On Pete Buttigieg


This article about Buttigieg’s rather hollow military service helped me understand what I find so distasteful about his campaign: he reminds me of Singapore’s ministers. Buttigieg’s military career was short. He entered through a scheme known as Direct Commission and his short-lived Afghanistan deployment was spent mostly pushing papers. Yet now he spends all of his time on the campaign trail talking up his military experience.

The thing about the military is that it is the one organization in which attaining a high position in its hierarchy is uniformly respected and recognized (at least among pre-millennial generations). If you wanted to manufacture respect and honour and experience, this is a simple way of doing it. Thus the phenomena of “paper generals” in Singapore, where potential ministers are given high ranks in the SAF, before being parachuted into cushy ministerial roles, lording over civil servants with vastly more experience and understanding of the necessities and responsibilities of the ministries they are in charge of. The high rank in the SAF seems to justify their ministerial role. It’s self-confirming.

Buttigieg’s hollowness is evident in his rhetoric. Consider this tweet:

Like, no shit Sherlock? The nature of our governance systems ha implications for the effects of governance. Like, duh. There’s no wisdom in this. But it has the *aesthetics* of intelligence and eloquence. It sounds smart. The Singapore government’s rhetoric feels like this so often. It sounds visionary and imaginative and progressive and forward looking. But there frequently is no substantiate progressive policy underlying it. The policies underlying this rhetoric is often safe and milquetoast. Exactly like Buttigieg, and it’s really really disheartening that so many people seem taken in by this sort of thing, both in the USA and here.