Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Just plain wrong

I had never heard of Glenn Beck until he got a show on FoxNews.  I watch him occaisionally, but he is (to me) very hit or miss.  I either really like what he has to say, or he is off the deep end and boring to watch.  Yesterday was one of those off the deep end days.

In response to the Navy Seals being thrown under the bus and the dithering of Pres Obama on Afghanistan, it is perfectly fine to feel frustrated.  I started to write a post that maybe we should pull out of Afghanistan several times.  But that frustration shouldn't be extended to serving in the military itself.  Beck made the point that he doesn't think people should reenlist in the military right now because we can't be assured that the commander in chief and the Congress is interested in supporting us.  Video here.

I've served under four presidents (Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2 and Obama) and there have been highs and lows under each of them.  The euphoria of the Gulf War under Pres Bush quickly faded into the controversies of Pres Clinton (a CIC that hadn't served and opening the gays in the military debate).  Then came Somalia, and the military morale took a big hit.  Not only did we get our asses kicked by a mob, we pulled out of the country soon after, tail tucked firmly between our legs.  Later in Pres Clinton's term, there were other battles that brought the pride back, like Desert Fox and stopping the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia.

President George W Bush had an incredible 7 year run of popularity in the military after 9/11.  From his willingness to use the military for what it does best, to his sincerity in meeting with the families of the fallen, to his unshakable belief that the men and women in uniform could accomplish any task he gave us, Pres Bush was a soldier's president.  I think he was dead wrong on a lot of social issues, but as a commander in chief, I would follow his orders without question.

President Obama has been somewhat of a conundrum for the military.  Like Clinton, he never served, and that still makes a big difference.  Unlike Clinton, he spent some time before inauguration day learning how to salute correctly, and that also makes a big difference.  But for every positive under Obama, there seems to be a corresponding negative.  He pushed through advance VA funding, meaning that the VA knows how much money it will have to spend the year before it needs to spend it.  But his administration also tried to get the VA to bill the private insurance of combat wounded vets for their war wounds.  He moderated his campaign stance on withdrawal from Iraq, and sent reinforcements to Afghanistan.  But he has spent more than 3 months pondering an urgent request for more troops from the commander that he hand picked.

But what Beck misunderstands is this-we don't serve the president, or the Congress.  We serve the Constitution, and by extension, the American people.
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of (STATE NAME) against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Governor of (STATE NAME) and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So help me God.
The president is the commander in chief, as chosen by the people.  We swear allegiance to the Constitution only; the president is simply the person chosen by the people to lead us.  And there is no member of Congress in my chain of command.

So the notion of not enlisting or re-enlisting because you don't like the president is just plain wrong.  But what Beck is truly implying is that the president doesn't have our backs.  That he isn't doing everything he can or should to make sure that military lives aren't wasted in vain.  But here is the flaw in that thinking-Beck is advocating that ordinary enlisted soldiers make decisions way above their pay grade.

Remember, Beck is talking to his nephews about re-enlisting.  Only enlisted soldiers (privates and specialists) and non-commissioned officers (sergeants) do that.  Commissioned officers (lieutenants, captains, majors, colonels and generals) serve until they want to be done.  So Beck's nephews are enlisted soldiers, meaning they are either privates or at most low to mid level sergeants, depending on how long they have served.

So Beck is trying to tell low ranking soldiers that they are not getting the support that they need from their commander in chief and they should get out of the military.  But Beck isn't qualified to make that decision either.  It is above his and his nephew's pay grade.  For as much as I follow politics and as long as I have served, it is above my pay grade as well.  The only people qualified to make that decision are the senior commanders in the military.  For instance, if Pres Obama's decision for Afghanistan honestly and truly puts soldiers lives at risk by under-resourcing them or putting them into dangerous situations without the ability to defend themselves, we will know it quickly.  You will see a sudden spate of high ranking officers resigning or publicly talking about resigning in protest.  This happened as recently as two years ago, when several US generals quietly let it be known they would resign rather than carry out an attack on Iran.  And in 2006, several generals resigned so they could call for Sec Rumsfeld to step down.

These are the men that are qualified to know if the president's policies will put large number of US troops in unneccesary danger.  And as of now, there is only an unconfirmed report the Gen McCrystal, Obama's hand picked commander in Afghanistan, will resign if he doesn't get the troops he requested.  Unless he does resign, Beck needs to have a little faith that the senior generals in the military know a thing or two about taking care of their soldiers.  If senior officers start getting out en masse, or even if one or two top officers resign in protest, then all of us junior soldiers will get the message.  But Glenn Beck is not a member of the military, let alone a senior officer.  He needs to stay away from all the doomsday scenarios and stick to politics and the military, rather than the politics of the military.

No comments: