For the past few weeks, the country's distinct national navel-gazing has shifted to the military. It began with horror stories about the treatment of veterans at Veterans Affairs facilities across the country and has reached a crescendo in the curious case of Taliban hostage Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, exchanged for five fierce-looking Muhammadans from Afghanistan's Jihad Central.
As to the first: Backlogs, limited services, fewer service providers, substandard treatment, filthy facilities and the ensuing fatalities—these have been features of the VA system for a long time. Pervasive, institutionalized indifference and incompetence are inherent to—and well-documented in—all centrally planned healthcare systems. America's neighbors north of the 48th parallel are forever in search of a panacea for the poxes that plague their single-payer gulag. Although the same problems are beginning to percolate across America's healthcare sector, due to Obamacare regulations and rationing—the misfortunes endured by the military have been elevated above the misery of the multitudes.
We fret and worry over the fate of the 9.3 million veterans who're enrolled in VA healthcare. Nary is a word said about the consequences of The Affordable Care Act (ACA) to ordinary, elderly Americans—40 million of whom rely on Medicare. Why so? The military is one powerful interest group. It has formidable cheerleaders among the legislative and chattering rabble. Even the weakest links in the military-industrial-complex, as the grunts who do the fighting surely are, wield almost as much political clout as the illegal-alien lobby, and are certainly mightier than advocates for the aged.
As the mantra goes, soldiers fighting phantoms in far-flung destinations are "fighting for us, suffering for us, sacrificing for us," and deserve better than us.
Not that you'd know it, but death panels by any other name are the lot of non-VA patients aged 65 and older. In compliance with ACA-mandated rationing, government planners plan on penalizing hospitals that suffer from an administrative condition the technocrats have termed "excess readmissions." Deconstructed, this Orwellian doublespeak means the following: Say a lady aged 84 is admitted to hospital with pneumonia. Months later, she is seen at the same facility for a re-occurrence. Given her age, she will likely be readmitted in the future. To avoid Medicare penalties ordered by the ACA for admitting grandma too often, staff now place sickly repeat offenders on what is called (truly) a "frequent flyer list."
The goal: keep grandma out even if it kills her.
Grandma may pay with her life for the benefit of sectional interests: 30 million uninsured Americans, including millions of illegal aliens, for whose benefit Obama's $2 trillion ACA was intended. But who cares? In the mass of competing interests that is America, grandma is never as glamorous as the illegal alien or the grunt—who will often confess, as did Army Sgt. Bergdahl, to having joined the military so as to travel the world, experience different cultures and help peoples more exotic than his own.
At the center of the Bowe Bergdahl contretemps—a story that grows in the telling—was a passion to "learn about other cultures." This motivated him to join the army. Poor Pashtuns are certainly more interesting than the generic granny from the Midwest. Our soldiers, after all, are groomed as "citizens of the world." "We pay their wages," this column ventured in "The International Highway to Hell," "but their hearts belong in faraway exotic places with which Main Street USA can hardly hope to compete" for their affections.
There's a problem with the American military's sentimental flirtation with internationalism: The Constitution these men and women swear to obey brooks none of this stuff!
Who then grooms this army of avowed internationalists? Aided by the military's upper echelons, Uncle Sam does. Commanded constitutionally by the commander-in-chief, the military does the government's bidding. Although limited-government advocates refuse to consider the military as a division of Leviathan, it is just that. As was further argued in "Your Government's Jihadi Protection Program,"
"The military works like government; is financed like government, and sports many of the same inherent malignancies of government. Like government, it must be kept small. Conservative can't coherently preach against the evils of big government, while exempting the military mammoth."
Better still, if the military is government—and it is—fanatical militarism is a facet of statism. And if the military is government—and it is—then the missions on which the government sends the military must be questioned.
An equally distinctive characteristic of the current military statism is to extend the worship of The Man in Uniform to His Mission. We worship the men and women in uniform and their mission without question. Conservatives question government programs. War is a government program. If they hope to retain a modicum of philosophical integrity, conservatives will have to include a critique of the state's warfare machine in their case against its welfare apparatus.
The blanket chant—"thank you for your service; thank you for fighting for our freedoms"—is the hallmark of a propagandized people in the grip of fanatical militarisms. Even the most irrational person has to recognize how tentative are the ties between "helping" toothless Pashtuns to be more like Americans and protecting Americans like granny.