Monday, May 07, 2007

Le Salon de MitMoi II – “Unify, Serve, Protect”

A salon is a gathering of stimulating people of quality under the roof of an inspiring hostess, partly to amuse one another and partly to refine their taste and increase their knowledge through conversation and readings.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing that is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." John Stuart Mill

The following people serve in the military. Two because they chose, one because she must. I wondered what their thoughts and feelings were about serving their country and if there was any common ground in their experiences. After these interviews, I am led to believe their hearts are bigger and stronger than mine. Please allow me to introduce:

JCleveng3r, 23 years old, Michigan, USA

Instant-Gravity, 25 years old, Florida, USA

Ms. T_Golin, 22 years old, Tel Aviv, Isreal


Why did you chose to enter the military?

As cliché as this may sound, I’ve always envisioned myself a Marine. When I was a little kid I played games with friends and pretended I was getting the bad people and now, I am getting the bad people. My vision of me being a Marine is as sound now as it was back then. Although, when I was younger, things were simple, it was a game, now, things are real; I never thought I would be going to war.

I joined the Marine Core for two main reasons. The first reason is probably the same for countless others as it is for me; I joined to get a paid college education. The second was/is to travel the world. I could not pass up a free ticket to places some only dream about going.


Why did you chose to enter the military?

I chose to enter the Marines 01/Jul/01. Two months before 9/11. I joined because I realized that even though I had graduated high school, I was still just a kid, and I had no plans. I needed to grow up and become a man, and I needed money for college. Plus I had an inkling that women loved men in uniform.


What do you think about nations that have compulsory service requirements?

Well, there is the school of thought that everyone should do some military time to better orient themselves in life. But I think, to get the benefit out of it, it should be a voluntary decision. As for countries that make it mandatory, although I understand why they have to do it, military service isn't something that should be forced onto a person, especially infantry.


What do you think about nations that have compulsory service requirements?

While I understand the need for mandatory military service time, I don't necessarily agree with it. I definitely don't agree with a permanent need for compulsory service, I can understand on some level the need for a temporary call for mass enlistment. On that note, I do think that a little service time would do more good than it would bad. While typing this out, I looked up compulsory military service, just to get a better idea of what countries have it, and to my surprise, a lot more countries have it than I thought. Another thing that shocked me was the minimum age requirement for obligatory service. Although most countries that use conscription, the minimum age was 18, some were as young as 15.

I do not intend to doubt that compulsory military service does sometimes have favorable effects. However, the fact that an institution has positive effects too, does not justify its existence. For instance, we know from former political prisoners that in the forced labor camps of Recsk in the 50s, that a lively intellectual prison life took place. Despite this, nobody would ever come up with the idea of citing these positive moments for justifying the existence of such camps.

Radically speaking: compulsory military service is the institution of modern state slavery. Many people find this radical phrase harsh and reject it. However, if we think about the fact that this institution strictly controls almost every aspect of a citizen's life; since it prescribes when and what to eat, how to dress, who to greet and how, who to obey, who to share a room with and where and it forces him to take an oath in which he accepts to sacrifice even his own life -- well, then we cannot deny that the analogy with slavery is not so far-fetched.

Also, I would think that a coup d'état is much more likely to happen in countries that have conscription compared to those countries that don't.

In the end, there are some legitimate reasons for the countries that have it, to have it, but I think it should be done on a volunteer basis rather than a forced decision.


How do you think this compulsory service effects your nation?

While many people consider national compulsory military service to be a unifying and strengthening factor for my country, I do not. I do agree that it can create some form of brotherhood and sense of a common goal that can be positive. People take with them the values and the style taught to them by the military and implement those in their lives later. Unfortunately, the "leftovers" are not limited to the positive aspects only. Not many countries enlist, on a regular basis, such an overwhelming cut of the population (most notably not limited to males). Having a big part of the population go through such a collective experience can and will have a huge impact on many aspects of our culture.


Does compulsory service strengthen your county and people? (Because everyone has served, so you all have something in common?) Or does it weaken your nation?

Combat and war obviously can be traumatic to people and can cause pain on an individual level, those cases exist in every fight. These are not the real problems with compulsory military service though. It is not necessarily the big fights or the dramatic events in wars with our surrounding countries that are the worst, but very possibly the decades of grinding contact with the Palestinian population.

