Military Metaphors in Politics

I suspect that so far my blog has seemed been overly left-leaning- I’ve certainly bashed the GOP candidates more than I have the President, and I am extremely dissatisfied with the current state of the Republican party. Whenever I get too far out in left field though, George Will brings me back to center – I don’t always agree with him, but he is consistently one of the most cogent and balanced thinkers in the political world. His column today about President Obama’s State of the Union definitely made me think about the speech in a different light:

The armed services’ ethos, although noble, is not a template for civilian society, unless the aspiration is to extinguish politics. People marching in serried ranks, fused into a solid mass by the heat of martial ardor, proceeding in lock step, shoulder to shoulder, obedient to orders from a commanding officer — this is a recurring dream of progressives eager to dispense with tiresome persuasion and untidy dissension in a free, tumultuous society.

The problem with a military metaphor isn’t the sentiment behind us – there’s nothing wrong with the President calling on the nation to emulate the selfless model of soldiers in combat, or to urge unity in action. The problem is when that metaphor is fused with desired political action – when voting for a particular bill is equated with the selfless heroism of special forces soldiers.

So President Obama, I get it – you think the jobs bill and other measures are extremely important. But if Congress refuses to go along with you, they’re not a soldier abandoning their post – they’re disagreeing about the way to accomplish the mission. Where I would quibble with George Will is his implication that this type of speech is unique to the political left – the “support the war in Iraq” rhetoric got just as severe and overblown during the lead up to the 2003 war. I think that a conservative President would give roughly the same speech if the shoe was on the other foot.



About thinklikeafox

I'm a Naval Officer living in Southern California. I hope to be attending law school in the next year or two, and I started writing this blog out of a desire to improve my writing and critical thinking skills after a couple years outside of academia.
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