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civil-military relations

After Johnny’s Marched Home: Military Veterans and the Shaping of American Politics

With every major military conflict involving Americans the nation has reevaluated its relationship with the veteran, partly in consequence of the demands each specific war required it to lay upon the soldier in the first place. The changing face of industrialized society and the technologies of war as well as political thought have influenced each generation’s consensus…How veterans themselves have responded to their new status as citizen-soldiers turned soldier-citizens has traditionally reflected national attitudes. Beyond any affects of combat, the equation of individual civic duty and civic virtue and the nation’s reciprocal duty and virtue has influenced—although not dictated—veterans’ social and political behavior. Aside from the significant role citizen-soldiers fill in defending the country, citizen-veterans have played a defining role in the shaping of American political culture that has not been widely appreciated. The combined circumstances of the polarized electorate and the estimated already 2.6 million soldiers of the post-9/11 wars who have returned to civilian status recently—in private ceremonies on guarded bases far away from the public eye—highlight the value of a modest conceptual review of veterans and politics in America.

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America’s Military Profession: Creating Hectors, not Achilles

America’s Military Profession: Creating Hectors, not Achilles
By Aaron MacLean
(October 2014)

The military provides a clear benefit to the American polity: it is the country’s federal mechanism for the common defense. But what is its relationship to America’s civic culture? Do the professionals the military molds and employs in the nation’s wars affect the civic culture positively, as models of necessary virtues and keepers of specialized professional knowledge necessary to a healthy civic life? Or do they affect the culture negatively, as damaged and occasionally dangerous men perverted by violence?

…A regular corollary of polities with endemic political instability is not only poverty but also a high rate of underemployed young men. Young men tend to be not only aggressive but also honor seeking—that is, they desire the recognition of society. The military provides a well-designed path to that recognition, and works to return these young people back to society with their aggressive instincts melded with a sense of outward-focused duty. The US military makes Hectors, and works to keep Achilles off the streets.

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Supporting Veterans as a Moral and Practical Duty

Providing adequate services to America’s veterans is not only a moral obligation, but also a critical step in ensuring the future vitality of the military, Alexander Nicholson argues. In an article in The Atlantic, Nicholson makes the case for improving veterans services to ensure that the benefits promised by the VA are actually delivered to veterans in an efficient manner.

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ROTC debate continues at Brown University

At Brown University, the only remaining Ivy League institution that has yet to welcome ROTC back to its campus, students are taking to the campus newspaper to discuss the prospect of ROTC at Brown. As we noted in October, the editorial board of the student paper, the Brown Daily Herald, has for the past two years issued statements calling for the reinstatement of the program on campus, only to be met by opposition from the campus administration. In a recent back-and-forth, two more students weigh in—one arguing for the program’s return, and the other arguing against it.

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Bleeding Talent

In a new book about the US military and civil-military relations, the Hudson Institute’s Tim Kane argues that it is time to reform how the military manages its leaders. “In terms of attracting and training innovative leaders, the U.S. military is unparalleled,” he writes. “In terms of managing talent, the U.S. military is doing everything wrong.” Instead of continuing on its current trajectory, he says, the military should borrow some business practices from the civilian world.

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AEI