Seems to me that this video shows that not even the Democrats think Senator Obama's ready to be commander-in-chief and our Nation's leader; despite what they say now. But, more importantly did you catch that last clip? In 2004, Senator Obama, himself, said:
"You know, I am a believer in … in knowing what you’re doing when you apply for a job. Uh, and I think that … if I were seriously to consider running on a national ticket, I would essentially have to start now, before having served a day in the Senate. Now there may be some people who are comfortable doing that, but I am not one of those people."
Well, since the Senator did "apply for a job" and did "consider running on a national ticket" and did "start...before having served a day in the Senate" it looks like he really "comfortable" being "one of those people." In 2004, even Senator Obama didn't think he was ready.....
Remember Senator John Kerry’s pronouncement in 2006 that “if you study hard and do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
I know that Senator Kerry intended it to be a joke, but humor (at least good humor) is based on either fact or a person’s perception of fact. Otherwise, it’s just not funny. Senator Kerry was trying to play to the commonly-held idea that people volunteer for the military because they’re from low-income, disadvantaged homes, they cannot find another job, or they’re too dumb to make it anywhere else.
Nothing can be further from the truth! The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis released a report on August 21, 2008 that took a look at the backgrounds of those who volunteered to serve in the military to see if there is any basis for the belief that military service disproportionately attracts minorities, those without an education, or those from disadvantaged backgrounds. They looked at four demographic characteristics of new Army recruits and new Army officers who entered the service in 2006 and 2007: household income, education level, racial and ethnic background, and national origin. The authors, Sheanea J. Watkins, Ph.D., and James Sherk concluded that
“The facts do not support the belief that many American soldiers volunteer because society offers them few other opportunities. The average enlisted person or officer could have had lucrative career opportunities in the private sector. Those who argue that American soldiers risk their lives because they have no other opportunities belittle the personal sacrifices of those who serve out of love for their country.”
In fact, enlisted recruits in 2006 and 2007 came primarily from middle-class and upper middle-class families (those families earning more than $40K a year). The study showed 49.3% of recruits in 2006 and 2007 came from in from these higher-income families. Only 10.6% of the 2006 recruits and 10.7% of the 2007 recruits came from households that earned less than $33K per year, although 18 to 24-year-olds from households with that income level represent 20% of the nation’s population.
Newly-minted officers show the same thing. The average officer graduating from ROTC comes from a neighborhood with a median household income of $64,083, well above the national median income of $50,428. The median income for the average West Point officer is even higher at $75,367. Only 7.8 of the ROTC graduates, and only 3.1% of West Point graduates, come from households making less than $40K.
A study of education levels for officer and enlisted volunteers shows that our military is more educated that the general population. Only 1.4% of enlisted recruits in 2007 do not have a high school diploma or a GED; compared to 20.8% of men aged 18 to 24 in the general population. The difference in educational levels between the officer accessions and the general population is even more striking, because ROTC and West Point graduates all have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. According to the study, 94.9% of all officer corps accessions have a 4-year degree, compared to 25.0% of 22 to 27-year-olds in the general population.
The statistics for race, ethnic background and ethnic origin demonstrate that the racial composition of the military is similar to that found in the civilian community, although both whites and blacks and American Indians are slightly overrepresented in the enlisted force while Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders are underrepresented. For officers graduating from ROTC, the percentages are proportional to the general population, with blacks being slightly overrepresented. White and Asian demographic groups are overrepresented for West Point graduates, when compared against the civilian population.
All these statistics clearly demonstrated to the study’s authors that “The popular impression that many soldiers join the military because they lack better opportunities is wrong.” I agree! America’s fighting force consists of diverse and highly educated volunteers, whose background offered them many different career opportunities. These volunteers, instead, chose to serve, sometimes at great personal sacrifice. Now, if we could just attract more recruits or officers who plan a political career . . . maybe those in Congress would actually understand the military. Or maybe not.
What do you get when you mix a world-wide flu pandemic, epidemology, global climate change, agriculture, nationalization of essential industries, politics, media, and military tatics into an action-packed novel set in the near-future? You get The Last Centurion by John Ringo. Fantastic!
I loved this novel, and not just because it was written by one of my favorite military science fiction authors. (Yes, I love military science fiction. David Weber and the whole "Honorverse" epic is another favorite.) Anyway, The Last Centurion is different. Way different. It's written as if it were a personal blog of an American Army officer who is faced with helping the US survive and rebuild after the world is hit with both a pandemic and a mini-ice age. It's wonderful! The main character, "Bandit Six," is my new hero!
Bandit Six explains that the centurions were the guardians of Rome, and that they were educated when many were illiterate, that they were required to be in peak physical shape, and that they had to be able to perform every task required of a Roman soldier. "Becoming a Centurion required intense physical ability, courage beyond the norm, years of sacrifice and a total devotion to the philosophy which was Rome." Rome fell, in part, because Rome had less than 500 qualified centurians, because no one was willing to make the sacrifice necessary to become a centurian. Bandit Six is unwilling to let America fall, despite all the challenges facing her in this hypothetical near future. As Bandit Six so eloquently puts it,
If we cannot remember who we are, if we cannot comprehend what it means to be this shining light on the hill, this country of wonder and riches, this . . . America, then we shall surely slip into the long dark night that the enemies of our freedoms so richly desire.
