I remain unconvinced that there is a civilian-military divide, at least not any more than there is a divide between any group of professionals and the rest of society. Even if this article were not the work of an IAVA spokesperson, with my aversion to that organization, I’d still disagree, especially inasmuch as the author (grudgingly?) advocates making a “Covenant” law. I would oppose any attempt to codify such a thing as law.
The civilian-military divide is not a new idea. It has been written and talked about extensively, and top military and political leaders have sounded the alarm that the growing rift is harming our nation. Yet very few solutions have been offered to address the problem. Instituting the draft wouldn’t help, since the size of the military is still small proportionate to the population. Yes, a part of the populace more representative of the nation would serve, but they would still make up less than 1 percent of the country. The recent White House initiative, Joining Forces, shows promise, and I’m hopeful that through it the civilian-military divide can be somewhat bridged.
But what about a military covenant here in the United States? I think an argument can be made that one already exists, although in an unofficial capacity and without a title. Politicians speak at length about the need to take care of veterans, but that argument needs to be made and remade daily, and advocacy groups are forced to poke and prod in order to utilize benefits already earned and remind the public that we’re still fighting two (three?) wars. When British politicians speak about veterans’ issues, they invoke the military covenant, which conveys a stronger message than a lengthy argument as to why a specific veterans’ bill should be passed or an explanation of why it is good business to hire a veteran. The word “covenant” invokes images of a sacred trust, not just a simple contract. It also suggests that everyone is involved, since a covenant requires agreement between multiple parties. Members of the military are required to serve their nation honorably, and in return, the nation and public are required to ensure that those service members and veterans are treated fairly and with respect.
Trying to legislate that would be a nightmare—let Britain do it—they specialize in that kind of massive legislation. Here, people have, and should have, the right to be mean, unfair, unjust, stingy, or uncaring. Having that right only makes the cases of compassion, fair dealing, justice, generosity, and respect the brighter. Charity mandated, is no longer charity.