Home/Rod Dreher/The Abusive Army

The Abusive Army

An Army officer’s wife writes to James Fallows to share some of the pain and frustration that military families endure, and have been enduring, and why the idea of going to war in Syria is so appalling to many of them. You really should read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

As Mr. Russo acknowledged *WE* (service members and their family) are the ones who have “known war” but he seems to gloss over that *WE* are the ones who are actually putting lives on the line and families on the backburner to carry out this adventure. Mr. Russo’s initial statement was abrasive in that it echoes the acts (though not the words) of the President and Congress in ignoring the fact that the military members are living, breathing people with mortgages and babies and retirement dreams who have actually faced and continue to face REAL physical, psychological, financial, social and spiritual consequences for decisions exactly like this one.

Those who don’t follow the Army Times or have active involvement with the military can’t fully appreciate the feelings of frustration, disillusionment and despair that service members feel about everything that is going on, taken as a whole. To sum up everything that I am about to type below: “After everything you are putting us through, why should we go risk our lives for you AGAIN?”

1)      We have been constantly at war for more than a decade. My own husband has been deployed seven times and is currently getting ready for his fifth trip to Afghanistan (three of his previous deployments were to Iraq). He is not alone (and, frankly, he’s one of the lucky ones who tends to have a year or more in between deployments.)

2)      During the build up/surge, recruitment needs were such that standards dropped to serious lows. Waivers were granted willy-nilly. As a result, the service ended up with a lot of shiftless thugs who have now served long enough to be in leadership positions (or at least positions where they can be obstructionist and demoralizing).

3)      The military does everything in its power to keep soldiers deployable, including ignoring injuries and mental health problems. Soldiers basically get two options: quit (and give up your years toward retirement so that you can go in an endless queue and hope that the VA processes your case and gives you treatment) or soldier on in pain.

Like I said, read the whole thing.  The wife says that the Army is like an abusive parent: no matter how badly she treats her children, they still love her.

I would take that one step further. In a democracy, the Army is under control of the people. Ultimately it is we the people, through our elected representatives, who determine the fate of our soldiers. Maybe the Army is an abusive parent, but if you ask me, it’s the country — that is, it’s you and me and all of us who barely give a thought to what our service members and their families live with, and have been living with for a decade — who are the abusive parents.

True, nobody promised that signing up to be a soldier was going to be easy. But why do we have to make it so damn hard for our service members and their families? The idea that the Obama administration is planning merely to lob a few missiles at Assad, and not put boots on the ground, is a self-deception. As the anonymous Army officer’s wife writes:

Undeniably, any sort of military option in Syria exponentially increases the risk that we are going to have  a prolonged or extended military action/presence there. The current administration (and Congress, to fairly share the blame) treats service members like disposable minions.


If that is true, then the blame devolves down to the American people. The president and the Congress wouldn’t do this if we refused to let them.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

leave a comment

Latest Articles