We are told, always, that there is no black and white. that there are only shades of gray. This is a picture that is held up to us. But it is only a picture and it is false. Each day, each of us makes countless choices, and each of those choices is black and white. If we choose, over and over again, as we have for so long, to choose the black choices because they are easier, to choose "me" over "us," to choose division and strife over assimilation and trust, then we slowly slip into that black night.
I do not so choose. I am your Centurion. This America Shall Not Fall!"
It’s interesting to see that the Gallup Poll survey has found no significant “vice presidential” bump-up in Senator Obama’s polling numbers after his selection of Senator Biden as a running-mate. The poll found that 72% of the registered voters interviewed believed Senator Biden had no effect, positive or negative, on their decision whether or not to vote for the Democrat ticket.
I’ve criticized Senator Obama’s judgment on this blog before. I really don’t think he has any, and it appears his choice of vice presidential candidates supports my opinion. A lot of the political pundits (especially in the mainstream media) seem to think that Senator Biden is a great choice; since he’s the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he must have foreign policy experience in order to bolster the Democratic ticket’s admitted weakness in that area. BUT . . .
Look at Senator Biden’s IDEAS on foreign policy. It quickly becomes apparent that Senator Biden gets it wrong more times than he gets it right. For example, an article by Amir Taheri in the New York Post documents some of Senator Biden’s lack of judgment in the foreign policy arena:
** In 1979, Senator Biden agreed with President Carter that the fall of the shah in Iran represented progress in the area of human rights. He agreed with the President that we shouldn’t use force, or react strongly, to the Iranian takeover of the US Embassy and the parade of blindfolded hostages. Carter’s namby-pamby response is the reason we had so many days of the Iranian Hostage Crisis on late-night TV.
** Senator Biden opposed President Regan’s “hard line” stance against the Soviet Union. He believed that we should continue the failed policy of “détente.” President Reagan’s policies won the Cold War. If we had taken Senator Biden’s approach, we may still be paying subsidies to the “Evil Empire.”
** After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Senator Biden voted against the use of force to kick Iraq out of Kuwait in what became known as the Gulf War.
** Although Senator Biden did vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom, he has since been a vocal critic of the war in Iraq. He’s stated that the war has been lost and opposed the surge strategy.
** Senator Biden proposes to end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home by partitioning Iraq into three separate, semiautonomous regions; one for the Shi’ites, one for the Sunnis, and one for the Kurds. He calls it the “Biden Plan.” He apparently got the idea for partitioning a sovereign country, despite their wishes, from the partitioning of Bosnia in the 1990’s something he was also involved with. (Look how successful that’s been. The US military is still there.)
** In 2004, Senator Biden spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and trashed the US as a democratic country. In his speech he claimed the US had no moral authority to preach democracy in the Middle East. He said, “We don’t have much of a democracy ourselves. Remember our own presidential election; remember Florida!”
** Senator Biden, like Senator Obama, supports entering into a dialog with the leaders of Iran, without preconditions.
I agree with Mr. Taheri when he says that “experience is no substitute for judgment” and I question Senator Biden’s judgment like I question Senator Obama’s. In my opinion, neither man has the judgment to be President, or vice president. As Mr. Taheri says, “had Biden had his way, ‘the Evil Empire’ would still be around and Saddam Hussein still in power. The US would still be begging the mullahs of Tehran for forgiveness of unspecified ‘past sins’ – and more American hostages would be seized in the Middle East while the mullahs celebrate their first atomic bombs. . . . By choosing Biden, Obama, the candidate of hope, has transformed his promise of change in to a back to the future pirouette – back to Jimmy Carter.”
Kate Bateman, a South Asia analyst at the State Department, has written a wonderful article found in this Month's Proceedings, a journal published by the US Naval Institute. In the article, titled War on (Buzz) Words, Ms Bateman declares, "Bad writing isn't just poor form, it's a national security issue." She's absolutely correct; we allow poor writing to obscure issues, alienate those with whom we need to communicate, and suffocate ideas. Bad writing wastes time and money, and can have a deterimenal impact on communication. And if we have a "failure to communicate" national security policies, goals, and plans to the appropriate people, we could end up with a national security problem. I love the way Ms Bateman introduces her article. She asks her readers to consider this Shakespearean quote from Henry V:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blod with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
when compared with the same information written in "modern Pentagonese."
The smaller and more agile forces collected here represent a select and elite band of highly motivated warfighters. In the event of adverse battlefield consequences, senior leadership will ensure that participants are suitably recognized in thier next quarterly evaluation. Regardless of the maladaptions of combatants, the current operational environment will leverage their inherent capabilities and capacities and enhance total-force interoperability. Non-participants will regret that they did not have an integrated vision of our potential for full-spectrum dominance.
UPDATE Check out this post on Blackfive for some interesting background on Georgian-Russian relations from a Georgian woman now living in the US.
