02 June 2008

National security

For some time, now, I've been trying to write something on how I feel about militaries and "national security". But it won't seem to gel.

The urge started with Jim Putnam's TTMF post on National Security, in which he pointed out that US federal oaths contain a commitment to guard the constitution, and make no mention of defending the nation (nor, I might add, the people).

Then came Ray Girvan's JS Books Bug Hunts and militarism piece which mentioned Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, Harry Harrison. Of those, Haldeman comes closest to resonating with me (his most powerful fiction, incidentally, in my opinion, is not the Forever sequence but All my sins remembered[1].)

There was also Memorial Day (last week) in the US. In the UK, recent suggestions that US style welcome home parades be held for British soldiers returning from overseas operational tours - and the upcoming parliamentary tussle over proposals for forty two day detention without charge in putatively terrorist cases.

All of this seemed to interrelate in my subconscious. But, as I say, it refuses to gel into one whole.

I'll satisfy myself with this observation. Most people seem to think that soldiers (whether in uniform or suits) are, on balance, in some measure or other, either a good thing or a bad thing. I disagree. They are (with apologies for any unintended offence) analogous to bacteria: simultaneously essential to human life and the source of much human disease. They are a necessary evil, with the word "necessary" precisely equal in weight to "evil".

  1. Joe Haldeman, All my sins remembered. 1978, London: Macdonald and Jane's. 0354042599. (Republished 2003, London: Gollancz. 0575072814 pbk. Originally 1977, New York: St Martin's Press.)

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