Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It's Good To Know Someone Has Your Back

To Joel Stein, c/o LA Times:

Sir,

I understand you would rather not support any of us in the Armed Forces right now. Fine. That is your right as an American. I feel the premise of your article is flawed, but I will leave it to others to dissect that.

One thing I have to comment on, however.

You wrote: I know this is all easy to say for a guy who grew up with money, did well in school and hasn't so much as served on jury duty for his country.

Your implication is that those of us serving grew up poor, did terrible in school and serve constantly. I'll take the last point as a compliment. The other two, sir, are fallacious.
I believe I am fairly representative of the Army's officer corps (although I began my career as an enlisted infantryman).

Sir, I grew up quite comfortably upper middle class. I earned a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Illinois (both in History). I also earned a J.D. from Northern Illinois University. I have been an Assistant State's Attorney (more of that darn service again...) a private-sector trial attorney and currently work in the insurance industry.

So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam.

"a fighting tool of American imperialism"? Really, sir, that is so 1968.

When I joined it was 1985 - perhaps you remember who our prime enemy at the time was - the USSR (remember them? Berlin Wall, The Gulag Archipelago, invading Afghanistan, the Czech Spring? Hungary in 1956? No? Doesn't ring a bell?) Since then I have helped keep the peace in Bosnia, helped Afghanistan try to rejoin the rest of the world, assisted in civil relief with the 1993 Mississippi Floods, helped after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. If called, I will go to Iraq and I would gladly list that with all those other efforts.

And you needn't trouble yourself at all. I won't count on your support one little bit.

But it's really not that easy to say because anyone remotely affiliated with the military could easily beat me up, and I'm listed in the phone book.

How very brave of you sir. Listed in the phone book. I salute your bravery in joining all the other opinion columnists that have been beaten by American military personnel. I would love to know if you really think one of us would care enough to do anymore than turn the page (or click away from the screen as the case may be) after reading your opinion and say, "Feh". I did more than I thought I would by taking my lunch break to fisk your piece...

I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.Seriously, the traffic is insufferable.

Thanks sir, I would suspect your "we" doesn't live in my part of the country. If your little corner of the world doesn't want to throw a parade, dandy. The rest of us just might happen to ignore you. Oh, and thanks for not advocating spitting on us - big of you.

32 Comments:

Blogger Gail said...

I don't think y'all are the slithering reptiles...

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But when you volunteer for U.S. Journalism, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off attacks on the First Amendment. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of the American Left, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to write about things that people really care about, but other times it's Anti-American tripe.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Scott P said...

What a cowardly little boy he is. Is it any wonder that LA Times has become an irrelevant tripe of a rag that it is?

And Major John, I know you'd never beat him up, but can't you at least send him to bed without dinner tonight?

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Darren said...

First things first: in no way do I agree with a single opinion expressed by Mr. Stein in his column. With that said....

1) "But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam."

I don't think he's talking about signing up in '85....I think he's talking about those who signed up post 9-11, and especially post 3/2003. But if the "fault" (a wholly baseless character charge) goes down the chain of command to the actual grunt on the business end of a .223, then they must have known that the reasons behind the war were disengenious and a pretext, and chose to sign up anyway. And that absolves the President and those policy makers subordinate to him that really made this happen of all liability.

And it's one hell of a premise to say that a 2002 high school grad living in East St. Louis, Ill. or Port Neches, TX knew that Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, et al. were full of shit, but being the blood-thirsty killing machine that he is he chose to sign up anyway just to...well, kill.

I know of no one w/ that type of personality out on the streets or serving in the armed forces....though they do exist but mostly work for private "security" forces. I picture them as being brutally picked on while a kid and now have to carry a gun to make everything okay (though candidly I was appointed to represent a guy in court who was charged w/ attempted murder and seemingly vested with that mentality, but he was declared unfit to stand trial because he suffered from a severe, prior untreated manic/depressive illness which previously had been the cause of 9 prior suicide attempts and only one involuntary institutionalization that lasted all of 4 days b/c his docs determined someone else needed the bed worse).

2. Here's another of Mr. Stein's false assumptions..."The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying."

Stein has bought into a Millian/Kantian liberal ethic that says that one is "moral" when one who is presented with a moral dilemma chooses a course of action that they themselves consider to be a morally proper which causes less pain an good, and is consistent with how one would want others to act toward them in the same or similar circumstances. An "immoral" choice is when acts in such a way that increases pain and is inconsistent w/ how one wants to be treated in return.

Both forms of reasoning do not take into account that there is a type of good that does not take into account the individual, and what can be bad for the individual can, and often does, foster a greater good for the community itself.