On August 14th, I wrote a post about propaganda where I agreed with one of the bloggers at Castle Argghhh, Kat, who wrote that “all information is propaganda. Official information is official propaganda. Thus, it always deserves to be challenged. Paraphrasing Socrates, question everything.” I truly believe that we should question the information we’re given, particularly when it’s information that is “fed” to us through the news media, the government, or other secondary sources. If the person feeding the information isn’t “there,” or isn’t “involved,” in otherwords isn’t a primary source, then the information may be screened or spun or shaped in some way. That’s the reason I started reading blogs, particualrly milblogs, in the first place; because I wanted to get the story from those who were writing it. Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with getting information from secondary sources and passing that information along, as long as you identify the secondary source so that others can make their own judgments about the information you’re passing along. After all, it’s all propaganda and we chould question everything.
Now understanding that all information is propaganda and that we should question everything, I wrote a post on August 21st discussing the Russian invasion of Georgia and asking whether anyone else thought it was getting colder along the former Iron Curtain. I discussed information that had been reported in FoxNews, clearly idenifying the source of my information. I received a very interesting comment to that post from a person identified as “Chris.” In this lengthy comment Chris takes me to task for relying on FoxNews for my international news, emphasizes that I don’t really know the facts about the conflict because I was not there, and points out that he believes that news from English speaking, North American focused media” is useless. Chris then goes on to outline the problems he has with my post, giving what appears to be a Russo-centric point of view for the reasons behind the conflict in Georgia and the increased tensions between Russia and the former-Soviet republics in the region.
Okay. After reading Chris’ comments I wondered if, like the Armorer, another milblogger who posts on Castle Argghhh, I’ve think I’ve found myself in the midst of the Russian InfoOps campaign. Perhaps I’m being too suspicious (I am an attorney) and Chris is just an open-minded guy who likes to play the Devil’s Advocate. But I don’t think so. Although I took care to indicate that I got my information from a secondary source, Chris doesn’t. I don’t know where he got the information for the facts he provides. I don’t know if he’s developed his opinions because of personal experience, or if he’s relying on secondary sources just like I am. I do, however, think that Chris is somewhere in the area involved in conflict. In one part of his comment, Chris talks about why Russia has a right to be nervous about Georgia and the Ukraine moving closer to the west and he says, “What if Canada and Mexico joined China in an all binding military agreement? How would the U.S feel? Surrounded. Think about WHY THE OTHER SIDE IS MAD for once. Does "They hate us for our freedom" sound familiar??? Same thing being spouted here. I don’t know where the “here” Chris refers to really is, Chris doesn’t say, but in context it sounds like Chris is either in Russia or working to advance the Russian point of view. Now, Chris is correct that I’m not there and cannot gather the facts for myself. But, hey, I’m just a blogger and my posts are just my opinion based on information I’ve gathered, questioned, and analyzed. I’m not a reporter and don’t pretend to be one. I’ll leave that for folks like Michael Totten, who is in Tblisi and is blogging about it.
So, maybe I’m seeing InfoOps when there really isn’t one (after all, I’m just a blogger giving my opinion based on what I’ve learned from other people, why would there be an official need to address my opinion?). Maybe Chris is just a concerned citizen of whatever country who wants to give the other side of the equation. Either way, I think it’s great. Bring it on, Chris! As I said earlier, it’s all propaganda and we should question everything; including who is commenting and why.
I’ve often wondered if our society is heading for a break between those who believe themselves to be the intellectual elite and those who serve in the military. I’ve even tried to convince my talented daughter to write a novel about a “future America” where there is a military caste, where only members of military families are permitted to join, which is in conflict with an elite caste, responsible for political decisions the military caste must enforce. I think it would be an interesting novel . . . but I digress (again). There is some basis for my speculation. There are very few members of either Congress or the Senate that have served in the military, and very few of their children have volunteered. Some universities do not permit ROTC units on their campuses, and deny ROTC instructors faculty status. Some parents groups have actively worked against high school recruiters; and then there is Code Pink and their demonstration against the Marine Recruiters in Berkley. Finally, who can forget Senator Kerry’s political gaffe during the last election cycle when he said that only the disadvantaged and those too stupid to go to college join the military. These are all examples of how some who consider themselves intellectually superior look down on the military.
So it was a real treat for me to read an article published in the August 18, 2008 edition of the National Review. The article, titledA Call, and an Answerwas written by two 2008 graduates of Dartmouth (Michael Knapp and Ethan Mefford) and explains why they chose to join the Marines. These two young men write how they made a deliberate choice to join the military, as do all who are members of our all-volunteer forces. They relate how their decision was prompted a number of reasons. They were struck by the news stories of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the concept that this struggle was a defining moment for their generation. They found support for the idea of military service from their study of history and government, and were inspired by stories of “generations of men and women who have exhibited similar courage and struggled, often selflessly, for a greater cause. . .” These two young men recognized that,
“By virtue of the upbringing that this society had allowed us, and the myriad opportunities that had been extended our way simply because we are Americans, it was incumbent upon us to offer our services to our country. The privileges we have enjoyed endow us with a responsibility, an obligation, to fulfill President Kennedy’s charge: To this country that has given us so much, it is our turn to give back. We reject the pernicious belief, commonly held at our most highly esteemed institutions, that fighting our nation’s battles is someone else’s job.”
