The Civilian-Military Divide: General Kelly is a Canary in the Coal Mine

One portion of Gen Kelly’s remarks yesterday have gotten some notice, but I think it is important to highlight them and discuss their import.

Josh Marshall identified this portion of Gen Kelly’s remarks as specifically worrisome:

We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our service men and women do — not for any other reason than they love this country. So just think of that.

Marshall goes on to provide his interpretation of this portion of Gen Kelly’s statement:

Kelly made a similar point when he refused to take questions from any reporter who was not either from a Gold Star family themselves or personally knew someone who was. You may not even deserve your civic freedoms, the right to talk, to ask question, unless you are near to military sacrifice.

On the other side of the political spectrum, David Frum made a similar observation.

And despite all the correct concern and condemnation over further upsetting a grieving family, as well as the subsequent disparagement of a member of the House of Representatives, which when debunked, was doubled down on, there is a larger issue buried in all the noise, smoke, and fire: the civilian-military divide.

GEN Dempsey, when he was the Commanding General of Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) commissioned a study of the Army as profession after a decade of war. GEN Dempsey was concerned, as were a number of subject matter experts in military professional ethics, that after a decade of persistent conflict the profession was at risk of being degraded by the corrosive effects of war. This project became known as the US Army Profession of Arms Study*. A white paper was compiled and issued, followed up by a lot of staff work, and then the final report. The Profession of Arms is defined as:

The Army is an American Profession of Arms, a vocation comprised of experts certified in the ethical application of land combat power, serving under civilian authority, entrusted to defend the Constitution and the rights and interests of the American people.

In the “Our Ethic” section of the study is the following description (emphasis mine):

The nature of military professional ethics. As the Army moves forward into future conflict, it will continue to rely on an all volunteer force. The framework of the Army Ethic must provide a consistent theory of military ethics that grounds the martial virtues in more general moral concepts and lessens any gap between the Army and the society it serves and which provides its recruits.

Gen Kelly’s unfortunate remarks about service and how those who have served view those who haven’t run counter to how the Profession of Arms defines its own professional ethic. More importantly it provides a flashing warning sign of the potential for a civilian-military divide that separates those who have chosen to join the All Volunteer Force (for whatever reason) and those who haven’t. Including those who have undertaken other forms of public service. While we’ve seen this type of divide emphasized in the discussion over policing and the use of force by law enforcement, Gen Kelly’s statements yesterday were, perhaps, the most explicit example of the civilian-military divide I’ve seen or heard in the past decade.

One of the most important discussions we had in the my seminar’s seminar room at USAWC, which we also engaged in within the USAWC team assigned to work on the Profession of Arms study, was the discussion of how an All Volunteer Force during a time of extended war and conflict relates to the vastly larger society of civilians. There was great concern that if a gap was allowed to develop, grow, and harden that the All Volunteer Force, especially those who make a career of their military service, will grow so estranged from the rest of American society as to not just become a distinct sub-culture, but one that threatens the very state and society it is sworn to defend.

And this isn’t just some hyperbolic concern. We often joked that the US military is America’s largest set of centrally planned and run gated communities. While a lot of military personnel, especially as they achieve higher ranks throughout their career arc, will choose to live off post (on the economy), it is quite possible to live, work, shop, socialize, and play on post while never leaving it. While few who serve do this, there is a tendency to associate within the profession as one’s coworkers and colleagues become one’s friends through shared work and experiences. Including combat.

This is also not a recent or new concern. In 2011 Time dedicated its cover and the bulk of an issue to the civilian-military divide.

The U.S. military and American society are drifting apart. It’s tough inside the civilian world to discern the drift. But troops in all the military services sense it, smell it — and talk about it. So do their superiors. We have a professional military of volunteers that has been stoically at war for more than a decade. But as the wars have droned on, the troops waging them are increasingly an Army apart.

The civilian-military gap has taken on an edge recently, driven by the lack of sacrifice — either in blood or treasure — demanded of the rest of us compared to what the troops are giving.

Military leaders know the gap is widening, which leads to important questions: is this a bad thing? If it is, should we care? And if we should care, what can be done to reverse it? “I have this deep existential angst about a military organization within a democratic society that’s as isolated from the rest of that society as our military is becoming,” says Michael Desch, a political scientist and military expert at Notre Dame. “The gap can make civilian control of the military harder to achieve.”

That may be a reach, but senior officers sense the parting. “I have been struck in my travels at the lack of what I would call in-depth understanding of what we’ve been through,” Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told Time before he retired last month after 43 years in uniform. It’s almost like the American Foreign Legion. “We come from fewer and fewer places — we’ve BRAC’ed our way out of significant portions of the country,” Mullen said, referring to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission process that has shuttered hundreds of military posts across wide swaths of the nation. “Long term, if the military drifts away from its people in this country, that is a catastrophic outcome we as a country can’t tolerate.”

Click across and read the whole thing, it is really worth the few minutes.

This has been an ugly week in the US. It started with a needless, self inflicted wound by a President who does not speak well off the cuff and does not seem able to accept responsibility or tolerate being questioned. It got uglier when the President, feeling goaded into responding, responded in a way that deepened the injury. Including to not only the bereaved family he called, but also several others. And it moved well into I cannot believe this is happening in the US in 2017 territory with Gen Kelly’s attempt at damage control.

Despite all the ugliness some good can come of the week. Gen Kelly’s remarks yesterday are a canary in the civilian-military coal mine. War is corrosive to a military and a self governing republic. It eats away morale and effectiveness. And it drives a wedge between those who have chosen to serve, or if there’s a draft those chosen to serve by the state, and the non-serving in uniform citizenry who they are protecting and defending through their service to the Constitution. If any good can come from this week, perhaps it is a renewed discussion of civilian-military relations. As well as the nature of voluntary military service in a self governing republic. And a long overdue debate about if the US is indeed facing existential threats from al Qaeda or ISIS or the DPRK or Iran, then perhaps we need to actually declare war and actually mobilize the citizenry to fight the declared war.

* I was a contributor to the Profession of Arms study as part of the USAWC team assigned to look at the strategic issues of the profession. My specific responsibilities were to assist the USAWC Team Lead with conceptualizing the cultural aspects of what a profession is, what it means to be a member of a profession and how the norms and values of a profession are transmitted, taught, and learned.

283 replies
  1. 1
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    Tell me why do you still keep on calling him General Kelly, when he is the White House Chief of Staff.
    *That* is a problem worthy of analysis. No one called Robert Gates “Lieutenant Gates” because he served in the AF.

  2. 2
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    Because calling him “General” still implies heavily that the military overrides civilian officials in this country.

  3. 3
    mike in dc says:

    “Service Guarantees Citizenship”

    “Would You Like to Know More?”

    “The Mobile Infantry made me the man I am today!”

    “I’m from Buenos Aires, and I say kill em all!”

    Best satire of war propaganda films ever.

  4. 4
    EBT says:

    Disgraced former general kelly seems to be more fitting.

  5. 5
    lgerard says:

    One thing that never stops annoying me….the idea that being in the military is the only way to serve your country.

    Frederica Wilson spent decades as a teacher, as a principal, and helped found a program to mentor young people and guide them towards improving their lives and their communities.

    It seems to me that she has served her country quite well.

  6. 6
    Baud says:

    I have no connection to the military. The fact is, I find it difficult to appreciate military life and culture when it is so connected with the Republican Party, as it has seemed to be for much of my life.

    Thanks for the post, Adam.

  7. 7
    El Caganer says:

    So……where on the Trump To-Do List is the repeal of Posse Comitatus?

  8. 8

    I don’t get it, how is Kelly the canary? What is the coal mine?
    Chief of Staff is not a military post. Or are we in a military dictatorship now with the President as a figurehead and Kelly running the show? Was there an announcement I missed, when this transition happened?

  9. 9

    @mike in dc:

    Best satire of war propaganda films ever.

    It’s odd, because it’s the only movie I can think of that was created to ridicule the ideas in the book it was based on. Not to say this is a bad thing- I think the ideas they were ridiculing deserved it- but it’s unusual for an author (or an author’s estate) to agree to such a thing.

  10. 10
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Amanda in the South Bay: @Amanda in the South Bay: Secretary Gates did not retire from military service. It is customary to refer to general officer/flag officers by their highest rank at time of retirement. It is also customary to refer to public servants by the highest rank they held at the time they left office/retired. So I could also call him Secretary Kelly, but that just seems strange because he’s now the White House Chief of Staff. The shorthand for a chief of staff is Chief, but Chief Kelly also seems strange.

  11. 11
    Baud says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Not Adam, but I think it’s the fact that Kelly seems unready to adhere to civilian norms.

  12. 12
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    Kelly’s remarks are right out of Heinlein’s book Starship Trooper.

    IIRC in the book only those who had been in the military could vote or hold office. And teach certain courses.

  13. 13
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    Except most retired generals don’t take civilian White House positions. And since this is an extraordinary time, calling him by his retired rank is still inappropriate and helps undermine the ideal of civilian supremacy over the military.

  14. 14
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Kelly, as a retired general with a poor understanding of civilian-military relations is the canary. The coal mine is civilian-military relations in the US. His remarks are the warning chirps that there is a problem.

  15. 15

    @Baud: So he is not the canary our democracy is the canary in danger from the noxious fumes of authoritarianism emanating from this administration.

  16. 16
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @mike in dc: Out of it – what film??

  17. 17
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Amanda in the South Bay: I understand what you are saying and why. I also live, professionally, within the Profession of Arms. So…

  18. 18
    Cowgirl in the Sandi says:

    I worry about the divide Adam talks about and I also worry about the divide in the country. Red states vs. Blue states. Urban vs. rural. It’s so pervasive. And while I was never a fan of the draft when I was young, it seems to me that one way out of this divide that seems to be as big as the Grand Canyon might be a 2 year National Service that would allow young people (ages maybe 18-22) to choose how they wanted to serve; military, some sort of WPA/CCC work, medical training – whatever that would bring groups of young people from all over the country together to work together (and also learn to get to know each other and live together). Unless we get to know each other again, I don’t see how the nation can continue – E Pluribus Unum

  19. 19
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I understand, though I don’t agree. No problem.

