Spartans

Go Tell the Spartans, here lays Mickey Mouse

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It is vain to do with more what can be done with less. ~William of Occam

In an age of drastic military cuts set against a background of international instability and conflict, a sane person could be excused for thinking the US Army would have to cut out as much nonsense as possible in order to assure it fulfill its central role: winning wars.

But no.

Instead the Army has upped its impressive resume for pettiness.  Big Brother is watching, not just the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but our own Soldiers. “Courtesy Patrols” skulk the halls of PXs and commissaries, ready to pounce on the heretics who’d dare talk on a cell phone while walking.  Soldiers at some posts are assigned the duty of policing for small violation of regulations on Army posts. The title “Courtesy Patrol” is an interesting manipulation of language, a key aspect of all authoritarian regimes, and reminiscent of Orwell’s observation that “pacification” is a term used when the military bombs a village.  Courtesy. The Army is doing Soldiers a favor. Honest. These courtesy patrols even keep their eyes peeled for the exposed underwear of Army spouses. Who could make this stuff up?

There’s a problem, though. No one cares except the Commissars.

As a cop, I learned that enforcing laws with no moral force earns not only scorn for the law, but  scorn for the enforcers of those laws. Rules concerning walking whilst talking on cell phones hold no moral force. None. Nada. Zilch.  Want Soldiers to hate the Army (many do), just institute and enforce regulations that hold no moral force. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn stated, morality is above the law, always. If murder were legal, murder would still be wrong, just as lying is now legal but wrong under most circumstances. The US Army’s Commissars believe they are maintaining discipline with small rules, controlling every aspect of a Soldier’s life. In truth the Commissars are merely bored.  The Long War is now short. The Commissars have to hurry to ensure their careers have meaning. After two COIN debacles,  the idea that senior Army officials will now have to sit virtually inert signing leave forms is driving these Type A personalities bonkers.  So it’s now to making petty rules, to make sure every Soldier knows the importance of the Commissars.  Reflective belts, cell phone rules, mustache regs, the, the power!! Lost to the authoritarians in the Army is that we suck at fighting. For the billions of dollars spent on the Long War, barely an American benefited. A witch’s brew of multicultural nonsense and bad strategy,  Americans got robbed. Making petty rules is easy, winning wars is tough. Any high school student can make up inane rules and assign them arbitrary relation to “discipline.” It takes real genius to win wars.  Real discipline is bravery. Fake discipline is rote memorization.  Now, I know some will excuse this as all part of military rigor. Nope. There’s a historic term for this BS. It’s called Mickey Mouse, an old military pejorative.

The Free Online Dictionary defines as the slang use of Mickey Mouse as:

1.a. Unimportant; trivial: “It’s a Mickey Mouse operation compared to what goes on in Lyons or Paris” (Jack Higgins); b. Irritatingly petty: the school’s Mickey Mouse requirements for graduation.
2. Intellectually unchallenging; simple: His Mickey Mouse assignments soon bored the students.
3. Melodramatic or sentimental. Used especially of popular music.

Here’s the Commissars, err, Courtesy Patrol. Wait, they’re out of regs. Who knew. As commentators on this post pointed out, no one can follow all the regs all the time. There’s too many. “Let’s first start off by putting a picture with the article where the Soldiers are within AR 670-1. The two middle Soldiers have ink pens/pencils showing in uniform – not IAW with AR 670-1, 1-14.2” “They are within the current regulations. AR 670-1 is so far out of date, I can’t even keep track of how many ALARACT messages are in place to update it. ALARACT 140/2007 para 4 states “PENS/PENCILS WORN IN THE PEN/PENCIL SLOTS ON THE ACU COAT CAN BE EXPOSED. NOTE: THERE ARE NO STIPULATIONS ON THE COLORS OF PENS/PENCILS WORN IN THE SLOTS ON THE ACU COAT.”” Yes, the proper wear of pencils and pens is indicative of military discipline. Pathetic.

Soldiers are crushed under a mountain of petty regulation that have nothing to do with the reasons armies exist and nothing to do with the reason people join the Army. Entire days and weeks are spent completing “online training”, surveys, and certifications. Staff Soldiers often have no time to train skills fundamental to fighting modern wars, such as using radios. We are well on our way to a Hollow Force, a military in which blocks are checked but can’t win wars. The Hollow Force will be great at wasting Americans money, allowing its citizens to be killed, and conducting meetings in which Mickey Mouse and the Commissars can share ideas on how to enforce discipline.  Count me out.

Instead, the Commissars and Authoritarians would be better off taking advantage of the odd psychological aspects of victims of Stockholm Syndrome. People under the influence of Stockholm Syndrome come to worship their captors should they be allowed the most basic of human necessity.  Merely being allowed to use a toilet is interpreted as god-like righteousness on the part of terrorists. Cutting out the petty regulations in the Army would probably result in an increase in morale more than commensurate with the actual impact on daily life. Moreover, many good Soldiers would gain respect for an an organization that realizes rules and laws should have something to do with morality, and in the Army, winning wars is moral.  The military’s rules are bound by Natural Law, just as are all good rules. No matter how some try, they cannot find true outrage at those walking and talking on cell phones. Yet they will still fight and die for the American way of life. Like a fat Soldier, the Army is carrying too much flesh, so much so that it’s hindering the mission. Cut the fat, and by fat this isn’t just concerning budgets.

The Wikipedia entry on  the Authoritarian Personality notes:

Alfred Adler provided another perspective, linking the “will to power over others” as a central neurotic trait, usually emerging as aggressive over-compensation for felt and dreaded feelings of inferiority and insignificance. According to this view, the authoritarian’s need to maintain control and prove superiority over others is rooted in a worldview populated by enemies and empty of equality, empathy, and mutual benefit.

Note to the Commissars: Our Founding Fathers were anti-authoritarian. Read some Thomas Jefferson and put down AR 670-1 for a few hours.  The Army defends the foundation upon which our country stands, not 670-1.

We are becoming an Army of Martinets, not the Spartans of Thermopylae that so many military people adore. So, think, are we upholding our Western values in our own Army? The epigram, placed upon the grave of the Spartans that saved Western Civilization, read:

Stranger, bear this message to the Spartans,
that we lie here obedient to their laws.

What laws did they speak of? The eternal laws, Natural Law, that great men fight and die for foundational values, not minutiae that only small minds find important. I’d first have that every Soldiers carry a copy of Sun Zsu’s Art of War and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense before AR 670-1.  Freedom is the reason the Army exists.