... The military-civilian divide is not marked by particular animosity or resentment on the civilian side. In airports and restaurants, civilians thank men and women in uniform for their service. They cheer veterans at ballgames and car races.
What most don't realize is how frequently such gestures ring hollow.
"So many people give you lip service and offer fake sympathy. Their sons and daughters aren't in the military, so it's not their war. It's something that happens to other people," said Phillip Ruiz, 46, a former Army staff sergeant in Tennessee who was wounded twice during three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Douglas Pearce, a former Army lieutenant who fought in Afghanistan and is now a marriage and family counselor in Nashville, said civilians seem to think they "can assuage their guilt with five seconds in the airport."
"What they're saying is, 'I'm glad you served so that I didn't have to, and my kids won't have to.'"
Opinion polls consistently find that the military is the most trusted American institution. A Gallup poll last June found that 74% of more than 1,000 Americans surveyed had "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the military — versus 58% in 1975, at the close of the Vietnam era.
Yet a 2011 Pew Research Center study titled "The Military-Civilian Gap" found that only a quarter of civilians who had no family ties to the military followed war news closely. Half said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan made little difference in their lives, and half said they were not worth fighting.
"We've disconnected the consequences of war from the American public. As a result, that young man or woman putting on the uniform is much less likely to be your son or daughter, or even your neighbor or classmate," said Mike Haynie, director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University in upstate New York. "That is a dangerous place to be." ...Oh I can think of something even more dangerous. That's when very few Americans know where, why, and how many U.S. troops are engaged in military operations. Americans have been in that dangerous place for several years, but the root of the situation is the civilian-military divide recounted above.
From Nick Turse's September 8 report for The Intercept, Documents Show U.S. Military Expands Reach of Special Forces Programs:
THE UNITED STATES is spending more money on more missions to send more elite U.S. forces to train alongside more foreign counterparts in more countries around the world, according to documents obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act.
Under the Joint Combined Exchange Training program, which is designed to train America’s special operators in a variety of missions — from “foreign internal defense” to “unconventional warfare” — U.S. troops carried out approximately one mission every two days in 2014, the latest year covered by the recently released documents.
At a price tag of more than $56 million, the U.S. sent its most elite operators — Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and others — on 176 individual JCETs, a 13 percent increase from 2013. The number of countries involved jumped even further, from 63 to 87, a 38 percent spike.
The JCET program is a key facet of a global strategy involving America’s most secretive and least scrutinized troops. Since 9/11, special operations forces (SOF) have expanded in almost every conceivable way — from budget to personnel to overseas missions. On any given day, 10,000 special operators are deployed or “forward stationed,” conducting missions that vary “from behind-the-scenes information-gathering and partner-building to high-end dynamic strike operations,” then-chief of U.S. Special Operations Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year.
A 2015 investigation by The Intercept revealed JCETs were regularly conducted with foreign militaries implicated by the U.S. State Department in gross human rights violations. And a more recent effort by The Intercept and 100 reporters found JCETs formed one facet of a global training network typified by a lack of coherent strategy and effective oversight.
Leaked Data Reveals How the U.S. Trains Vast Numbers of Foreign Soldiers and Police With Little Oversight; The Intercept, July 13, 2016
In Africa, the U.S. Sees Enemies Everywhere; The Intercept, July 11, 2016