  20. 20
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @Cowgirl in the Sandi: Early 90s BRAC fucked us all.

  21. 21
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Amanda in the South Bay: Tracking. I understand why you were asking and I appreciate your concerns.

  22. 22
    randy khan says:

    @mike in dc:

    Starship Troopers was the first thing I thought about when I saw what Kelly said, but the book, not the movie. The book lays out a (too-long) philosophical argument for requiring service to gain the vote, but it’s also clear from the book that service is in now way limited to the military – the protagonist ends up in the Mobile Infantry only after it becomes apparent he can’t do any of the things he wants to do (and actually says that he didn’t bother listing a bunch of other thing that he didn’t find attractive).

    Even with the understanding that military service is not the only service that counts, though, the argument is not particularly compelling. It fits in with Robert Heinlein’s general view of the world in other books (he’s kind of an individualist-collectivist – you owe responsibility to your clan, even though you have personal autonomy), but even in that context it’s more extreme than a lot of what he wrote.

  23. 23

    @Adam L Silverman: Miners took a canary to detect noxious fumes in a mine that could potentially kill them.
    As far as I can see, I don’t see any danger to Mr. Kelly, while in his current powerful position we are in danger from his militaristic POV.
    My two cents as I see the overall situation. YMMV.

  24. 24
    rikyrah says:

    Kelly is a lowlife.
    Remember, he was supportive of separating parents and children
    Remember, he threatened to leave when discriminated against groups confronted about whether or not stats were not being taken about whom is getting stopped at the border, like his azz wasn’t responsible to citizen inquiry.
    Phuck that muthaphucka😡😡

  25. 25
    EBT says:

    @Adam L Silverman: So it’s cool that Disgraced former general kelly hid behind his own dead son to slander and double down on a sitting congresswoman? Cause that doesn’t sound remotely professional. Or cool. Have some fucking standards.

  26. 26
    Doc says:

    Just finished watching Ken Burn’s Vietnam. That era shows what happens when you overstretch a draftee army in ambiguous wars. We fixed that problem. Now we might find out what happens when you overstretch a professional army in ambiguous wars. I don’t think it will be better.

  27. 27
    jl says:

    What is most worrisome is that the current administration will use the military for political purposes, hide behind military service, and explicitly elevate military above civilians. The vile Sanders told reporters today that it was inappropriate for them to question a Marine general. That is most dangerous. I’ve been dipping into some documentary history reading recently, and that is a new thing. Certainly wasn’t conventional wisdom in any of our wars, from Revolution through Korean War.

    There have been different strains in attitude towards standing military. One does give career military great deference in things military. Another that it is a necessary evil that must be subject to repeated efforts to save itself from the natural descent into mediocrity and incompetence towards which such a sheltered bureaucratic organization always tends.

    From reading Grant’s and Sherman’s memoirs, Sherman was of the former school and Grant that latter. Sherman preferred career military to to what were then called ‘volunteers’ when he needed people for a particularly demanding task. Grant was of the latter, and wrote (paraphrase) that most career military stayed there because they didn’t have the enterprise or skills to succeed at anything else in life, so need to watch out for the deadest and most pompous deadwood and useless toadies you can imagine.

    What is most dangerous is the attitude of the incompetent thugs running the civilian government. I think what Kelly said was irresponsible, dangerous and outrageous. But I don’t particularly care about Kelly, he is a high toned flunky at this point. I don’t give a fig for his honor during his service in the Trump administration. His job is to keep Trump from doing something catastrophic and murderous, and he better get cracking on that. Most presidents in our history have had the power and will to shut down militaristic presumptions from the military or veterans with extreme prejudice.

    The rot and danger comes from Trump and the Trumpsters, who are civilians. They are ultimately responsible and no one else. He needs his fat ass kicked out of office asap. I’ll take my chances with Dence.

  28. 28
    Corner Stone says:

    The more dangerous sin, IMO, than Kelly just being a scumbag fucking lying asshole, is that the WH press corps went along when he would not take questions from anyone who did not have personal knowledge of a Gold Star family.
    Fuck him. They should have bum rushed that podium and all asked their questions all at once.

  29. 29

    @Corner Stone: They are invertebrates where Rs are concerned.

  30. 30
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @randy khan: I am a big fan of the idea of national service. Everyone does two years. Wide variety of options, including military. The payoff is money for college and health insurance (as in a Medicare buy in for those that don’t go the military route). Basically would resolve a couple of major problems. Will likely never happen.

  31. 31
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I know the etymology of the phrase. I am sorry you don’t understand how I’m applying it.

  32. 32
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Chief Kelly also seems strange

    Not in Boston!

  33. 33
    Baud says:

    @schrodingers_cat: No, I think the canary isn’t necessarily the one at risk. It just means early warning.

  34. 34
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @EBT: No it is not. I have not defended his remarks or statements here or anywhere else. I was mortified by what I saw yesterday. That doesn’t mean that he is no longer a general officer, retired or otherwise.

  35. 35
    randy khan says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Heinlein had been dead for 9 years when it came out, but his wife was still alive (and so far as i know, still with it), so it does seem odd. That said, I had an uncle who was a novelist, and he was pretty mercenary about such things – one of his books was made into an Elvis Presley movie that seriously distorted the plot of the original, and another was licensed by a famous director for a movie that bore very little resemblance to the novel (although the director did adopt the name of the protagonist), but he didn’t seem to care so long as the checks cleared. Maybe Virginia Heinlein felt the same way.

  36. 36
    jl says:

    @Baud: No one ever talks about what happens to the canary. A Baud administration would not let that happen, I assume.

  37. 37
    EBT says:

    @Adam L Silverman: His holding a government job for 30 years doesn’t actually entitle him to any deference or respect. You can stop sucking his dick any time you choose to.

  38. 38
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Steve in the ATL: True. Well played. Where have you been.

  39. 39
    Calouste says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Why not use the completely accurate title of Nazi-sympathizer Kelly? Don’t even have to worry about what to call him if he takes another position.

    This post is a heck of a lot of word that still doesn’t point out the essence what Kelly made clear about himself: he is a fascist.

  40. 40

    @Baud: Yes the warning sign is the canary in distress or a dead canary from inhaling S02 or H2S or CO.

  41. 41
    Baud says:

    @jl: We will have Canary Appreciation Events throughout the country.

  42. 42
    jl says:

    @Baud: Sounds great. You will need to learn to distinguish between live and dead canaries beforehand, so as to avoid a PR boo boo. Please put that on your to-do list.

  43. 43
    raven says:

    @EBT: And you can go fuck yourself any time you choose, asshole.

  44. 44
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Effects bargaining relating to M&A. Contract bargaining. Arbitrations. Barely have time to breathe. Have abandoned almost all internet browsing other than and B-J. And not in that order!

  45. 45
    Baud says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Right. But the idiom is used even when the proverbial canary is not at risk. It now means something indicative of a major unseen problem.

  46. 46
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Steve in the ATL: Sounds like fun.

  47. 47
    EBT says:

    @raven: Disgraced former general kelly is a sack of shit, giving him any defference is a serious character flaw.

  48. 48

    @Baud: We can see the problem, hear it and read its tweets. Don’t need no canary.

    ETA: Trying to swear less. I have let my own personal standards drop. Shame on me.

  49. 49
    Corner Stone says:

    @Baud: The canary is the one that dies first.

  50. 50
    Baud says:

    @Steve in the ATL:

    Great commenters there too.

  51. 51
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Baud: if you’re going with a “bird lives matter” platform, you just lost my cat’s vote.

  52. 52
    opiejeanne says:

    @Roger Moore: What movie is this from?

  53. 53
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Baud: ha! but still more fun than LG&M.

  54. 54
    raven says:

    @EBT: Which has not one fucking thing to do with what Adam said.

  55. 55
    Caphilldcne says:

    Thanks for highlighting this issue. I’d be interested in what percent of the military comes from military families. I’m an AF brat who went on to serve 4 years (plus 5ish years in ROTC). I’d say my family had a definite sense of being apart from the civilian world. It’s hard to even notice it when you’re inside. We’d go to movies on base. We socialized largely with other military (mostly officers). I think it’s a problem that has extremely deep roots that probably date to at least WWII. Likely earlier. Ive been out 25 years and still have those connections. It’s also a great lifestyle and self-perpetuating. I’d say more of a problem in the officer ranks but probably senior NCOs too. I don’t really know how it gets dialed back. I do think ending the continuous war-footing would help. Anyway just thinking out loud. I semi-seriously thought about going back after 9/11 but having come out I didn’t want to go back in the closet under DADT. And now I’m firmly ensconced in my company town world of Washington and too old. I think getting the reigns of government back and promoting generals who can set the right tone would help. But not sure if the current military is capable of self reform. Especially not the AF which I perceive to have been targeted by and somewhat taken over by right wing Christianists. It’s different even now than when I was in. I do think it’s good there are military associated people thinking about the problem so thanks for that.

  56. 56
    jl says:

    @raven: Some people think sinking to a vile enemy’s level is sign of integrity and loyalty to the cause.

  57. 57

    @Corner Stone: That’s what I am saying. What danger is Mr CoS in?

  58. 58
    Baud says:

    @schrodingers_cat: The post is getting at a different problem though.

    @Corner Stone: Right. In this context, the thing that died is Kelly’s reputation (among some of those who had previously still held it in regard).

  59. 59
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Quite a few people didn’t get the joke — some people still think it’s serious. So I’m guessing the estate didn’t realize there was parodic intent and that may be why (IIRC) in public Verhoeven usually avers that it’s a straight adaptation.

