Monday, July 23, 2007

Return of the Enlightened Warrior

“Here’s a crude generalization: after the sixties, intellect and patriotism went separate ways, to the detriment of both. This mutual hostility made intellectuals less responsible and soldiers less thoughtful,” writes George Packer at The New Yorker’s Interesting Times blog.

“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have begun to close the divide. I think the reasons are these: first, September 11th made military service more attractive to the kind of college students who used to find it unthinkable … Second, the nature of these wars demands a soldier who is more than an artilleryman with an engineering degree. … The soldiers whose reputations have been made and not destroyed in Iraq — ­General David Petraeus, Colonel H. R. McMaster, Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl — ­have doctorates in the humanities.“

Hmm, I think we can agree that this is a promising development. But is the observation true?

The latest kerfuffle in the blogosphere involves a diary posting by one “liquidman” at Daily Kos titled “KILLITARY: How America’s Armed Forces Create Serial Killers and Mass Murderers” that was apparently quickly taken down from the site (you can see a Google cache of it here).

Predictably, conservatives were outraged.­ Ace of Spades points out that “given the millions upon millions upon millions of young (and not so young) men who’ve served in the military in the past 50 years, it’s hardly surprising to find serial killers among them. And drug dealers. And hit men. And rapists. And gentleman cat-burglar jewel-thieves, even.”

But so too were many of the left, like Kyle E. Moore, a Vietnam veteran. “For us to drop the fiction of supporting the troops, it has to be fiction first, which wasn’t true, right?” he asks. “I got a pretty unassailable record on supporting the troops because I think it’s the right thing to do. They’re doing their job, and doing it honorably and admirably and making the best of one severely screwed up situation … And the rapid deletion of the post obviously was a result of Kos not wanting anyone [peeking] up his skirt and finding the little anti-troop monster there.”

Still, argues Moore, for the right to take one tendentious diary posting on Kos and using it “to call into question Kos’ integrity, and then by association, all of us on the left,” seems more than a bit overblown.

All in all, there seems to be a stunning amount of mutual understanding here, so perhaps Packer is on to something. Let’s see if the new tolerance holds up through a much larger storm brewing on that front: The New Republic’s shocking series of Baghdad dispatches [$], by a soldier writing under the name Scott Thomas, that the Pentagon and scores of right-wing bloggers insist are a left-wing smear campaign.

Tobin Harshaw


Hate Thyself

“Self-hate, in the Jewish context, is assailed by traditionalists, quantified by sociologists, catalogued by hobbyists, ribbed by comedians, feared by parents,” writes Bradley Burston at “It is also underrated.”

No, Burston isn’t channeling Woody Allen ­ he feels that “the Jew who is viciously critical of matters Jewish - or for whom Jewishness and Israel are sources of shame - may shed light on issues we may wrongly choose to ignore or accept” and that Muslims to learn from their old enemies’ navel-gazing ways: “It may be argued that an element of self-hate could benefit the contemporary Muslim world no less. The sense of moral superiority and ultimate entitlement is strong within Islam as well. This has proven no healthier for Muslims than it has for Jews.”

Tobin Harshaw

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