Monday, December 29, 2014

The Profound Unseriousness Of American Governance

At the suggestion of Conor Friedersdorf, I started reading James Fallows' Atlantic article about the weird and diffident relationship the US has with its military. It's well-written, as Fallows' pieces frequently are, but I wanted to pause along the way to remark on one graf (emboldening mine):
Outsiders treat [the military] both too reverently and too cavalierly, as if regarding its members as heroes makes up for committing them to unending, unwinnable missions and denying them anything like the political mindshare we give to other major public undertakings, from medical care to public education to environmental rules. The tone and level of public debate on those issues is hardly encouraging. But for democracies, messy debates are less damaging in the long run than letting important functions run on autopilot, as our military essentially does now. A chickenhawk nation is more likely to keep going to war, and to keep losing, than one that wrestles with long-term questions of effectiveness.
 Fallows is, largely, wrong here. This is, I would remind him, a government that has not passed a budget in years (since 2009, in fact), which rammed Obamacare through Congress using procedural trickery and deception, under the fantasy it would eventually become popular. Paying attention to the consequences of legislation is scarcely something Americans do, let alone actually thinking about life-and-death matters of shipping soldiers off to kill in wars of dubious or even negative merit.

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