Three articles that shouldn't be missed

Heroes, neoconservatives and ‘wonkery'

WASHINGTON, D.C. - If you read only one news story this week, read this: “Hero worship of the military is getting in the way of good policy” in The Washington Post.

It’s an op-ed piece by Benjamin Summers, a captain in the U.S. Army, that makes a plain-spoken and strong argument that we are overusing the word “hero” when it comes to our soldiers. Summers maintains we are trivializing real heroes and distorting how we assess military policy.  He writes:

“I have worn an Army uniform for the past eight years and deployed twice to Afghanistan. This doesn’t make me a hero.

“Many veterans deserve high praise for their heroism, but others of us do not. Infantrymen who put their lives on the line for a mission, aircrews who flew into harm’s way to evacuate the wounded, servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice — these are some of the heroes I’ve been privileged to know. Applying the label ‘hero’ to those of us who haven’t earned it diminishes the service and sacrifice of those who did. It also gets in the way of constructive debate and policymaking.

“Over the past decade, a growing chasm between military and civil society has raised the pedestal upon which the United States places those who serve in its military. Too much hero-labeling reinforces a false dichotomy that’s commonly heard in our political discourse: You’re either for the troops or you’re against them. We badly need to find ways to bridge this civilian-military gap to cultivate a more nuanced appreciation of service and to produce better policy in Washington.”

This is a great piece that could only be written by a soldier. Read it and pass it on.

Also on the national security front:  “From 2001 until sometime around 2006, the United States followed the core neoconservative foreign-policy program. The disastrous results of this vast social science experiment could not be clearer. The neoconservative program cost the United States several trillion dollars and thousands dead and wounded American soldiers, and it sowed carnage and chaos in Iraq and elsewhere,” writes Stephen Walt, professor of International Relations at Harvard, in Foreign Policy.

So how, Walt wonders, can the neocons a) have no humility and b) still be accorded credibility in the world of foreign policy commentary?

“Given their past failures, what explains neoconservatism's apparent immunity from any degree of accountability?” Walt asks.  “How can a group of people be so wrong so often and at such high cost, yet still retain considerable respect and influence in high circles? For America to pay the slightest heed to neoconservatives is like asking Wile E. Coyote how to catch the Road Runner, seeking marital advice from the late Mickey Rooney, or letting Bernie Madoff handle your retirement portfolio.”

Walt cites four reasons why the so-called Chicken Hawks still stay classy, to paraphrase Ron Burgundy: shamelessness, money, media that seeks balance no matter what and allies in liberal places.

Lastly, a piece of domestic “wonkery”: There has been some new research and lots of new conversation about political polarization in America.  There are generally two camps; one sees the country as divided in to red and blue, the other thinks most of the country is purple and just the political elite is radically polarized.

Middlebury College political scientist Matthew Dickinson is in the not-so-polarized camp. He has a brief, clear piece in Politico with cool graphics titled, “No, America is not Divided.”  It is a good counter to the standard portrait of political America that drives much political commentary.

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