The only formal national institution that continues to score high in terms of public respect (72% in the most recent Gallup poll) is the military.
A few years ago I gave a lecture to a class at West Point, the text of which was: You are entering the only U.S. institution left standing. Your prime responsibility throughout your careers will be to keep it respected. I then told them about the Dreyfus case. They had not heard of it. I explained how that scandal rocked public faith in a previously exalted institution, the French army, doing it and France lasting damage. And so your personal integrity is of the utmost importance, I said, as day by day that integrity creates the integrity of the military. The cadets actually listened to that part.
-Wall Street Journal, Trump, Sanders, and the American Rebellion
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
-Declaration of Independence
I don’t really get the American fanatical reverence for the military. The reverence is ironic when considered in the light of the fact that one of the grievances of the Americans against the British was that they kept standing armies in the American colonies. The idea of a permanent professional army has always been an anomaly in the Anglosphere, Cromwell’s New Model Army of professional soldiers could only have arisen in an disruptive moment in British history. As Roger Scruton shrewdly observed:
In an army, the supreme commander dictates to his officers who dictates to their men. That too is a possible view of sovereignty, and one that has often prevailed on the Continent. But it was never the English view. The purpose of politics, as the English conceived of it, was to uphold the law of the land, and to resolve the conflicts of interest that arise within its borders, through a multi-layered process of representation. This view was made possible in part by the unusually demilitarised nature of English society, which, until Cromwell, had no standing army of its own and relied entirely on sea power to defend its borders. In a state based on sea power, only a small minority takes part in the necessary business of aggression. Armies, when needed, were raised by calling upon those residual feudal ties which enabled local lords to bring battalions and regiments from the shires. English conquests abroad were more the work of tradesmen and lawyers than of soldiers, and for much of England’s history the countryside was kept in order by local magistrates rather than by soldiers of the king.
–England: An Elegy
I don’t really think much of highly militarised or “warrior” cultures, whether it is Romans or the Americans (ancient hypermascline cultures are highly problematic from a Christian point of view). There is something barbaric about a civilisation permanently committed to war. I don’t praise the medieval era much nowadays given the absurdly romanticised ideas about it in circles which I float around, however if there is one thing I hope or wish is true about it, it is that wars were affairs which were frowned upon and heavily circumscribed by the Church, soldiers who participated in war could not commune for a certain period of time and had to do penance whether or not the cause was just. (The precedent of course exists in the OT where King David was not allowed to build God’s Temple because he had killed many in war, see 1 Chronicles 22:8.) I can only hope that one day we could return to much more gentler times.