  60. 60
    Corner Stone says:

    I, for one, am thankful I can still go to bed at night and sleep soundly knowing that there is a plan by the ¡Three Amigos! to “tackle” Trump if he goes for the football.

  61. 61
    jl says:

    @EBT: Correctly identifying and addressing someone is not the same as deference. And if we just refer to someone as a ‘lying sack of shit’ how will that pick them out from any other person in the Trump administration?

  62. 62
    Another Scott says:

    Thanks for this.

    But, honestly, I think his “us and them”-ish comment is much, much more a reflection of his RWNJ mindset than his having been in the military. Yes, he has a bigger platform as a result of having had stars on his shoulder, and that is disconcerting. But the bigger threat (IMHO) is the RWNJ mindset, and the fact that he seemingly never lived in the civilian world as an adult.

    E.g. this WashingtonTimes story about him (from the Wayback Machine): [ Note the extreme RWNJ framing of the story, but it seems to fit his views ]


    At retirement in 2015 after three years at SouthCom, Gen. Kelly was the armed forces’ longest-serving general. He joined as a private in 1970 and, after college, re-entered the Marines in 1976 as an officer.

    [ He was in the Marines practically his whole life ]

    As assistant division commander, he fought in the Iraq War. In 2004-07, he was the Marines’ top link to Congress. He then took control of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and returned to fighting in Iraq’s Anbar province.

    Just like he bucked the Obama administration on his Senate testimony, he went against his own commandant and testified on behalf of a Marine officer who was disciplined in the infamous urination photo over Taliban corpses. Gen. Kelly believed the officer was unfairly singled out for punishment.

    [ A bad Marine shouldn’t be held to account for ruining the USA’s reputation, apparently ]

    Gen. Kelly is a Gold Star father. His son, Marine 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in 2010.

    In 2014, four years after his son’s death, The Washington Times reported on a private speech that the general delivered on American patriotism and how millennial Marines are different from their civilian counterparts.

    The speech today seems prescient given upheavals in the past year by millennials on college campuses and their demands for “safe spaces” and censorship.

    “The young people I work with every day and serve the nation in the armed forces, in general, and the Marine Corps in particular, have broken the mold and stepped out as men and women of character who are making their own way in life while protecting ours,” he said. “Young people who, like their fathers and grandfathers before them, have a religious faith in self-reliance, hard work and making it on their own. This is who they are, and it is this philosophy that came to them through their families.”

    “If you think this war against our way of life is over because some of the self-appointed opinion-makers and chattering class grow ‘war weary,’ because they want to be out of Iraq or Afghanistan, you are mistaken,” Gen. Kelly said. “This enemy is dedicated to our destruction. He will fight us for generations, and the conflict will move through various phases as it has since 9/11.”

    (Emphasis added.)

    Was Obama and his administration among those “self-appointed opinion makers”??

    Eternal war. Yay!! :-/

    He’s a kook and a crank and a RWNJ ideologue who seems to have little or no experience in the civilian world. He has no business having a position of authority in the civilian federal government.

    My $0.02.


  63. 63
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Mnemosyne: didn’t read the book but god what a terrible movie

  64. 64
    LosGatosCA says:


    The canaries in the mine were the Ultra-Religious out 0f control Air Force culture, General Boykin, and Flynn.

    It’s not a surprise that the military thinks they are both ‘apart from” and ‘superior to’ the general population.

    It’s not a surprise that the paramilitary police believe they are both ‘apart from” and ‘superior to’ the general population.

    They draw from the same self-selected pool and in the military’s case are also over-indexed regionally by a culture that has states that voted for segregation in their state constitution as recently as 2004, etc.

    I had two uncles that fought in the Pacific in WWII, one a Marine DI who was on Guadalcanal for several tours and a father that served and then built Thule as part of the ‘DEW line. They were all from NY, later union members, and lifelong Democrats. I wonder how they would fit into the military culture today.

  65. 65
    West of the Cascades says:

    Can I just say, if no one else has recently, fuck the fucking NYT.

    Current headline at WaPo: “Kelly made false claims in feud over Trump’s condolence call, video shows.”
    Current headline at NYT: “Lawmaker Raises Issues of Racism; Says Kelly Lied.”

    The Times should really learn that it is not that hard to use correct descriptions in headlines, and that both sides don’t actually do it.

  66. 66
    Gvg says:

    @Ladyraxterinok: this is incorrect. Any who served got citizenship and the beginning mentioned some of the other services such as teaching, but then it went on to tell an action adventure of a specific person and Heinlan was good at action adventure so that part of it overshadowed the whole premise.
    This may be why his estate agreed to the movie, as about half the people I ever talked to about the book before only got the military service idea. This meant over time the myths about the book got kind of more militaristic than was comfortable.
    Heinlan sometimes wrote approvingly about the military and sometimes made fun of it. Different characters in different books were very different in views about it. I think he both liked and disliked it. He did make me think tho I ended up differing on some points. Common people of the land tended not even to notice some of his better points. I won’t say it was one of his best but it wasn’t quite Rambo in space either.

  67. 67
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Another Scott: I think you are conflating the culture of the Marine Corps and their own professional ethos and understanding of themselves with other things. But this is based on having worked with and/or supervised and/or taught a number of Marines.

  68. 68
  69. 69
    Sam says:

    The Marines are particularly prone to fostering a separation from the civilian world. It is pernicious. This needs to be a factor in fitness reports.

  70. 70
    EBT says:

    @jl: Disgraced former general kelly works.
    He hid behind his own dead son to slander a sitting member of congress and the family of a dead soldier.
    Let me make my stake here 100% clear, my father served for 22 years, then died. I collected survivor’s benefits. Fuck kelly right to hell, and fuck everyone who continues to give him any honorifics or deference or respect.
    Now calm the fuck down and raven better give me a fucking apology.

  71. 71
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Steve in the ATL:

    It’s a really funny movie, on purpose, but it can be hard to get past the extreme gore to see that.

  72. 72
    Crashman says:

    This is what happened with the late Roman Empire, wasn’t it? The Imperial Legions, constantly on the front while also integrating barbarian tribes to keep up their numbers until army culture and even language was utterly incomprehensible to Roman society.

  73. 73
    Steve in the ATL says:


    Fuck kelly right to hell

    Can’t argue with that

    raven better give me a fucking apology.

    You must be new here!

  74. 74
    Mike in Pasadena says:

    Kelly’s remarks yesterday and the underlying meaning behind at least two of his statements have begun to confirm my fear that we have suffered a quiet, non-violent coup. Once we are no longer allowed to question the military leaders, we are on our way to a military dictatorship.

  75. 75
    jl says:

    @EBT: ‘Disgraced former General Kelly’ works or me. I take back my critical comment.

  76. 76
    satby says:

    Nice post, thanks Adam. I’m also a believer in the idea of a compulsory national service.

  77. 77
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Crashman: When in Rome, do as the Goths!

  78. 78
    Baud says:

    @West of the Cascades: The NYT is garbage.

  79. 79
    jl says:

    @Mike in Pasadena: I think that misses the real problem. If there is a coup, it is being engineered by civilian leadership as a kind of generalized Praetorian Guard. I think Nixon tried something similar.

  80. 80
    Corner Stone says:

    @Crashman: Come to the Empire for the hot sex and intrigue going on everywhere, stay for the Gladiator Games!

  81. 81
    Baud says:

    @Mike in Pasadena:

    Once we are no longer allowed to question the military leaders, we are on our way to a military dictatorship.

    So I’m going to just throw this out there, but you don’t have to actually listen to Huckabee Sanders.

  82. 82
    Betty Cracker says:

    I’ve been alarmed by increasing militarism and expectations of deference to the “warrior” class, including law enforcement, since 9/11. The Trump era has made my worry much more acute.

    Don’t have any realistic suggestions for addressing it though. Service requirements would be better than the status quo, but maybe slashing the DoD to a third or less of its present size would be even better.

  83. 83

    @schrodingers_cat: You are being way too literal in your understanding of how the metaphor is commonly used. It is not necessary for the analogue of the canary to be in any danger the way the saying is used in the real world. People keep trying to explain this to you, and yet you keep marching on. Stop digging.

  84. 84
  85. 85
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Gotta agree with Amanda on this. Addressing Kelly as “General” may be equally as technically correct as addressing Colin Powell as “General”, but the former carries a ton more baggage. I think you’re thoughtful enough to understand that, and I join in the wish that you’d avoid it.

  86. 86
    Gvg says:

    I would guess that one thing that needs to happen is integrating stateside families into regular neighborhoods and not gated communities. Not sure about overseas but it’s rediculous in a long term stateside posting.

  87. 87
    Caphilldcne says:

    One other issue. One big reason the AF supported the Iraq war is that they were stretched by the Iraq no fly zone. I think they decided they could get out of doing that by cutting the Gordon knot and going to war. Also I’m pretty sure they loved the idea of using some of their expensive missiles. I’m pretty sure no one thought they’d continue to be there in 2017. So stretching the volunteer forces also has weird outcomes.

  88. 88
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @schrodingers_cat: If you want to be that strict, Kelly can’t be a canary because he is not a bird.

  89. 89
  90. 90
    Alex says:

    We are one of the few nations in the Americas that have never had a successful military coup. Be a shame to lose that little scrap of exceptionalism.

  91. 91
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The disparagement of a member of the House is a UCMJ offense. Kelly, as a retired officer, is still subject to the UCMJ.

    mike in dc: “I’m doing my part!” (watches kids stepping on bugs).