Wow! I have hope! These two young men from an elite university get it. Perhaps not all is lost, and there isn’t such a big divide between the intellectual elite and those who enter the military. Service is not something you ask of “the other guy,” it is something you should require of yourself. These two young men recognize that service is a “great equalizer, bringing together people of all different backgrounds and teaching them to work as a team.” They recognize that they both have “something to offer” and that they “have what it takes.” Would that more young men and women recognize the same things.
“[The Russians] are making fun of the world,” says Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. He may be right. The Russians have promised to leave Georgia (the country, not the state) by Friday, August 22nd. In fact, a Russian General says that they’re withdrawing troops so that all their troops will be back in the area controlled by Russian peacekeepers by Friday. According to some reports, there have been troops and equipment moving back toward Russia, , but it looks like the Russians do not intend to completely comply with the European Union-brokered agreement to move back to the area they held before the August 7th invasion of Georgia. Instead of beginning a complete withdrawal, FoxNews reports the Russian army has instead settled down in several strategic spots. They’ve build trenches and fortifications in several key areas. They’ve dug trenches, set up mortars, and blocked a bridge at the entrance to Georgia’s port on the Black sea, Poti. They continue build permanent earthen berms strung with barbed wire in at least three areas along Georgia’s main East-West highway, one of which is only 30 miles from Georgia’s capitol city. Russia may be saying it will comply with the agreement; but it sure looks to me like they’re settling in for a long stay in Georgia and thumbing their noses at the rest of the world. Perhaps that’s why Russia sent a diplomatic note to NATO saying they were halting any international military cooperation with NATO under the 2002 agreement that established the NATO-Russia Council “until further instructions.”
Why is Russia even in Georgia? There’s a lot of debate about why. According to Russia, the invasion was a necessary response to Georgian “disproportionate use of force” against ethnic Russians in South Ossetia and the unfortunate Georgian decision to send troops into the disputed area patrolled by Russian peacekeepers. According to most, however, the Georgian use of their military to try to settle a “break-away” province was an excuse to discipline a former-Soviet satellite state. It appears that Russia has become increasingly unhappy about Georgia’s continued effort to develop Western ties and the small country’s attempts to join NATO. Many believe Russia’s desire to “slap down” Georgia was the underlying cause of the military invasion and the South Ossetia situation only a pretext. Why else would the Russian military continue into Georgia and establish what appears to be a permanent presence in a sovereign country, when all it needed to do was respond to Georgia’s incursion into South Ossetia? Talk about taking care of a fly with a sledge hammer.
There are other signs that Russia intends to flex its muscle in other former satellite states. Russia is extremely unhappy with Poland’s decision to permit the US to establish missile defense sites, along with a supporting garrison, inside Poland. A Russian General has even warned that “Poland, by deploying [the system] is exposing itself to a strike – 100%.” The General also mentioned that Russian doctrine permitted the use of nuclear weapons in such situations. Russia is also claiming that both Latvia and Estonia discriminate against Russian speakers. They also demand that Latvia and Estonia recognize the heroism of Soviet soldiers. Could it be that Russia is just looking for more provocations to send troops into these former-Soviet republics, as they did with Georgia?
Does anyone else feel like it’s getting increasingly cold along the former Iron Curtain?
So it’s official. (Actually it was official a week ago, but I think I needed some time to consider what that meant.) My daughter, Sevilla, has been selected to deploy for 365 days. I’m not going to say where she's going, or what she’ll be doing, since I have no idea what is (or isn’t) covered by OPSEC (operational security, for those of you who don’t speak military acronyms). She won’t deploy for a while, so I have some time to get used to the idea; but she will deploy.
Now being who I am, I’ve already started looking at the practical impacts of her deployment. Sevilla’s a single parent, so obviously the biggest concern was her daughter. Of course, we will be ready, willing, and able to look after the Princess while her mom is serving her country. It won’t be much of a change, since the Princess lives with us anyway. She’ll attend the same school. She’ll sleep in the same bed. She’ll enhance the lives of her Grandparents; just like she does now. The only difference will be that her mom will be away for a while. I’ve already started to make plans on how to minimize the impact to the Princess. Sevilla and I have already considered a blog for the Princess (restricted to family and friends) as a way for her to post her thoughts and pictures and “stuff” in order to communicate with her mom. I also know that communication these days is quite different from when I was a kid and my dad had to rely on flimsy airmail paper and reel-to-reel tapes to communicate with his family. With the internet, email, webcams, and telephones, it should be fairly easy for Sevilla to keep in touch with the Princess. I also know, though, that it’s not the same and that my husband and I will have to try to fill a place in the Princess’ life that can be filled by only her mother. From the practical side, it will be tough; but thousands of kids, mothers, and grandparents have already dealt with a deployed parent and survived. We will, too.