One is considered to be of "good character" when have developed the habits and practices necessary to promote the types of good consistent with what the entire community considers to be a moral good worthy of pursuing. At it's best, look no further than the Marines, who through training and practice develop the character necessary to form the habits and practices necessary to do what the community of Marines considers to be morally good...what Aristotle refers to as the "telos" or "ethical end" that is a part of every act and/or omission.

Also, one can see the very same thing in Anabaptist communities such as Mennonites or Bruderhof, who, although Christian pacifists through tradition, train their children from day 1 to develop the type of character necessary to make moral judgments consistent with their communities goals.

I myself am a member of an Anabaptist community, and am therefore against all forms of killing and will not take up arms against another for any reason, including killing in self-defense. But that's not something I just came to believe, that's how I was trained. The world doesn't make sense to me otherwise.

To Mr. Stein, he fails to recognize that for the soldier in Iraq, Afghanistan (where my brother-in-law the Major is currently serving), there is no moral choice when it comes to pulling the trigger. It is truly an amoral act in and of itself, immoral only if they react in such a way that is in opposition to their character, which developed in them habits and practices necessary to foster the common good, that being their oath as soldiers to defend their country and fellow soldier by and through their commander's orders.

In Stein's view, anarchy is the only moral world possible. The complete opposite of a Liberal (eg. Enlightenment liberalism) nation-state such as our own.

3. "I know this is all easy to say for a guy who grew up with money, did well in school and hasn't so much as served on jury duty for his country. But it's really not that easy to say because anyone remotely affiliated with the military could easily beat me up, and I'm listed in the phone book."

Here's my only defense. He's not talking down to those who were fortunate enough to receive a college and/or graduate degree (I myself have a B.A., a Master's in Theology, and a J.D.), but rather admitting that his critique is much easier coming from someone who didn't have to make the choice to join the Armed Forces for economic reasons, like so many of our volunteer army is forced to do. And he's backed by statistics: more enlisted personnel come from places that have a very low avg. household income, and given the inherent problems with socio-economically deprived regions (worse education b/c the communities cannot afford to hire better teachers, infrastructure problems that local officials often put last b/c the inhabitants of those places are the least politically influential, and with a lower household income and an education that cannot compete with other students, they're oftentimes unable to afford college or even trade school. Thus, many are forced to take their chances in the military in hopes of just getting through and acquiring a skill while making some money.

That not being the case with his own life, he admits that his opinion comes from an air-conditioned life while making a pretty damn good salary. Ironically enough, it is no different than when Cheney ("I had other more important priorities at the time"), Wolf, Bush, Perle, and other elected officials and radio shock jocks (Limbaugh, Hannity, et al. who are undoubtedly using this editorial as evidence that every liberal/Democrat hates the troops and wants us to "lose") who are the shouting the loudest about how this is necessary are doing so w/o they themselves failed to nut up and serve when they had the opportunity to do their duty.

Ironically, I find Mr. Stein's admission much more truthful than those war mongerers who won't even address their own tail-turning.

And, yes, you can bet your bottom dollar that he's about to receive numerous phone calls calling him a traitor and how they hope he dies, and will be the recipient of numerous acts of vandalism.....quite possibly by some over zealous military personnel.

But, most likely, it will come from some drunk, snot-nosed College Republicans who hail from families who enjoy being in a 40% tax bracket who defend Bush and this war w/ every breath while refusing to sign up themselves because of "other priorities" or, as one stated, "they have a duty to fight the war by taking on detractors here at home."

Two sides of the same coin.

Excluding, of course, the gentleman whose blog this is. For your efforts and service, I cannot thank you enough.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Californio said...

Darren, Truly you are not arguing that the false sounding mea culpa by Mr. Klein over his "priviledged" background is anything other than a ego satisfying rhetorical feint. "Let me markedly apologize for possessing virtues, oh let me list them, and creditials, here they are, that make me deficient in relating to those, uh, that I hold in contempt."

It is not that Klein will be assaulted - it is that he snarks at those who would come to his aid. He is truly a small person.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Californio said...

creditials does not equal "credentials"

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joel Stein wrote: "an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying."

I agree. Democrats ignoring their stance on sexual harrassment was shocking. And the general state of the left today is truly scary.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Major John said...

Darren,

Please do not take up so much room in my comments section. That said, I am going to leave it be - I only delete spam or defamatory comments, etc.

On to the substance:

Mr. Stein meant anybody signing up at any time - hence his snark about sometimes you get Vietnam, sometimes you get Kosovo. He just thought those who signed up (or I suppose, those of us who stayed in) after 9/11/01 were bigger dupes.

