Two stories in this morning’s papers caught my eye. First up, a tale of the US Navy doing just what it ought to: hunting pirates.
This is entirely appropriate. One of the very first challenges the US Navy faced was the Barbary Pirates. Now, 200 years later, we’re once again facing pirates off the coast of Africa — and, I strongly suspect, they’re Muslims too. Pirates are the natural enemy of all nations, and it’s one of the few things that nearly every nation can agree upon. Recently, the US rescued a North Korean ship from pirates, winning a grudging thanks from that Communist dictatorship and its psychotic tyrant.
Piracy has made a big comeback in recent years, as the world’s navies have drawn down considerably. Shippers don’t like to admit their losses, as they weigh how much the raid cost them versus their increased insurance premiums, and often don’t report the attacks.
And here’s a hint: piracy isn’t the romantic adventure many people seem to think it is. In fact, Johnny Depp fantasies notwithstanding, it never was. It’s about theft at the very least, and often involves murder and rape and destruction of private property and kidnapping and a host of other less than glamorous deeds.
On the other hand, we have this story about the military being tasked with jobs that they really shouldn’t have to do.
It’s understandable. The military is our option of last resort; when all else fails, send them in and they’ll do their damnedest to get the job done. They are the most committed, most disciplined, and most capable part of the government.
But just because they can do something, doesn’t mean they should. As the article points out, the sorts of things they are doing ought to be part of the Department of State’s bailiwick. But Foggy Bottom has let us down (as usual), and the armed forces have stepped up and are doing their duty.
I think it’s great that a lot of people are learning that the US military is not something to be feared. But I worry that “familiarity breeds contempt,” and I don’t want them to lose their ability to evoke respect. I don’t want them to be seen as selfless humanitarians, as aid workers in funny costumes and dull-painted ships and aircraft.
The primary function of the military, as has been said so many times so well, is to “kill people and break things.” This must always be their primary focus. Everything else must take a back seat to preserving this capability.
And the overeducated, overprivileged, preening twits at Foggy Bottom need to remember that they are agents of United States foreign policy, NOT formulators of that policy, and keep their own agendas to themselves. They are very well compensated for their service, and it’s long past time they started earning their pay and justifying the positions of responsibility with which they have been entrusted.