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Tales of the shutdown (V): The military's support of the GOP is shutting down, too | The Best Defense

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The Republican Party is steadily losing support within the military, its strongest and most steadfast constituent. The extremist elements within the GOP are driving away those who wear or have worn a uniform. Their brinksmanship, anti-government biases, and self-contradictory policies can no longer be hidden by rhetoric, as this shutdown makes clear.

Military disassociation with the GOP started during George W. Bush's administration. Poor war-making decisions, unequal economic growth, and bumper sticker patriotism took their cumulative toll. The Tea Party's emergence turned the trickle into a flood. A Military Times poll earlier this year showed a significant decrease in support for Republicans compared to 2006.

This does not indicate any substantial cultural or demographic shift, only the party's unpopularity. Among those polled, the number considering themselves conservative barely changed, and there was no increase in those belonging to the Democratic Party. The trend is confined to decreasing enthusiasm for the GOP, accompanied by a modest rise in independents and libertarians.

Sequestration, the government shutdown, and the potential default will collectively drive the final nails in the Republican Party's coffin. Quite simply, there is nothing attractive about their recent policies. They are harmful to our nation's military and its families, the veteran community, and international security. And we haven't yet begun to see the real effects.

Admiral Greenert, the chief of naval operations, touched on a few of the sequester's consequences during a September speech in San Francisco. The numbers are staggering: Four of 10 new ballistic missile submarines won't be built; three of 10 carrier strike groups will be split up; they will retire almost 30 ships they cannot afford to lose; there will be a dramatic increase in the percentage of the fleet deployed around the world. People build and maintain these ships. Sailors man them -- and they will spend significantly less time at home with their families in coming years.

In Admiral Greenert's words, "we are less of a credible threat" despite the Navy's use of one-time funding to blunt sequester's worst effects. This is not a one-sided issue, to be sure. Politicians from both parties contributed to the breakdown that led to the sequester. But much blame goes to the first- and second-term Tea Party representatives with their uncompromising tactics.

The same inflexibility led to the government shutdown. At a rally that I attended recently, 33 military and veterans organizations representing over 10 million Americans gathered at the World War II Memorial to call for an end to this federal freeze. One by one they listed off the costs, from non-payments for death benefits to suspension of VA claims processing. It all added up to one message: Faith has been broken with American fighting men and women, contrary to the promises etched in marble at that very site.

The next step is almost unthinkable. Should the nation default by failing to raise the debt ceiling, the United States will no longer be able to pay its servicemembers to defend us. It will not pay its veterans for the education, health, and housing benefits they've earned. It will not pay its debtors, from whom it borrowed based on our good name. This is contradictory to military values in every possible way.

It is clear that the extremists within the GOP are forcing this issue. A recent legislative change keeps anyone in the House from calling for a majority vote on reopening the government. There may be a reason for this last-minute change, but it's hard to see it. The system is now rigged so that one man, subject to the pressure of an unlikely coalition of obscenely rich and poorly educated, can freeze the legislative process of the world's superpower.

Congressional Republicans must overwhelm their suicidal fringe. If they cannot craft a solution for at least six months of funding, it will be the end of the party. The details are theirs to work out -- but the judgment remains ours to dispense on election day.

Many Republicans are busy re-branding themselves as Libertarians, with little knowledge of the Libertarian stance re national security.  

"A Brief History of Military Service and Freedom

Today most libertarians view military service as the antithesis of freedom. If nothing else, this view is strikingly ahistorical. Up until late in the 20th century, it was seen as self-evident that freedom is ultimately secured by force of arms, and that private citizens’ duty to freedom was to be able to defend that freedom. Standing, professional armies were seen as the tool of tyrants, and people understood that a professional army that can repel a foreign invasion can also oppress a free, unarmed people, while an army of free men is not so easily led on an endeavor of oppression. Ultimately, men are not truly free if they must rely on some other group of people for their defense.

In the civil realm, this is well understood by libertarians. Libertarians understand perfectly that men have a natural right to self-defense, and that to entrust only the police with the means to keep order is to give the state a tool for tyranny. A free man must be able to take his defense in his own hands.

In ancient Athens, one reason why only free men could vote was because only they could afford the expensive armament of the hoplite. Free men were soldiers and soldiers were free men. Athenian freedom created the greatest flowering of civilization in the ancient world. Athenian citizen-soldiers, superior to kings’ slave armies, built and protected what was essentially the world’s first free-trade area, creating the prosperity that enabled Archimedes to invent, Sophocles to write, Phidias to sculpt and Socrates to midwife philosophy.

Medieval monarchs would never allow a conscript military, despite its superiority, as they understood that bearing arms was the privilege of the free man, and to let all men do it, as opposed to an aristocracy of warriors, would quickly undermine their power.

This coeval link between free citizenship and military service did not just exist in the ancient world: the American republic was also founded on it.

In the contemporary American political context, liberals and conservatives squabble over the meaning of the Militia Clause of the Second Amendment. Conservatives think the Clause is essentially decoration, and does not limit an individual right to bear arms. Liberals think the Clause means a right to bear arms can only be exercised within the context of militias (plural), i.e. organized civil defense bodies.

But they’re both wrong—and, nowadays, neither side would probably like to acknowledge what the Second Amendment really says. For in 18th century America, “the militia” (singular) did not refer to any specific organization. Instead it referred to the whole of able-bodied men, presumed ready and willing to bear arms in defense of the nation, as they did in the War of Independence.

Under the Founders-era American constitutional system, Congress would maintain a navy to protect trade, and raise an army when the need arose. This army would be powerful and easy to raise since it would come from the militia, that is to say, the community of citizen-soldiers. The Founding Fathers, full of Enlightenment belief in individual freedom, clearly had in mind a system akin to Switzerland or Athens, where citizenship implied soldierdom. As all other freedom-loving peoples up to then, they saw a standing, professional army as the instrument of tyrants like the British king. The Second Amendment was considered important, then, not so much to protect the right to individual self-defense, but much more so to ensure that America would remain a country of citizen-soldiers—that is to say, of free men."

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