America’s Militaristic Culture

My favorite Francophilic American blogger, Arthur Goldhammer, defends the French tradition of military parades. The US, he argues, actually has a more militaristic culture.

It’s true that one doesn’t often see armor rolling down Pennsylvania Ave. . . . It’s more common in America to lament ostentatiously the sacrifices of “our men and women in uniform” than to flex muscle Moscow-style.

We dote on this sort of poshlost, to borrow a word from Nabokov. It’s actually rather convenient to place the accent on one’s own sacrifice rather than on one’s country’s superior equipment. The equipment, if displayed, might actually get Americans to think, as they rarely do, of the sacrifices of those against whom it is deployed.

Compare us Americans to (gasp!) the Germans:

The large recent loss of civilian life in Afghanistan may have been due to an error or inadvertence by German soldiers. For Germans this has become an issue. But the collateral damage has barely been noticed in an America inured to incidents of this kind. For us the issue is framed in terms of whether the continued sacrifice of American lives is justified by any achievable American interest. The Afghans barely figure in the debate except as instruments. To my mind, that is the mark of a militarized culture.

Peter G. Klein is a Research Fellow, Associate Editor of The Independent Review, and Member of the Board of Advisors of the Center on Culture and Civil Society at the Independent Institute.
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