I am afraid I cannot respect or admire the principle of no killing, not even in self-defense. Sorry, if it means saving innocent life, I'd do it. I suppose the Israelites would still be wandering the Sinai had they lived up to that, hmm?

Pulling the trigger on a Taliban who beheads teachers, rapes and kills the innocent is most certainly not an immoral act. And to suggest those of us who would do so are amoral for doing such is the height of arrogance.

I am sick as hell of the "forced into the military because of economic circumstances" B.S. This isn't 18th Century Britain - you will not starve to death or be put in a pauper house if you are having rough times financially. Some people may take advantage of the benefits the Armed Forces offer - but you just try to say with a straight face that they don't know exactly what they are getting into.

Your flinging out of the "chickenhawk" argument frankly bores me. For one who says any killing at any time is immoral, you sure are quick to wish that course upon others. I chose to serve (21 years and counting) and I don't have any problem with Bush, Cheney, and especially Rumsfeld. G. Bush, Sr. was a decorated WWII vet and all that jazz, and he made a couple of good calls as CinC - but he made some mind-bendingly bad ones too. One last time now...PRIOR MILITARY SERVICE DOES NOT DETERMINE YOUR ABILITY TO SERVE AS A WARTIME POLITICAL LEADER.

Got it?

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darren, you self-righteous twit, thanks for gracing the unwashed masses with your wisdom.

The idea that your pacifism ("I...will not take up arms against another for any reason") is somehow a reflection of a superior morality is, in fact, the height of irony. It is the mark of a moral cripple, unable to draw even the most rudimentary distinction between good and evil. I suppose you would gladly stand by and watch a rape or a murder without lifting a hand in defense of the victim?

You, and other pacifists like you, are moral degenerates, and your posturing rings hollow.

One additional point of irony - your denigration of the Marines for their collectivist ethos, when the Left (of which I suppose you are a proud member) has consistently supported the most violently collectivist, and totalitarian ideologies of recent memory, is yet another example of your hypocrisy.

The fact is that the world you live in ("Liberal (eg. Enlightenment liberalism"), and which you supposedly treasure, would not exist if more people agreed with your pacifism.

I leave you with an appropriate quote from John Stuart Mill:
"A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

Sleep well.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous MayBee said...

Joel said: I know this is all easy to say for a guy who grew up with money, did well in school and hasn't so much as served on jury duty for his country.

Joel has it wrong about why it is easy for him to say this. It is easy because he grew up in a country with a free press, a democratic government, electricity and water at the flip of a switch, groceries and medicine available at the local supermarket, and a police force that will protect him from other people rather than protect his tyrannical ruler from him.

Certainly the US can't right all the wrongs in the world and we don't always go about it the right way. But how easy is it for someone to sit in a comfortable life and imagine that someone else's horrible life was probably just not all that bad, surely not bad enough to warrant his support.

It is also easy for him to say because he has no idea what would have happened had we not gone into Iraq- would the UN have lifted sanctions? Would Saddam now be reconsituting his nuclear weapons in waiting, fighting with Iran for ME supremacy? Would Libya have continued its nuclear weapons program? Would AlQaeda have used something else, some other attack, as it's hot new recruiting tool?

The problem with being against something- as Joel is against this war and against the troops- is that it isn't the same as being for something. What was Joel for when it came to Iraq?

Major John, you went out and did something.
Joel Stein said something. Big whoop, Mr. Stein.
Thanks to you, Major John.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous scooby said...

Speaking as a soldier in a combat arms MOS: 1. this country is of the people and for the people, not of the military and for the military. 2. the military is quite strict about medical requirements. 3. signing up for a combat arms MOS doesn't guarantee that you see action 4. being in theater doesn't guarantee that you see action 5. seeing action doesn't guarantee that you actually did anything more than trying not to get killed 6. good trigger pullers aren't necessarily particularly good at leading the military, let alone the rest of the country 7. look at 1 again

That not being the case with his own life, he admits that his opinion comes from an air-conditioned life while making a pretty damn good salary. Ironically enough, it is no different than when Cheney ("I had other more important priorities at the time"), Wolf, Bush, Perle, and other elected officials and radio shock jocks

I'm sure all of them had priorities. Military service typically works one of two ways: 1. straight out of high school you go in the service. You get out, and you're now starting college 3 to 8 years late. 2. Straight out of college, you go into the service. You get out and you're now 3 to 8 years behind your peers in your career.

Given that people like you will dismiss anything under 5 years as a token service, you're basically saying that people who know they're not particularly suited to the military have to spend 5 years of their life when they're supposed to be getting their career started doing pretty much nothing.

I can see Al Gore or John F Kerry doing that because they figured it would look good on their future political resume. Having people like that in office scares the f*** out of me, quite frankly.

(Limbaugh, Hannity, et al. who are undoubtedly using this editorial as evidence that every liberal/Democrat hates the troops and wants us to "lose")

I doubt it's better evidence than Kerry throwing his medals away or Cindy Sheehan pimping her dead kid?

Ironically, I find Mr. Stein's admission much more truthful than those war mongerers who won't even address their own tail-turning.

You're over your quota for non-ironic use of the word "irony." Note that you're also over your quota for moral equivalence.

And, yes, you can bet your bottom dollar that he's about to receive numerous phone calls calling him a traitor and how they hope he dies, and will be the recipient of numerous acts of vandalism.....quite possibly by some over zealous military personnel.

Any military personnel are, of course, under double jeopardy from civilian law and UCMJ. As to whether someone actually does go stalking him, he can always compare notes with a black conservative.

9:28 PM  
Anonymous scooby said...

And he's backed by statistics: more enlisted personnel come from places that have a very low avg. household income, and given the inherent problems with socio-economically deprived regions

Funny, then, that the poorest areas with the biggest populations, i.e. inner cities, aren't the biggest contributors to the military. The bulk of military personnel are good old boys from the South. They join the military because pappy and gramps joined the military.

Also, people who join the military for a job go into a pogue MOS. It's rather common sense: an E-3 sitting at a desk gets paid just as much as an E-3 humping a rifle.

(Regarding family separation pay and haz. duty pay: yes, you make a lot of money if you get deployed, but when the pogues go they usually just sit around the FOB.)

9:41 PM  
Blogger Citizen Deux said...

Stunning.
I am a direct commission, reserve officer with multiple degrees who holds down a very delightful private sector job. I reacquainted myself with National service in 1997. I have had the pleasure of serving in a number of areas, including the Gulf (Persian or Arabian - depending on whether you are being courteous to Iran).

My experience with members of all branches has been one in which most members have college degrees, many graduate level, and act in a far superior fashion to our brothers and sisters in the private sector.

Mr. Stein misses the facts of international politics, military doctrine and US foreign policy.

How sad that the American public is so distanced from the citizens who have sworn to defend her.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so you hired on for your boss
but cant trouble yourself to work there 100% you have to go play soldier?

10:35 PM  
Blogger maggie katzen said...

And he's backed by statistics: more enlisted personnel come from places that have a very low avg. household income

uh, you care to cite your statistics, i haven't yet seen anything definitive on this. i've been told the DOD didn't keep track of this kind of thing so most of what's presented is someone's best guess and results vary depending on their bias.

11:23 PM  
Blogger sonicfrog said...

John, my blog friend, I am almost, but not quite, stunned at Steins nievite' of the world. My little Brother's wife thinks that it was wrong for the US to get involved in WWII, 'cause, well, all war is bad.

More thought at my blog (I would copy here, but there are a number of links, and I'm drunk and lazy at the moment).

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://sgthook.com/

3:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" I did more than I thought I would by taking my lunch break to fisk your piece..."
Thank you for Fisking this punk.
I salute you, sir!

6:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

STEIN IS A SELF PROMOTER

It's all about Joel Stein. He doesn't care who he offends. His calculus is BY being totally offensive and incendiary it will only add to his notareity...the guy feeds on this stuff..My Bet is Stein is currently booking requests for guest shots and interviews with the Leftist media....Probably soon to appear with Hannity...

6:57 AM  
Blogger Saoirse said...

I must write, I used to think that way...

I think this journalist should take the time to get to know these supposed "killing machines" before he begins to ramble. Being in Soldiers Angels, I don't consider what I do supporting the war. But supporting the men and woman in our armed forces and there sacrifice for our freedoms. It is so wrong that they have to be protected from the people they are fighting for. Ignorant people such as this, that cannot see the true value of this mission.

Is it ever so tiring this constant talk of vietnam? I mean really. This is not vietnam, and we are winning. If he took the time to get to know those on the front lines, her would radically change this thought process.

Unfortunately he can't get out of his self imposed sandbox "where the ingorant kiddies play, and snap at each other" to truly investigate the real sandbox!!

God Bless our Troops!!

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GOOGLE "JOEL STEIN"

I DARE YOU !!

Yes, several pix of him pop up immediately ON THE GOOGLE PAGE!!(epitome of the "face" of a pencil-necked dweeb)...

