Uniform on Display, A Response

Myke Cole wrote an intriguing piece over on Jim C. Hines blog the other day.

It was entitled Uniform in the Closet: Why Military SF’s Popularity Worries Me. In it Myke opined that there is a widening gap between the citizens of this nation and our military. Which is especially troubling when you consider the concept of the citizen soldier and how ubiquitous it has been until these recent phases of U.S. history. Military service members, current and former, are increasingly being considered a breed apart. Myke posits that Military SF’s growing popularity is really a manifestation of people’s fascination with the ‘other’ that the actual military is becoming in our culture.

I couldn’t agree more.

One reason for that growing separation is the fact that so few of our nation’s citizens serve in the military. One reason for that, I think, is the legacy of the Vietnam war. So much political hay was made of the military during that period, so much of it blatantly negative propoganda that the stigma was ingrained into an entire generation and is being passed on today.

Returning vets in the 60s and 70s were greeted with everything from harsh words to oven cleaner in the eyes by so-called ‘peace activists.’ Today I have received almost universal thanks and compassion for my service, usually from people who would never ever consider serving themselves. Which is the very problem Myke describes.

“Love the soldier but hate the war” does nothing to help the reputation of the military as a whole since we are the one’s prosecuting the war that is being used as political leverage.

Myke talks about wearing one’s uniform in public. He’s right. It used to be common place. It isn’t anymore.

I myself have, in the past, been very annoyed when I saw soldiers trundling their luggage through the airport in uniform. American soldiers are all taught not to do that. Travel in civilian clothes, don’t draw attention to yourself or your mission. It is the baseline SOP to travel incognito.

When soldiers travel in uniform today most (not all) of them are doing it in the hopes that someone one will give them attention or buy them lunch. That pisses me off. Being in the service is not a license to beg or show off.

But if it became common place, sanctioned and encouraged by the military leadership for CONUS travel, all that would change.

Myke gives the two big reasons why it is discouraged: OPSEC and Force Protection.

OPSEC: If every single traveling soldier traveled in uniform it would be very difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions about operations or troop movements out of the noise. Frankly, the news organizations are more than capable of betraying all that anyway, not to mention the social networking sites.

We would lose nothing and perhaps, if Myke is right, gain a great deal by increasing the visible presence of our military in the general population. Certainly worth a try. (Though I am loathe to give up the comfort of traveling out of uniform)

Force Protection: If you are a soldier traveling CONUS incognito, you are less likely to be a target. The implication of this, of course, is that some other poor schmuck will end up being the target, probably a civilian.  There is an argument to be made that this is the moral parallel of putting your bomb factory next to an orphanage.

If some bad actor wants to target Americans and would choose a soldier over a civilian, good. Make it easy for him to target a soldier instead of a civilian and see where that gets him. It’s our job to take those kind of risks so joe civilian doesn’t have to. Why then are we hiding ourselves among joe civilian on our home territory in hopes that the bad guys will choose someone else?

Of course, with our current crop of enemies, they’d much rather hit civilians than someone trained to defend themselves. Less risky that way.

I’m pleased as punch that Military SF is growing in popularity. I want to sell books and I can write that. I hope it’s not a sign of bad things to come. But it could easily be.

 

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