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Monday, Feb 11, 2008, 3:22 pm

Straw military man

By Adam Doster

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William J. Astore, writing in Salon, posits that large segments of the left don't quite understand the appeal of the military, and that ignorance inhibits the ability of activists to reform the military-industrial complex.
If you want to change anything -- even our increasing propensity for militarism -- you first have to make an effort to engage with it. And to engage with it, you have to know the wellsprings of its appeal, which transcend corporate profits or imperial power.
Astore goes on to cite the military's diversity and lack of elitism as reasons it's so valued in American society. Those are fair points. Problem is, I think his argument relies on a straw man that's largely non-existent. Most opponents of American militarism I know understand that America's military is made up of our young and poor, the vast majority of whom serve admirably. What those activists don't like is our economy's dependence on its military and defense spending and the results of our military operations-- guided by American exceptionalism -- that disrupt lives unnecessarily around the world. Denigrating a valued institution pithily is a bad idea, but I don't think it's a practice that many Americans, even on the left, exhibit.

Adam Doster, a contributing editor at In These Times, is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former reporter-blogger for Progress Illinois.

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