  92. 92
    Ruckus says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    I get where you are coming from about calling him general. However this is not in any way a normal time. As this post alone suggests, we have a situation that is bad for the county, that encouraging the concept of the military as the overall strength and direction of the county is not good. It seems to me that given he is no longer a general, that he is now working for the civilian authority over the military, calling him general is really not a good thing. General is not the highest office he has held. What he does now is work for the step above that and that is the civilian authority over the military. My personal opinion is that he is COS Kelly. If he wanted to be General Kelly he should have kept his job or retired. Calling him that just, IMO, does exactly the opposite of giving him credit for having done that job and now having taken the job of helping to oversee the military, he should be known as his current job title. And this is all separate from his obvious right wing stance. He wouldn’t have even been offered the job if he didn’t swing way right. He may have been a great general but he is no longer in the military shouldn’t be recognized that way.

  93. 93
    Adam L Silverman says:

  94. 94
    gene108 says:


    Adam is not talking about a military coup.

    He is talking about the inability of current and retired military to relate to civilians and vice versa and what that means culturally.

  95. 95
    Crashman says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Patrick Wyman’s Fall of Rome podcast had a fascinating episode on the blended Roman/Gothic barbarian culture of the Roman army in the late Empire. Fascinating, with a lot of parallels to this military/civilian divide.

  96. 96
    MikeBoyScout says:

    Dividing those who serve our nation and community has been part of the Republican playbook for 50 years.
    No one ever spat on uniformed returning Vietnam vets, for example.

    Generally POS Kelly best represents POS Republicans not those who selflessly serve our nation and community in or out of military service.

  97. 97
    Chitown Kev says:

    @lgerard: Yep…Kelly’s implication otherwise really pisses me off.

  98. 98
    Baud says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Kelly, as a retired officer, is still subject to the UCMJ.

    So we should call him general?

  99. 99
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Crashman: You’ll have much more fun that way.

  100. 100
    Steve in the ATL says:


    My personal opinion is that he is COS Kelly.

    POS Kelly? Works for me.

  101. 101
    Caphilldcne says:

    @Betty Cracker: completely agree. I got into an argument last year at a hockey game with a guy who felt like my admittedly loudly voiced annoyance with all the various standing up for some random military guy was ridiculous. Literally every game there’s a pause to recognize the troops. Once in awhile it’s a 94 yo WWII vet who stormed Normandy but most frequently it’s a currently serving guy who probably has a bit of Iraq experience and is otherwise pushing papers. I don’t really mind standing up. I just object since I know that the Verizon Center or whomever is receiving a ton of money from the military to do this. And I object to the forced patriotism. Hockey guy and I do have a cordial relationship and we’ve occasionally bought each other a beer so no harm done.

  102. 102
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Crashman: What most people don’t realize is that Rome fell to the Romans. Specifically naturalized, for lack of a better term, Roman citizens who had previously been barbarians.

  103. 103
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Baud: General (retired). He’s still entitled to be addressed by his rank, although he’d be wise to not insist on it. Same thing for Mattis. McMaster, OTOH, is still on active duty.

  104. 104
    Crashman says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Yes! I didn’t quite get that until I listened to that podcast series, but that’s absolutely it. The Roman elites refused to integrate that them enough and it hollowed out the empire enough for it to collapse.

  105. 105
    jl says:

    @Baud: I think anyone can call him what they want, as long as you can pick out that jackass from the others.

    Kelly, General Kelly, Kelly the Trump flunky, something like that all fine with me.

    If I got into some nasty argument about policy or Constitution, democratic self-government, or US civic values with some one in the military, I would probably make a point of using any military title that was appropriate in addressing them. Just so they knew that I, a miserable civilian, had the right to show no deference to them at all on those topics.

  106. 106
    Baud says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Odoacer wasn’t Roman.

  107. 107
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Cool. This thread is going to be a shit show.

    I tend to be a traditionalist, so I have no real problem with using the General when referring to Kelly. OTOH, I don’t see how calling him General precludes calling him an asshole. I was quite capable of calling Dick Cheney Vice President and saying I look forward to pissing on his grave.

    Finally, good job everyone in focusing on Adam’s choice of formal language rather than his post. This bodes well for our future.

  108. 108
    mike in dc says:


    Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers.

  109. 109

    A jerk with epaulets is still a jerk. CoS, his current position is not a military one, and he is not inherently more noble because he was a 4 star general.

  110. 110
    Ruckus says:

    @Steve in the ATL:
    Works for me as well. But if you are going to be professional, which I am assuredly not, then it’s COS Kelly.
    On second thought I’d go with Fucking asshole POS Kelly, but that’s just me.

  111. 111
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Baud: Can I still call him General Odoacer despite him most likely being Scirian?

  112. 112
    John Fremont says:

    @Sam: Yes
    I served an enlistment in the Corps back in the 80’s. The Marine Corps ‘ forte is amphibious warfare which is pretty abstract to the average civilian, so the Corps has played up the mystique since World War 2. It is what it is.

  113. 113
    Baud says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Maybe POS Odoacer to placate the natives.

  114. 114
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Has anyone defended Kelly in the thread? Or any recent thread?

  115. 115
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I was quite capable of calling Dick Cheney Vice President and saying I look forward to pissing on his grave.

    I have some bad news for you…

  116. 116
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Corner Stone: He is undead?

  117. 117
    Jeffro says:

    It’s nice that we’re all kicking this around here and having this debate here. Is anyone contacting their members of Congress? Writing letters to the editor or op-eds? Emailing their favorite talking heads and asking why this isn’t a bigger concern or story in the media? Because it’s not much of a canary…and no one but us will hear the ‘chirps’…if we don’t raise the issue with people who might be able to do/say something about it.

  118. 118
    Another Scott says:

    @Betty Cracker: The DoD is too small (personnel wise, deployable platforms wise) for the mission it has been assigned by our federal government. Unless your “cut by 2/3rds” comes out of things like the F35 and other very expensive weapons systems – and not personnel – it would make things much worse for the people trying to do their nearly impossible missions.

    I’m more than willing to support a conversation about the Pentagon’s mission going forward, but we can’t kid ourselves about it somehow rolling in mountains of money, or something.


  119. 119
    Baud says:

    @Jeffro: They don’t all read Balloon Juice?

  120. 120
    Corner Stone says:

    Why can I not shake the impression that the commercials for the “OfferUp” app are really advertising for couples’ swinger meetups?

  121. 121
    Jeffro says:

    @Adam L Silverman: ABSTP.

    Always Be Stirring The Pot.

  122. 122
    debbie says:

    Jesus, all of you. Arguing over what to call Kelly is so far from the fucking point of this post. Get a grip and focus.

  123. 123
    Caphilldcne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: good point! The military civilian divide is the issue!!

  124. 124
    Jeffro says:

    @Baud: Jen Rubin does, to see what Corner Stone is saying about her…

  125. 125
    Adam L Silverman says:

    Speaking of folks having a bad hat day, not to mention most offensive facial hair:

  126. 126
    jl says:

    Unfortunate neglect in this thread of the role that pathetic incompetence plays in this general mess. And also the role of Trump’s almost automatic, constant, and pointless lying and bullshitting. Found this via Josh Marshal’s twitter:

    Exclusive: Pentagon Document Contradicts Trump’s Gold Star Claims

  127. 127
    Baud says:

    @debbie: Yeah. It was a good post. But it’s Saturday night and people are drunk.

  128. 128
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Jeffro: I make calls every week. Sometimes every day, depending on the issue. But thanks for suggesting that we do nothing but talk here.

  129. 129
    debbie says:


    Heh, I guess.

  130. 130

    @Baud: I am stone cold sober. I rarely drink if at all.

  131. 131
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Maybe we can take this thread into semiotics, instead?

    The choice of a signifier is, of course, relevant to the concept being signified. Referring to a civilian holding a key government position by a military title seems to me to be precisely on point with Adam’s discussion of the civilian-military divide. Your view of this may be different.

  132. 132
    John Fremont says:

    @MikeBoyScout: While the hippie spitting on returning Vietnam vets is the convenational wisdom, plenty of American Legion and VFW posts in the 1970’s and 80’s did not care for Nam vets applying for memberships. The WW2 vets at the time didn’t have much regard for Nam vets.

  133. 133
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Baud: Dude, it is Friday. The rest of your point may stand.

  134. 134
    jl says:


    ” I am stone cold sober. I rarely drink if at all. ”

    But I thought you were a Baud supporter.

    @Omnes Omnibus: Baudists drink into the future. I’m going into mid November right now.

  135. 135
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    I see calling him general is wrong in this one instance. General is not the highest job he has held, it is the highest rank he has obtained in the military. He now works directly for the person, and remember I’m an atheist saying this, god save us, that oversees the military. His boss is in charge. He runs the shop. This job is equal to his last one. Or it at least should be. Calling him general, in this particular instance, IMO elevates the military and it just shouldn’t.

  136. 136
    Baud says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Oh….already?

  137. 137
    Crashman says:

    @Baud: He may have considered himself Roman. He fought in the Roman army. He was supported by the senators of Rome. His father put the last
    Emperor on the throne.

  138. 138
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Baud: Uh, it’s Friday. Unless you moved to Australia and didn’t tell us.

  139. 139
    Thru the Looking Glass... says:


    The fact is, I find it difficult to appreciate military life and culture when it is so connected with the Republican Party clings to both so desperately its knuckles turned white years ago…

    There… I think that says it better, no?

  140. 140
    Corner Stone says:


    But it’s Saturday night and people are drunk.

    I woke up from a nap earlier and thought my son was home because it was Saturday. So I just do not fucking know anything anymore.

  141. 141
    satby says:

    @Baud: is that it? Because I should go to bed but it’s like rubbernecking at a car wreck.

  142. 142
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Corner Stone: You’ve said too much. Activate your exfil plan now!

  143. 143
    Baud says:

    @Crashman: But the reason he marks the end of the Western Empire was because he wasn’t Roman, no?

  144. 144
    japa21 says:

    We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our service men and women do — not for any other reason than they love this country. So just think of that.

    This quote gets me, and not just because it sounds like he (and probably not all the military) pities us commoners. He is making a divide and is expliciting saying only the military does what they do due to love of country. In a round about way, he is saying Trump wanted to be President, but not because he loves his country.

