There is a particular type of rage, the fury of those attempting to
resist the pain of humiliation, that is seen among those who were promised
much and realized it was all a lie. It is most apparent on Tumblr
among the bloggers who grieve for the fortunes of the young white
Millennials, who were promised prosperity and found none; it arises as
well among the young men of a country who feel a great ethnic or national pride
and see their land influenced or totally taken over by a foreign force,
and they become terrorists as much to assuage themselves as to achieve a
A promise pulled out from under you like a rug. It is a
hard feeling to endure, and to think of it clearly enough after the fact
to decide whether such a promise would have been worth it, or not. The
fellows who shoot up public places because they can’t get a girlfriend
fall victim to the humiliation without ever managing to judge the
plausibility of their dreams.
And so in this moment, when it is
abundantly clear that Donald Trump has no confidence whatsoever in the
strength of the military he commands, that I am left wondering if I
should have believed in the valor of the military, or if I should have
known that they would be no more heroic than him.
As the report now stands, Donald Trump flinched from the mere threat that
Mr. Erdogan made, and commanded the U.S. troops in Syria to withdraw. A
president who paid any attention to the power of our military would have
laughed. Turkey’s forces are the equivalent of one spear hurled against
In leaving the field despite having all advantages,
Donald Trump made our military look like it would not win the fight. As
if Turkey, of all countries, had the ability to resist the U.S. air
force, its navy, and its ground forces, despite everyone knowing what
happened to Iraq. Erdogan was bluffing with a bad hand and Trump folded.
If the U.S. was unwilling to attack a member of NATO first, they could
very well have punished Turkey by imposing sanctions, while keeping U.S.
troops in place. It is clear that the Turks themselves were not willing
to risk provoking America by invading territory that they had sworn to
protect, for the presence of U.S. soldiers in the area had kept them at
bay for years.
And then Erdogan said “boo” and Trump said “eek” and ran.
In so doing, he has humiliated the U.S. military, making it look like
the U.N. Peacekeeping Force, there to stand by and look like it’s
keeping order, and retreat based on the whims of timid leaders, and
never to fight, never to defend, never to risk upsetting anyone who
could put up a fuss, or even offending people who present no great
threat. Great job in Rwanda, guys, you were real useful.
Turkey prodded the wall once and the man commanding its defense ran.
I should think that, if such a man is seen running away from the fight,
it would demoralize the soldiers who remained, and yet they would
remain, knowing that such a coward was no commander at all, and that, if they had to answer for their disobedience later, they would be able to cite love of country over obedience to orders. But U.S.
troops, for all the rhetoric of heroism and valor, are trained to
follow orders to the letter, not to question decisions but to go where
they are directed, and do as they are told, and never mind this "love of country" business. I am told, by the writer of
“Terminal Lance”, that when you join the military you are in a situation
where you have no control over anything at all. Hard for me to say, but he was there, and he knows.
And I hear tell, from a fair few veterans, that they do not appreciate being thanked for their service, for they understand that there was no valor involved, no honor, just a job. They are disturbed by the people back home who yammer about Supporting The Troops.
Who tells these civilians that the soldiers are heroes?
recruitment posters promise that if you join up you will be a hero, be a
man, be Army Strong, and pity the poor young lads who believe this, and
learn too late that they have not signed up for a job of heroes, but a job of servants with rifles.
This, then is the fine print. Join up and be a hero (Where we tell you,
when we tell you, and only there and only then, and never mind who you
were or who you wanted to be. If your commander sends you into certain
death you are their sacrifice, and if your commander retreats like a
scared little mouse then you are a mouse as well, and you will flee as
well, and never mind who you were or who you wanted to be. You are a
servant of your commander, not of your country, and never mind what we
told you or anyone else back home.)
Perhaps this is true of most
militaries. Becoming a British soldier in the 1700s meant taking the
King’s Shilling and going where he told you. That was clear enough.
Joining the Wehrmacht in the 1930s meant subsuming your will to the
greater good of the German race, and that was clear enough. If you
become a soldier in most places and times you’re joining the part of the
government that achieves its ends with force, and your will is no
longer your own. No illusions there.
But ever since the U.S.
military became all-volunteer they have neglected to mention that part.
All kinds of talk of bravery and valor they bring the young lads who
wish to do battle. They speak of being proud to serve your country, of
joining a force of bold and mighty men.
Not bold or mighty enough to resist an advance from a lesser force, apparently.
Nor heroic enough for their officers to “mis-hear” the orders of their
commanders, as General Patton would have done, and retreat forward
instead of backward, thereby forcing the hand of the military to follow.
So be it! If I am to accept this, then my price is that I will not hear any further talk of heroism from the U.S.
military. They did as they were told by a goddamn coward. There is no
more glory among them. The colors ran.
Standing before the world
they have followed their commander into humiliation. I have never, in
all my life, in all my studies of history, seen a more pathetic showing
from this military. As far as I can tell, the last time any American
force did more poorly in the field was when George Washington had to
surrender his forces to the French armies in the first battle of the
And at least he didn’t run like a little
bitch when he knew the French forces were coming. At least he stayed
with his men. At least he got them to set up a defense, and hope that
whatever force the French sent would be stopped by a heap of mud and
sticks. He wasn’t lucky. He had to surrender his little fort without
firing a shot. A humiliating defeat for Washington’s first battle.
But at least
I wonder if I should have expected our vaunted volunteer force to do
the same, or if I should have seen this coming, that the job of strict
obedience they signed up for would leave them vulnerable to this
humiliation. I’d like to think that they could have pulled a Nick Fury
and ignored the stupid decisions of the council. But perhaps that is not
what the U.S. military is now.
Once upon a time I thought that,
if I became a soldier, I would have the chance to be a hero, at some
point, and even if the military was a murder machine, there would yet be
some glory within it. I do not think so now.
I will never look
at a recruitment advertisement the same way again. Anyone who tells me
“these colors don’t run” can shove it up hard.