Sunday, July 19, 2009


Is it because Americans are more patriotic than Australians? Is it because the military, wars and the consequent loss of life are a more pervasive part of US society?
When you trawl the blogosphere you find all sorts of examples of the respect with which everyday people in the US appear to hold military personnel. You find very little of that in Australia.
Wikipedia lists active duty personnel in the US military as numbering 1,445,000 in February this year with an additional 850,000 in Reserve elements. That's against a US population of just over 304 million for 2008 (US Census). So counting reserve and active duty the military makes up around 0.75% of the population.
For the 2007-2008 financial year trusty Wikipedia lists combined active duty and reserve for the Australian Defence Force as 73,500 and Australian population is projected at around 21.85 million in July 2009 (ABS). That gives a proportion of the population in the military of 0.34% - around half the proportion of the US.
Now that doesn't seem like much difference to me - granted Australia only has around half the proportion of defence personnel that the US does but I would have thought that the behavioural differences that I see would have been generated by a much greater disparity than that.
Maybe it's the US war dead that does it. In the Iraq and Afghanistan wars the total dead and wounded is about 53,500. The Australian numbers are as far as I can determine something in the order of 20-30 killed and wounded. US proportion is 0.0176% of population whilst the Australian proportion is 0.000137%. That seems to me like a real difference - 2 orders of magnitude. That's the kind of difference that would have a very real effect on how a country feels.
OK enough of the numbers, what does this really come down to? Here's my take. The US has a culture of patriotism and honouring the offices of the nation - the President for instance. They see their country as the "best country in the world". In Australia we have a larrikin disrespect or at best cynicism about our politicians. Our greatest veneration is held for the ANZACs - those poor blokes who were slaughtered through Churchill's and more generally British incompetence in 1915. We extend that feeling to the people who have died in most of the wars since.
Yet that isn't an across-the-board feeling in society - not by a long chalk. We tend to respect the "old" diggers of the first and second world wars more than wars since. We have trouble with the Vietnam war - many still believe we shouldn't have been there and find it hard to feel positive about those who served there. Vietnam tore at Australia from the inside. That in turn caused hardship for those service men and women who returned from Vietnam.
Without being negative about Australia I think it is unlikely that we would see a scene here such as that described by this blogger: Fallen Soldier
So you are the people who know. Tell me what it is that's different and why, between Australia and the US in the way we feel about our countries and those who serve in our military. Or is my view an outsiders view and do many people in the US feel indifferent or indeed negative about these things?
I don't know the answers. What I do know is that one death or wounding is one too many for the families, the friends and all those left behind, not to mention the person themselves.


  1. Well from this American's point of view, we've all been taught and or shown that our military personnel should be respected, because they fight, or have fought to defend our freedoms - every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year ---- until such time as they retire or have lost their life defending us. Sometimes they are taken for granted and sometimes they are not appreciated, however, it all comes down to this --- in this country (USA) --- all of our freedoms have been paid for by US Military Personnel who believe it is an honor to defend their country. In turn, we honor them (most of the time) when they come home, living or dead. I read the blog Fallen Soldier also - and I do wish that every American would stand up and appreciate each & every soldier that way! However, again, it is I think - a love for this country, honor for those fighting to defend our rights & freedoms and appreciation for a job well done!
    Thank you for letting me give my opinion!
    God bless the USA! In God We Trust!

  2. Thanks Diane, it's a different point of view from Australia. Yes we respect our troops, particularly from older battles. We are however increasingly likely to question the cause that the politicians wish them to fight for.

  3. Hi Critical Alpha, As the above poster stated, we are taught and raised to have honor and respect for our men and women whom are willing to take the chance of sacrificing their life for our freedom. Or at least my generation on back are. I have not alot of idea what the generations of today are taught, but i assure you there is a difference. Now as far as our " top government" I think most everyone here has lost respect for them because of the shitty ways they are handling us "the people" and the trickery they think they are fooling us with.For many years our government stood for our people and today our people (alot of) still stand for our government, while they are quietly throwing us (the people) straight into the lions den to be devoured, before their very eyes. And soon, how very soon it shall be. May God bless us all