We have our issues with the selection of senior leadership in the services. But Chris Hedges, despite apparently never serving a day in uniform, appears to have all the answers.
I had my first experience with the U.S. military when I was a young reporter covering the civil war in El Salvador. We journalists were briefed at the American Embassy each week by a U.S. Army colonel who at the time headed the military group of U.S. advisers to the Salvadoran army. The reality of the war, which lasted from 1979 to 1992, bore little resemblance to the description regurgitated each week for consumption by the press. But what was most evident was not the blatant misinformation—this particular colonel had apparently learned to dissemble to the public during his multiple tours in Vietnam—but the hatred of the press by this man and most other senior officers in the U.S. military. When first told that he would have to meet the press once a week, the colonel reportedly protested against having to waste his time with those “limp-dicked communists.”
For the next 20 years I would go on from war zone to war zone as a foreign correspondent immersed in military culture. Repetitive rote learning and an insistence on blind obedience—similar to the approach used to train a dog—work on the battlefield. The military exerts nearly total control over the lives of its members. Its long-established hierarchy ensures that those who embrace the approved modes of behavior rise and those who do not are belittled, insulted and hazed. Many of the marks of civilian life are stripped away. Personal modes of dress, hairstyle, speech and behavior are heavily regulated. Individuality is physically and then psychologically crushed. Aggressiveness is rewarded. Compassion is demeaned. Violence is the favorite form of communication. These qualities are an asset in war; they are a disaster in civil society. [Bolding mine-XBrad]
There’s a lot of shopworn tropes in there.
First and foremost, Repetitive rote learning… yes, there is a lot of repetitive learning. Much as a football team practices and practices the same play-option hundreds, thousands of times, so to does the military endlessly repeat training, from basic skills to fairly complex battle drills. But it is by building a solid foundations on the basics, that the professional can begin to improve his ability to adapt and to successfully complete ever more complex tasks, be it on the battlefield, or the football field. Or in business. Or even the newsroom. Most reporters don’t start out as senior political correspondent. They serve their time doing the police beat, or covering the mundane.
Further, that “rote learning” masks one of the key directives every single person in the service has had pressed upon them almost from the first day of service- “Pull your head out of your ass!” Or as IBM used to famously put it, “THINK!”
But the insistence on blind obedience is just about the most incredible misconception the public has. Very, very few institutions allow as much scope for disagreement with one’s boss. In the civilian world, you can easily be fired for capricious reasons. In the military, within a surprisingly wide scope, you can disagree with your boss vehemently, often with no consequence, and at worst with a bad report card, and even there your boss’s boss serves as a backstop to ensure personal chemistry doesn’t unfairly influence your review.
As to intellectual diversity, that’s pretty rich coming from a journalist. Few industries are as overwhelmingly ideologically aligned as journalism, where from 90-95% of people in a newsroom are Democrats.