Peters distinguished between "warriors" and "soldiers." The former are savage, self-serving hedonists; the latter are disciplined, self-sacrificing individuals motivated by a love of a particular community. The American ideal is embodied by those who stand "between their loved homes and the war's desolation," eagerly returning to civilian life when the crisis has passed. For the "warrior class," by way of contrast, "the end of fighting means the end of good times."
"The primary function of any civilization is to restrain human excess," observed Peters. However, "as society's preparatory structures such as schools, formal worship systems, communities, and families are disrupted, young males who might otherwise have led productive lives are drawn into the warrior milieu." Decades of totalitarian rule left critical social structures in ruins throughout the Balkans, Africa, and the former Soviet Union, thereby producing millions of adolescent males eager to join the warrior class.
In future military conflicts, Peters predicted, the warrior class "will not be impressed by tepid shows of force with restricted rules of engagement. Are we able to engage in and sustain the level of sheer violence it can take to eradicate this kind of threat?" Citing the 1993 debacle in Somalia--our first collision with the "warrior class"--Peters said the answer, at the time, was "No."
Ten years after Peters published those words, war correspondent Evan Wright published Generation Kill, recording what the author observed during the invasion of Iraq while embedded with the second platoon of Bravo Company of the Marine Corps' First Reconnaissance Battalion. Wright offers finely etched portraits of individual Marines, for whom he displays abundant respect and genuine affection. He also offers telling, and probably unintentional, insights regarding the progress made by America's welfare/warfare state toward cultivating our own "warrior class."
"They are kids raised on hip-hop, Marilyn Manson and Jerry Springer," notes Wright of the fighting men he came to know. Many of them consider an unprintable 12-letter word describing Oedipal intimacy to be "a term of endearment." For some, murdered rap star Tupac Shakur "is an American patriot whose writings are better known than the speeches of Abraham Lincoln."
"These young men represent what is more or less America's first generation of disposable children," he continues. "More than half of the guys in the platoon come from broken homes and were raised by absentee, single, working parents. Many are on more intimate terms with video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own parents." They went to war "predisposed toward the idea that the Big Lie is as central to American governance as taxation.... Even though their Commander in Chief tells them they are fighting today in Iraq to protect American freedom, few would be shaken to discover they might actually be leading a grab for oil. In a way, they almost expect to be lied to." "We're like America's little pit bull," one Marine wryly told Wright. "They beat it, starve it, mistreat it, and once in a while they let it out to attack somebody."
It might be said that these fighting men represent a significant military innovation. "In World War II, when Marines hit the beaches, a surprisingly high percentage of them didn't fire their weapons, even when faced with direct enemy contact," one lieutenant told Wright. "Not these guys. Did you see what they did to that town? They [expletive deleted] destroyed it. These guys have no problem with killing."
The question is: what are they killing for? Deprived of permanent attachments and fully aware of the cynical dishonesty behind the decision to invade Iraq, many of these young men are not acting out of idealistic motives, apart from the commendable desire to protect each other (a trait shared with soldiers in every war). While not yet representative of the current military, they may herald the emergence of an American "warrior class" of the type Ralph Peters described.
It's significant that current military recruitment shortfalls reflect growing opposition from parents of potential enlistees. As USA Today reported on April 5, the Pentagon has devised a multi-million dollar PR campaign intended to overcome parental resistance. Pending a return to conscription--a possibility being openly discussed in both the press and policy-making circles--recruiters will continue to depend heavily on young people from broken homes.
Sociologist Alan Carlson observes that wars "swell the size and power of the state; and as the state grows, the family declines." Since 1917, he notes, U.S. involvement in foreign wars has been "used to re-engineer our society to serve a total state, which in turn engages in a perpetual social and moral revolution." What modern warfare requires--a reliable supply of "disposable children"--the degenerate welfare state provides.
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|Title Annotation:||warriors, violence in youth|
|Author:||Grigg, William Norman|
|Publication:||The New American|
|Date:||May 2, 2005|
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