Monday, April 24, 2006

American soldiers

Interesting article by Michael Parenti in The Nation on American soldiers:
If veterans are supposed to be at the heart of the peace movement, then it would serve progressives to understand this new military culture. Understanding the world of the military is also important because it is a major force in the socialization of young working-class Americans. If you're 20 or 22 and you're not doing what many rich kids do (like a career-boosting summer internship in New York) or doing what some truly poor kids do (like going to state prison on drug charges), chances are you're learning about responsibility and adulthood, and escaping small-town or inner-city America, courtesy of the US armed forces. One of the key lessons you'll learn there is: Look out for your comrades, because they're looking out for you...We hear often about the "economic draft"--the financial pressures that force young people to join the military. But there is also what could be called an "alienation draft" or, conversely, a "solidarity draft." The military offers not only jobs but also a type of belonging. "The military is like family, for a lot of people," says one vet. In many ways, the US military is a uniquely straightforward institution. Unlike society as a whole, it doesn't pretend to be a democracy--it's a hierarchy and makes no bones about that, but as such, it contains checks and balances, an appeals process and clear paths forward for promotion.
Interesting to consider in the context of militarist concepts of socialism, famously represented by Looking Backward and the continuing Latin American phenomenon of the populist military leader.


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