Liberalism and the Military Aren’t Mutual Antagonists

There were a couple of things I wanted to cover today, but then I ran across this brilliant essay in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and it drove everything else out of my mind.

It was written by a woman named Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, and it ought to be required reading. (One of the reasons I like the SPI is that it has a real nose for good writers who aren’t journalists–or even writers, to speak of–but have something important to say, and SPI is willing to let them say it.) As an Army wife (her husband is serving in Iraq), she makes a persuasive case for melding left-wing strengths with military goals:

I do a lot of things other Army wives do. I watch the news obsessively or not at all. I pray a lot more than I used to, and I try to be nonchalant about the danger my husband is in. Sometimes I cry in the middle of the day. When someone else’s soldier dies, I am relieved, then guilty for being relieved and then not guilty or relieved, just sad. The grief is something we carry as a group. And while the “No Iraq War” signs in my neighborhood comfort me, so do the American flags.”Do I contradict myself?” Walt Whitman once wrote. “Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large; I contain multitudes.”

Whitmans’ quote describes all the interesting people I know; all the great books, the worthwhile movies, the inspiring leaders. It also describes the essential element of our national character. For better or worse, this country is racially, economically, culturally and philosophically diverse. So if we are going to be the Johnny Appleseed of democracy, we need to give our military the benefit of our national diversity.

We need to give Army uniforms to hippies.

OK, maybe not all the hippies. But there’s a big chunk of Leftish America that could contribute to the military and the military could gain by having them.

As a liberal married to the Army, I believe the separation between the political left and the military is maintained at great peril. And that peril comes not just to those two groups, but to the nation and global security as a whole.

Nation building is the primary objective of our foreign policy, and it will be for some time. While most Americans, including the president, fear the “entangling alliances” of nation building, too bad. Nations must be rebuilt because broken nations are dangerous. And the United States has to do it because a) we have the most to lose, and b) we’re the only ones who can.

It’s also inevitable that the military will continue to be the first and largest American presence in any broken country. In order to show the world a kinder American face, the left must seize the opportunity to help create security in places where there has only been tyranny and oppression.

The Pentagon has long tried to avoid such missions, with the plea that “We’re not trained to nation-build.” But there are people trained to do exactly that, and the Pentagon should start finding ways to recruit them and put them to work.

There’s a lot more. It’s beautifully-written, thought-provoking, and passionately eloquent. Read the whole thing. Spend some time thinking about what she says. It will be time better spent than it might be pondering my clumsier and less penetrating chickenfeed.

We could all stand to learn the lesson she teaches here.

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