Being who I am, I’m having a lot more trouble dealing with the “inside” impact. I’m not sure why. After all, my husband and my son have already deployed, and I was able to deal with their deployment (eventually). I know that I am proud of her and her choice to serve. I know that I think she’s doing the right thing for the right reasons. I know that I envy her the chance to do something that both of us consider very important. What I don’t know is how I really “feel” about it. For some reason, I seem to have decided not to feel. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is because there is still some time before she actually leaves. Perhaps it is because I know it will be difficult for me. All I know is that I don’t want to “feel” anything about Sevilla deploying to a dangerous place until I have to. Is it a defense mechanism? Maybe. I just know that when I do allow myself to “feel,” those feelings will be extremely complex and will cover a wide-range of emotions. In the meantime, I’ll continue to plan for the practical “outside” aspects of Sevilla’s deployment and try to let the “inside” aspects sort themselves out. I’ve was able to do it when I watched my son go off to war. I can do it again as I prepare for my daughter to do the same.
Deborah Howell, an ombudsman at the Washington Post, has recognized (and documented) the wide difference in how her paper covers the two Presidential candidates. It's interesting. According to Ms Howell, presumptive Democrat nominee Senator Obama "has a 3 to 1 advantage over Republican John McCain in Post page 1 stories" since June 4th. Although trying to justify the disparity by noting that Senator Obama's Presidential run is historic because he's the first black man to be his party's presumptive nominee; but she does admit "the disparity is so wide it doesn't look good." In what seems remarkably similar to the "but everyone's doing it" mantra that my kids tried to use to get out of trouble, Ms Howell also acknowledges that the Washington Post is not alone in its less-than-balanced coverage of the two candidates. The Washington Post's assistant managing editor for politics apparently thinks there's nothing wrong with the disparate coverage. As he explains it,
"We make our own decisions about what we consider newsworthy. We are not garment workers measuring our product every day to fulfill somebody's quota. That means as editors we decide what we think is important, because that's what our readers look for us to do -- not to adhere to some arbitrary standard."
The assistant managing editor for politics at the Washington Post obviously thinks that the Post's readers want to think the same way he does, and will find the same things "newsworthy." (Perhaps this type of "group-think" is why I refuse to buy the Post.) Ms Howell does "get it" in the end. She concludes, "Numbers aren't everything in political coverage, but readers deserve comparable coverage of the candidates." Amen! I do not believe in the "fairness doctrine," but I do think that editors should consider the "other point of view" when deciding what is, or is not, newsworthy.
This weekend, Senator Obama used the response as part of an answer to Pastor Rick Warren’s question, “when do babies get civil rights.” Good question. How a candidate answered that question will tell us a lot about the candidate; and not just the candidate’s position on abortion. The candidate’s answer will also tell us whether the candidate values civil rights for citizens of this country. It will also tell whether the candidate’s positions are consistent. (Consistent positions indicate that the candidate’s views are based on firmly held values and not just stands taken to appeal to a segment of the voting population, based on whatever poll results say.)
So how did the candidates answer? Senator McCain’s answer was simple and direct. He said a baby has civil rights, “at the moment of conception.” The answer reflected his personal beliefs, and although he may have to struggle with supporting the current state of the law, in light of those beliefs, he let us know that he had thought the issue through and reached a conclusion. In contrast, Senator Obama’s answer went something like this:
“I think that whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.”
OK . . . why the “squishy” answer? What’s so hard about telling everyone when you think that a baby (or child) gets civil rights? Is the answer based on what theologians say, or what scientists say, or is the answer based on a person’ s own judgment? Obviously, Senator Obama wants to give the answer that will appeal to the most voters, not the answer in which he truly believes. His resort to the “above my pay grade” answer is nothing more than a cop-out. How can Senator Obama not have faced the question of when babies gain civil rights, when he’s consistently supported abortion rights; including voting against the partial-birth abortion ban? If he doesn’t know when a baby is entitled to civil rights, how does he justify voting to let viable child, who is partially delivered before being aborted, die?
We ask our young members of the Armed Forces, some no more than 18- or 19-years-old, to make snap judgments about using deadly force based on very restrictive rules of engagement. Those young men and women, most with a very low pay grade, have the moral courage to think things through, to do their best to apply the rules that constrict them, and to live with the consequences of a quick decision made under often difficult circumstances. Why, then, do we let Senator Obama get away with a “above my pay grade” cop out answer? We shouldn’t. Obviously, we shouldn’t elect him to the grade of President! He doesn’t have the judgment for it.
On this date in 1920, women were finally given the right to vote. As woman, I can only be grateful to those suffragettes who worked hard to convince the powers that be that women can not only think, but could think critically, and should be enfranchised. Thank you!
"Don't ever put an age limit on your dreams." -- What Dara Torres, a 41-year-old Olympic swimmer said when a reporter asked her what she wanted to tell her 2-year-old daughter after Dara swam the anchor leg for the US 4x100 medly relay team, winning a silver medal. Ms Torres also won a silver medal in the 50-meter freestyle.
