Posted by lex, on September 7, 2005
Bill Whittle has another of his characteristically long, passionate, well-written posts up today. Give it a read when you’ve got the time. Summat to do with tribes, wolves, sheepdogs and sheep, pinks and grays. Very well received.
He’s an excellent writer, enjoying his work and clearly in charge of his medium and while I generally appreciate what he’s trying to do here, to me this sort of thing smacks of the whole “hard America / soft America” divide we used to hear so much about a few years back. While I will agree that there are wolves out there (some of whom are domestic, while others are searched for abroad) that need fighting, I don’t really concur that we can neatly divide everyone left over into designated Warrior and Protected Classes, which are what his sheepdogs and sheep are all about. Under the right combination of stimuli, anyone could be led to violence – people who in general feel terribly about managed violence overseas in the pursuit of national objectives are not necessarily willing to offer up their naked throats to home invaders, given the means and opportunity to resist. A well-trained file of Marines (is there any other kind?) is a remarkably efficient and effective force package, capable of bringing down upon the heads of our nation’s enemies all kinds of serioius consequences, but you wouldn’t want to house them in the spare bedroom, just in case. You should see the way those guys eat, and I won’t even go into the whole tracking of mud throughout the house. So I guess what I’m saying is that it comes down to how different people react to similar stimuli, and proportional response.
When we organized our military into a volunteer force, it really wasn’t done out of some sense of moral obligation or patronizing, tribal superiority (which I think Whittle is hinting at, even though he declines to make explicit moral judgements), but rather out of the sense that this was a more efficient way to create a more capable fighting force – conclusions which, despite the difficulties involved in security and stabilization operations in some of the world’s more benighted regionis, are well supported by the successes of the combat arms branches over the last quarter century.
The side benefit (and this is where I think Whittle’s analogy really jumps the track) is that the non-mobilized elements of society (the sheep) are allowed to continue operating the massive engine of economic growth, creating the national wealth which sustains the combat power. When they’re off-duty from doing that, they get to keep the cradle rocking, which gives the rest of us something worth fighting for. If we were all sheepdogs, it would be rather a dreary place, once we ran out of wolves. We might have to go and invent some new ones.
To me, it just smacks a bit of Jack Nicholson’s speech from the dock in “A Few Good Men.” Stirring to the blood and all that, but at the end of the day we feel a little uncomfortable that, in a service which rewards the sublimation of the self for the greater good, we hear instead something which sounds a bit more like self-promotion.