America's military, a bastion of liberal policies and tolerance

A great Kottke post talks about the unexpectedly lefty-liberal nature of the US military, quoting Nicholas Kristof in the NYT on the military's generous single-payer healthcare and awesome subsidized daycare; and USMC top NCO Sgt. Maj. Micheal Barrett, quoted in the WSJ on gays in the military: "Get over it. We're magnificent, we're going to continue to be. ... Let's just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let's be Marines."


  1. Marines get a rap as tough jackholes because they all can be. But as citizens and neighbors, even if you don’t like them as people, they really are awesome.

    1. I think by “magnificent” he actually meant to say “fabulous.”

      Damn, I was just going to say that. Using magnificent as a Marine-specific reformulation of fabulous.

      “We’re here, we’re queer, and now we’ve got the gear!”

  2. Anyone who thinks they understand what the military is like culturally without actually being in the service or knowing some service members is deluding themselves. Some of the stereotypes can be true as is usually the case but much more often you might find yourself being surprised.

    1. Agreed, but it must be said, a lot of military folks have equally hackneyed sterotypes of ‘liberals’ that need updating every bit as much as the delusions of the hippies. I would hope the military folks would be big and mature enough to lead that discussion, but they mostly are not going to rock that boat in public.

  3. Nothing new; it was Ike Eisenhower, a general and President, who warned about the military industrial complex.

  4. And let’s not forget all the money they’re spending on energy efficiency and alternative energy sources!

    1. The US is so far off the conservative deep end Nixon couldn’t get elected as a democrat.

  5. I’m a life long civilian myself, but I’ve often wondered whether universities or the military have created greater understanding of other peoples. US forces figured out long ago that you can fight someone more effectively if you understand him, and this has all kinds of interesting consequences. For example, there was a surge in interest in Japanese culture following WWII. And “going native” has long been an issue (bug? feature?) with occupying forces.

    I mentioned this to an acquaintance who recently finished a tour in Iraq, and he pointed out that, at least in the circles he moved in, a lot of Arabic vocabulary had found its way into Army slang.

  6. I see this first hand every time I deal with people at West Point. They leave politics at the door and treat everyone like the Founding Fathers hoped with – with equality, brotherhood and respect. I only wish America would learn from their military how to treat fellow human beings.

  7. Service members are a cross section of the population.

    Some are incredible jerks, some are outstanding examples of what we aspire to be. Some are just these guys, you know.

    On the whole, the good and decent people in the armed forces do tend to be the majority.

  8. This is not so much “lefty” as the kind of benefits any top-end employer uses to attract high functioning, dedicated employees. It’s no different from the package offered at the top end consulting firms.

  9. “I only wish America would learn from their military how to treat fellow human beings.”

    You mean laughing while gunning down Iraqi civilians?

    1. Those are isolated cases. I think of SgtMaj. Barrett as a much better example of military people. I’m not a Marine myself; I just admire his standpoint and the way he expresses it.

  10. The VA is a great health care system which the rest of the US should copy.

    And I think it’s great to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell”. There’s just one thing we need to implement in the military: “Don’t go, don’t kill!“.

  11. “I only wish America would learn from their military how to treat fellow human beings.”

    What about all the murder, torture, and rape? The systematic dehumanization of the “enemy”?

  12. Just like to point out that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell still has not actually been repealed. It was pending a study done by the Pentagon, which hasn’t been done yet.

  13. I wonder if having a population being shot at on a regular basis makes health care costs more or less expensive. The ones the get killed would certainly make it cheaper, but the ones that get injured may end up living a long time and requiring constant long term health care services.

  14. “Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect.”

    …except while murdering them.

  15. If they only they could phase out the other part, where they aid in the murder of tens of thousands of innocent people, they’d be pretty cool people.

  16. I might like marines if they only fought defensive wars. In the USA we only fight wars of aggression. I can’t respect anyone who volunteers for that.

    As for any other aspect of the US military such as gay rights, green energy, healthcare etc… I simply don’t care until they stop waging wars of aggression.

    And certainly, it’s hard to care about military culture when our obscenely bloated military budget means robbing money from domestic spending on jobs, infrastructure, healthcare, the environment etc…

    More butter, less guns, please.

  17. “treat everybody with firmness”
    …I can’t be the only one who lol’d.

    DADT was insane. I can’t believe that the Gubmint could afford to turn away anyone stupid enough to want to join the military.

  18. Restated

    “In my Utopia, we all attend state schools and are brutalized into thinking alike, learning a state-sanctioned view of history, our children attend state-owned daycare, we only get guns when the government says so, and we exercise a lot, in groups.”

    There is a lot to admire about the military. It is not a template for a society where you want a lot of personal freedom and elected government.

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