    The two words that really jumped out at me were “wonderful joy.” My son is approaching his 18 year anniversary as a commissioned officer in the Army. As a result I have been on a lot of military bases and met a lot of his fellow officers ans enlisted men and women. Although some may feel actual joy at what they are doing, I would say the more appropriate word is pride in what they do. And the pride they have is no different than the pride my other son has in his work as a high school history teacher.

    However, I also have to admit I have seen a change in my son that mirrors the growth of the divide. His questioning of the wisdom of those who have never served is more pronounced and he recently said he is getting to the point where he feels all serving politicians should have some military experience behind them.

    So going back to the original Kelly quote, I think there is a pronounced “looking down” by many members of the military toward civilians. My son isn’t totally there yet, but I have met some who are.

  145. 145
    debbie says:


    I have no sympathy for any of them, but it has to be exhausting having to scramble 24/7 for this asshole.

  146. 146
    Baud says:

    @Thru the Looking Glass…: Some of it seems reciprocated.

  147. 147
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Fair enough, and maybe my experience as an army officer makes me less deferential to generals than others may be. General more or less equals executive vice president in a large corporation.

  148. 148
    Jeffro says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I asked what people were doing in addition to talking. Not the same thing as what you’re saying.

  149. 149
    debbie says:

    @Baud: @Baud:

    You’re right. Subtlety has left the building.

  150. 150
    Thru the Looking Glass... says:

    We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served.

    Maybe it’s just me, BUT… when Kelly feels a need to lead off w/ this sort of disclaimer… I’m not sure I believe him…

  151. 151
    marcopolo says:

    As always late to the conversation but the first thing that came to my mind when I heard Kelly at the start of yesterday’s briefing was Truman and MacArthur. My father served in the brief quiet between the end of WWII and the Korean war (stationed in Okinawa doing MI work) and then stayed in the reserves reaching a final rank of full bird colonel. He often shared his thoughts on the military/civilian divide. He was a big proponent of re-instituting the draft for some form of blanket national service (that might or might not mean the military) which every American kid would do after HS. If he were alive he’d have been appalled at Kelly’s display.

  152. 152
    mike in dc says:

    @Gin & Tonic:
    Semiotics. Great. Now I’m having traumatic flashbacks to my literary criticism course in undergrad at Cornell.

  153. 153
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: I’m not sure what’s worse, that the staff had no clarity at all on what their boss was talking about or the fact that in attempting to clean up his mess they created a paper trail subject to FOIA and leaking that would make it worse. When you’ve committed information operations fratricide the first rule is to stop committing information operations fratricide. This is the type of thing where the request is made via phone, instructions are given not to do anything by email, and the POC on the other end is notified that someone is coming over to get hard copy and courier it back so have it ready within 2 hours.

  154. 154
    debbie says:

    If Kelly can say that about civilians, would he be thinking the same thing about Trump?

  155. 155
    Thru the Looking Glass... says:

    @Baud: True and I have to believe not ALL military personnel are okay w/ it…

    As Exhibit A, I offer Adam…

  156. 156
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Baud: Actually its Friday night. Maybe you should switch to soft drinks at this point.

  157. 157
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ruckus: Is this what we should be talking about wrt to Adam’s post? If so, and it seems that the majority of people who are posting think that it is, then I’ll just sit back and shut up. If we are talking about a civilian/military divide, I might have experiences that are worth sharing.

  158. 158
    KS in MA says:

    @lgerard: This.

    Thank you.

  159. 159
    O. Felix Culpa says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I would be interested in reading what you have to share on the topic. Of civilian/military divide.

  160. 160
    Omnes Omnibus says:


    I would say the more appropriate word is pride in what they do. And the pride they have is no different than the pride my other son has in his work as a high school history teacher.


  161. 161
    MikeBoyScout says:

    @John Fremont: understand. was specifically citing the Nixon fed BS myth

  162. 162
    jl says:

    @japa21: That BS mythology has to be fought. As I noted above, one of the greatest military generals, US Grant, thought that for many career military, service was a ‘wonderful joy’ because it the only place hopeless mediocrities like themselves could get a regular and decent paycheck.

    So, there is truth to both sides of the issue. But making Disgraced Former General Kelly’s truth the only truth is extremely dangerous and we need to fight it.

  163. 163
    El Caganer says:

    @Adam L Silverman: This is the guy who looks like a walking junk shop with all those trinkets and ribbons and Cracker Jack toys and shit attached to his sheriff’s uniform, and he’s got a problem with the way she looks? Jesus Christ.

  164. 164
    Caphilldcne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: exactly. I’ve met so many generals I can’t l count them. Most are perfectly fine people but they are people and a fair number are astonishingly good at one part of their lives and pretty bad at others. There’s a few I’d follow into battle with no reservations.

  165. 165
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Thru the Looking Glass…: I’m not military personnel. I’m a civilian who has done civilian mobilization assignments for the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (specific terminology on my SF69 is: called to national service for the following amount of time – insert dates here – and deployed to – insert location here). I’ve also been a contractor. I am considered to be a civilian member of the Profession of Arms.

  166. 166
    jl says:

    @El Caganer: I dunno, that guy sure has won a lot of sheriff medals. He must be real important. He wears them all the time.

  167. 167
    J R in WV says:


    Fuck You, and LBJ Too!

    Raven is a vet, you dumbass.

  168. 168
    TriassicSands says:

    The idea that military personnel represent (in any way) the best of the best is, from my perspective, ludicrous. I was in the Army and none of the finest people I have met in my life were people I met in the military. In fact, the career people I met in the Army were generally among the least admirable people I’ve met.

    Joining the military does not, in my mind, confer any special status on service personnel. People join for a multitude of reasons, but I’d be surprised if, deep down, patriotic service to one’s country is at the top of the list of reasons for joining for most people. I could be wrong. (Clearly, there are some good people who end up in the military for one reason or another.)

  169. 169
    Corner Stone says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Well, since we’re on a military kick:
    I got nowhere else to go!

  170. 170

    @jl: Baud is bawdy not boozy.

  171. 171
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @El Caganer: Pretty much.

  172. 172
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @O. Felix Culpa: I am happy to have that conversation. I doubt that this is the place for it. Hit me up in a less angry thread.

  173. 173

    I come from a culture where authority is to be revered, no questions asked. It never did sit well with me as a child, neither does it sit well with me now. Respect has to be earned and it cannot be demanded. In yesterday’s performance Kelly was demanding respect and looking down on people who were not like him. Sorry no dice.

  174. 174
    Caphilldcne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: also agree. Goal to Japa21.

  175. 175
    O. Felix Culpa says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Will do. Feelings are running high tonight. It’s been a rough week/month/almost a year of the dotard-in-chief. Where is that damn meteor?!

  176. 176
    El Caganer says:

    @jl: I didn’t know there were such things as sheriff participation trophies.

  177. 177
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    General more or less equals executive vice president in a large corporation

    OK. But if John Smith, EVP of Yoyodyne Corp, decides to leave his position and take on a new job as “Of Counsel” at the firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe, he’s not referred to as EVP Smith, he’s Mr. Smith. What is different about the military that requires people to address those no longer in it by their former title? This is not, as far as I am aware, customary or traditional in most non-military lines of work. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but the choices we make about words reflect underlying meaning, and I don’t get what it is about this particular line of work that leads to the expectation that we address someone by a description of what they no longer do.

  178. 178
    lgerard says:


    If you talk to anyone in the restaurant business they will all say that everyone should spend some time being a server in order to see things from a different perspective.

    I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this.

  179. 179

    Late to the discussion again!

    This is an issue that has been bothering me for a long time, since around 1973. What Adam and others are calling, very politely, the civil-military divide, was foreseen then. It bothered me then, but it was obvious that the draft had to end. Or at least if the Vietnam War was to continue, the draft had to end. So the war continued.

    The problem is that a volunteer military will move more and more toward a degree of autonomy, and as it does, will become a threat to the country, because the responsibilities of the military can be interpreted by them to make them better than the (in their opinion) cattle that they protect. And that’s pretty close to what Kelly said. So here we are.

    It’s also wrong (sorry, Adam) to call John Kelly “General Kelly.” He is no longer a general, he is the President’s Chief of Staff. This country is run by civilians. Or used to be.

    Part of what has estranged the military from the rest of the country is the continuing wars with no purpose. Iraq and Afghanistan have gone on for too long. It is time to plan on how we get out – that’s easier for Afghanistan than for Iraq, but we have to figure this out. We also have to look at our military deployed in places like Africa to decide if they are really needed there.

    That is a job for civilians. The State Department, now being gutted, would be the logical place to consult. The Defense Department, which has a lot of expertise in foreign relations, can offer its help, but the job is primarily a civilian one. How does this fight protect us at home? Or is it making things worse? Can we afford it? And so on. The Defense Department budget should be cut, and the difference added to State. Robert Gates said something like that when he was Secretary of Defense.

    The idea that we must meet all foreign difficulties with the military is getting us into trouble in multiple ways. Sadly, it it shared by Democrats and Republicans. It’s also horrendously gendered. (Real men do it with violence.) Which is a horrible way to think about real men. It’s almost impossible to make that argument in the standard journals and such, because Serious People understand the importance of military might.

    /end rant

  180. 180
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I go immediately to snarking, even if quietly. Who here is supporting Kelly? Who are you arguing against?

  181. 181
    Thru the Looking Glass... says:

    @Adam L Silverman: That may be true and you did say this upthread…

    I also live, professionally, within the Profession of Arms. So…

    My point was that you’re an example of someone who’s a whole lot closer to that world than I am and you don’t come across anywhere near as bat shite insane as jerry Boykin…

    I also understand the point baud was making and by and large agree w/ him… just not completely…

  182. 182

    @Omnes Omnibus: Its not just Kelly, there is too much deference to all things military, since Dotard took power.

