By Roland Watson

To consider the different forms of government, in the present day democracy is accepted as the ideal. However, this wasn't always the case. Formerly, the existence of inequalities was considered just and natural (at least by the elite!). Some people were born to be kings; others, through some attribute such as ethnic identity, were deemed suitable only to slavery.

It is also worth noting that the earliest governments were inseparable from - they were often the same thing as - the military. This logically follows from the defense function, but it has other ramifications as well. The purpose of the military has rarely been limited to defense. Indeed, the leader of an army derives little satisfaction from waiting around to be attacked. People attracted to the military want to fight, and if they perceive that there others who can be defeated, then their inclination is to take the fight to them, and then take everything that they possess as their reward. For these reasons, and for much of history, governments, i.e., militaries, have engaged in armed robbery, which is otherwise known as "conquest." And, the results of this, their legacies of imperialism and colonialism, are with us to this day.

In the modern world, where conquest rarely takes place, and fewer and fewer disputes are resolved by force, the role of the military is shrinking. And with it, we can expect the size and scope of government to decline as well (excepting the needs of its redirection against new types of threats). However, the military will retain one critical purpose: it is the guarantor of the peaceful transfer of power in a democratic state.

The question is, what checks exist on military power, and the answer is, other than universal reprobation, none at all. The military have the guns, and they can choose to use them, against us, any time they want. It is to balance this fear, grounded in the conditions of America's revolutionary period, that the Constitution guarantees ordinary citizens the right to bear arms.

Universal reprobation is, of course, of limited effectiveness. The despicable states of the world, such as China and Burma, maintain their power through military force, and it is not as if our disapproval of them is going to have any real effect anytime soon. Such militaries only give up power when they are forced to, either through confronting a superior power, or by some other equivalent means (as with the death, presented as by heart attack, of Nigeria's dictator in 1998).

The behavioral form of the military is also worth considering. (Think of the form of the salute.) It has long been recognized that soldiers should be separated from the rest of society. They are even like a religion, with their own disparaging term for us: "civilians." In addition, they also have their own laws, standards of justice, and courts.

The need for this separation is due to the extensive brainwashing that soldiers must undergo. They must be made to lose their individuality, and any normal sense of ethics, to turn them into people willing to kill, and to kill on order, without questioning the order in any way or otherwise considering its consequences. As a member of the military you are conditioned to accept death, violent death, including causing it, as normal. You even win ribbons and medals for this. But, ironically, due to their work for the country, the military, as an occupation, is considered to be an unqualified good. Generals are the priests, and soldiers the monks, of the religion known as nationalism, which is presented to us as "patriotism," and which is also considered to be above criticism.

To repeat the earlier point: anything in a society that cannot be criticized must be the subject of great concern, if not fear.

Further, the military gives us another perspective on death. It is something to be enjoyed, at least when the dead are the enemy. However, even your own war dead are "glorious."

Now, in much of the world militaries, and their suppliers, weapons manufacturers, are in a state of decline. But they do not want to lose their influence, or sales. It is imperative to remember that militaries, to retain their power, need wars. We therefore must maintain a close watch on their activities. Militaries, through such things as arms sales and technology transfers to other nations, particularly developing countries with weak governmental institutions, and through encouraging proxy wars in such countries, can still cause terrible havoc and harm.

(The militaries of democracies regularly support the armies of foreign dictators, both with officer training and weapons supply. One of the most notorious examples of the first, in the U.S., is the School of the Americas, at Fort Benning, Georgia - now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation - the graduates of which include former dictators of Argentina and Panama, and the soldiers who murdered priests in El Salvador.)

However, the military makes great use of the tactic of secrecy, both with their argument that their work "is a national defense issue, limited to those with a 'need to know'," and through their classification system of Top Secret. They are experts in the use of denial and deception. Their actual goal is not to tell us, the general public, anything about themselves at all.

Because of this, they are one of the most difficult institutions to hold accountable for their actions. Also, as to secrecy, there should not be any government secrets. The general public should know everything that the government and the military does. If something needs to be kept secret, then we shouldn't do it. We do not need, and we should not have, a CIA, NSA, or any other "intelligence" organization.

(In Malaysia, the Air Pollution Index is covered by the Official Secrets Act. They do not want the world, and tourists, to know about the haze from widespread forest fires. Of course, it is also a "secret" that the country is a dictatorship!)

© Roland Watson 2016