The war in Afghanistan, boot camp, and the Dream ActJuly 13, 2012 1:25 PM
It's one thing to celebrate patriotism and freedom on July Fourth. But by July 13th, patriotism has all the currency of your fireworks' spent gunpowder. When the boom, the beer, and watermelon are gone, for most of us, our Fourth of July thoughts go back to being taken for granted.
If that's not the case for you, then chances are you really are a freedom fighter, or one of their kin.
That's where I find myself now.
I've just returned recently from attending my son-in-law's graduation from Navy boot camp. Make no mistake. Boot camp is boot camp. It may be the Navy, but those aren't flip-flops. After eight grueling weeks, Luis has become totally re-oriented. He is now a sailor and a citizen.
That's right, citizen.
Luis was a green card holder from South America. Becoming a U.S. citizen and a sailor was his dream. He wants to be a medic for the Navy SEALs.
There is joy certainly about the citizen part. But for me, some inner conflict too about the other things.
Even though I enjoy watching boxing, and on occasion mixed-martial arts, I do consider myself somewhat of a pacifist.
I believe in diplomacy before bullets. Tongues-of-fire before bombs. Or submarines.
I've written columns against the war since before the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
Now Luis could be deployed before all combat forces are set to leave by 2014.
I guess this is a version of "loving the sinner, hating the sin," where one loves the warrior, but hates the war.
But look where we are with Afghanistan.
As of this week, the Associated Press reported the death toll had reached at least 1,900.
And to what end? How would the Taliban answer the age-old political question, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" (Only for this make it 11 years, the beginning of the invasion.)
The Taliban is certainly stronger than before President Obama's troop resurgence in 2009.
This is the problem when you fight rebels that won't quit. You burn out before they do.
And so we've telegraphed our withdrawal date. Reports put our troop presence at 88,000, with about 20,000 scheduled to return by October. Moving people is the easy part. Getting out all the military gear is expected to cost $100 million a month in transportation costs. That's just logistics. No killing involved.
Overall costs of the war remain staggering: $443 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Still, I want to be supportive of my son-in-law. If you have a voluntary military, then you want someone like him. He's young, with a master's degree. And a passion for what he believes.
He didn't enlist to become a citizen. He was already on a path to that. But the Navy put him in the express lane because he was willing to give his life for his new country.
If we need soldiers and sailors in our volunteer forces, we need more like Luis.
Which brings me to the Dream Act, a law that would provide the undocumented a way to become permanent residents given two years at a four-year college or two years in the military.
Much has been made of the educational component, but before Luis, I really didn't give the military part much thought.
In some ways, the military targeting undocumented people to serve is a form of racial profiling. And it's not so benign. You're here illegally, and maybe you're not much for education. Fearing deportation, what do you do when a recruiter comes calling? If he offers you a green card for service, do you make that deal with the devil?
Such a deal makes for a different kind of mercenary force. Service for green card.
You go from mowing lawns to mowing Taliban. Human drones.
Do we want that kind of military?
On the other hand, it may not be so bad. Boot camp is intended to weed out the bad ones. And it appears to be an effective tool--brainwashing through push-ups, marching, and sleep deprivation.
According to Luis, it's just weeding out the individual so that the unit works as a team to fulfill the mission. As his commanders were fond of saying as he did 100 push-ups, "Destroy yourself."
The military has dangled citizenship in the past to foreign nationals. For example, Filipinos in the Cavite area of the Philippines have long been a major source of Navy recruits. But that's not quite the Dream Act, which uses the green card as a major recruitment tool.
Given the military aspects, it's surprising that Republicans still haven't mustered the conservative votes to get it passed.
Still, it's sad to think that the only way the Right can think of to embrace diversity is by militarizing immigration.
Updates at amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, @emilamok.