A SELF PROMOTER INDEED !! ...

ADDED:

http://images.google.com/images?q=joel+stein&hl=en&lr=&sa=N&tab=ii&oi=imagest

7:13 AM  
Blogger K. Pablo said...

A lot of my patients come from CENTCOM at MacDill. I often try to gauge their morale, and it seems that setbacks in Iraq don't have as much effect as douchebags at home. I tell them they have the absolute support of this particular civilian.

Cheers from a fellow Illini!

8:52 AM  
Blogger DetroitPatriotette said...

When I first saw the article by Mr. Stein, I thought it was satire. Seriously. I Googled the guy thinking I didn't want to be the wooden-headed dolt that couldn't take a joke.

But it's not a joke.
It's disgusting.

Major John, thanks for your post. And thank you for your "continual service".

DP

9:26 AM  
Blogger Garry said...

An excellent rejoinder to the snide Mr. Stein (and the ignorant darren as well), MAJ John. My sincere compliments on your great blog.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Butch said...

Mr(?) Stein is spine-less waif

11:29 AM  
Anonymous MCPO Airdale said...

"There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist." - Ayn Rand

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Ralph said...

Re: Stein
He's a double Stanford grad? In what? And how proud all the Trees must be!

4:34 PM  
Blogger Strabo the Lesser said...

The real question is why anyone would buy that paper. I would start a boycott of the major paper in my area but I don't know anyone who still subscribes to it (SF Chronicle down 16% last year alone).

I don't know why an editor agreed to publish something which is bound to be radioactive to major advertisers.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Darren said...

I appreciate the comments in response, especially those in opposition.

I do not understand the name calling, though, nor the inference or conclusions that I am void of any moral character based on a single post.

I have no problems putting my head on my pillow at night. None....unless I fail in my duty to thank God for another day.

My pacificism is not by choice. It is simply required of my being a Mennonite, and the history of Mennonites is one where we cannot take up arms. It's theological, not some individual choice we make...the reason being that being Christian our salvation is assured; the eternity of our aggressor is not. So we give our live so that they may live and hopefully become a member of the Body of Christ.

My wife, family, everyone I associate with ecclesially, understands and accepts it as being as much a part of our nature as going to the restroom. My pacifism, by the way, is not to be considered a "universal statement" that all killing is immoral. It's simply that my church considers all forms of violence, which includes killing, for whatever reason to be inconsist with Christ's teachings. I'm well-aware that there are very good reasons....morally based reasons...for violence and killing.

Put it to you this way: if I weren't a Mennonite, I'd be right there with you. But, I am, and I therefore cannot be.

My church makes up my mind for me (which, btw, is the exact opposite of the presuppositions that lie behind "Liberalism" and a being a "liberal").

The criticisms that pointed out the contradiction of my stance by using referring negatively toward Bush, Perle, et al. and using the term "chickenhawk" are well taken and are exactly on point. I apologize and remit those remarks.

I still do not see the falsity of the "mea culpa" as merely predicting what will happen to him in the end, and thus seeks to bait an attack in order to justify his comments about the character of those who he disagrees with. If that does indeed happen (eg. "see, I told you these people would do this to me."), then I'm wrong and will be the first to admit it.

As far as "forced military service b/c of economic circumstances" I most certainly understand that no one "forces" someone to sign up for duty, and not once did I insinuate that those from such socio-economic backgrounds do not know what they're getting into and what might be the result. They are, in fact, are to be commended.

But, the fact remains that there are far more enlisted folks who hail from poorer households than do from upper-middle class households.

Anyway, as I said, thank you for your own service.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Khornet said...

Two thoughts:
1) Stein has the option of not supporting the troops. The servivemen and women do NOT have the option of not supporting him when the stuff hits the fan. They will defend the turds and good citizens both.

2) Being a Mennonite and pacifist by religious code does not entitle one to look down with scorn on those who believe otherwise.

OK, THREE thoughts:

3) NAVY

7:37 AM  
Blogger Barb said...

Excellent fisking, Major John - a good read, indeed. I had the good-/bad-fortune of catching the interview of Stein by Hugh Hewitt the other day. The bad was listening to Stein unashamedly admit that he knew virtually nothing about the military. The good was listening to Hugh graciously shred him. And the Really Good was staying tuned afterwards, when Major K (http://strengthandhonor.typepad.com/captaink/) called in to discuss the arrogant ignorance of Stein and his like. That part made it worth my while.

Nice blog, sir -- Thank you for your service!

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself".

These are not my words, I just can't say it any better than these. Major John, I not only thank you, I salute you.

7:47 AM  

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