“What is to be done?” as Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin might say. At least part of the problem is the perception of the military as an apolitical institution.
If humans are by nature political animals, as Aristotle argued, then human institutions are by nature political. What we decry when we lament the “politicization” of the military, then, is its vulgarization, is its lowering from the high political aim of national security to its becoming merely another institution for profit no different from a hotel or a bank. Commodification naturally follows, whereby service is reduced to an object of trade: a sex change operation, tuition, “job skills,” in exchange for your time, and possibly indoctrination into a cult of self-loathing. It makes sense that this kind of institution, with these kinds of leaders, cannot prioritize the national interest or even the wellbeing of men like Matthew McCarthy.
Thus, as much as there is an ongoing realignment on the right toward economic populism, a similar realignment away from post-9/11 military worship is necessary. For years, acquiescence to if not vigorous support for a massive “defense” budget has formed a mainstay of the GOP program. But the simplest and first step that can be taken against an institution that is out of touch with and even hostile to traditional patterns of American life is supporting Pentagon budget cuts. Moreover, a reduced budget would force the institution to spend money on things that matter, rather than catering to social fads and lavishing it on defense contractors.
Along with anyone who sees the issue clearly, the American Right is in the precarious position of having cherished institutions turn on them. But it is the principles that such institutions arose to protect and serve and express that matter more than the institutions in their current form. That is the lesson of this strange political hour, and why Republicans should stop worshiping an institution that cannot even care for its own veterans.
Pedro L. Gonzalez is the assistant editor of American Greatness.