January 06, 2024

Democracy: Protect It, Defend It

Members of the NJ National Guard still deployed at the Capitol after Jan 6, 2021. Along with units from around the country, they provided the traditional security for the Inauguration.

Democracy: Protect It, Defend It

Ed’s note: The anniversary of the Jan 6 insurrection stirs many thoughts. Will the 2024 elections finally bring an end to ‘stolen election’ claims? If Trump loses, will the country erupt in political violence? Who will keep order? Is extremism in the military – albeit very small – on the increase, as one recent study suggests?

We asked a few of our retired military members for their thoughts. It elicited several thoughtful comments and the ‘essay’ published here. It is hoped that it will help us understand “what is expected of a proper military in a representative democracy and what their place and duties are in a society such as America."

It speaks of the training, discipline and code of honor that are the bedrock of US military service. Read on at the end for a short poem and link to further reading.

By Athan Vellianitis, USAF retired

The military is supposed to be a reflection of the country’s population, a sample, if you will, of the people it is supposed to defend.  It is part of the country’s society and not a separate section of that society.

The military is not some robotic killing machine sent out to murder people who do not agree with you and/or the political leaders you elected to represent you.  The military is the gun, but the finger on the trigger is the people.  That finger is governed by rules beginning with the Constitution: integrity, morality and all the other virtues which we as human beings should strive to attain and guide us in being decent people able to cohabit with the rest of mankind.

Fifty-one years ago, 1973 to be exact, after the withdrawal of the US military from Vietnam, the leaders of our country decided it would be best for the country to terminate the military draft.  The country was tired of waging an unwinnable war which at first our country’s political leadership deemed would be a cakewalk in winning this conflict.  After almost 59,000 combat deaths later, broken homes, widowed wives, children who would never again see their fathers, those who represented us decided it would be best to end the military draft.  This was good politics. The people are not risking anything. The defense industry is legally bribing your representatives. Why the hell would you care? 

This was the first step in separating the people from the military.  The country could just hire mercenaries and someone else's child who needed a job could go to combat to defend you and, in the course of things, be killed or maimed for life, and your brat could find some cushy job, raise a family, live the American dream.  If they lived you could just flip them a "Thank you for your service", and everything is right with the world.

However, everything in the world has its pluses and its minuses.  First, since the electorate is not losing any lives in their family, it is easier for the public to accept wars in which their families have no skin in the game. The defense industry is making money hand over fist selling their junk to you, the taxpayer.  What could go wrong?  The electorate, like a rat, sees the cheese but it does not see the trap.

I predicted that this political expediency of eliminating the draft was a bad move and the country would regret it.  The military is the great leveler for the young men and women who serve in it. The US is a heterogeneous country.  We have different races, languages, religious and political beliefs, histories, traditions, regions, and states with different laws. In short, it is a recipe for civil strife.  Yet the one tool the country could use to unify the country, the country discarded because it was politically expedient to do so.   

The military offers a binding force for the country like no other.  A young person who serves in the military must sleep, eat, drink, party, cooperate, and protect those who serve with them.  It is no coincidence that the incidence of racism, extremism, mass shootings in schools and public venues have increased exponentially in these past 51 years.  A recent worldwide poll revealed that only 33% of the US population is aware of what is going on in the world, while Japan has a 77% and Greece a 72% awareness factor.  Add the fact that virtually anyone in the US has access to firearms and "Houston, we have a problem".

My point is that the US military is not separate unto itself.  US society and its lack of education, tolerance of others, its violent nature, and many other issues contribute to this internal strife we face today. The military could be a tool for resolving many of these issues if only we can lose that " my way or the highway" thinking.  It all begins with education both at home and in the classroom. 


"A Glowing Spark"

Show Me thy Rituals
And I will show thee Thy Heart

If there is a Glowing Spark
Then, there is more to life

If there is a Glowing Spark
And there is a chance
To do something good

(C) 2023 Paul Simpson Hickman, poet, USAF Retired
@Paul_Simpson Hickman


The Codes By Which We Live and Serve

For all the former (45th) President’s claims of immunity and threats to political foes and high-ranking officers alike, the rules of war and US military justice are clear and comprehensive. Although they do not appear to have been read by all elected officials, these rules are learned, lived by and honored by those who serve.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) was initiated to govern the Continental Army in revolutionary times. “Uniform” here refers to the Code’s consistent application among all branches of the military in all matters before courts martial. Effective upon its ratification in 1788, “Article I, Section 8” of the United States Constitution provided that Congress -- and must we add, not a former president? -- has the power to regulate U.S. land, naval and now air forces. That remains true today. The UCMJ’s current form was signed into law by President Truman in 1950, consolidating existing laws and providing for a military court of appeals.

In short, the UCMJ governs the conduct of members of US armed forces and how breaches of these rules will be adjudicated and wrong-doers punished. The UCMJ itself is quite long, but is available for reading online. There is also a layman’s summary available on Wikipedia.
UCMJ note recommended by Paul Hickman, ed’s note KL