The scope of this ideological hijacking is broad, yet barely recognized. One can glimpse just how deep and nefarious this ideological shift is when one considers the extent to which evangelical Christians have infiltrated the U.S. Air Force Academy, proselytizing their heavily politicized religion to the future officers and leaders of that service. The past comments of Lt. Gen. William Boykin, a decorated Army Special Operations veteran who described America’s post-9/11 “war on terror” as a conflict between “Christian” America and “radical Islam,” are widely embraced within the U.S. military. President Bush has echoed Boykin in his speeches and statements, and the military’s favorite presidential candidate, Republican Sen. John McCain, has become the embodiment of Boykin’s philosophy. The Constitution prohibits the notion that America be defined as a Christian nation. To allow the military, sworn as it is to uphold and defend that document, to posture itself as Christian, becoming in effect the “sword of God,” is unthinkable and unforgivable.
The implications of such posturing are far-reaching, especially from the military recruitment standpoint. The all-volunteer military succeeds when it attracts to its ranks those who have a sincere desire to serve their nation. It succeeds greatly when those it attracts come from the broadest possible cross section of the American demographic. There has always been an economic aspect to the all-volunteer force; service is not slavery, and the military has always promised the security of a middle-class lifestyle to those who choose to enlist. But military service, properly motivated, has never been solely about the money. It is about defending a greater good, the people of the United States of America and their values and ideals as defined by the Constitution.
It has become increasingly difficult to motivate enough of today’s youths to serve in the armed services based upon the call of duty alone. One of the primary reasons for this shortfall is the unfortunate perception, not improperly derived, that military service is not in keeping with the concept of “doing the right thing.” This perception, born of an unpopular war and the dishonest foreign policies of successive administrations, is further exaggerated by the reality that the military not only operates as a separate and distinct part of American society (this has always been the case) but, due in large part to post-9/11 hysteria, has been positioned to view the American people as a threat. The inherent problems of the military trying to recruit from a population base which is under attack from the military are self-evident. Genuine patriotism was once a viable recruitment pitch. Now, economic incentives, false promises and pseudo-patriotism are used as the bait to lure the youths of today into America’s legions. Like the legions of the past, these new warriors march not on behalf of the citizens they are sworn to protect, but rather the emperor who commands them. This may be viewed as an overly harsh statement, but there is no other way to describe the abuses of a unitary executive who positions himself above the Constitution and Congress in a time of war.
Having described the current state of the military and military service in this manner, why would I ever encourage a citizen of military age to consider service in the armed forces? First and foremost, one needs to understand that the entire military system has not been corrupted. There are still men and women of honor who serve with dedication and pride. They are, in fact, in the majority. It takes only a few bad apples to spoil the lot, however, and our military today, thanks to a nebulous mission and lower recruiting standards, is full of bad apples. Likewise, to quote a Russian general, “a fish stinks from its head,” and nothing smells worse today than the “head” of the United States. Our commander in chief has disgraced the office he was entrusted with, and in doing so has severely damaged the foundation of American civil society as well as the institutions sworn to uphold and defend it.
The solution, however, cannot be “cut and run.” Simply identifying the problem and pointing a finger at the perpetrators will do nothing to resolve these critical issues. Our military cannot change unless we the people re-establish the link between ourselves and the legislative branch of government and rebuild the bond of trust between citizen and soldier. This cannot happen in stages, but rather must occur simultaneously. While the vast majority of America struggles to regain its moral and ethical compass through the re-establishment of the rule of law as set forth by the Constitution, we need to continue to maintain a military which is capable of defending us.
This requires good people to serve, even if the conditions of their service are not ideal. Do I want to have an intelligent, morally grounded soldier on the front line in Iraq, making the decisions about the use of force in the framework of an illegal and unjust occupation, or do I want to relinquish that job to a former felon lacking even a high school diploma? Do I want the troops of today led by Bible-wielding zealots or Constitution-wielding patriots? While we struggle to re-establish the bond between citizen and soldier, we have an absolute requirement to ensure we continue to field a military composed of citizen soldiers. The only way to prevent our military from becoming the new Roman Legion is to staff it with citizens of principle who reject such an abominable label. We are a nation at war, not just abroad, but with ourselves. Now, more than ever, we need citizens of standing to answer the call to service, not in the name of a criminal president or an illegal war, but rather in defense of the Constitution and all that it stands for, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.