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As Registered Genii go, you can’t get much more Registered or much more Genius than Nick Kristof. While his blood is not as blue as one could hope, his resume’ is otherwise impeccable comprising all the right schools and all the right gigs that have culminated with his perch at the highest level in respected media: a New York Times columnist. If after the suspiciously re-scheduled Rapture you need further proof that we are in the final days certainly this gentleman’s most recent column is a paradox of biblical proportions.

The offending item is called Our Lefty Military. Given Kristof’s general hostility to things martial one should be prepared for either the Military or the Left to be besmirched. But no. Mr. Kristof is uncritical and un-ironic in his praise for the US armed forces as an institution. Now, we are already well used to a new found respect, enthusiasm and patience for the military coming from our Left-leaning neighbors since the White House became the Black House. Afghanistan and even Iraq are now a-okay, as well as the lately denounced elements of our national security apparatus like rendition and loosened wiretaps. The one practice still held in contempt and abeyance is waterboarding and that, perhaps, awaits only a compelling circumstance. But now we are into unfamiliar territory. Kristof is enamored of the military as a social model on its own merits, regardless of its value as an instrument of American will or defender of American interests. The military, as you know, is nothing so much as an exercise in old-school Leninism. Universal, single payer healthcare? Check. Leveled pay? Check. Provision of food, clothing, shelter, education, “opportunity” and retirement? All checked and double-checked.

Kristof is not quite alone here. His stablemate Paul Krugman has also long expressed admiration for a militarized society only the one he lauds is Red China. Newt Gingrich has recently expressed a great fondness for the rigorous sumptuary laws of Singapore, where one can be caned for chewing gum. Needless to say, none of these gentlemen have ever attempted to actually live under the abrogations of liberty they advocate. Krugman and Newt perhaps prefer to import their preferred systems for our benefit as well as theirs though it is hard to see how a human corporation, like Gingrich, could resist the tax benefits of the asian Cayman Islands. In any case Kristof has remained as American in his sentiments as apple pie. His admiration for the military way of life, of which he is voluntarily ignorant, is as deep as it is fresh.

The integration of the military has long been flogged as something a decent Man of the Left can be proud of. Usually unmentioned is that the military WAS integrated until segregated by Woodrow Wilson. But whatever, expecting a historical knowledge extending back to WWI is perhaps unreasonable. Ask a granola what is good about the military, this is all he will be able to mumble. And fair enough. The GI Bill also wrought a highly beneficial effect on the nation and is in large part responsible for our modern lives. And yes, each of these could well be interpreted as a breach of the principles of individual liberties, free markets and the enumerated powers. But the results of these innovations we already know. These are not the arguments against statism or intervention and they may well be exceptions. More importantly, the military is an exceptional institution in every society and especially in a free one. Military members “sign up”. They commit to a duty beyond that of the civilian citizen. Compensation for that in whatever form is not Welfare. It is not  a giveaway or an “entitlement”. Nor was it “collectively bargained” under threat of labor retaliation. Soldiers cede a great measure of their ordinary liberty and since the end of the draft, they do so voluntarily and temporarily.

All the pay, benefits, education, healthcare, pensions and simple maintenance for the armed services are paid through taxation. Taxes emerge only from commerce. If everyone is in the military or at least the whole society is modeled on the military, just who is paying the taxes? It is the lack of revenues that bedevils government at all levels and in all nations, not a lack of will to spend those revenues on free stuff. Further in a militarized society, there is no such thing as a civilian. There would be no such thing as retirement or resignation. You would be born into service, at what rank could only be determined by birthright. That being the case, there is not really a correlation between our system of Constitutionally limited government with a subservient military that can jive up with the Kristof ideal. What he has in mind is something like the ancient warrior society of Sparta.

