Posted tagged ‘Obama as Commander in Chief’

Thinking About Election In Relationship To the Troops

October 7, 2012


I don’t like to make this blog overtly political.  I am always concerned that my words will have more power to alienate than to persuade.

But one issue feels important enough to me today to take the risk of speaking out; this relates to the effect of the upcoming election upon the lives of our servicemen and women.

Here’s my concern  – current Republican candidates are very keen on heightening military spending, but they seem to focus on spending on the “military” as a machine – an amorphous weapons complex – rather than upon the men and women who actually make up  the armed forces.

Although the GOP has touted itself as the party of the military in this past, this election feels quite different. Romney rarely mentions servicemen and women, not even to give a token mumble of gratitude.  In the meantime, Republicans in the Senate recently killed a bill that would have promoted jobs for veterans as policemen, fire fighters and in the national parks.

Sure, there are politicians in both parties who ducked military service and who have also kept their sons and daughters out of service.  (Joe Biden, whose son has served in Iraq, is a notable exception.)

But Romney seems particularly detached from military service.  There’s a pretty well-known video on youtube in which Romney is confronted by a gay Vietnam veteran.  What is especially striking to me about the video is Romney’s initial greeting to the man (who is the same age) in which Romney implies some equation between his own year of service to his church (in France) with the man’s service in Vietnam.

I’m sorry, but a year in France, even doing the undoubtedly unpopular work of trying to convert Frenchmen to Mormonism, does not compare with service in the Vietnam War.  (Military service is not like income tax; reducible by a decision to tithe to your church.)

Romney’s closeness to Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawkish prime minister of Israel, and Romney and Ryan’s tough talk on Iran, makes this detachment from the actual men and women who serve particularly worrisome.  Our troops should not be pawns in a global strategy game; especially one in which decisions affecting their fate seem so explicitly linked to the decisions of politicians in other nations.

Obama looks tired.  His hair has significantly greyed in the last four years.  Perhaps I’m naive (and those of you who disagree with me will say that I am.)  But I can’t help feeling that some of this aging directly arises from an intense consciousness of his responsibilities as commander in chief.  Michelle Obama and Jill Biden have made the families of servicemen and women their particular cause.  Obama also seems to have taken an active interest in the personal aspects of military affairs = going to Dover to meet returning coffins and repeatedly sharing condolences with families of the fallen.

Is it possible that Obama’s views are affected by the fact that so many in military service are people of color, people who do not have substantial financial means?

I don’t know.   (I don’t even want to get in the subject of a draft here.)

Has Obama handled military matters perfectly?  No.  (The question of why we are in Afghanistan even through 2014 is immensely troubling.)

But for all of that, I am convinced  that Obama feels deeply and personally his responsibility for these young men and women.  They are not alien beings to him, part of the 47% (who do not pay income tax) or even part of the 1% (the very small number who serve.)  This awareness seems to be me to be supremely important in a commander-in-chief.