Opinion: What Donald Trump doesn't understand about the difference between soldiers and 'warriors' - - PressFrom - US
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Opinion What Donald Trump doesn't understand about the difference between soldiers and 'warriors'

19:05  27 november  2019
19:05  27 november  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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President Trump claims he intervened in the war crimes case involving a Navy SEAL as a way to protect "warriors."

"Warrior", as a descriptor, does not always call to mind scenes of Homeric bravery or Iwo Jima-like camaraderie. In some circles, it's a toxic word, a put down even, as it assume they are part of a class or caste onto themselves, to be worshiped. It also speaks to a certain level of gung-ho machismo shared by everyone who puts on the uniform. In other circles, it assumes a preference for brawn over brainpower, a Spartan jock culture versus Athenian intellectual worldview — why else would James Mattis have to be qualified as a "warrior monk"?

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For most who wear the uniform it gives them a sense of purpose. The warrior nomenclature tends to diminish their value to ensuring peace and security, or defending the homeland. Or it conflates their role as being a purveyor of lethal violence.

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Let's not sugarcoat what soldiers do — their job, in part, is to kill, if called upon to do so. Yet lumping all of them together as "warriors" cheapens the uniform. A mercenary or a Viking raider is also a "warrior" in the strict sense of the word. So is a Taliban fighter or ISIS recruit.

Soldiers' moral code

What makes our men and women, not just in the U.S. but in militaries across the globe, unique and "special" is their strict adherence to a virtuous moral code in the management of violence.

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This is what President Trump misunderstands. He believes that warriors enjoy protected status. By interfering in the case of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, he is suggesting that soldiers, given they are part of the warrior elite, are somehow above the law.

I have spent the past four years on the military training side of West Point, surrounded primarily by special operators or Rangers who have fought multiple tours. What makes them extraordinary is not their bravery or toughness but their commitment to a set of values. They are soldiers first, warriors second.

Banish 'warrior' label

In some ways the "warrior" label should be banished from our vocabulary or downplayed when referring to the military. After all, changing norms and technologies may start to erode our contemporary notions of warrior. Are drone pilots as heroic as their Top Gun brethren wearing Aviator shades? Is somebody who branches cyber and codes for a living as brave and fearless as his infantry brethren? Do they get to cut the lines at airports, too?

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This past month has shown us the best and the worst of America's "warrior" class. On one hand, we saw Lt Col Alexander Vindman, an immigrant from Ukraine who has a Purple Heart, a Combat Badge and Ranger Tab, who defended his notion of what was right by reporting an abuse of the system. On the other we have Chief Petty Officer Gallagher, who deserves praise for serving our nation but whose alleged war crimes, as well as rank insubordination in an interview he gave to Fox News, demonstrates the seedier side of our "warrior" class.

America's relationship with the military has always been a bit cartoonish and Trump's meddling is the latest embodiment of this. We have a public largely checked out and uninformed about the wars fought in its name, one that supports its troops and likes flyovers at its ball games yet also does not want to be burdened with bad news from the front lines.

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We rightfully venerate those who serve, yet we also seem to elevate them onto this vaulted status that they neither seek nor deserve.  We should praise their sacrifice, yet not excuse them when they fall short or commit crimes.

Otherwise they will be seen as warriors in the worst sense of the word.

Lionel Beehner, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, is an assistant professor and director of research at West Point's Modern War Institute.

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What Donald Trump doesn't understand about the difference between soldiers and 'warriors'

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