It's me, the new co-blogger announced a couple of weeks ago! I am at least four posts overdue... Midterms, I apologize.
I may as well jump in with a topic that spanned Bad Outcomes and my previous blog, Unicorn in Uniform, a project that I put together for a class but have abandoned because I couldn't resist a blog featuring a lawyer, an economist, and a Marine. It seems like a good, "walks into a bar," joke.
Now for the actual topic of this post: I wrote something entitled Hyper-support of troops is worse than Lindsey Stone’s dumb joke, to which wophugus responded with Support the People who are Troops, not the "Troops." The gist of my post was that a pair of young women shouldn't lose their jobs over an ill-considered prank photo, but we have established such an overzealous Support Our Troops (or Else) culture that we leave no room for error or apology.
Image courtesy MSN
Robert H. elaborated on the difference between supporting the troops and supporting the military, including military spending, without question. If you read one post today, read that one. Go ahead and close this tab, I'll understand.
Now I'd like to take this theme a step further.
Let's disregard these effects that we've already covered. Ignore the non-military Americans who stumble into patriotic backlash, ignore the propaganda-laced disincentive to turn a critical eye on the Department of Defense. How does "Support Our Troops" culture affect the troops themselves?
We do not have a problem with respect for the military. The average community wants to do everything in its power to honor veterans. Yet I see a downside: because ardent troop-support has taken such a firm hold, veterans may now make up their minds about any military issue, and face little opposition or criticism. Who wants to bicker with a veteran? Who would, knowing how serious the consequences might become if public perception follows similar lines to Lindsey Stone's joke? Unless a person has military credentials of their own, arguing with a veteran about military issues seems to be in poor taste.
There's only one problem with that: troops are human. Not just human, young human, and not big on studying. We aren't required to learn anything outside of our occupational specialties; we do not read, take college courses, or learn to identify and evaluate reputable sources and research, except potentially on our own time. Members of the military are encouraged to rely on our instincts, on our gut. Until I took a few classes, I had no idea how wrong we were to form opinions that way. Trusting your gut is the first rule of terrible decision-making.
Our fourteen leadership traits in the Marine Corps are justice, judgment, decisiveness, integrity, dependability, tact, initiative, enthusiasm, bearing, unselfishness, courage, knowledge, loyalty, and endurance.
Knowledge is one of fourteen. You might call "judgment" an intellectual exercise, but bracketed by decisiveness, initiative, and enthusiasm, judgment becomes an exercise in making up our minds without seeking input.
I know this circuitous deference isn't restricted to military points of interest, but I care very much about the potential of young service members. For their sake, please,
Bicker with the Troops.
Image courtesy Harmonist
Chat. Ask questions. Make them defend their reasoning. When the next controversial order or repeal is handed down, ask them to explain their bitter Facebook statuses. Prepare them for the real world after their enlistments end, when the only opinions that count will be based on facts, assigned probabilities, and closely followed by value-added observable outcomes.
Seventy to eighty percent of junior Marines leave the military each year (PDF), and that's before the massive upcoming deficit reductions take effect. Success in the civilian world depends on a healthy critical eye and the ability to accept and adjust in the face of constructive criticism. Not just from drill instructors, but from regular people who have never spent a day in uniform. The troops can't afford to be venerated.