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The US army wants citizen troopers, not warriors

The brave men and women of the US armed forces no longer have to dine in the confined spaces of a cafeteria. Instead, attempts have recently been made to rename the US Army restaurants to "warrior restaurants". The renaming was extremely risky, but it underscores the recent love affair of the US Army with the term. The recruits are asked, "What is your warrior?" In recruiting notices, the army has a "warrior ethic" (complete with a stylish wall poster) and there is even a "best warrior contest".

There are only two small problems: US military personnel are not warriors, and more importantly, they should never be warriors. Indeed, the nature of a warrior is harmful to a free people under constitutional government. The United States needs citizen soldiers and has no use for warriors on the battlefield or at home. To understand why, it is worth exploring what these words mean and what other implications they have.

Most native English speakers recognize that there is a significant difference between the words “soldier” and “warrior” and the ideas they represent. The term "civil war warrior" feels wrong, just as it does to refer to a Homeric hero or a Mongolian horseman as a soldier does. Achilles moping in his tent was a warrior, not a soldier.

The words are markedly different, but the exact distinction can be elusive. Here the etymologies are informative; A warrior is, of course, one who wages war (from the northeastern old French town of Werreier). In contrast, “soldier” (in a detour) comes from the Latin solidus, a late Roman standard coin. So a soldier is someone who is paid by a higher authority, a relationship that naturally places him in groups formed by another political entity – be it a king, a parliament or a congress. This did not mean mercenary service – there were other words for it – but soldiers fought as their crew, either as amateurs or as professionals. War is an identity for the warrior. For the soldier it is a task that serves a larger community, a larger community or a larger authority.

The distinction between the roles of the warrior and the soldier is not only possible in English or even in modern languages. It is almost the same in Latin and Greek. Greek has machetes (literally "fighters") and polemists ("warriors"), but these words are mainly used in poetry to describe mythical heroes. Ordinary Greek soldiers were stratiotes ("army men"), defined by their belonging to and subordination to an army ("stratos") led by a general ("strategos"). Likewise, Latin has Bellator ("warrior"), but members of the Roman army were practically never Bellatores (except in the poetic sense, and even then only rarely), but rather milites, which come from the same mil-root as the word ". Mile" means one Collection of things (a Roman mile is a collection of a thousand steps.) So Roman milites were men who were “put together” by their collective action in the service of a larger community: soldiers belong to groups, while warriors belong to groups by virtue of their personal identity tied to war, may not do so.

Hence, for the warrior, war is an inalienable part of his or her individual identity. Although warriors could fight in groups, they fight for individual reasons rooted in that identity, and so a warrior remains a warrior if he fights alone. In addition, a warrior remains a warrior even after the war ends, as there is no retreat from that core identity. Warriors do not retreat.

A 13th century Mongolian warrior was a warrior because in a relatively unspecialized Mongolian society, being a free adult man meant being a warrior. Such a Mongol remained a warrior for all his adult life. He couldn't give up his warrior identity more easily than his adulthood. Likewise, medieval knights generally only withdrew occasionally to accept monastic orders and move on to an equally totalizing vocation. Such individuals were born warriors and would die warriors. For them, the label was just as inseparable as their ethnic, religious or gender-specific identity.

Warriors are definitely in a class of their own, individuals whose connection to war they place outside of civil society. This division is expressed very clearly in their attitude towards the civilian population, which generally drips with undisguised contempt. Thus, in societies with a significant degree of work specialization, to be a warrior meant to be permanently out of the civilian realm. It was, of course, a short leap for such men to assume that violence outside civil society put them above it and were therefore their natural rulers. For any number of warrior aristocrats, fighting meant domination, and civilians could only be ruled. Warriors are forever the enemies of free societies.

In contrast, a soldier serves both a larger community and a larger unit. A soldier without a community ceases to be a soldier and becomes a mercenary. Soldiers become civilians again at the end of their service life. The ability to take off the uniform defines the soldier. The soldier leaves civil society for just a moment and is destined to rejoin it at the end of the war, at the end of the tour, or at the end of a career. It is this act that reconnects civil life and that the warrior is incapable of.

The current US volunteer force, so zealously committed to the ideals of warriors, has, like US military service, been based from the outset on the assumption that soldiers complete a period of service and then become civilians again. Indeed, the 1970 Gates Commission's report advocating retirement was based on the assumption that "men who join the volunteer force do not all become long-term professionals," and that the influx new volunteers and the outflow of veterans would prevent the force from being "isolated or alienated from society". However, this twist on viewing US service personnel as warriors directly contradicts this need to unite the military and society into a common citizenship.

This shift towards a warrior attitude in the army comes at a time when the realization of the citizen-soldier ideal is clear and the civil-military relations connected with it are strained. The civil-military divide is growing, and endless pressures to resume (or extend) stop-loss extensions is already encouraging soldiers to view war as their permanent calling rather than just their temporary occupation. Even after leaving the military, many veterans go into law enforcement; Veterans make up 6 percent of the total population but 19 percent of police officers. Law enforcement is another preoccupation with a warrior problem, where officials who see themselves as violent "sheepdogs" in the midst of a population of harmless sheep and dangerous wolves are also fundamentally different from the people they serve. It is an ideology that casts police officers as warriors as well, with predictable tragic consequences of both poor policing and excessive violence.

It is easy to see how attractive it is to adopt the label of a warrior precisely because it sets soldiers and police forces apart from society and reassures them that they are special and that the provision of violence is not just a virtue, but the highest Virtue is. The warrior ideology also encourages soldiers to see themselves as modern incarnations of ancient warriors like King Leonidas and his Spartans. That the Spartans were a small warrior aristocracy that ruled with particular brutality over a large enslaved population has not glorified novels that glorify a whitewashed version of their history by the reading lists of the US Military Academy or the Marine Corps elementary school.

It also seems no coincidence that this ideology flourished at a time when U.S. service personnel were faced with two decades of deployments in conflict areas that were both distant and often far removed from most Americans. As the "forever wars" have increasingly separated US military personnel from civil society, those workers have again turned to an ideology that declares they are in a class of their own – but also a class above.

Such ideologies have even darker roots. There is, in fact, a secular ideology that postulates everything that “life is permanent warfare” and as such “everyone is raised to be a hero”, develops the ability to use violence and is guided by “heroic death” which is the best reward for one Heroes are advertised life. "And this ideology is, as the Italian semiotic and writer Umberto Eco famously emphasized, fascism.

As Eco writes, the pursuit of elevating the warrior and his profession of violence to the highest good does not lead to an ethos of service, but to a disdain for those who instead perform the tasks necessary to enable survival, that is, civilians . By adopting the warrior ideology, which found its way into reading lists at major military academies and has penetrated deeply into the mentality of the modern US police force, many soldiers and police officers are tacitly indoctrinated into an essentially fascist ideology, albeit in forms that of modern advocates often go unrecognized by warrior soldiers and warrior policemen.

In short, the ideology behind "warrior restaurants" is both essentially un-American and utterly toxic to the very free society that US soldiers swear by to protect. While many soldiers may not be aware of this long history, they will understand the linguistic implications of the words, the subtle suggestion that makes English speakers instinctively sense that Conan the barbarian is a warrior, but Private Ryan is not. After all, Ryan went home, raised a family, and led a civil life, an idealized (and of course, fictional) portrayal of a soldier leaving the war behind.

As the United States seeks to abandon its "eternal war" in Afghanistan, it is long gone for policymakers and the public to have any real discussion about civil-military relations and the role of soldiers in US society. Because while the United States needs more soldiers to serve and then leave the war behind, it doesn't need warriors at all.

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