It’s easy to zero in on the successes (or failings) of individual military projects and campaigns. But maybe we need to take a broader look at things for a second, because things quickly get weird when you do.

It’s worthwhile because there are really two questions that need to be addressed when you’re looking at the military, and it’s easy to think you’re asking one when you’re looking at the other.

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‘Good’ is the operative word in this question, because it has two meanings in the context. It asks if the military is effective, and it asks if the military is contributing as a positive force in the universe.

But that’s a little vague. We can also phrase this as two questions:

Is the military effective at carrying out its orders?

And do those orders reflect what we, as a society, want our military to be doing?

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These ideas are only getting more difficult to fully grasp as America’s military grows increasingly non-human and remote. The sheer scale of our war department is distracting. It has spy submarines and flying robots and a replica of an Iranian nuclear facility and many other shielded projects out of the public eye.

So it might be worthwhile to revise our two questions again.

Is the military efficient at answering the questions that we as a society ask of it?

Are we as a society asking the right questions of the military in the first place?

Put in the most brief way possible, do you think the military is good at its job? And how would you define what that job is?

Photo Credit: USAF (more info here)


Contact the author at raphael@jalopnik.com.