Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Seekers

All nations need their soldiers. The American Empire definitely does.

The American Empire enjoys the finest military on the planet, and this is something that will continue for as long as our Empire endures, even though it is crazy expensive. 

Our military is also one of the economic engines of the American Empire, and a large slice of the American people pay their bills working for the military industrial complex.

So we got that going for us.

America can enjoy our fine military because America is a large country and our country has a population large enough to provide enough soldiers to fill the ranks.

Our large population has another positive side-effect: the best of these soldiers volunteer for the most hazardous duty, they seek it out, and they compete, in fact, to earn the honor of going to war on behalf of the American Empire.

America has a praetorian class. Think on this. There is a segment of the American praetorian class that repeatedly volunteers for the most hazardous duty, and it competes for the honor of going to combat.

I call these men the seekers. I cannot tell you what we seek, but I know that we do it, and when we find it, we cannot explain to you what we found. But we can find what we seek, if we are not killed in the act.

Believe it or not, this actually makes sense, but only prospective members of the praetorian class who are seekers can understand it. You will not fully understand it until you survive your first combat, and even then, you still cannot explain what you found.

If you are not a member of the praetorian class and you seek these things, you are potentially a criminal. Regardless, if for reasons of your own you yearn for a military life but you cannot pursue one I know that you are unhappy and dissatisfied. If you are able, join the Army. Things will come into focus for you.

America knows this praetorian class as Army airborne Rangers, as Green Berets, as Marine Corps grunts, as Navy SEALs, and as Air Force PJ's and CCTs. And now we have multiple squadrons of exquisitely polished operators at JSOC.

Then the military industrial complex provides the finest weaponry, and the martial institutions themselves provide the finest training known to mankind, and they continually refine our leadership castes to ensure that our soldiers have competent leaders at all echelons of command.

America appears to be militarily unbeatable, but we are our own worst enemies and we must keep politicians out of the affairs of commanders: No more micromanagement and absurd ROEs written by lawyers who should not even be involved in the equations of warfare.

When America goes to war, we must unleash our commanders to do what we created them to do: to kill people, to destroy things, and to seize and hold terrain.

Militaries can do things like this. Militaries cannot do things like nation building, and militaries cannot impose democracy at gunpoint. So our history shows us.

If you want us to break things, then unleash us. If you want us to do impossible things like change cultures that are locked into a 7th century mindset, then you need to create a different organization. That is not what armies do.

Unless you want us to perpetrate genocide and slaughter those cultures that are fundamentally incompatible with our own. That, we can do. It may break the hearts of the soldiers that do it, and history would never forgive us, but the logistics and the forces needed to do it exist.

We may be able to quarantine incompatible cultures and societies, but that is a big job, one more fit for jailers and police, and less for armies. We happen to be failing at this as I write these words, and I do not think that we should be trying to do it.

We can control where humans can physically go, given sufficient forces and resources. We cannot control ideas, particularly in the age of the internet, though many try. What is culture? What is a society? They are, fundamentally, ideas, among other things.

We are failing because politicians ordered soldiers to do things that they failed to honestly define. Our generals are wrong because they agreed to attempt things that were never put into words.

It would be very difficult to defeat America militarily, but  America can be defeated politically, and we have been, repeatedly, since WWII. Defeat is still defeat, regardless of how it happened. 

Our gravest threat comes from domestic enemies who subvert our own values and our own institutions, and from neoconservative ideologues who foment Empire and campaign for endless war, which they are doing at this very moment.

This is our current form of civilization, and I know that our Founders never imagined that we would evolve into a self-destructive and conflicted Empire that deploys military forces worldwide for few critical reasons of national importance. 

At this precise moment, while you relax in your bed, while you enjoy a quiet dinner, while you enjoy that fragrant cup of coffee, while you sleep soundly, while you watch a movie, or while you commute to your home to do all of these things that define the lifestyles of Americans, a soldier somewhere is pulling a trigger on your behalf.

Somewhere in this wide world, a soldier is risking life and limb so that you can enjoy that American lifestyle. 

Most of the time, we confront no grave threat of national importance. 

Somewhere, in some mountainous redoubt, a soldier is humping a giant ruck and heavy weapons up a ridge line. Somewhere, a soldier is cursing insects that are literally feeding on him.

Somewhere, a soldier is driving through a place where he can get ambushed and be blown up at any moment. Somewhere, a soldier is freezing his ass off, he is starving, he is soaking wet, he is sleepless, all so that he can earn a small piece of cloth that grants him the privilege of leading soldiers in war for your benefit.

I have been in combat many times. Over years of reflection, I realized that I repeatedly volunteered for combat out of love for my comrades. I am no war junky. Indeed, I have never been so pacifist in my life, and I am repulsed by the hypocrisies at the heart of our societies.

I did not volunteer for combat for the abstraction that is America, though I do love the Republic. I did it for a teenaged waitress who served me coffee in a diner in the hinterlands of Kansas in 1984. She asked me, "where are you going?"

I told her that I was going to Fort Bragg, for training. I did not tell her that the schoolhouse of the Green Berets is at Fort Bragg.

She told me, "take me with you."

I should have. She was adorable, and I am sure that she made some fortunate man a fine wife, and she may even be reading these words at this very moment. Honey, I never forgot you.

I cannot tell you why an anonymous girl from my past became so emblematic for me. But I can tell you without reservation and without shame that love of my brothers kept me volunteering for elite units. 

That is why I repeatedly volunteered to go to combat. That is what a member of the American praetorian class does. He volunteers for war.

While America continues to be an Empire, it will need its soldiers. As long as the military industrial complex continues to be a major engine of the American economy, America will need its soldiers.

My personal belief is that we should get back to being a Republic, but that is a subject for another essay.

Even if we renounce Empire, and we revert back to being a simple Republic, we will still need our soldiers.

It is part of the human condition.

This article was a rant on my Facebook page.

ETA: After an exchange with a reader, I changed this article to reflect the possibility that some seekers fail to find a martial path in life. 

It is my experience that true seekers, pilgrims on a martial path, put themselves on that path deliberately, and very often, they make sacrifices to find that path. 

Some seekers are then bounced off the path, because the path is brutally selective. Others exit the path of their own accord, because the path is a teaching experience, and they may realize that they fear the path, or they fear what they seek, or they are actually seeking something else. 

I thank my correspondent, as it did not occur to me that there may be a large number of men in America who crave the mystery of the path, but fail to find it, for whatever reason. 

I call these men potential seekers. They definitely deserve a better term than that. I will give this some thought. 

ETA: I cleaned up some stylistic issues that bugged me. 


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