The Military Model Of Liberalism

Writing at the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof has discovered a strange new respect for the military.  “You see, when our armed forces are not firing missiles, they live by an astonishingly liberal ethos — and it works,” he burbles. 

Kristof goes on to praise the military for doing more to “provide equal opportunity to working-class families – especially to blacks – than just about any social program.”  It seems like only yesterday liberals were howling that the military forces poor blacks onto the battlefield as cannon fodder.  What a difference a new President makes!

Kristof also praises the military for providing education, training, health care, child care, and other benefits while holding the income gap between top brass and enlisted men down to a factor of 10, while private-sector CEOs “earn about 300 times as much as those cleaning their offices.”

It all “sounds pretty lefty” to Kristof.  He’s one of the last people on Earth who takes former NATO commander Wesley Clark seriously, so he quotes Clark’s happy agreement: “It’s the purest form of socialism there is.”

Naturally, Kristof pauses to damn the military for its shoddy treatment of gays and lesbians, and women for that matter, and of course there’s all that killing and dying stuff, but otherwise he has concluded the military is like a daydream from a warm summer afternoon nap on the Berkeley campus.  He actually concludes by suggesting a movement toward the military model, which he sees as a more advanced form of civilization than evil, selfish corporatism.

No, seriously, he really says that:

“But as we as a country grope for new directions in a difficult economic environment, the tendency has been to move toward a corporatist model that sees investments in people as woolly-minded sentimentalism or as unaffordable luxuries. That’s not the only model out there.

“So as the United States armed forces try to pull Iraqi and Afghan societies into the 21st century, maybe they could do the same for America’s.”


The liberal love affair with authoritarian control really is a wonder to behold.  They swoon like tweens at a Justin Bieber concert when they think about enlightened socialist dreamboats gaining absolute power over a benighted citizenry, whose problems the Great and the Good could then set about fixing.  Kristof’s colleague at the Times, Thomas Friedman, can scarcely get through a column without sobbing over the beauty and grandeur of communist China.

There are many ways to pick apart Kristof’s little daydream, but let me focus on the one that jumped out at me immediately.  What is the defining characteristic of the military?  It’s tempting to say “killing people and breaking things,” but that’s not all they do, and even combat forces don’t spend every hour of their career discharging their weapons. 

The defining characteristic of the military is its sense of duty.  Military people give, take, and relay orders to accomplish missions.  Everyone involved in the military is required to discharge their duty.  Failure to obey orders and fulfill duties brings disciplinary action, and in extreme cases, expulsion.

There is no place in that model for the Left’s preferred constituency of dependents.  One thing the military does not have is welfare for the indigent.  Also, soldiers don’t get to demand better benefits and less work, or go on strike when their demands are not met.  There is no “community organizing.”

This is crucial to an understanding of military efficiency.  All of the marvelous benefits Kristof is drooling over cannot be extended to people who refuse to earn them.  The level of control over the military population required to accomplish its missions and distribute its resources could never be imposed on a civilian population, and it would be immoral to try.  Soldiers voluntarily accept military discipline when they enter the service, and we honor them for their sacrifice.  There have been societies which toyed with imposing militaristic control over unwilling civilian populations, but nobody thinks of them as the future, outside of besotted liberals.

You can’t have military health care, child care, and other benefits without military duty, and the ability to expel those who don’t fulfill those duties.  For that matter, the military cannot have them without the wealth produced through private-sector risk-taking and innovation, which quickly stagnate in authoritarian societies. 

The liberal fantasies that bankrupted America never die.  It’s interesting how often they involve a world where every citizen has no choice but to accept orders without question.