18 September, 2007


I've seen a lot of writing from journalists that puts their ignorance of military culture and concepts in stark relief. This bit by Dan Froomkin is probably the most fundamental demonstration of that condition that I've yet seen.

In discussing President Bush reportedly expressing to milbloggers the desire to be "out there" with the troops on the ground, Froomkin puts his ignorance on display in a way that reflects terribly on both his character and ability to empathize:

Maybe Bush was just making idle chit-chat. But this would not be the first time the president has appeared unaware of the hardships his war has caused hundreds of thousands of American troops -- while expressing a misguided sense of bravado.

The desire to join the troops who are laying it on the line has nothing to do with either bravado or supposed unawareness of hardship. It is about honor, and about we civilians recognizing that there is a level of sacrifice from which we benefit that we will never match. It's an expression of our feeling of indebtedness, and a recognition that something in all of us calls us to stand in protection of our country and alongside those we love. When you love the troops for the life they have chosen on our behalf, you long to be with them, to join them in the challenges, the suffering, the exultation and the pride of doing something that you believe matters on a fundamental level.

Has Mr. Froomkin never met a severely wounded Soldier or Marine who talked of how devastated he was that he could not return to the battlefield to be with his brothers? Has he never heard a soldier who lost his hand say that he has no regrets, never watched a friend cope with the knowledge that (due to his wounds) he will never again be allowed to command a deployable force on the ground?

Should the Commander in Chief have any less a desire to be a direct part of what he is asking of those under him, especially when he is acutely aware that he is directing actions that will likely result in hardship, injury and death while he sits safely thousands and thousand of miles away? The human heart recoils!

I would expect no less of him, would be disappointed if he felt otherwise. An able-bodied man of honor and integrity strains at the knowledge that he himself is not doing what he asks of those he commands. It is against one's sense of equality and citizenship to sit comfortably at home while those we love are in danger due to actions on our behalf. I'm an out-of-shape female and even I feel that pull, and a sense of shame fed by my knowledge that not all gifts are equal.

That Mr. Froomkin does not understand this shows not only a complete lack of understanding of that which he covers, it brings the content of his very character into question.

No wonder his coverage of military-related matters has all the informed solidity of swiss cheese...