Posted tagged ‘john mccann’

Memorial Day Warriors

May 29, 2012

Both President Obama and likely GOP challenger, Mitt Romney were out making speeches on Memorial Day.  Their targets were veterans.  With modern methods of dissecting opinion polls, political strategists can slice and dice the numbers and determine that veterans prefer Romney over Obama by 10 points.  Who would have thought?

Romney told his audience that he would not cut Defense Spending and called Senator John McCann “a national treasure”.  Romney said the US had a choice to “continue” down the path Europe is following, and cut Defense spending in favor of social programs.  He promised to keep America strong, second to none.  Everyone cheered.

I wondered what Veterans are thinking?

Romney has said he will cut taxes for both citizens and corporations.  It is hard to understand such a statement in view of his pledge to cut the deficit too. Cutting tax rates would seem possible providing deductions and exemptions were cut by an equal and off-setting amount.  But why go through the bother if there is no revenue gain?

Veterans, more than anyone, should be able to assess whether their time in uniform served a greater purpose.  They should be able to assess whether a strong defense was a good idea.  (Please note, no one is calling for a weak defense, just a less expensive one)

Cold War veterans probably can conclude their time was well spent.  Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan vets must in their heart of hearts know their service was either a waste of resources and/or the evidence of faulty government policies.  Trying to hold back the ocean tides is well known as both a thankless and fruitless task.

The aftermath of Vietnam revealed the “fog of war” where confused field reports triggered larger and larger troop deployments.  Both sides traded lives for land, and then land for lives.  In the end, after we had declared victory (the clever side of Richard Nixon), the victorious North Vietnamese went about unifying the country and putting it on a path to growth and stability.  Vietnam is today a tourist destination.

Iraq is even more troubling.  While still engaged in combat in Afghanistan, the Bush Administration trumped up a case against Saddam Hussein and invaded Iraq.  The hastily planned invasion overlooked what the US might do to keep the peace after the fighting stopped.  The insurgency that resulted revealed a naivety of monumental proportions.  How can an Iraqi vet feel good about his service?

Afghanistan is a war of two faces. The first face which involved toppling the Taliban regime and ousting al Qaeda from its training camps was necessary, went well, and was over quickly.  The second and unnecessary face, the nation building-anti insurgent war that followed, has delivered no positive results.

Now wait.  These poor outcomes have nothing to do with the veterans who fought and served in them.  For the most part, they were honest, courageous, and honorable Americans.  Many paid the ultimate price and in Iraq and Afghanistan, many have come home crippled and severely wounded (probably damaged for life).  These men did the job they were asked to do.

They deserve our respect and thanks for their service.  They also deserve our apologies for supporting and electing people who continue to support disproportionately large defense budgets.

If the US is to be courageous, sensible, and wise, it will get its fiscal and monetary house in order.  To do so will call for the US to pursue a course of national shared sacrifice.

Fixing the fiscal ills of the country will require more tax revenues, not less.  It will require trimming back entitlements not eliminating them, and it will require discretionary spending (including defense) to be part of the national belt tightening.

There is an ocean of room to reduce defense spending without the risk of becoming a second rate military power.  There may be less room convincing Congress and political leaders that they could employ other methods to serve our national interests than brute military strength.

Sadly we must remember, that weaning the defense industry members (who so generously contribute to Congressional campaigns) is not a slam on veterans but instead a really heroic deed.