Photograph from DVIDSHUB
Dear Mr. President,
I have been surrounded by members of the military all my life. First those of my parents’ generation – I grew up on or around various bases – and now those of my own. The service members my own age are those on whose loyalty you bank, reliably so, and it is they to whom you do the most damage.
For they are, above all else, loyal. Several have explained it to me, without my asking. “Yeah, he’s a terrible person, but he’s my boss.” I expect this sounds familiar to you. The last part, anyway. You have likely been able to avoid hearing the first half. Power tends to isolate the powerful from criticism. Until now, anyway. You’re finding it difficult to hide from the haters, and it drives you to lash out, childlike and vengeful, even at other heads of state.
But I don’t care about your twitter rants, and neither do millennial vets. You know who does, though? Their parents. Their commanders. The people who were in the military before the Iraq War are better equipped–for better or worse–to question their circumstances. Perhaps the training got tweaked, over the years. Perhaps the dismantling of the self and the replacing it with the group has grown more complete, with time. Or perhaps these people are just bitterly wise with their years.
Whatever it is, though, they are the ones whose distaste should concern you. The vets my age will follow you into the fire, it’s true–and some of them will welcome it, because they were told at 20, 21, 22 that their greatest moments in life were past them now, and they’ll do anything to get that sense of worth, of camaraderie, back. Including following a demagogue into oblivion.
But they are still young. Most do not command. Those who do, see your socially-broadcast apoplexy, your off-the-cuff diplomatic SNAFUs, as cause to question their loyalty. They know better than to state it openly, but their concerns are real. And they–not my stalwart peers–are the ones who give the orders. Your orders.
Or, they are the ones who will not.
Have a care for your dignity, and theirs. They have had time to find other things in life worth valuing, beyond their service. Younger vets and active-duty military may still be struggling with that, but those who tell them what to do don’t relish the idea of throwing their youth onto the pyre of your petulance.
They may not all do it, when you demand.