Standing in a check post for hours, for months at a time, constantly dealing with abuse, stress, hatred and pain on both the Israeli and Palestinian side is not a good experience for anyone. Even those who do not work directly with the Palestinian population are often exposed to it, it turns routine. I have dealt with numerous issues surrounding checkpoints and Palestinian population and the main sensation I recall is desperation, frustration. You feel helpless and trapped, unable to help, and annoyed.

The effects can often be desensitization to violence and human pain, and these effects are becoming more and more apparent in the Israeli street.

The documentary "Checkpoint" shows this very well, I highly recommend watching it for anyone interested to know what such an experience is like. I find it to be very different than most movies made about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in that it does not strive for sensational scenes where one side is made to be the villain. It is mellow, and painfully so.

A scene from the movie Checkpoint


Does the daily reality of being a Marine match the aspirations you had as a child?

Now that I am, where I am, I’m wrestling with the idea of making the military a career. Not that I wasn’t before I joined, but I became very patriotic. I’m all about the Corps values; Honor, Courage, and Commitment. You may know what those three words mean, but to a Marine, they take on a completely new meaning. The three Corps Values, they make up the bedrock of the character of each individual Marine. They are the foundation of his Corps. These three values, handed down from generation to generation, have made U.S. Marines the Warrior Elite. Another term you may have seen before, and another motto of the Core is Semper Fi (Semper Fidelis), which means, Always Faithful.


If you were to speculate, do most people support this requirement of the government? What do you think about a volunteer army, like the US has?

It is hard to answer such a question about Israel. Here going into the military has always been mandatory. It is so obvious and so natural to most people that they are to go to the military. Everyone you know has served, all the heads of the country are usually former generals and you are aware of the army and of your future service from a very early age. It is never so much a question, but a fact, that military service is in your future.

That being said, I would assume that people think of "support" for compulsive military service in different terms here. Almost any Israeli will probably tell you that it is necessary to have compulsory service in Israel to keep the country alive. The option of voluntary service will seem absurd to almost everyone for the mere size of the nation.


Now that you have hindsight, would you make the same choice?

Knowing what I know now, I would have still gone in, but I would not have picked the infantry as my military occupation specialty.


So, do most people support the requirement of a compulsorily military service?

Most people never even thought to question it. Personally I have no idea how a system like the US military would work for Israel and if it is at all feasible. I would certainly not volunteer but I can think of many who will.


Putting aside the politics of why you're being called to serve again, what do you think about having to return to Iraq?

I really want to say that I’m indifferent, but I can’t, I do have an opinion and I do have feelings about going there. I understand, in a sense, why I’m going, but it doesn’t make going any easier. I signed the dotted line, I committed 4 years of my life to the Core. To America. So really, my opinion doesn’t matter. But, for the purpose of the Salon, I’ll give my two cents. I understand that we (America) cannot just pick up and leave, as so many people think we should. We made this mess, so it’s us that have to clean it up. And by us I mean me, and everyone else in the service. Leaving Iraq would do two things. Negative things.

First and foremost it would show the rest of the world we’re not committed to finishing what we started, hard or not.

Second, it would show the terrorists more than anyone else, that we’re weak, thus making us easy targets; making them gutsier, thus increasing the attacks/attempted attacks on America.


Is it good that soldiers are returning to duty for second and third times, because they have more experience? Or, do you think it’s bad, because it's demoralizing to face the enemy again? Is it hard to go because you KNOW what you'll be facing and you thought it was behind you? Because you don't want to have to gear up to that mindset again? Because you feel like you're barely hanging on now?

I don’t want to say facing the enemy is going to be demoralizing, but it’ll definitely be hard. I try not to think about it too much, because thinking about where I’ll be going shortly, will just ruin my time left here. Subconsciously, I’ll be gearing my mind up for what’s to come, till I’m there. Once there, it’s just a job; I’ll be counting down the days till I come home.

The whole killing thing is a hard thing to do, it’s even harder sitting here thinking about it. However, when faced with the prospect of dying/being killed by someone else, I will not hesitate. Semper Fi

Wednesday night I will post the commentary that followed this post.

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