Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Further Disconnect

The disconnect between ordinary citizens and our military seems to grow every day. It is a testament to how self-absorbed our culture has become that so few people probably even realize that right now, as we speak, Marines and fighting in a major offensive in Afganistan.

The reason for this disconnect is simple - people follow those things they deem most important to themselves. So, if I am not a member of the military or know anyone who is, the odds are high that I will not be too interested in the news coming out of Afghanistan.

Another way of looking at it is that reason these people don't follow such things is because they know in the back of the minds that unless they have the urge to join, they don't actually have to care at all. The conflict does not affect their day to day lives one bit.

Why is this? Because no one ever asks for their help. No one DEMANDS their contribution.

Instead, politicians pay lip service to being in the midst of two wars even though it is only the military that is at war. While the nation does nothing.

There are practical implications of this on our national policies and I will try to detail all the different ways this affects the country in an upcoming book. But there is one basic implications that is easy to identify and sum up - Moral.

That is, it seems to me to be completely immoral for 1% of the population to been entrusted with defending the remaining 99%. And all the while that vast majority does little to nothing to help their defenders.

This might be a rather stark view on my part but I think that opinion is just another piece of evidence of the further disconnect between those that fight and those that sit.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

National Unity

I apologize for the lack of recent content. What they say about a child eating up all of your free time is so true. I will work to add more posts much more frequently in the coming weeks. There have been so many major developments in recent weeks that should provide excellent material for discussion - not least of all, the election of Scott Brown up in Mass.

The main point, as I look on the constantly changing American landscape, is that now more than ever there is a need for this country to figure out how to reclaim our past greatness and to come together towards that common goal. And the reason this blog is interested in that, is because I believe mandatory national service is one of the ways in which this national unity can be achieved.

So, in the coming days, I will explore this connection. We'll see if I can made heads or tails out of the dramatic events of our times...

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Friday, January 15, 2010

The Future

It has been a long time sinc my last post, but I have a good excuse. My wife and I welcomed our first child into this crazy world. Needless to say, since he was born, my son has monopolized my time.

But, while I have been getting used to changing diapers and going without sleep (which reminds me of combat operations) I also was given a glimpse into the future.

I was standing at my window, holding my newborn son in my arms, and I looked into his eyes - eyes that were still struggling to get used to the outside world - and I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the situation. In my arms I held another human life, a life I helped bring into this world, and a life I knew I would do anything, anything in my power to protect and nourish and raise and prepare for the outside world.

But it is this outside world that I worried about in that same instant. For the rest of my life, I will be worried about how my son navigates this world. And, despite my initial hopefullness, I could not shake a sense of foreboding.

This foreboding is grounded in my fundamental belief that this country is in serious trouble. I sense a decline in our standing in the world, in our power, our influence, in our economic well-being, in our government, in our principles.

I sense we are in trouble and we lack the leaders we need to get out of this trouble.

Most importantly, we lack the will to get ourselves out of this trouble. We do have the same sense of self-sacrifice that our forefathers had. And with out this sense of community and personal responsibility, we will fall.

And all of this was going through my mind as I gazed into my son's eyes. He was seeing the world for the first time and I wondered if he saw the perils coming at him. I wondered what his life had in store for him. I wondered if there was anything I could do to protect him from the coming storm.

I wondered if I could change the future.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

What Happens When You Pretend You Are Not At War

Sorry for the long break between posts. Holidays got the best of me. In the meantime, our enemies have been busy.

By now, most know about the attempted terror attack on Christmas Day. And by now everyone realizes that this was such a colossal blunder it is almost unbelievable. I say almost because those of us that understand that the more government there is, the more chance for bureaucracy and inefficiency to prevent any meaningful results from being realized, understand that this attack was sadly inevitable.

Our security apparatus is simply not able to handle the number of possible threats coming at them. And what is the main reason for this? We are afraid to focus our efforts on only the people we think fit a terrorist profile. We are afraid of that word "profiling." There are racial and political overtones to that word that we dare not confront.

No, instead, we try to apply new rules to every single traveller whether they are some 80 year old grandmother or a young muslim male. The problem is we simply do not have the resources to do an effective job against every single person. We have to focus our efforts. If there are political correctness issues with this, so be it. The point is to stop another attack from occuring.