    ETA: Calling CoS Kelly, General Kelly is an example of the said deference. I agree with Cheryl Rofer’s comment above.

  183. 183
    debbie says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    It’s also wrong (sorry, Adam) to call John Kelly “General Kelly.” He is no longer a general, he is the President’s Chief of Staff. This country is run by civilians. Or used to be.

    And yet, we continue calling Obama President. Ex-Senators are still called Senator.

    Are we arguing over which end of the soft-boiled egg to crack?

  184. 184
    Another Scott says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Well said.

    The only quibble I would have would be the one I had with Betty. Cutting the Pentagon would have to be done with thought and care, and not with a chainsaw or a plasma torch…


  185. 185
    Baud says:

    Maybe we should lighten the mood in this thread by talking about recent events at the DNC?

  186. 186
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Brava!

  187. 187
    jl says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Thanks for thoughtful comment. I think calling people by former highest title is a standard honorific, often undeserved. I’ve heard Dub referred to as “President Bush’. I’d prefer ‘disastrous goofball’, but I’m fine with “President’ since he seems to have signed up for the resistance.

    I’ll still say ‘General Smedley Butler”, and no one can stop me.

  188. 188
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Gin & Tonic: The reward system is different. Decorations vs cash bonuses. The title is part of the reward.

  189. 189
    TS says:


    What is most worrisome is that the current administration will use the military for political purposes, hide behind military service, and explicitly elevate military above civilians. The vile Sanders told reporters today that it was inappropriate for them to question a Marine general.

    And they were not questioning a general – they were questioning the president*’s chief of staff.

  190. 190
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Rethuglicans insisted on addressing the vile shit Kenneth Star as “Judge Starr” because he did in fact hold a position as a judge.

    One of the things about the last presidential campaign is that while Hillary was formally addressed as “Secretary Clinton” to reflect her previous position as Secretary of State, Donald had no title aside from “Mister” to fall back on. So Hillary just called him “Donald” all the time and it pissed the pissant off.

  191. 191
    jl says:

    @debbie: ” Are we arguing over which end of the soft-boiled egg to crack? ” Maybe after we get the canary thing hashed out and the exact status of Odiaer, or Odoacar whoever that Roman thug was. First things first.

  192. 192
    Jeffro says:

    @Baud: Or how Texans who recently got hurricane aid don’t think Puerto Ricans should get any?

    The quotes in the article are the exact same things we’ve seen over and over from Trumpkins – there is no redeeming these people.

  193. 193
    jl says:

    @TS: That is a very good point. Thanks. I think I saw a clip of Jake Tapper making a similar point.

  194. 194

    @Thru the Looking Glass…: In the same vein: “I am not a racist, but …”

  195. 195
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: As one of my Commanders used to say, that unlike in the private sector where they could toss cash on you as a recognition of exceptional service, all the Army had was decorations, so they handed those out. With the notable exception of the Medal of Honor, there’s no cash payoff for all that fruit salad.

  196. 196
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Thru the Looking Glass…: I’m going to work the Boykin comparison out as a compliment.

    I’m just very careful to make sure it is clear that I’m not now, nor have I ever been in the military. That I’m a civilian practitioner or civilian operator if you must.

  197. 197
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    I’m pretty sure that I was talking about the divide and that using the honorific creates a smearing of that divide. That calling Kelly general gives him stature above his civilian position, which while he has earned the title, calling him that while he holds the job he does, elevates him higher exactly because of the divide in this country or at least in a large portion of it.
    Maybe I wasn’t clear.
    Does anyone call you by the highest rank you held? You were an officer. If not, why not? No one calls me Petty Officer Second Class ______. That’s the highest rank I obtained and the highest I could obtain without reenlisting. Why do we do this with officers above 06? We do so with cabinet members and politicians but does that elevate them above the people they served? If yes, should it?

  198. 198
    Jeffro says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: it probably echoed in his head from either his dad or mom…or both…

  199. 199
    jl says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Trump also had the title of Bankrupt, officially, I think. Too bad no one thought of using that.

  200. 200

    @Another Scott:

    Cutting the Pentagon would have to be done with thought and care, and not with a chainsaw or a plasma torch…

    Absolutely. But it wouldn’t be hard. Take out the civilian activities, like those associated with state-building, and most of the international policy development for starters. The military generally (haha) doesn’t like the first anyway. Chunks of weapons policy and development might go better somewhere else, too. And then there are the service rivalry things…

    The thing is that there is just so much THERE there, that big chunks can be cut.

  201. 201
    Jeffro says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I agree – he should be CoS Kelly, not “General Kelly”

  202. 202
    Barb2 says:

    Kelly – ex Marine? Somehow I missed the marine part. Sailors and Navy associated folk generally speaking don’t have a whole lot of respect for Marines. (There are individual exceptions). Get a group of retired Navy together and they have lots of dumb Jar head stories. Navy brats were/are raised with low expectations for Marines. That Kelly would be a complete fool and sexist racist pig is no surprise to this old Navy brat. Marines used to guard the gate to the air bases I lived on. Follow the rules/orders and no common sense – that’s my memory of the Marines.

    Sorry to any BJ Marines out there – you are the exception. I know a few out in the civilian world.

  203. 203
    jl says:

    @Barb2: For guard work, they were the cops and you were the potential perps, so the mutual suspicion and lack of respect is understandable.

  204. 204
    Jeffro says:

    @jl: I’m not sure which would have worked better for Hillz on Twitter: calling DJT “Bankrupt Donald” or “Comrade Donald”. But much to my shame, I wish she had lowered herself to using both during the campaign!

  205. 205
  206. 206
  207. 207
    amygdala says:


    Does anyone call you by the highest rank you held? You were an officer. If not, why not? No one calls me Petty Officer Second Class ______. That’s the highest rank I obtained and the highest I could obtain without reenlisting. Why do we do this with officers above 06? We do so with cabinet members and politicians but does that elevate them above the people they served? If yes, should it?

    Might it be that being O6 or higher means you were career military? Is there a similar practice for retired senior enlisted personnel?

  208. 208
    frosty says:

    @Doc: Seems like it’s the ambiguous wars that are the problem.

    Let’s go back to having Congress declare war. That might concentrate their minds a little bit.

  209. 209

    @Mike J: That’s really a tiny amount. The article does a good job of making that clear.

  210. 210
    Ruckus says:

    I met a lot of normal people in the military. I’ve met a couple of extra ordinary people, both enlisted lifers, both E7, one in the navy and one in the marines. I was a friend to the navy guy, I’d have followed that marine anywhere. And I knew a marine E5 and understood why his squad would run up a hill and die for him when he asked them.
    I also met a ton of lifers with a chip on their shoulders the size of the USS Iowa. I wouldn’t have let them shine my shoes on a bet. I also met officers that were good and some that never should have been in uniform.
    It takes all kinds in the military and they get all kinds. Some good, some great and some not so much.

  211. 211
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ruckus: Protocol is what is. I don’t define myself by it.

    Early on, I predicted that that this thread would be a shit show and I was right. Adam’s point is lost in this wrangling about honorifics. People should be ashamed. And I am out.

  212. 212

    @Villago Delenda Est: Now that Starr has had his sorry ass booted from Baylor, they can call him President or Chancellor Starr.

  213. 213
    Caphilldcne says:

    @Gin & Tonic: not just the military. Former members of congress and judges, chiefs of police. There are more. It’s a position that has earned an honorific. I personally think teachers should get the same kind of respect.

  214. 214
    Mike J says:

    @amygdala: Nobody calls Petty Officer Second Class X “Petty Officer second Class” unless they’re going out of their way to insult or belittle him.

  215. 215
    Another Scott says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Threads take tangents here – it’s as natural as the sun setting.

    I’m not seeing that much vitriol here.

    Sorry you’re leaving. Have a good evening.


  216. 216
    But her emails!!! says:


    What’s your son’s opinion regarding Bush Jr. vs Obama as Commander and Chief?

  217. 217
    J R in WV says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Interesting. I got out in 1973 after being nearly drafted in 1970. I enlisted at the point of a gun, kind of, into the Navy to avoid Infantry or Marines… I agree with you by and large.

  218. 218
    Ruckus says:


    Is there a similar practice for retired senior enlisted personnel?

    Not in civilian life to the best of my knowledge. Even at the VA, guys who wear hats or one guy I saw wore his bars, and I’ve never heard anyone use other than last name or sir, which I use no matter someone’s age or station. It’s just simple respect. But then while I understand rank in the military and it’s need, I think outside of that, you are just a person.

  219. 219
    Mike J says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: The Columbian is unusually good on the nuke beat, but they’ve been on it longer than most.

  220. 220
    Mike J says:

    @Ruckus: I have heard guys called chief, even after becoming a civilian. There’s a “Gunny” in my sailing club. I don’t call him that, but there are those who do.

  221. 221

    @amygdala: Anyone over O-6 is a General Officer (or a Flag Officer in the real service) which is a fairly big deal, including confirmation by Congress.

  222. 222
    Ruckus says:

    I wrote above about an E7 marine that I would follow anywhere. He was in the shore patrol and I rode with him for about a month. Yes the marines were gate guards at the navy station but he was anything but a glorified security guard. He was fair as I’ve ever seen a cop of any stature, he was more professional than any other cop in or out of the military and he could be funny as well.
    All those stories about lifers, marines, etc. They are probably all true. But they are never the whole story. Never.

  223. 223
    jl says:

    @But her emails!!!: What kind of leadership did Bush Jr.’s rather sketchy service in air national guard prepare him for? How to disappear at convenient intervals?

  224. 224
    amygdala says:

    @Ruckus: Thank you. I’m trying to sort out whether enlisted versus officer and/or career or non career might influence the whole title thing.

