This Veterans Day, Salon aims to set the record straight about all the holiday’s patriotic nonsense by proving once and for all that the military doesn’t protect our freedoms. The author, Justin Doolittle, leaves aside the undiscussed and “highly debatable” claims that our military protects the U.S. per se, and instead attacks the “outright falsehood” that we Americans would not be free without our military:
The “freedoms” most Americans think of when they hear the term are enshrined in constitutional and statutory law. They are in no way dependent on the size, scope or even the existence of the U.S. military.
If John Lennon’s ghost assumed dictatorial control of the U.S. government tomorrow and, as his first order of business, disbanded the entire military, Americans’ “freedoms” would not suddenly vanish.
Yes, this is the only example he offers to refute the claims that our troops protect our freedom.
To be charitable, taking Doolittle’s words entirely literally, he is quite right. Our freedoms would not “suddenly” vanish. I’m sure it would take a good few weeks before Lennon’s secular communal utopia deprived Americans of their freedoms of worship and property. And domestic oppression aside, imagining Lennon does nothing to curtail freedoms himself and America is faced only with external threats, Doolittle again would be strictly right. Obviously it would take some time for America to be invaded by hostile powers, for piracy to appear in our coastal waters, etc. But he would still be proven wrong in rather short order. Central to Doolittle’s thesis is the bafflingly flawed and ahistorical assumption that liberal freedom is the norm — when in fact it’s an outlier in a world history dominated by authoritarianism, violence, and oppression, which have only been held at bay by force of arms.
Doolittle also equates the kind of appreciation and gratitude that marks days like Veterans Day with worshipping the military. “This widely held belief that our freedom is bestowed on us by soldiers,” Doolittle says, “has obvious implications for how the public views the military.” Yet who among us thinks the military “bestows” our freedom? Americans remain thankful to their military for protecting the freedom which God bestows, not granting it.
The freedom to lack historical knowledge and lay out awful arguments is and remains protected in America — and remains so in part because of the work of our military, whether Doolittle’s thankful for it or not.