level the way the Canadians and Swiss do rather than at the Federal level. We are a diverse nation of 310 million people and there’s very little I’d trust to be properly legislated, administered and funded by 512 +/- lobbyist bribed/controlled politicos in Washington who really have no clue about conditions outside of the D.C. beltway.


“Hard work, shared sacrifice, free health care.”-TANSTAAFL

Bottom line, like everything else, health care would be paid for by tax revenue generated by a productive economy. The current political system, via NAFTA-CAFTA-GATT and other globalist initiatives. approved by party r and d alike, has destroyed our current economy.