Saturday, May 26, 2012

First words to the new soldier

I've collected hundreds of military manuals, in pdf form, over the last several years. It often strikes me how changes in mission and culture, beyond tactics and technology, have shaped their messages.

For example, the 2003 edition of The Soldier's Guide begins:
The Soldier is the ultimate guardian of America's freedom. In over 120 countries around the world, Soldiers like you are protecting our Nation's freedom and working to provide a better life for oppressed or impoverished peoples. It is no accident our Army succeeds everywhere we are called to serve -- the loyalty and selfless service of the American Soldier guarantee it.

Today our Army is fighting directly for the American people. This global war on terrorism is about our future. It's about ensuring our children and grandchildren enjoy the same liberties we cherish. While difficult tasks remain, victory is certain. The efforts and sacrifices of the American Soldier will assure it.
Compare that to the opening paragraph of the 1941 edition of the Soldier's Handbook:
You are now a member of the Army of the United States. That Army is made up of free citizens chosen from among a free people. The American people of their own will, and through the men they have elected to represent them in Congress, have determined that the free institutions of this country will continue to exist. They have declared that, if necessary, we will defend our right to live in our own American way and continue to enjoy the benefits and privileges which are granted to the citizens of no other nation. It is upon you, and the many thousands of your comrades now in the military service, that our country has placed its confident faith that this defense will succeed should it ever be challenged.
Notice that the more current version of the basic field manual alludes to (so-called) "nation building" and carries an unmistakably political tone. Sixty years earlier, it was all about defending the homeland.

This independent citizen-patriot, for one, favors the 1941 version.