War, peace and U.S. politicians
In 2007, when Mitt Romney first ran for president, his handlers attempted to humanize him by having his five sons connect with the voters via the Internet. It was a bad idea as the heirs, then in their 20’s and 30’s, came across as not very humorous preppies, in other words, Romney’s sons.Before the 2008 Iowa Caucus, I wrote a column suggesting Romney might want to leave the boys home when he campaigned in Waterloo, the hometown of five other brothers who played a very different role in the nation’s history. These were the “Fighting Sullivans,” five sons of a railroad worker who went down with their ship in the South Pacific during World War II.Romney’s boys, like the vast majority of Americans their age, did not serve in the military during the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, wars their father vigorously supported, and the old man didn’t help much with one of his patented, tone-deaf responses, saying the five were serving their country by campaigning for him.Candidate Romney, 18 when the Vietnam War began, supported that war by keeping his hair short in college and then serving as a Mormon missionary in France. Newt Gingrich also used college deferments to duck the draft and began his collection of wives in the Vietnam era. Rick Santorum, born in 1958, was too young for Vietnam, as was the president.Interestingly, Ron Paul, the only anti-war candidate, served as a flight surgeon early in the Vietnam era and was in the Air National Guard after his discharge.I bring up the Romney heirs because Romney was so quick to criticize the Obama Administration for announcing plans to withdraw from Afghanistan next year and save the lives of some other people’s less fortunate sons.Romney would end the war with the Taliban, but he says with Gingrichian grandiosity, he’d do it “by beating them.” Of course, he has never shared how he would accomplish this feat, other than pledging to listen to the commanders on the ground. He has run a campaign that is remarkably information free. By the way, aren’t you tired of these pols who solemnly proclaim their reverence for the views of the commanders in the field as if they were unaware of the concept of civilian control of the military? They seem not to appreciate their own role as commander in chief, should any of them, heaven forbid, become president. Listening to the commanders without questioning their advice can and has been hazardous to the nation’s security.Presidents have a varied record when it comes to listening to the military. Had John F. Kennedy taken the advice of the generals during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we could have had a nuclear war instead of a negotiated settlement. If Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon hadn’t listened to General Westmoreland and others about lights at the end of the tunnel and the need for only a hundred thousand more men, tens of thousands of lives would have been spared. The best advice George W. Bush got was from his secretary of state and former general, Colin Powell, who told him about Iraq, “if you break it, you fix it.” He found other generals more supportive.Now we have these warrior candidates urging the defeat of the Taliban or taking on the Iranians with those other people’s children doing the fighting and dying. It may be why so many younger voters find the anti-war Ron Paul appealing. Maybe we need both a revival of the draft and the now quaint Constitutional concept that Congress declares wars. We are withdrawing from Afghanistan after a decade of wasted lives and billions spent and stolen by a corrupt regime. And it should be emphasized the Obama administration is far from perfect in all this. If we are truly getting out next year, why let another young man or woman die in these final months?Instead, let’s do what we’ve done successfully and what Joe Biden suggested long ago: use Navy seals and other specialists to take down the terrorists at minimum cost. So far, that’s worked. Nothing else has. Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.