Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Be Afraid -- Be Very Afraid

Did you see the moves last week at the Republican Convention in Tampa?

Aside from the fact that neither former President Bush nor his Vice President Dick Cheney were in attendance, their hangers-on were out in force. Mentioned several times by the networks in commentaries were sightings of Dick Bolton (the mustachioed former UN "wonder") and Dan Senor of recent Iraq policy fame.

In addition...

...many of the Bush era neo-cons were described in a recent Washington Post article to have attended a Romney summit back in June. Cheney himself held a Romney fundraiser at his Wyoming ranch. One can almost hear the marching feet stomping in their readiness to return to power. Can't you just feel the breath of these wolves at our door? Don't you hear the beating of their drums for war against Iran, or maybe Syria? Do you hear the engines revving up for a pre-emptive strike? What is it about war that those who have never served like so much?

Even former Secretary of State Condi Rice, whose speech received praise at the convention, regretfully managed to neglect mentioning her role in fanning the WMD flames which presaged the attack on Iraq. (Remember the "smoking gun which could turn into a mushroom cloud"?) Somehow, she also managed to give Bush additional credit for finding Osama bin Laden (the same Bush who gave up the chase in the Tora Bora mountains and described tracking him down as not a major focus) rather than allow solo accolades for President Obama. While her remarks chiding the Republicans for their inability to appreciate the fact that we are both a nation of immigrants and one of diverse populations who must all be educated was appropriate, her lack of historical perspective was daunting.

David Ignatius writing in the Post tends to disagree with some who would describe a future Romney administration.

President Obama has gotten us out of Iraq -- a war we should never have started and one which has injured so many of our young. I believe that if we are to ever start another war that we should have a draft so that the real costs of war can be seen by all, not just the few.

Currently we have a few million members in the active military and a few million more in the National Guard and Reserves. Yet these few men and women have borne the brunt of these two recent wars, returning again and again to the field of battle and enduring injury after injury until many can fight no more. We see and hear of traumatic brain injuries and suicides, of lost limbs and fractured families. But what is the real cost to us as a society and as a nation?

We are not war mongers, nor are we seeking territories from far off lands. So what sends us off to war with increasing frequency? Some would say oil, others might claim power plays or prestige, since the cold war has ended and we have few incentives to continue to push the proxy wars of previous generations. I would postulate it is because we as a people do not see, nor do we appreciate, the costs of such far off wars, so we allow those whom we elect free rein in these decisions.

Less than 1% of our population serves in the military today, so it is easier for distant politicians to speak glibly of wars to be fought. During World War ll every neighborhood was touched by war as young men and middle aged men both went off to serve often for many years without a return to their homes. Every community knew of those members who were lost and memorials dotted the land.

Today, one may look at someone with an artificial limb or stumbling gait and feel sympathetic, but move on because after all didn't this person volunteer to join the military? The armed services had a terrible time with recruitment and had even dropped their standards until the economy tanked. Now they meet their goals. Is there a relationship between the two?

Look back at Vietnam -- a war fought mostly when we still had the draft. Who managed to get deferments -- inner city kids or college students? Cheney had at least four such deferments and Bush's family called in many favors to avoid deployment for him. There were some who claimed President Clinton did the same. When I grew up, young men without goals were often encouraged to join the military and "find themselves" either through learning self-discipline or finding a skill that could be a career. The military was seen as a welcoming body that shaped young lives and everyone mostly served their required draft years. High School and colleges had ROTC training to prepare people to join. Many members received educational scholarships.

Yet, we were not a warring nation and had a strong anti-war sentiment throughout much of our history. More than 20 years passed between WWI and WWII. Another so-called World War has not happened over the last 60 years. Instead we have fought mini-wars. Sometimes it seemed as if every President must have some way to exercise our military might. Does anyone remember the Reagan war for Grenada? The Gulf War was more of a coalition war, unlike the so-called coalition in Iraq or Afghanistan where only a few allies have been coaxed into assisting the effort along with some UN forces.

So what does the future hold? Some say Romney has no discrete policy or that he would govern differently that campaign rhetoric. Others say he is malleable because his policies lack definition.

We do know that President Obama ignored the cries on the right from those such as Senators John McCain (of bomb, bomb Iran fame) and Lindsay Graham to put troops on the ground in Libya and to create a no-fly zone over Syria, deciding to steer a wiser more measured course using international force and pressure in Libya. The UN and the US have both been stymied by Russia and China with regards to Syria whose biggest supporter still appears to be Iran. Currently we have little concrete evidence of what a President Romney might do in similar situations. But, as Election Day moves closer, look at the people positioning themselves to be in place should Romney win. These are the people who got us into the war in Iraq. Watch them closely, for if he wins, we must all be very afraid.

It is my opinion that President Obama would not send us into another ill-considered war. He would not act unilaterally or precipitously; it is just not his manner. But when he did act, as he did in the killing of Bin Laden, he acted in a manner that decisively protected American lives. I cannot say he is a peace candidate as that is not how he has characterized himself; however, he has advisors who have seen and felt war and they do not seem to seek it. So in November I will stand with the one candidate who is seasoned and has been tested. President Obama has my vote, how about yours?

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