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The Caring Culture vs. the Warrior Culture

By Denis Keohane

The Democrats have a problem with America's warrior culture, and consequently, with our military. And yet, honesty compels me to say that such hostility and scorn does not explain all of the Democratic left's attitude to our troops, present and veterans. There are some with outright contempt, who loathe the military, but there are many Democrats who are better than this.

Watching a wide range of talking heads the last few days on the various news shows, it became clear that some Democrats at least were genuinely hurt and confused by the implications drawn and accusations made that they did not care about and support the troops.

In fact, many Democrats do care, deeply, and do support those troops, with sincerity. The divide is in how they do so.

For just one example and all other flaws and lunacies of his policy prescriptions aside, I believe that Rep. John Murtha, in his own genuine way, cares intensely about our soldiers. His well known and numerous trips to VA hospitals over the years are, in my mind, more than just a political ploy.

There is a clash of cultures at work in this, between the historic Democratic culture of 'caring', and those who value the 'warrior culture' of our military. Both sides care, but express that care with very different methods.

One can hardly find a Democrat anywhere who, when addressing the topic of support for our troops, does not immediately go to the subject of Veteran's medical benefits, followed shortly by education and retraining programs. When it comes to addressing actual combat, the Democrats again almost invariably go to a lack of body armor or a shortage of up-armored Humvees and the like.The better of the Democratic left (and they are better than the condescending-to-hostile left from Kerry to numerous KosKids) look at the military and the veterans the military produces as another demographic constituency.

Like any other needy Democrat constituency, military and veterans need their help and care, naturally delivered through the offices of a paternalistic government. The warrior culture of the military rightfully views itself as the protector and defender of citizens, politicians and the state itself. The enormous gap between those two conceptions offers a profound clash of cultures

There was an oddity during the months long hi-tempo media onslaught about the troops not having enough body armor. One could find on the Milblogs and a very few news outlets complaints from soldiers in combat about being weigfhed down by too much body armor. The professional military folks understood that, as it was in the days of the armored knights, there is a tradeoff between defensive armor and aggressive mobility. Sacrificing either to the other may at times and places get you dead.

If one only listened to the media and the Democrats, one had the impression that the military were all crying out to be totally encased in body protection, even should they then have moved like Robocop.The familiar Democrat solution of spend more was obvious implicit solution.

I have no way of knowing if the following story, passed around the Net some months ago, is apocryphal. I suspect it is. Too many details vary from one telling to another. Yet even if it is apocryphal, the reception it got among both Vets and active duty personnel is illustrative of my point.

Supposedly a woman embedded reporter was interviewing a Marine sniper. She asked him what it felt like, when he had a man in his sights, and pulled the trigger, and killed the man.

The Marine supposedly replied, matter-of-factly,

"Recoil, Ma'am."

Here, the humor to troops and vets derives form the failure of the reporter to "get it" about combat. I am all but certain that reporters have their own jokes about troops. Such is the way of profound culture clashes.

The better Democrats know that at times we must commit troops to combat, but always see it is a failure of some sort, not the lesser and more acceptable of two evils it often can be.

I posit that this disjunction sets up an internal conflict for them. Even if the better Democrats understand that victory is a priority, that priority will always be in competition with another: caring. The shooting will no sooner start than they will want to get the troops out of there, because they care! They don't want to see anyone suffer!

Yet the warrior culture, when that shooting starts, sees the priority clearly and simply as: we fight to win.

Democrats will shout to the rooftops for more armor to protect the troops, but far fewer Democrats have historically supported a military expenditure for a more lethal weapons system of any kind. The warriors know there are two ways of protecting yourself: armored defense or an aggressive attack that eliminates the threat.

Being warriors, they prefer the latter.

If one were to get all information on the War in Iraq only from the MSM, you could be forgiven for thinking the sum of coalition strategy is for the troops to hide in walled-in Green Zones or in fenced compounds, from which every now and then they venture out on patrols. In which they frequently get ambushed and blown up.

There is hardly a hint that almost every movement of our troops every day is a part of some operation, great or small, that seeks to take the fight to the enemy, drawing him out, knowing full well that when we do so, we may lose some. The better Democrats cannot shake the idea that any time we have taken casualties, it is somehow a military failure. Bill Clinton's Kosovo Campaign is celebrated in the media as a victory primarilly because the 'high altitude only' bombing gave us zero casualties.

That the better Democrats have this attitude should be worrisome. Any Democratic administration will become incapable of fighting any war to victory if the harder left is only confronted by those who just think it is a failure to have to fight, and no causalties should be taken.

The troops want the nation to support their commitment to victory. They do not aspire to the status of needy client, they want to be victorious warriors and commit their very lives to it.

Toward the end of the horrifically brutal Civil War, Lincoln gave his Second Inaugural speech, and ended it,

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."

Note the prioritizing implicit in the order:

1. Finish the work (the war) we are in.

2. Then bind the nation's wounds.

3. Then care for the veterans and the widows and the orphans.

All of this points out why the Kerry kerfluffle may have a bigger impact Tuesday than many realize. Since the Foley imbroglio, the speculation has been that some or even much of the 'Christian right' of the Republican base, evangelicals and conservative Catholics, may sit it out in disgust, seeing a betrayal of their moral values by Republicans.

But as demographic groups, these two have had a significantly higher rate of membership in the military than the public at large. They honor their warriors as warriors, not as victims or charity cases, understanding that we have our freedoms because hard men and women are and have been willing to do hard things for our freedom's sake.

Kerry's reminder of how their family members in the military may fare under the Democrats will be powerful inan election that is now said to be a battle of turnout.

Denis Keohane is an occasional contributor to American Thinker.

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