Military Chic Contagion

Traditionally, commanders hand out the [Challenge] coins to troops for exemplary service and morale boosting. That’s how Duckworth got hers. That’s why it meant so much.

But in recent years, many outside the military have adopted the tradition, turning a sacrosanct ritual, some say, into a form of military chic that is now part of the Washington power game. The coin craze extends into almost every nook of the federal government. The secretaries of education, transportation and agriculture have coins. So does the EPA administrator, and even the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Information Technology.

The coins have gone global – the Australian ambassador has one. And corporate: Boeing has a coin. So does Starbucks.

Just another symptom of America’s aping military culture for hollow status and plain jock sniffing. It’s part of a pervasive tapestry of military jargon and even practices seeping into our domestic lives. What’s remarkable about the HBGary story is how little coverage it generated in the traditional media. Defense contractors gleefully and mostly without internal debate turning external cyber warfare techniques inward on domestic civilian targets. The slides prepared for Hunton & Williams are redolent with military style phraseology and fixated on taking down enemies. No one really blinked an eye.

Just more change we can’t believe in. The Obama Administration enables the cult of militarization to spread with the Boy Kings aspirational ‘bi-partisanship.’ He agreed to CIA’s self-promoting exponential increase in drone strikes in Pakistan which have polarized Pakistani politics. In return for negligible effect on the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Or Agencycontractors shooting Pakistanis in politically volatile Lahore. (Everyone in this town was calling Davis a CIA contractor weeks ago, so the current press bubble is either shameful or a sham). McChrystal did propose a decoration for restraint which followed him out the door. Meanwhile, NSA and Cyber Command want more pervasive control over private sector networks and ‘kill switch’ legislative moves through Congress.

What’s perverse about Obama? While he bestows bipartisan gloss on militarization (he has his own Challenge Coin, after all), he’s utterly incapable of applying that ethos to defend his base or rebuff those bent on his political extinction. America has Internet connects. We have Facebook. We have Twitter. If these tools are truly transformational, one would think Americans would self organize and take a stand against plutocratic/oligarchical oppression, wealth transfer and a downward spiral from middle class to the disenfranchised, interchangeable, atomized poor. Apparently Facebook, Twitter and the like don’t work for sheep.