Rosa Brooks writes in Foreign Policy about our “socialist military.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the average member of the military is paid better than 75 percent of civilian federal workers with comparable experience. Members of the military and their families can also lay claim to America’s most generous (though arguably unsustainable) social programs.
As the spouse of a career Army officer, I’m stunned by the range of available benefits. Health care? Free! Groceries? Military commissaries save military families roughly 30 percent over shopping in civilian stores. Education benefits? Career personnel can expect the military to finance additional higher education, and the post-9/11 GI Bill provides up to 36 months of benefits to veterans, amounting, in effect, to full tuition and fees for four academic years. (The education benefit is also transferable to dependents.)
Housing? Free on base and subsidized off-base (the housing allowance goes up with family size: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need). Pensions? After 20 years of service, military personnel can retire and immediately begin to receive, at the ripe old age of 40 or so, an annual pension equal to half their salary — for the rest of their lives. Anyone who thinks socialism failed in America has never spent time on a military base.
Brooks writes that these inordinate benefits packages taxpayers are forced to provide the military are an illustration of “the increasingly reflexive esteem in which we hold the armed forces.” We’re told these soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice, putting their lives on the line for our freedoms, and so they’re worth the cost. But this is state doctrine which is perpetuated to hide the fact that our armed forces are largely for conquest, not for the protection of our freedom.
The doctrine, which demands automatic, society-wide praise for military service, is unwavering even in the face of obvious refutation. For example, numerous studies have concluded that violent sexual assault is rampant in the U.S. military. In 2008, an estimated 41 percent of all the women serving in the military were victims of sexual assault, a problem Rep. Jane Harman called “an epidemic.” Recent FBI investigations found that “Gang members have been reported in every branch of the U.S. military,” constituting “a significant criminal threat.” But so long as these individuals sport fatigues, they are freedom fighters?
I’ve asked before: what does it say about a culture that idolizes and fetishizes a commitment to kill on the orders of politicians in Washington? Now adding to that, is it right that those who make that commitment should get free housing, health care, groceries, education, and early retirement on the public’s dime?