Until we profile and screen for people that would more likely be terrorist, we are going to continue to miss obvious would-be terrorist like this guy on the flight to Detroit. Remember, he was a muslim man who had traveled to Yemen (a known hot-bed of Al Qaeeda activity), who was alrady on a watch list, whose own father reported to the US embassy, and who bought a one way ticket with cash at the last second.

If those are not the right types or amounts of warning signs, I don't know what else our security people need in order to step in and do their jobs.

But, again, our country and our leaders do not want to recognize that we are all at war. We want to pretend that the war is over there in dark corners of the rest of the world. We want to pretend that if we are nicer to people in the world then the terrorists will not want attack us anymore. In truth, we want to pretend that we are invincible and that our lifestyles of mindless consumerism will never be threatened or changed or ever come to an end.

And this is exactly what our current President is putting forth - that we are not at war with these people. That the terrorists are merely common criminals that deserve lawyers and civilian trials. That he and he alone can try to talk with Iran and North Korea and others who want to do the world harm and that he and he alone can make them see the errors of their ways. It is his approach to the continuing battle with radical Islam that will only lead to more attacks and more pain in the near future.

The enemy has come to the conclusion that our leader is weak and that America is again a sift target. We lack the will to fight the way this fight requires. And until Americans decide that enough is enough and that Muslims must reform themselves and police their own radicals in their midst, we will not tolerate the violence and the threats and th failed states and all the rest of the moral corruption that breeds Islamic terrorism.

Sadly, it will probably take more attacks and cost more American lives before we as a people wake up and demand that our leaders actually lead in this fight.

Just know this - that leadership will not come when our President gets the news of the Detroit attack and proceeds to head to the gym and then play another round of golf. That is an unserious approach. That is a dangerous approach.

But that is what happens when you pretend you are not at war.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Obama on 60 Minutes - Another Illustration of the Service Challenge

In yet another interview on 60 Minutes last night, President Obama provided another instance where our leader illustrated, with words, what I have been stressing here about the disconnect inherent in our war-fighting system:

"...But I do think that it was important in that speech [at West Point] to recognize that there are costs to war. That this is a burden we don’t welcome. It’s one that was foisted on us as a consequence of 19 men deciding to kill thousands of Americans back in 2001. That there’s unfinished business. And, you know, I think that one of the mistakes that was made over the last eight years is for us to have a triumphant sense about war. This is a tough business. And there are tough costs to it. And I think because it was detached from our day to day lives in so many ways — unless you were a military family; unless you were one of those who were being deployed. Because we didn’t even get asked to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there was a tendency to say, “We can go in. We can kick some tail. You know this is some glorious exercise.”

1) the costs of war - he correctly points out that only a small number of Americans, veterans and their families, have actually had to pay any price during these last eight years.

2) the disconnect - and he is also right, that because the vast majority of the public is disconnected from war's reality, it is much easier to cheer on the effort and say "let's kick ass over there."


3) the President infers at the end that because of this disconnect, the American people should not view this war as "SOME GLORIOUS EXERCISE."

He says we made a mistake in having a "TRIUMPHANT SENSE ABOUT WAR."

This is clearly a man who does not believe there is WINNING and LOSING in war. And this could not be further from the truth. Just ask the Japanese and Germans after World War II. Just ask America after Vietnam. Who won? Who lost? This is all that matters in war. It is the ultimate zero sum game and it should be played for keeps.

The President's words show a man who does not understand the nature of war and the way nations must successfully prosecute these efforts. The people of the country must be behind the war effort in order to prevail in the end. Everyone must believe that they are trying to achieve success if they are actually going to achieve success.

Just ask yourself these questions -

If he does not believe in the notion of "winning" this war in Afghanistan, then what exactly is he sending more troops in there to do?

Why is he asking more men and women to fight and die if it is not to win the war?

How can this war be of such vital importance to the country and yet we are not there to win?

How can it be a war of necessity and yet we will start to withdraw after only eighteen more months?

How can a country ever expect to prevail in a conflict if they have a set deadline for when that conflict is going to end - regardless of if the enemy is defeated by then?

The President clearly illuminated the challenges this country faces:

On one hand - a population that is distracted and disconnected from the sacrifices required for the pursuit of our national interests.