    Your comment on the range of kinds of people you encountered in the military is interesting. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds much like most organizations: there are good, average, and not-so-good folks, and even smaller numbers of the great and awful people. In that way, the military reflects the larger society, in contrast to a certain autonomous elitism Cheryl refers to above as a risk of an all-volunteer force.

    @Mike J: Reminds me of my Mom using my first, middle, and last names to address me when I was a kid and she was pissed at me about something.

  225. 225
    Caphilldcne says:

    @eemom: thanks for this. Just shared with Colonel Dad and folks!

  226. 226
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    I answered you, others asked but you never volunteered anything but ridicule. Write something if this concept moves you.
    Have a nice night.

  227. 227
    But her emails!!! says:


    That’s generally my point. Japa21’s son is obviously becoming convinced that military service confers/reflects some sort of quality to the person who served that would be essential to political leadership. There’s not much evidence of this in the political realm when comparing people who served to those who didn’t.

  228. 228
    lamh36 says:

    @JamilSmith 3h3 hours ago
    More Jamil Smith Retweeted Ben Carrington
    This part hasn’t gotten as much press.

    John Kelly, answering a question as to why U.S. Special Forces are in Niger: We are in Africa to “teach them how to respect human rights”.

  229. 229
    Caphilldcne says:

    @Ruckus: Chief and Gunny. i give them far more respect than the generals. But it’s not official.

  230. 230
    amygdala says:

    @M. Bouffant: Thank you. That’s kind of what I’m trying to sort out. Is it duration (career versus not), the tension between having a commission or not, a combination, or something else?

  231. 231
    japa21 says:

    @lgerard: Was one.

  232. 232
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ruckus: Ridicule? I respectfully disagree.

  233. 233

    @But her emails!!!: Case in point: Lindsey Graham, USAF colonel:
    1982–1988 (Active)
    1989–1995 (Air National Guard)
    1995–2015 (Reserve)

  234. 234
    barb 2 says:

    There are individual exceptions. Always. There are long-held rivalries between the different branches of the service. Kids pick that up — “Now hear this” — that little statement is pure Navy.

  235. 235
    japa21 says:

    @But her emails!!!: Interestingly enough, he was not happy with Bush 43. Started liking Obama and then soured on him. I have a hunch a lot of military folks really don’t like having a civilian CinC who hasn’t has military experience.

  236. 236
    divF says:

    There are no comparable honorifics for senior enlisted. One time when I took my father (retired E-8) to the emergency room at the local military hospital, the three physicians (Army officers) who treated him addressed him as “Mr. ___”. That said, they could see in his medical record his history, and treated him with a little extra deference.

    On the other hand, his daughter-in-law (Madame divF) addressed him as “Sarge”, at his suggestion (I’m named after him, and this was to avoid confusion).

  237. 237
    El Caganer says:

    @lamh36: WTF? The reincarnation of Cecil Rhodes?

  238. 238
    But her emails!!! says:

    @M. Bouffant:

    Historically you also have a great example in Lincoln vs. Davis during the Civil War.

    There’s also the issue if you make politicians serve, you just end up with politicians as officers, which isn’t necessarily good for either politics or the officer corps.

  239. 239
    But her emails!!! says:

    @japa21: Any particular reason(s) he soured on Obama?

  240. 240

    @amygdala: I think it’s just being a general or admiral; there’s (I guess) a certain amount of respect given, as there aren’t that many general & flag ossifers, as compared to colonels & below.

    On the other hand:

    How to Address a Retired Officer Below O-6?
    I was wondering if you could tell me what is the appropriate way to address a retired Air Force Captain O-3 when having an informal conversation. I was not sure if Air Force captains hold their title after retirement. Don’t only Generals and Colonels continues to use their ranks?
    — Adam Scott

    Dear Mr. Scott:
    Anyone who retires from one of the services is entitled to continue to use of his or her rank as an honorific. This includes officers as well as enlisted personnel.

    Those who resign their commission do not continue to use their rank as an honorific. The Navy instruction directive: OPNAVINST 171O.7A, Social Usage and Protocol Handbook: A Guide for Personnel of the U.S. Navy outlines how to use ranks and ratings when addressing active duty and retired personnel … without regard to the level of their rank or rating.
    — Robert Hickey

  241. 241
    Caphilldcne says:

    I guess this thread is played out but this issue of a civilian military divide is real along with the attempted fundamentalist/christianist issue especially in the officer ranks and I hope Adam and Cheryl will continue to explore it. Would be interested in Robert Bateman’s views too. Anyway keep nitpicking folks. I think it’s helpful. And reminded me to figure out how I can be more active on this issue. Cheers

  242. 242
    randy khan says:


    The Marines don’t have a lot of respect for the Navy folks, either. I expect that they have their own repertoire of stupid squid stories. (And, like the Navy stories about Marines, they’re probably mostly made up.)

  243. 243
    Ruckus says:

    Oh I’m sure that officers above 06 are the ones getting the call outs. As someone said above 06 they need congressional approval, although I’d bet that few if any have been denied.
    I’ve known people who served for 30 yrs as enlisted and they get nothing more than a cheap pension, PX access and the VA. No one officially calls them by their rank. I’m reminded of a scene in West Wing where Claudia Jean calls a general in to chew him out and he talked about how brave he was sending men to die and how Bartlett hadn’t served a day. It takes something to run up a hill under machine gun fire, it sure doesn’t take bravery to sit in your office and order them to go.

  244. 244
    Original Lee says:

    @Corner Stone: As if he would know who personally knew a Gold Star family! Seriously. Gee, Mr. Kelly, my cousin’s on the Vietnam War Memorial wall, does that count?

  245. 245
    amygdala says:

    @M. Bouffant: Of course there’s a handbook, complete with impenetrable acronym, addressing this.

    @Ruckus: There was an interesting piece in the Guardian the other day about the diversity of the enlisted personnel in the US military, with ~30% being minorities. I’m sure that has *nothing* at all to do with the stingy pensions.

  246. 246
    Tenar Arha says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I wanted to flag a part of an interview with Maria Bartiromo earlier. There’s a lot wrong here in just the quoted section, but I couldn’t help noticing how Trump says “I’ve done this in my civilian life,” as if he’s not a civilian anymore. Have you been noticing any other moments like this, where he prioritizes the necessary construction of being “Commander-in-Chief” as if he’s an actual General as opposed to him more truly being the “Civilian-in-Chief?”

  247. 247
    barb 2 says:

    @randy khan:

    Yet Kelly acted out the Jar Head stereotype that I grew up hearing about (and seeing). His attitude is authoritarian military and not civilian. The military, as far as I know, has no classes or retraining for retiring military. Many have a difficult time understanding the civilian world. Kelly has no idea and no ability to learn.

  248. 248
    japa21 says:

    @But her emails!!!: We never got into detailed discussions. I don’t think he ever realized how much Obama respected and worked on behalf of the members of the military rather than just the military-industrial aspect of it. Plus, the sequester really bothered him and there is a part of him that, I think, blamed it on Obama.

  249. 249
    Ruckus says:

    @randy khan:
    This concept that each branch of the service doesn’t respect the other or how a lot of military don’t like presidents who haven’t served, I don’t think they understand that civilians are actually in charge of them. We don’t work for them, they work for us. And themselves. But putting the military above civilians is wrong. It’s been wrong every time it’s been done, through out history. It’s why our system is set up the way it is.
    If we want to have a discussion of the value of this we should do that, but we should also not elevate any military above civilians. We can value their service and I think we should, it can be any thing from a horrible experience to just time, a job for 4-30 yrs where guns of one type or another are the tools. But at the same time we need to value people who serve their country in other ways, the Peace Corp for example, or public school teachers. Just as not everyone who served in a time of war sees combat, not everyone with a civilian service job is taking advantage. We don’t value people in this country, just dollars. That’s wrong and it needs to change. It won’t of course but it should.

  250. 250
    Ruckus says:

    If you have the right attitude and are not looking to get rich, a career in the enlisted military can be OK. But as I’ve heard that we’ve been at war for 232 of the 241 yrs this country has existed, I’m not sure it’s a sound one.

  251. 251
    Ruckus says:

    @barb 2:

    Many have a difficult time understanding the civilian world. Kelly has no idea and no ability to learn.

    That might be why he fits in so well with the current occupant of the WH.

  252. 252
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Tenar Arha: He’s made a concerted effort over the past several weeks with the NFL protests to equate patriotism with the flag, the national anthem, and the military and those three things with himself. It is rhetorically dangerous. It is potentially actually dangerous.

  253. 253
    efgoldman says:


    it sounds much like most organizations: there are good, average, and not-so-good folks, and even smaller numbers of the great and awful people.

    My dad did 22 years of (mostly) peacetime active duty. When I was a kid in the 50s and 60s, there were always old captains who were never going to be promoted, just putting in the time for their 20. Known alcoholics, known incompetents, probably abusers. Their “careers” such as they were, were as club officers, commissary officers, PX officers…
    I expect those kinds of billets have been gone for years – it’s up or out now.

  254. 254

    Draft re-instituted: Air Force could recall as many as 1,000 retired pilots to address serious shortage — WASHINGTON — President Trump signed an executive order Friday allowing the Air Force to recall as many as 1,000 retired pilots to active duty to address a shortage in combat fliers, the White House and Pentagon announced.

  255. 255
    Thru the Looking Glass... says:

    @Adam L Silverman: yes, it was meant as a compliment…

  256. 256
    Suzanne says:

    I would feel more positively inclined toward the military if it didn’t seem like the collection bin for young men who are unemployable but who really like playing with guns. Of the people of my generation who I know who served—and I grew up in a working-class area with lots of people who joined—roughly one-third of them are good-hearted, reasonably smart people who chose the military out of a sense of duty. The other two-thirds are deplorables who couldn’t keep a job. I find it hard to get all rah-rah about their heroism when I know many of them joined for non-heroic reasons.

