“It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble.
It’s the things we do know that just ain’t so.”
~ Artemus Ward
In last week’s column, we discussed some of the delusions of the Left with regard to the military’s ability to change people. It’s hardly the only area where they don’t have much of a clue about the military, and cannot grasp how ignorant on the subject they are. The evidence is everywhere, really, from liberal journalists reporting anything with treads as being “tanks,”1 to accepting as face value some of the just-not-quite-right incidents reported by “Scott Thomas” [Beauchamp], to believing that John – ‘I was for being against the troops before I was against being for them’ – Kerry did, and then didn’t, and did, and then didn’t, and did… you get the idea… throw his, or somebody’s, or his, or somebody’s or… you get the idea… medals or ribbons or medals or ribbons… you get the idea… over the White House fence in protest over the Vietnam War… or to get his name in headlines for his eventual political career; you can decide which for yourself.2
Speaking of Vietnam, back in the ’60s, during the Vietnam War, there was a left-wing activist and song writer named Buffy Sainte-Marie. Born in Canada as a Cree Indian (yes, yes, I know the Canadians like to say, “First Nations.” I, however, do not), and orphaned young, she was adopted by a related family, growing up in Wakefield, Massachusetts.3 Buffy was, as far as I can tell, reflexively left wing and reflexively pacifist from a pretty early age. She has an undergraduate degree and a PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with grades sufficiently high, and sufficiently before academia’s complete surrender to leftism and multiculturalism (even in Massachusetts), as to suggest she’s bright. I am sure she is a very nice woman.
Yes, I actually do mean that.
Why go back that far? Because “we are what we were back when.”
Okay, let’s stop now for a bit while you, gentle reader, go to YouTube and look up and listen to one of Buffy’s early songs, and a personal favorite of mine, “Universal Soldier.”4 Go on and listen to it twice, three times if you must; I’ll still be here waiting when you’re done.
Okay, done now? Good. Nice song, no? Catchy tune, evocative imagery; it’s an interesting mix of the true, the morally true and poetic… and the just flat wrong and silly.
First the morally true and the poetic; yes, soldiers have come in all ages and sizes, from all countries and pretty much all cultures and faiths,5 and are, frankly, pretty much alike. Indeed, we’re so much alike that, unless we’re actually called on to fight, we usually get along extremely well with each other, whatever the relationship between our countries. I suspect that would even be true of us and North Korea’s troops, could the latter be removed from surveillance and convinced they were not under surveillance.
“Fights with missiles”? She meant nuclear tipped ICBMs, I think, not Anti-Tank Guided Missiles and, sure, one doesn’t really fight with city busters. Still, cut her a break; she’s a poet, hence entitled to some poetic license. Same thing with being “a soldier for a thousand years.” It’s been much longer than that but “a thousand years” will do.
Then there’s the absolutely true; the soldier’s orders, in a democracy, ultimately come from the people. You – yes, that’s right, you over there in back – are responsible for what the politicians order the soldiers to do. They do it in your name and on your behalf. There’s no ducking it.
Unfortunately, that’s the point at which truth – truth moral, actual, and poetic – stops.
Is it true that the soldier “knows he shouldn’t kill”? No; that’s generally nonsense. With the occasional odd exception that pops up, the soldier knows he should and must.6 I think here that Buffy just didn’t, and probably couldn’t, understand that not everyone thinks the way she and her close friends and associates do.
“Without him Hitler couldn’t have condemned him at Dachau”? It seems to be – as with anything with treads being a “tank” – that the Left has a hard time seeing past appearances or making fine, or even not so fine, distinctions where the military is concerned. In short, no, not everyone in a uniform, even a snazzy black uniform with silver trim and lightning bolts on the collar, is actually a soldier.
“Without him Caesar would have stood alone.” That’s literally true, of course, as it is also true that, without the soldier, Caesar couldn’t have wheeled his legions through Gaul, spreading “sword and flame on hearth and home.”7
Equally, however, and this is the point Buffy missed here, and that the pacifist left generally misses, “without him” Marius would have stood alone, too, unable to stop the Cimbri and Teutons. “Without him” Rome dies five hundred years before it had to, if not even centuries before that, to Hannibal or Pyrrhus, or to the Samnites. “Without him” maybe Hitler couldn’t have condemned uniformed and armed prison guards at Dachau, but “without him,” on the allied side and in the Red Army, the last Jew goes up a chimney, the Slavs are enslaved and extinguished, Britain falls to Nazism, France and the Benelux cease to exist.
“Bu’, bu’, but; we should get rid of all soldiers.” Bu’, bu’, but; you can’t. You can only get rid of them on one side, your own. That’s where your influence – and Buffy’s – ends. Moreover, if you ever could, you would probably be extinguished. See, for an example of the effect of unilateral pacifism and demilitarization, the fate of the Moriori People of the Chatham Islands.8
The part, however, that I find most telling is, “And he thinks we’ll put an end to war this way.” My God; how foolish those soldiers must be to think we’ll put an end to war through war!
I know, oh, lots of soldiers. Likewise Marines, and Sailors, and Airmen. Likewise from all over the world. And you know what? I can’t think of a single one who believes we’ll put an end to war that way, or any other way. Why make the claim? I can’t think of any legitimate reason beyond that Buffy simply could not conceive of people who thought differently.
So who was being foolish there, even if she’s a very nice woman?
1 I have occasionally thought about setting up a school for journalists – war reporters, specifically, and I’d charge through the nose for it for my psychic pain – to teach them a little something of the subject. I am, however, pretty sure that they really don’t want to know about it or to open the door to letting facts color their reporting.
2 I have my BA from Boston College, which is where John Kerry took his law degree. I was accepted to BC Law, too, but realized, after being accepted, that I didn’t want a law degree from the same school the orange-faced, windsurfing buffoon went to.
3 Although we’ve never met, so far as I know, and likely never will, Buffy and I are sortakinda homeys, Wakefield being about eight miles north of Boston. I think I saw her once in passing, but I wouldn’t swear to it.
4 Or I can save you the trouble: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGWsGyNsw00
5 Okay, I choke a little on the idea of a Jain combatant. A Jain medic I could see but that’s not the same thing, exactly. But, you know, maybe.
6 Spare us citing to the 5th or 6th or 7th, Commandment, aka: Thou Shalt Not Kill. It’s a bad, misleading translation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thou_shalt_not_kill. Wiki? It’s okay for non-politicized matters.
7 http://www.s2company.com/files/readings/soldier.htm If Buffy had read that, she might have understood a little better.
8 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moriori_people and discussed, passim, here: http://www.tomkratman.com/Ranthhour.html I have some reason to suspect that a whitewash of pacifism, the Maori, and the invasion is currently going on in New Zealand: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moriori_people
Don’t miss last week’s column: The Left and the Military.
Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from Amazon.com for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through baen.com.
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