Kristof is an educated man so his knowledge of Sparta may be more thorough than what one could glean from several viewings of 300, but maybe not. There is more to the Sparta story than martial prowess and chiseled abs. Yes, they had the finest medical care of their day; myrrh for dressing wounds, advanced bone setting and stitching. Their agriculture provided plenty. Their position as the greatest military power gave them unique opportunity to prosper as they were not routinely attacked and looted. But all these virtues have to be measured against that one thing that Kristof ignores: discipline.

This was the central fact of Spartan life as it always is in uniform. By the way, the “free” clothing provided is that… uniform. Likewise the food. In our modern chow halls the fare would challenge Mr. Kristof. Arugula is rare and improperly served. For the Spartans, nearly every meal was the same; blood soup which is just what you think it is. Medical care is basically socialized for our veterans, as it was for the Spartans but there is an inversion. Like food, medical care for younger Spartans was intentionally and arbitrarily restricted. The boys were expected to steal, bargain or otherwise get around the iron rules and watchful eyes as it was thought to encourage a cunning spirit. Today’s VA hospitals have similar attitudes but these are applied more to pensioners and long-term wounded. Kristof is to be commended for rarely-heard candor, promising the benefits of Veterans’ hospitals to all the country.

Commerce scarcely exists in the militarized society. In Sparta, the ordinary business of the day was given over entirely to women. But we won’t be doing such discriminating here, will we? So the girls will be born into the same uniform (maybe with some chest plackets) as the boys. If we are going the full Spartan route, this means that every baby will be bathed in strong wine shortly after birth, which is likely to kill them. Survivors go before a Birth Panel whose decisions are quite final since those judged less than perfect are literally tossed on the rubbish heap. Certainly this is a great way to control medical costs, just the sort of thing the socialized medicine fans are seeking.

But the most blatant oversight in Nick’s encomium is the reason for a military at all, which is to fight wars. A man so skeptical of the foreign interventions we have actually had while enthusiastic for hypothetical conflicts we did not should understand that a militarized society needs war even more than a socialized military. And already too much of that is going on for his liking. It could be that he intends to keep the current military separate while heeding Candidate Obama’s call for a domestic security force as large, as powerful and as well-equipped as the sum of the DoD. A slow expansion of this corpus would at least spread the Lefty virtues he observes, presumably with much less discipline, filling the vacuum left by strangled businesses, crumbling agriculture and collapsing institutions. But what else would they be doing? In the military, when they are not fighting, there is a fair bit of picking up cigarette butts and cutting grass with pinking shears. The Domestic Security Forces are unlikely to go for that; not the change they hoped for. They could, say, enforce the border maybe? Not likely. They will instead constitute a federal police force with real frontline military capabilities only their beat will be the Home Front. Absent a civil war, what will fill their hours? Their only true purpose can be as ambassadors of this new quasi-militarized way of life, like nothing so much as the Red Brigades.

Enough with the nicey-nicey. If by this point you do not understand that this paragon of liberal conventional wisdom is calling for a fascism so pervasive and utter that Mussolini never contemplated it you never will understand. This newborn fan of Lycurgus is no wild-eyed hermit in a cabin with a satellite dish, this is the voice of the American Left at its non-elected peak. That voice says, without equivocation, that a militarized society is the way to go; top to bottom, front to back. Our Constitution or even just the basic rights of human beings be damned. And to what response? Oh, nearly none. Quite nearly none.

Well, let Old Nick plot his skullduggery. Let the Domestic Security Forces be born. None of the Organizing for America crowd from which it will draw its recruits will like it much and even less likely are they to learn how to fight or even to shoot. The modern agoge Nick implies but does not describe will lack that one crucial ingredient of discipline. Most likely it will prove incompetent in every regard. As such, no matter that they are as large, powerful and well equipped, our Blue Shirts will never militarily threaten their true foes, the REAL American armed forces or even the well-armed American people. Instead they will become that other pillar of Spartan society called the krypteria. Which is to say, the snitch squad. The eavesdroppers. The secret police. The assassins of inconvenient folks. The KGB, the Stasi, the SS. So, are we fascist yet?

Not quite yet but look not to the pages of the New York Times for any warning.


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