On the other hand - a President who's lack of experience clouds his judgment on how to achieve these national interests and, in fact, misinforms him on just what those interests are.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Draft & Afghanistan - from an unexpected source

I wanted to briefly bring up an op-ed I recently read from Frank Rich of the NY Times that appeared in the December 6th edition. Now, normally I would find it very difficult to find common group with the overtly liberal columnist. But there was a passage in it where he talks about the disconnect that is inherent in the President's war plans and it ties right in with what I've been talking about on this blog.

First, read this passage....

"It’s not just that Obama is fielding somewhat fewer troops than the maximum Gen. Stanley McChrystal requested. McChrystal himself didn’t ask for enough troops to fight a proper counterinsurgency in Afghanistan in the first place. Using the metrics outlined in the sacred text on the subject, Gen. David Petraeus’s field manual, we’d need a minimal force of 568,000 for Afghanistan’s population of 28.4 million. After the escalation, allied forces will reach barely a quarter of that number.

If the enemy in Afghanistan today threatens the American homeland as the Viet Cong never did, we should be all in, according to Obama’s logic. So why aren’t we? The answer is not merely that Afghans don’t want us as occupiers. It’s that such a mission would require a commensurate national sacrifice. One big difference between the war in Vietnam and the war in Afghanistan that the president conspicuously left unmentioned on Tuesday is the draft. Given that conscription is not about to be revived, we’d have to spend money, lots more money, to recruit the troops needed for the full effort Obama’s own argument calls for."

The bold part is mine. Reread the passage - this is the exact point I have been making - if these conflicts - whether you call it the Global War on Terror, or the conflict in Iraq, or Afghanistan - if these battles are vital to the security and national interests of American than all of America needs to be mobilized and galvanized to prevail.

THAT IS NOT HAPPENING. This is not what both former President Bush or now President Obama is asking of Americans. They both gave speeches talking about the importance of the battles but then failed to require any sacrifices by anyone other than those of us that serve in the military.

Why did President Bush deliver a speech from an aircraft carrier and Why was Obama up in West Point to deliver his speech (other than the political theater of the setting) ? Because those are the people that will bear the burden of there decisions. It will not be the vast majority of the people who watched either man from the comfort of their own couches.

And why isn't this great mobilization happening? Because there is no draft. Because the majority of Americans are not required to do their part.

When the burden of defending so many falls on the shoulders of so few, a nation will fall. And we are well on our way to testing this axiom.

Here is the link for the whole article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/opinion/06rich.html?_r=2&ref=opinion

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tiger Woods and the rest of the Pop Culture Zombieland

The ongoing madness that has exploded around Tiger Woods is yet another example of the arrogant, tabloid, reality-based, make-believe version of America that our country has become. And it is yet another example of what happens when people are allowed to orient their entire world around themselves, when people are not required to contribute to society and when people go through life never having to sacrifice for anyone but themselves.

Yes, Tiger Woods worked hard to be a great golfer. But this was in the pursuit of something that benefitted himself. He was seeking fortune, fame and glory. At no point in his life was he held responsible for his actions - EXCEPT, in my opinion, by his father.

Here's is where I believe it gets most interesting. His father was an Army veteran. His father understand the importance of sacrifice and dedication and hard work. And his father tried to instill these values in his son. And, in many ways, he succeeded.

But as Tiger Woods found greater and great fame, it seems obvious now that it all went to his head. He forgot many of the lessons of his father. He forgot what it meant to be held accountable for his actions.

This is clear from his behavior. Forget for a moment the infidelity, what about the absolute arrogant way in which he committed these acts? It was as if he never expected anyone to rat him out, as if no one would dare cross the great Tiger Woods.

Now, while this arrogance interests me, the more telling part of this episode is the total feeding frenzy in the tabloid media. Every day there comes a new twist, a new cover girl, a new accusation. And Americans cannot get enough.

Remember this media circus is going at the same time that the President is sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, there is 10% unemployment, the deficit is exploding, and Iran is building a nuclear weapon. Yet here we are all focused on one man, one arrogant glorified sports entertainer.

It is this disconnect that permeates our entire society. And it is this disconnect that is only allowed to occur because so few people are even affected by the President's Afghanistan speech. Most people simply changed the channel after he was done and started catching up on exactly how many girls Tiger's slept with.

Yet another example of what happens when so few serve so many.

btw - the number of girls is up to 11.

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