09 December 2010

Marine observations

I've just read (on Unreal Nature's recommendation, from which I have copied the post title and for which thanks) a guest post at Foreign policy magazine's site.

It is written by a US Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and above all someone trying to find a healthy balance as a civilian once more. There's a very great deal, including but by no means limited to the author's headline position, with which I profoundly disagree. There's also a great deal with which I can agree. But neither agreement nor disagreement have anything to do with why I, too, recommend reading it.

Everyone in the western liberal democracies should read it as an honourable example of an intelligent individual speaking unwanted blunt truths as he sees them not only to power but to a fellow citizenry who (as citizenries always do ... and that includes you and me, if we're honest) prefer hazily warm and comfortable myths.

USAmericans should read it in particular because it tells them things they don't want to know about their own society. Europeans (and perhaps also Australasians) should read it because it holds up a clear mirror in which to examine our own myths. Britons in particular should read it because it shows both how radically different are British and American outlooks in areas where we are often assumed to be similar ... and, at the same time, how very similar we are in things which we often like to imagine that we are different.

I'd like to make dozens of points based on, or in contention with, the content of the post ... but that would undermine my hope that you will go there and make up your own mind. And please, don't just read until you feel agreement or disagreement: read the whole thing, or you will have missed the point of going there at all.

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