Fifth, the perception of elitism — or worse, dismissal of those who don’t serve — encourages undue deference to military leaders. Such deference leads to too much sway in matters of security policy. Military leaders are highly conservative in recommending the use of force, but military solutions are all we know. We cannot be expected to have mastered those things that diplomats, developers, economists and others provide, or to support resourcing of other organizations if it means real cuts to our own. There is continued risk of perpetuating never-ending war by crowding out those who can bring more enduring solutions to the table.
Finally, military leaders simply owe to the troops we love a more nuanced conversation about a society worth serving. Every day, about 22 veterans commit suicide. Most have not been in combat. Reasons for this devastating number include isolation and purposelessness. It might be helpful — and this is just a hypothesis — to have steady conversations with our troops about the many critical ways that citizens serve their country and find purpose in American life outside of military service.