Cyberwar is real. It’s official, we now have another battlespace besides the sea, the ground, the air and space. The internet is now a battlefield. According to a NY Times report, someone was attacking Georgia’s internet infrastructure with denial of service attacks. (A denial of service attack occurs when a website is overwhelmed with coordinated barrages of requests. The website cannot process all the requests, so it overloads and shuts down. Service denied.) No one knows exactly who was behind the attacks, which happened in late July and lasted only about 24 hours, although there is some speculation that the July attacks were a “dry run” for the more extensive cyberattacks that happened as the violence in Georgia escalated earlier this week.
One internet security expert told the NY Times that his group had been tracking “botnets” (a malicious program that blasts streams of useless data) were staged in preparation for attack over the weekend; probably by a “shadowy” criminal gang out of St. Petersburg known as the Russian Business Network. The botnets were activated shortly before the Russian airstrikes on Georgia began on Sunday. Although everyone cautions against jumping to conclusions, the attackers used the same tools and commands as those known to come from the Russian Business Network and were launched from computers the organization controls.
Since Georgia doesn’t rely heavily on its relatively small internet infrastructure, the cyberattacks didn’t have a huge effect. The attacks did, however, shut down a number of government websites which limited the Georgian government’s ability to communicate with its citizens. The attacks also focused on media, communications, and transportation sites. The National Bank of Georgia had their website defaced. Attacks like those on Georgian sites would have had more severe consequences, if they had been directed at an internet-dependent country (like the US) where transportation, electricity, water, banking, and media outlets are all tied to the internet.
This is the information age. Computers and the internet are here to stay. They make our lives easier; but they also create another “center of gravity” that is subject to attack. Recognize it and deal with it. Cyberwar is here to stay.
Unfortunately, according to a report from the Associated Press, the Pentagon has put the Air Force's planned Cyber Command on hold and may end up doing away with it altogether. The Cyber Command was planned as the entity that would coordinate computer network defense, and possibly computer network attacks, much the same way as the Air Force's Air Combat Command coordinates air defense and attacks from the air for theater commanders. I agree with former-Air Force Secretary Wynne who said that, given the use of cyberattack during the action in Georgia, "this is a very poor time to send a signal that the United States is not interested in focusing on warfighting in the cyber domain."
Kat (who writes at Castle Argghhh, a prominent milblog) has written a wonderful post discussing propaganda. Her main point, that “all information is propaganda. Official information is official propaganda. Thus, it always deserves to be challenged. Paraphrasing Socrates, question everything” is extremely well taken. She also points out that:
In the end, we decide what we make of information, but leaving information unchallenged means that we leave perceptions unchallenged. Milblogs, political blogs and others came to prominence because people were looking for missing information. Because we did not believe we were getting a complete picture or story. Because we believed that without some sort of expertise or background information, the real story was missed for sound bites or two sentences that basically said: bomb today, three soldiers killed. Left to itself and to ourselves, we would have been led to believe, purposefully or not, that the only thing happening in Iraq or Afghanistan was bombs and death.
What is a military blog or milblog? It is a place to get direct information or stories from men and women in the military or retired from the military or with connections to the military. Mostly without any filters. When those blogs proved accurate and the people legitimate, their voices were trusted more than any other media source to be the gage by which to evaluate progress. We linked to those stories to persuade ourselves and others of the facts or views being different than those presented.
We were and are, in fact, conducting a very small part of the information war whether that is our original intent, current purpose or accepted outcome. Information dissemination is information warfare.
All information is meant to inform and persuade. Thus, all information becomes propaganda. All official information is official propaganda. Regardless of who it comes from or how trusted the source. Looking at information to evaluate its persuasive purposes and capability is not paranoid any more than evaluating the purpose of a commercial for its ability to sell a product is paranoia. It does not entail the same potential risk to national or international actions, but it is the same concept.
Each service has a set of “core values” the service has identified as important principles for its members to follow. These core values are taught during basic training, or officer training, and are reinforced throughout a member’s service. For the Air Force the core values are integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. The Army has seven; loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. The Navy and the Marine Corps share the same core values of honor, courage, and commitment. The Coast Guard has defined their core values as honor, respect and devotion to duty. These are not just slogans or words to be thrown around. These values are part of what makes a military member. They should be incorporated into the member’s belief system, and become a part of the member’s character. As the Army says, “Army values are not just what we do, they are who we are.”
Each person has a value system. Values help us identify those things that are important in our lives. Values are taught by parents, family, friends, teachers and (perhaps unfortunately) our culture and society. Values may be based on religious teachings, or may reflect political ideation. Some values are superficial and may change over time as a person grows or matures. But a person’s core values reflect what is deeply important to them, and will usually stay with a person for life. So why do each of the services identify core values and teach them to new recruits during basic training and new officers during the commissioning process? Why are core values emphasized over the course of a person’s military experience? Because learning the core values helps a civilian transition into a strong, ethical, and trustworthy member of the military; ready to complete the mission assigned. As the Marines explain, once a person has earned the title of Marine, they become a Marine, and a Marine’s character is defined by the Corps’ values.
