Monday, August 15, 2005

The Other Army

Daniel Bergner writes an interesting article in the New York Times - The Other Army. Twenty five thousand armed men working for a variety of private companies in Iraq. Mercenaries, private security companies, whatever. He frets that the scope of this activity is going to cause us to loose .. something in our society.
There may be a danger that something else could erode eventually, if there is a drift toward using more private gunmen -- in yet more military ways -- to compensate for the inevitable reduction of troops in Iraq or to wage other wars. There may be the loss of a particular understanding, a sense of ourselves as a society, that we hold almost sacred. Soldiering for profit was taken for granted for thousands of years, but the United States has thrived in an age when soldiering for the state -- serving your country -- has taken on an exalted status.

Maybe. There have been times when soldiers were authorized to wear civilian attire off base because their uniform marked them as little better than trash, unfit to hold an honest job.
We often question the reasons for making war, but we tend to revere the soldiers who are sent off to fight. We honor their sacrifice, we raise it up and in it we see the value of our society reflected back to us. In it we feel our special worth. We may not know what to think of ourselves if service and sacrifice are increasingly mixed with the wish for profit. We may know less and less how to feel about a state that is no longer defended by men and women we can perceive as pure.

Times change. The very excellent British Army traces it's heritage - if not her regiments - to The New Model Army. To quote Cromwell "I had rather have a plain, russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a gentleman and is nothing else." That Army smashed the Crown and put such a hurt on the Irish that the insult is still remembered, and exaggerated, centuries later.

Times change and life is not static. Statistical blip or a harbinger of sea change?
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