Notes on the ground from a soul-sick Santiago.
Full Metal Racket
Raising Boys in the Shadow of Endless War
On Veteran’s Day, we flew our flags and honored those who served. As is right and just. But maybe from here on out we should prevent our young people from enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces.
At least until we figure out what the hell is going on.
With American foreign policy in a post-Trump world, that is.
Full disclosure: I’m married to a veteran who served during the halcyon pre-War-on-Terror days. The sole injury he sustained was on liberty when he had a tooth knocked out in a bar brawl. But still, he did serve, and I thank him for his service on a regular basis.
Like many of you, I was raised to hero-worship the mighty United States military. My forefathers were veterans of WWII. I grew up on a steady diet of pure, uncut Stephen Ambrose-style Greatest Generation hagiographies.
To my great shame, I cheered the Iraq War—even the surge. We were going to stomp the evildoers and obliterate Al Qaeda! Muh WMD! The invasion was necessary! To keep us safe—
Then the real slaughter began.
Army. Navy. Maybe?
My final redpilling on unwinnable foreign entanglements happened a few years after shock and awe, when I found myself being carpet-bombed with two babies worth of spit up and diaper blowouts. A third boy arrived later, around the time of Obama’s Afghan surge.
I spent hours toddler-proofing the house to keep them safe. I covered sharp corners on the furniture. Installed safety plates on electrical outlets. Cut each grape into not just quarters, but eighths. Paid experts to install car seats.
I did all this as the broken bodies of slightly older American boys stacked up overseas.
Elections really do have consequences. Foreign policy decisions made in D.C. over the last 20 years have hurt American families much, much more than they have helped them.
At this year’s American Conservative Foreign Policy Conference, Matthew Peterson, the esteemed editor of The American Mind, was asked to elucidate the mysterious change of heart conservatives have had vis-à-vis the Iraq intervention. They were for it before they were against it. What sorcery was this?
His answer got right to the heart of things:
“Because they saw their family and friends coming back from the war.”
Bingo. We don’t need white papers or think tank studies to figure out that it was a terrible, awful, no good, very bad war. Actual parents—the ones who raised their kids to want to serve, dropped them off at boot camp—got to see and touch and feel the results of our foreign policy decisions up close: scars, phantom limbs, disfigurement, fresh graves.
A few days ago, I read about a veteran who received a novel organ donation surgery in 2018. “The recipient is a young serviceman who lost his penis, scrotum, both testes and most of both legs when he stepped on a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.”
Take a moment with that.
And he’s not the only one. “A 2017 study conducted for the Pentagon found that between October 2001 and August 2013, 1,367 servicemen experienced genitourinary wounds, more than a third of them considered ‘severe.’”
The number of cases is “unprecedented” and the injuries “uniquely devastating” because they can impair a man’s ability to have sex, father children, or urinate normally, according to the report. Most of the wounded men—94%—were 35 or younger, in “their peak years of sexual development and reproductive potential,” the report said, adding that the psychological toll was especially heavy in such young men. Researchers say these men are at high risk for suicide.
Have more male genitals been mutilated by the Department of Defense than by the cocklopping surgeons of the transgender left? Is that possible?
(In a twist of terrible irony, the DoD performs voluntary cocklopping surgeries on active-duty service members, so that pads their numbers a bit.)
There is a temporary antidote to this permanent madness: President Trump. His flat refusal to entertain follies like Libya and Syria and Fallujah have saved American mothers—how many? Thousands?—from the fathomless ocean of despair. His restraint has certainly preserved lives and limbs and unborn grandchildren. Trump’s recent vivid description of what’s it like to greet the grieving military families at Dover was a watershed moment.
This all matters to me. My sons are patriotic. They like camping. Scouting. They’re gun-curious. They’re interested in how to quickly increase the size of their pecs. My 9-year-old chugged extra milk the other day, hoping he would wake up with bulging biceps emerging from his spaghetti-thin arms. (Hm, did he stumble onto our copy of this book?)
This sounds pretty good, right? This is what you want from boys. Strength, bravery, those elusive leadership qualities. They’re excellent prospects.
Then, a few days ago, I overheard the oldest telling his friend what he wanted to do when he grew up. His answer stunned me.
“I’m thinking about going to the Naval Academy, then becoming a Marine officer, then going to law school.”
That law school part is bad enough! But…the Marines?
If I was the mother of a Marine right now, I’d feel nothing but extreme relief every time President Trump exposed the F.P. experts in D.C. as the buffoons they are. But what about those of us with kids who would serve 5, 10, or 15 years from now? Will they serve under some bleak socialist regime? Under President Pete Buttigieg? President Ilhan Omar? President For Life Her Excellency Alyssa Milano? Will they be as careful with American lives and limbs and flesh as Trump has been?
And what about the Republicans? President Nikki Haley? She’d be very happy to show the world how tough a woman can be. That was Hillary’s problem, too (among a few others). Ah, but a President Pence! He’d be wise about using force, yes? A NeverTrump guy I know recently tried to convince me that impeachment would be for the best. “Come on—imagine how much Pence could get done in a year!”
Now, that’s a terrifying thought.
When I see the heat Trump gets for a minor withdrawal, or when he calls off the jets in midair, forcing them to return to base with payloads intact, the stern-faced guys with the little medals on their shirts excoriate him for “disengagement” and “isolationism.” That’s my proof that the relative peace we enjoy today is just a short pause in the death toll. A dip in the bar graph. More blown limbs and cratered futures lie ahead.
This is why I urgently seek out those wise soothsayers who can show me a glimpse of the decade to come. Why else care so much about politics and the turn of the screws, other than to try and see what landscape awaits future soldiers? Is it a charred, smoking hellscape, or a verdant valley of peace? What nightmare slouches our way?
I need to know this before I hand a child to the generals. I demand to know this.
Let’s check in with some thought leaders and see if they have any predictions! Mainstream conservatives, what say you?
“Our military planners foresee a few more decades in Syria, maybe Yemen next. We can have your boys liberate the Crimea, Iran, NoKo, and Hong Kong and be home in time for supper. We’ll whip ‘em by Christmas, latest.”
Democrats, any thoughts?
“Cisgendered youth assigned male at birth will be permitted two choices in GreeNewMerica: they can be throupled and humiliated by wives liberated from patriarchal marital bonds, or enjoy virtue-signaling marriages to transwomen. Transwoman marriage will come with some exciting tax credits and special privileges that allow you to skip to the front of the bread line (gluten-free bread lines coming soon)!”
Yikes! Well, maybe the good Christian peeps have better ideas?
“Send them to the seminary! We need more priests! Don’t worry, we just installed new locks in the seminarians’ quarters. Father McGropington will no longer be a problem, we can assure you.”
Med school? Get woke.
Law school? Go broke.
Seminary? Get poked.
I’m not a pacifist—hardly, dude. I want every American armed to the teeth. When the Chinese submersibles land on Will Rogers Beach and platoons of amphibious soldiers start marching east on Wilshire Boulevard, yes, we’ll haul out the hardware and take covering positions.
Until then, the U.S. military will not get to load their cannons with my handsome boys.