What do the values say about the character we want our Soldiers, Sailors, Airman, Marines and Coast Guardsman to have? Many of the services have the same or similar core values. It may be that the services’ core values reflect the services’ mission. It may be that the services’ core values reflect the values of that person all of us should strive to become, giving us similar ideals to value. To understand a member of the military, it may be helpful to understand the core values they’ve been taught.
Most of the services include honor as one of their core values. For Marines, the value of honor requires each individual Marine to demonstrate the ultimate standard of ethical and moral conduct, as well as uncompromising personal integrity. We expect that of Marines, because they expect it of themselves. An honorable Marine would never do anything to sully the reputation of the Corps. For the Navy, the value of honor also requires much the same thing; honesty, truthfulness, integrity, and accountability. The Coast Guard also identifies honor as a core value and defines honor much the same way as the other two sea services. According to the Coast Guard, honor is uncompromising ethical conduct and moral behavior. It is being loyal and accountable. For the Army, the value of honor means living up to Army values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage.
The Air Force core value of integrity is similar to the other services’ value of honor. For the Air Force, integrity is the foundation for all the other values. Integrity is doing the right thing at all times and being honest with yourself and others; even when no one is looking. Integrity requires no compromise. The Army also lists integrity as a core value, and defines integrity as doing what’s right, both legally and morally. It is adherence to principles and will allow others to trust.
For Marines, courage, is considered “honor in action” and is based on moral strength, the will to do what’s right regardless of what others may do, and the willingness to take a stand. Courage is what carries Marines through the perils and hardships of combat. For the Navy, the value of courage helps a Sailor meet the demands of the mission, even when it’s hazardous, demanding or difficult. Courage is doing the right thing, even in the face of adversity. For the Army, having the value of personal courage means being able to endure physical stress and being able to face moral fear. It also means being able to risk personal safety.
The final value for the sea services is commitment. For Marines, commitment is considered total dedication to the Corps and to the Country. It’s also about teamwork with other Marines, to never give up, never give in, and never accept second best. It is selfless determination and relentless dedication to excellence. The value of commitment is what is behind the well-known saying that “once a Marine, always a Marine.” For the Navy, commitment has a slightly different meaning. For a Sailor, the value of commitment means respecting the chain of command and looking out for the welfare of other Sailors. It also means showing the highest degree of moral character and technical competence. The Coast Guard defines commitment in terms of devotion to duty. A Coast Guardsman exists to serve and serves with pride. For a Coast Guardsman, a devotion to duty is a commitment to achieving the mission.
The Army’s core values of loyalty and respect seem to be similar to the value of commitment. The Army values loyalty to both the country, the Army, and other Soldiers. Army also values respect, which requires a Soldier to treat others as they would be treated and being able to trust that others will do their jobs. The Coast Guard also defines respect as a core value. For Coast Guardsman, respect means working as a team by treating others with fairness, dignity, and compassion.
The Air Force has a core value of service before self. Service requires dedication to the mission and a sense of service before self, often requiring personal sacrifice. The Army also has a core value for selfless service; putting the welfare of the nation, the Army, and other Soldiers before your own.
Finally, the Air Force values excellence. For an Airman, excellence means the care of resources and the technical competence to accomplish the mission in the best way possible. The Air Force value of excellence is similar to the Army core value of duty. For a Soldier, duty is defined as fulfilling obligations, without taking shortcuts.
In some respects, all of these core values can be boiled down into a single concept: at the end of the day, can the Airman, Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Coast Guardsman in the mirror and be able to say, “I served by doing it the right way, the best way I knew how.” It’s those who learn that simple concept that truly serve.
Can this guy really be serious? Writing on HuffingtonPost.com, Blake Fleetwood describes the Russian invasion of Georgia as a "convenient little war for the Republicans." He says the invasion was orchestrated by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Senator McCain, and timed to coincide with Senator Obama's Hawaiian vacation, in order to use the Russian boogyman to "scare the bejeus out of the American voters" and get McCain elected. Here's his speculation on how and why Russia invaded:
Randy (Scheunemann, a McCain foreign policy aid who has ties with Georgia) lets it be known to the Georgian President that this would be a good time for Georgian troops to invade South Ossetia, which had been an autonomous territory for more than a decade. The Georgians didn't take much persuading, as they had been wanting to crack down with their troops for a long time.....and now they felt they had some backup.
Meanwhile Bush is conveniently meeting with Putin at the Olympics in Beijing and lets it be known that if Georgia attacks Ossetia, the US will not "mind" -- Wink Wink -- an aggressive response from Russia.
Wow, I didn't know that the GOP was that all-powerful! According to Mr Fleetwood, the GOP can not only manipulate two sovereign countries, one of whom doesn't really like the US, into war; but can do so when and where it chooses. This guy can't seriously think that the GOP has that much power. Amazing! I have to admit that I have long thought that politics, particularly at a national level, is a blood sport; but to even consider that politicians would deliberately manipulate other countries into starting a war for their own political gain is absurd.