    Honestly, the people I know who are educators and social workers and medical workers have done as much, if not more, for the country and our freedom and a modern, democratic way of life. If the military wants to feel closer to the civilian population, then they need to make an effort to have smart, capable people join—and they need to stop thinking of themselves as a special breed apart. I don’t support compelling anyone to serve in the armed forces, but I would probably support a mandatory term of service in something like AmeriCorps. Maybe then the warrior population would see that their contribution to our country is not unique.

  257. 257
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @M. Bouffant: That’s not a draft. The statutory limit is 25 per year, which can be waived/increased by presidential directive and notification. All retired officers are subject to recall for a set period of time post retirement. General officers/flag officer may, if I’m recalling correctly, be recalled regardless of time since retirement.

  258. 258
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Thru the Looking Glass…: Then we’re good to go! Thanks.

  259. 259

    @efgoldman: I think most of the billets you mention are handled by civilians now.

  260. 260
    Ruckus says:

    As I’ve stated many times here I get my care through the VA. I’ve always been treated with respect, but my rank/rate from my service or what branch I was in isn’t part of that in any way. I can see that some of my fellow vets don’t like that they have no ranking at the VA, that you are a vet, not an E7 or whatever. It’s their problem.

  261. 261
    amygdala says:

    @efgoldman: Or they’ve contracted them out to the highest bidder.

  262. 262
    Ruckus says:

    Stingy pensions are just part of the low pay issue that while better now is still bad. But look at it from the shareholder side. You go in at 18 and put in your 30. You are 48 and have a pension for the rest of your life. You can work, say at a federal job, and you get points towards that job because you are a vet, and work another 20. You are 68 and can retire with now a pretty good pension. I’m 68 and that doesn’t sound all that bad to me, I don’t have that.

  263. 263
    Art says:

    Yes, the military has to be under civilian control. Yes, the military serves the citizenry, even the worse lay-about drunk and scofflaws are part of the US and every one of us is an American citizen fully deserving the benefits of the nation. Without drunks, scofflaws and lay-abouts there would be no poets, or politicians, or writers, or physicists. The constitution only contemplated one underclass, and that issue was settled in the late 1800s. The military cannot simultaneously serve and hold itself above the citizens of the nation. You fight for the nation. If you can’t or won’t then don’t join. If and when too few join we can have a draft. The later being the ultimate method bringing up the necessary discussion over which wars we should, or should not, be fighting.

    That said the right is going to ‘win’ this round simply because they can lash a flag to their erections and strut around thinking their side holds the high ground. The mix of raw, unbridled patriotic fervor and manly pride is a heady drug. The firm and longer term victory rolls around when it gets noticed in any big way that most of the people thinking this way have not, and will not, serve. ‘I would serve but for a heel spur’, or abscessed buttocks only goes so far.

    If any war is indeed both necessary and worthy to defend this nation and its interests then a draft is both right and good. Let all our families participate and pay the price. If the conflicts don’t inspire a firm willingness to spend the lives of our own children and the treasure of our prosperity this should inform our choices.

  264. 264

    @Adam L Silverman: I know it’s not the/a actual draft. Should’ve put quotation marks around draft.

    I wonder if the U.S. military would still be in over half the countries on this poor sad planet if we had a draft.

    As to your nat’l. service idea, I know the French used to require two yrs. of (usually military) service, w/ an option to work in a hospital or somewhere else useful if one could prove conscientious exemption.

  265. 265
    Wapiti says:


    If any war is indeed both necessary and worthy to defend this nation and its interests then a draft is both right and good

    I’m not sure we need a draft for every war – it probably takes 6 months or so to get a raw recruit through basic and the least specialized training; that doesn’t include training with the gaining unit before deployment.

    I’d say we should pay for our wars, within 5 years of incurring cost. Have an Iraq War surtax on high incomes, for example. A tax on gasoline. Whatever. Our children will have their own wars to pay for.

  266. 266
    amygdala says:

    @Ruckus: With a good-paying civilian job, it’s possible to retire a decade before that without a long military career. Not a small consideration given our forever wars.

  267. 267
    Tenar Arha says:

    @Adam L Silverman: /sigh That’s what I thought. /deeper sigh

  268. 268
    sharl says:

    @Suzanne: Honestly, the people I know who are educators and social workers and medical workers have done as much, if not more, for the country and our freedom and a modern, democratic way of life.

    I’ve thought the same way for quite some time, but the “core programming” of our national character – or whatever you want to call it – will need to be changed, and that won’t be an easy job.

    Part of our character seems to be impatience. Another part of the problem – maybe related to the impatience – is the male-oriented nature of so much of what we value and how we approach problems. Cheryl got at that a bit in her final paragraph @179.

    It would be great if we rated success or failure based on something closer to a generational time cycle (15 years maybe?), rather than the quarterly ROI/dividends kind of thing Wall Street seems to be based on. Of course a long rating cycle comes with its own challenges – e.g., you need to do some mid-point assessments just to avoid irreversible and disastrous failures, deal with troubled personnel, etc. – but the insane stuff that currently gets forced on, say, public schools might be ameliorated at least a bit with a longer term way of thinking, while (hopefully) doing a better job of preparing kids for the world.

    Teachers, social workers, preventative health professionals, etc. are in the general category of societal maintenance. It’s very important stuff – maybe just about the most important – but it’s hard to come up with a Hero Narrative for such work. The hero shit gets much better press and greater attention, and afaict more public support/funding (or at least with less begrudging reluctance).

    I’ve thought about this for awhile, but not in depth, nor have I looked for writing on the topic (not even sure what keywords to use). Yet another thing I need to do; it might help me better identify candidates and organizations to support.

  269. 269
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    I am not sure I agree with you that Kelly is an example of the problem, he really comes accross as a typical Trumpite; bitter at the world for not treating him as special as he thinks he should be. If Kelly was a manager at a Burger King I suspect he would still be this alienated.

  270. 270
    Ruckus says:

    A lot of people are not going to get a good paying civilian job. I have a decent one, if I was 10 yrs younger I could be making nearly a 6 figure income. But I also have decades of experience in a field that really doesn’t have as much of that kind of work anymore. A lot of people don’t and won’t have what one might consider a good paying job, for a lot of reasons. Schooling, desire, capability to learn a specific craft, that craft becoming less necessary or less abundant, wrong place at the wrong time, not to add insult but bigotry works it’s way in there as well among other reasons. If you are young and can it’s a way out of poverty. Maybe not the best way but it can be a reasonable life. One can also do 20 and 20 and be that 10 yrs younger but have a smaller pension. If you have a spouse that ends up with a pension or SS as well it can work out well for you.

  271. 271
    jl says:

    @amygdala: ” There was an interesting piece in the Guardian the other day about the diversity of the enlisted personnel in the US military, with ~30% being minorities. I’m sure that has *nothing* at all to do with the stingy pensions. ”

    Extremely stingy pensions,or no pensions at all, or worse, pensions that were promised and authorized but the federal govt. couldn’t figure out how to get into the mail, have a long tradition in the US. Historically, the country treated its veterans callously, starting when veterans were almost uniformly white men. I don’t think that changed until WWII and the Cold War.

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    Dmbeaster says:

    The divide goes both ways. Trumps remark about “he signed up tor it” is the civilian version. Another aspect of it is cheerleading wars but resisting any effort by one’s own children to serve, or like Trump, monkeying his way out of the draft. How can you respect the troops if you think it stupid and foolish to serve?

    These people in their hearts treat our military like mercenaries. And its a factor why we are in endless wars. We have a party that embraces “tough” and treated Obama’s avoidance of pointless wars as if it was weakness. These same folks think nothing of throwing other people’s lives into endless and stupid wars cause, hey, they signed up for it.

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    Mike in Pasadena says:

    @jl: I agree with you. Great minds think alike etc etc.

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    Tehanu says:

    I just want to thank Adam Silverman, not just for this post, but for all his posts which are always informative, thought-through, sensitive and sensible, enlightening even when terrifying — in short, he should be on the NY Times op-ed page 3 times a week instead of just here. Adam, it’s a pleasure to read everything you write. Thank you.

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    Vhh says:

    @jl: yup, and it collapsed. Nixon et al, btw, were 10x more competent at running the govt and did not trip over their dicks every other day.

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    karensky says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Me too. Your original post scared the crap out of me though. Thanks for your informed analysis.

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    Tuna says:

    We currently have a president who has ceded his powers as Commander in Chief to the generals in the WH. For the last 9 + months the military has set their own agenda with no over sight. Is that what they call a soft coup?

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    nasruddin says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques:
    Narcs attract other narcs.

    But I think this is a lot worse. We had a quiet coup at some point.

  279. 279
    woodrowfan says:

    @Cowgirl in the Sandi: I agree/ That would help a lot…

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    notoriousJRT says:

    Including those who have undertaken other forms of public service.
    I think this is what I found most disagreeable about Kelly’s remarks (with the “sacredness” of women a close second). He acts as if there is only one form of services to country and community and that is through the military (and maybe law enforcement?). He is blind to the fact that someone needs to stay home, hold a job, pay taxes, teach and care for children, minister to the sick and elderly, nurture faith and good works, volunteer, entertain / divert, and on and on. I found his attitude arrogant and divisive. I am not surprised; he showed his colors at DHS. I wish I had a time machine; I would stuff him and his nostalgic army into it and send them back to the fifties to live their Leave It to Beaver lives.

  281. 281
    notoriousJRT says:

    @Amanda in the South Bay: I am with you here. He is “Mr. Kelly,” “Kelly,” or “John Kelly” to me. I will not use the “general” title although he technically is entitled to it.

  282. 282
    notoriousJRT says:

    @EBT: Or it may just be civility in a time when it is tempting to be uncivil. I get why Adam grants him the title of general. I an others disagree, but I do not see it as a character flaw of a person whose contributions I find interesting and valuable.

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    notoriousJRT says:

    @debbie: Sorry, General Debbie. Will do.

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