For John, BLUF: Encourage people to be engaged in their community. Nothing to see here; just move along.
From Mr Phil Klay, and the Brookings Institution:
The citizen-soldier: Moral risk and the modern militaryVery appropriate for Memorial Day. Here is the lede:
The rumor was he’d killed an Iraqi soldier with his bare hands. Or maybe bashed his head in with a radio. Something to that effect. Either way, during inspections at Officer Candidates School, the Marine Corps version of boot camp for officers, he was the Sergeant Instructor who asked the hardest, the craziest questions. No softballs. No, “Who’s the Old Man of the Marine Corps?” or “What’s your first general order?” The first time he paced down the squad bay, all of us at attention in front of our racks, he grilled the would-be infantry guys with, “Would it bother you, ordering men into an assault where you know some will die?” and the would-be pilots with, “Do you think you could drop a bomb on an enemy target, knowing you might also kill women and kids?”What ARE you going to tell that kid? With luck the kid doesn't speak English, but there are still the gestures that speak to the kid. These things are hard. War is hard.
When he got to me, down at the end, he unloaded one of his more involved hypotheticals. “All right candidate. Say you think there’s an insurgent in a house and you call in air support, but then when you walk through the rubble there’s no insurgents, just this dead Iraqi civilian with his brains spilling out of his head, his legs still twitching and a little Iraqi kid at his side asking you why his father won’t get up. So. What are you going to tell that Iraqi kid?”
Here is the conclusion, and it talks to the divide between those who served in the military and those who didn't, but are still citizens.
The divide between the civilian and the service member, then, need not feel so wide. Perhaps the way forward is merely through living up to those ideals, through action, and a greater commitment by the citizenry to the institutions of American civic life that so many veterans are working to rebuild. Teddy Roosevelt once claimed a healthy society would regard the man “who shirks his duty to the State in time of peace as being only one degree worse than the man who thus shirks it in time of war. A great many of our men … rather plume themselves upon being good citizens if they even vote; yet voting is the very least of their duties.” That seems right to me. The exact nature of those additional duties will depend on the individual’s principles. What is undeniable, though, is that there is always a way to serve, to help bend the power and potential of the United States toward the good.When we talk about voting in Lowell we are talking about those who do their duty and those who do not. That is between good citizens and those who shirk their responsibility. I am willing to allow that those who came from other countries may be reluctant about civic engagement and that it is the responsibility of the rest of us to ease that pain, that fear.
No civilian can assume the moral burdens felt at a gut level by participants in war, but all can show an equal commitment to their country, an equal assumption of the obligations inherent in citizenship, and an equal bias for action. Ideals are one thing—the messy business of putting them into practice is another. That means giving up on any claim to moral purity. That means getting your hands dirty.
All need to be involved, in peace as well as in war.
Regards — Cliff