Our youngest son will be forced to leave the Marines after serving 3 tours with the Corps. He had a state-side motorcycle accident, which shattered his right collar bone. After surgically replacing it with a cadaver bone, he had a set schedule he had to meet with recovery and physical therapy to remain in service. There were complications and he missed his PT deadline, and will be discharged on April 9th.
The USMC’s policy is that any and all in its ranks must be able to tote a 100-lb. pack and be combat ready– no exceptions. All Marines are combat trained, which is not true of any other service. In the Marines, not all riflemen are clerks, but all clerks are riflemen, and Chesty Puller toted a rifle at Guadalcanal and Peleliu like every other Marine. If you can’t hack combat, there’s no room for you.
For Josh, this was heartbreaking. When I first met him (he was 6) he said he wanted to be a Marine, and he never changed his story. He still is one and always will be (once a Marine always a Marine), but his dreams of going career (5 tours of 4 years each, he was just 2 away) are done. With his MOS in logistics and ordinance (odd mix there, but that’s a long story) he can get on with any bomb squad or shipping/distribution organization; but it’s not the same as where he thought he was headed.
For my wife and I, it’s bittersweet. We share Josh’s disappointment and when he comes home to us, we’ll help him cope with what life has dealt him; but our worries about his next overseas deployment are gone forever. No more wondering if he would be sent to fight again, god knows where for dubious reasons at best.
My wife and I are both proud of both our sons’ service (Jeremy, the oldest, served a tour each in the Marines and Army), and we’re awfully goddamned lucky neither one of them were killed. Josh sustained a 60% hearing loss while serving in Afghanistan during a bomb disposal operation, a small price to pay relative to what other parents, wives, husbands, children, lovers and friends have had to bear.
But for what?
The United States has anywhere from 650 to 5000 (!) military bases operating in, at minimum, 38 countries. In some of those countries I’m sure we are welcome. In others, that welcome may be wearing thin (Okinawa, Ramstein/Langstuhl) or may have never been offered in the first place (Iraq and Somalia).
Empires are built on wealth. The ability to generate, move, distribute and protect that wealth are what serves the Empire; but wealth and what is of value changes over time.
In Rome, wealth was built mostly on gold, salt (yes, salt), slaves and commodities (grain, livestock, etc.). England’s empire was built on salt (again!), tea and spices (initially), and export of industrial goods to colonies from raw materials reaped from those very same colonies (profit on both ends of the transaction!)
For our empire and the culture its advent has established on this planet, wealth is oil– or more generally, energy.
Gold is too fixed a resource on which to base a modern empire, salt production is easy with automation (more on that in a minute), and our commodities are all delivered with low-cost, zero-inventory, managed supply-chain, immediate gratification mechanisms that fit perfectly into our hand-to-mouth consumption habits. We don’t have slaves anymore, we have the steam engine and all its descendants to do “slave work”– the turbine, the internal combustion engine, the nuclear power plant. All made to turn a shaft: to make things go, to make electricity– all at a volume and capacity that could not be generated were the entire human race enslaved and all livestock harnessed to the task of generating nothing but ergs. So we have a lot riding on this energy thing.
So far, we’ve been riding the fossil fuels horse, and horse is a proper analogy…
People forget that before the automobile, there were a lot of horses about (trains for long distance, but horses for in-town and local), this meant a lot of horse shit. When the automobile came along, the exhaust seemed a hardly-noticeable waste-product compared to all that pony dung– there was plenty of air, so the pollution did not appear to accumulate.
The automobile and our current means of generating power are becoming as obsolete as the horse. Instead of horse shit, we have climate change and air pollution. In addition, we are running out of “horses”– the fossil fuels we use are growing ever less abundant. The old model and the infrastructure to support our wealth base (including military protection) are falling apart.
Our answer so far has been to follow the designs of that blood-gargling pair of zombies Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. The world has been and continues to be our oyster by their reckoning– the United States must direct the way the world operates according to its needs. It is mere coincidence that the business interests of these two parasites are completely in sync with this policy.
We can and will find alternative means of energy generation, we have to or we can just go back to darkness, and I don’t believe we are headed there. We have wind, solar, nuclear (Thorium only, please!) and once we get past the insane foot-dragging by the energy giants and their uneducated lackeys (“Drill, baby, drill!”) we’ll no longer need the petroleum teat or the blight needed to protect it.
Joe Jackson used a turn of phrase in his song “Rant and Rave” that I have always appreciated: “Instead of their using the force of example, they use the example of force.”
Once, I believe this country represented what was right, a good model for what the world could do and be. We were the sleeping giant. We walked softly, we carried big sticks. We woke up when poked and fought in all 4 world wars (7 Years, 1812, WWI, WWII); but we entered the fray when needed, not as invaders or conquerors. We also lived in a country where truly anybody could make it, if not held down or back.
Now, we deliver our message in cluster bombs, mine fields, and high-velocity firepower, and always for reasons that do not serve any but an elite few in our nation. We deliver it in secret arms deals with oppressive, corrupt regimes in parts of the world where our interests are quickly declining and should probably never have been so heavily invested in in the first place.
We’ve ticked off a lot of people.
Afghanistan and Viet Nam have a lot in common besides being land wars in Asia. Consider the middle east at large. Besides oil (which serves us no good), what good does our being there serve? Security? Really? Standing in the middle of a pile of wasps’ nests makes us more secure? Could it be that our mere presence is what is causing the place to be a wasps’ nest in the first fucking place?
It’s time to bring the boys (and girls) back home.
Let the crazy people in the middle east settle it out for themselves. This means muslim, jew, christian, arab, persian, hindi, berber, Israeli, Egyptian, Saudi, etc. contention and conflict must be resolved by the participants. Our presence there cannot salve the long-standing feuds that have been simmering for centuries, neither can our playing favorites with our “allies”.
Maybe we should just go back to setting a good example, being that shining beacon on the hill that Ronnie Reagan was always ranting about. I’m ready for it.
End the fucking empire.