When the boss says "push a button on a guy," I push a button.--Willie Cicci, explaining his role as a Corleone family soldier in The Godfather Part II.How did I almost miss the Middle Tennessee spat over the comments of A.C. Kleinheider about the U.S. military? Kleinheider opined, in the most controversial paragraph thusly:
Soldiers are just that -- soldiers. They are spokes on a wheel. Many, many soldiers, save those at the very top of the pyramid, are pawns. They are button men for our civilian leadership. Is this an honorable profession? Certainly. But it is also, in the end, just that -- a profession. Soldiers should be proud of their service, maybe prouder than men of any other profession, but let’s not get out of control with it.Nothing particularly outrageous here. Apparently, however, a Nashville radio host, and a host of Tennessee bloggers took offense. I'm guessing that Terry Frank's fury is representative:
Our soldiers are not pawns. They voluntary step foward, as Col. Will Merrill III who was just in studio with us did, knowing the cost and risks of being a soldier. Often they give up wealth and comforts . . . all knowingly. They work as part of team…a team that surpasses the challenges of any sports, political or work team. They literally function together, and on many occasions, risk life and limb for their brothers and sisters in arms.Of course, to be a soldier is the very definition of a pawn. Unknowingly, she buttresses A.C.'s point on this by talking about how they function together, you know, like spokes in a wheel. I left a comment to that effect on her blog, to which she replied that I make her "sick" and my "arrogance is disgusting." In The Boys' Crusade literary critic and World War II vet, Paul Fussell reflected on the expendable, cog, or pawn-like nature of the infantry "replacement."
If a draftee was bright, one of the first blows to his morale upon arriving at a camp for basic training must have been the message delivered by the letters R.T.C., visible everywhere. He quickly learned that they stood for Replacement Training Center. Training was clear enough, and so was Center, but Replacement? why, he wondered, were so many hundreds of thousands of drafted boys needed as replacements? For whom or what? Was the army expecting that many deaths or incapacitating wounds?
A.C. also got in a little trouble for referring the military as the "button men for our civilian leadership," a phrase that admittedly caused me to do a double take when I first read it, but isn't really so far from the truth. At its core, the purpose of the military is to kill people. That doesn't make a soldier in the Army an exact parallel to being a soldier for Tony Soprano, but its not always that far off. Smedley Butler, a two-time Medal of Honor winning Marine Major General spoke of his own service in far harsher, and more explicit, terms than Kleinheider used:
I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National city Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of Racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1909–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras "right" for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested." . . . Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.