What the various reactions to Russia's invasion tell us about the two candidates is much more revealing that Mr. Fleetwood's Machiavellian fantasies. Senator McCain reacted with decisiveness. Senator Obama just wanted us all to get along. Senator McCain is a leader. Senator Obama isn't. And that's no fantasy!
UPDATE It seems that at least one reporter from a "mainstream" news network has bought into this fantasy. According to NewsBusters.org, on Monday August 11th, Keith Obermann from MSNBC blamed the Bush administration for the fighting in Georgia, saying that "the US knowingly provoked Georgia for years by building up Georgia's military" and encouraged the Georgian president into the fight with Russia. He also charged that Senator McCain was trying to capitolize on the fighting by "trying to turn death near the Black Sea into political points at home." He also claims that President Bush mishandled Russia in discussions with Russian Prime Minister Putin during talks in Beijing. Again, I'm amazed that any person with an ounce of brains would buy into this conspiracy-theory fantasy!
Mikheil Saakashvilli, the President of the Republic of Georgia, has written an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal saying that the Russian invasion of Georgia threatens to undermine the international security system. He claims Russia is waging war on Georgia in order to stop Georgian independence and prevent increased ties between Georgia and Western Europe. According to President Saakashvilli, there are several things at stake in this war, including the freedom of his country to more closely align itself with Western Europe and with NATO. President Saaksasvilli also asks whether a Russia that will invade its neighbors and who seeks to restore a "neocolonial" form of government over territories once under its control can really be a partner for Europe. It seems to me that the Georgian President has a good point when he says that if Georgia falls to Russia: "Leaders in neighboring states -- whether in Ukraine, in other Caucasian states or in Central Asia -- will have to consider whether the price of freedom and independence is indeed too high."
Senator Edwards has now admitted he had an affair with someone employed by his campaign. I don't particularly care one way or another about Senator Edwards and his extra-marital relationships, other than what it says about him. What I did find interesting was the paramour's assessment of Senator Edwards. According to a story on FoxNews, she described Senator Edwards as "a man fighting between his ego and his desire to serve the world." Sounds to me like that could be a description of a lot of political-types we've elected to office, including at least one of the two Presidential candidates. Finding a humble man (or woman) in Washington DC calls for the skills (and lantern) Diogenes used to find a truthful man.
I also found it interesting that Senator Edwards tried to blame the affair on his "becoming a national public figure." He said that being in the public eye gave him "a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that — that you can do whatever you want. You're invincible. And there — and there will be no consequences." I guess you have to be somewhat narcissistic to go into national politics these days, but our politicians should never be given the chance to develop the belief that they're invincible and can do whatever they want. Once politicians start believing their own press releases, they become dangerous. I know I wouldn't want a national leader, or a leader at any level, who has such a lack of judgment.
Apparently Senator Obama supporters (or maybe the man himself, given his elevated self-image) has created a salute to show their support during the Democrat convention in Denver. Here's a poster showing the salute:
Now am I overreacting, or does this remind anyone else of another type of salute used to show political unity:
UPDATE: Apparently, some bloggers think that the "O-salute" may have been "appropriated" from a Star Trek episode where Spock meets with a group of space-hippies. Groovy!
Another blogger questions whether the "O-salute" is really a GOP stunt. . .
Finally, Michelle Malkin suggests 5 other universal symbols for Obama supporters, including a note that one of her readers, Jim M., e-mailed that, “In American sign language, the sign for ‘asshole’ is the circle formed with one hand. The new Obama sign can mean only one thing: ‘Big Asshole.’ If the sign fits…” Interesting. . .I think I agree with Jim M. on the meaning of the "O-salute."
Private Matthew Wheeler is a 19-year old young Soldier who was injured in Iraq in June 2008 during a refueling assignment. He has 2nd and 3rd degree burns over about 60% of his body. He was airlifted to Baghdad and then to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, all within 18 hours. He was transported to Brooke Army Medical Center Hospital in San Antonio, Texas within about 48 hours of his accident, where he has undergone several surgeries to graft skin onto his burns and address infections that can develop with severe injuries. His family has been right beside him as he fights to recover. His mother, Janet, has been keeping friends and family up to date about Matthew's struggles and successes through CaringBridge, a free, personalized website that provides support and connection during critical illness, treatment and recovery. Fortunately, Matthew's recovery progresses providing one more proof that prayer does work. You can access Matthew's site here.
Yesterday, Janet's post listed several links the public can use to support both the wounded warriors at BAMC and their families. I asked Janet for permission to copy her post on my blog. Here it is:
I have been meaning to list some of the organizations and their contact sites that make it possible for the Wounded Warriors and their families to be as worry free as possible while here at BAMC. If you are wanting to be able to help in the recovery of these warriors, these are very noble organizations that are always in need of funds or frequent flier miles.
1.) The email address is for one of the staff at BAMC named Judith. She is the person to contact if you are wanting to make any kind of donation, monetary or otherwise, to BAMC. Many businesses give, as well as individuals, and it goes directly to running the warrior center here at the guest house that lodges the families and transitioning warriors that have reached outpatient status. They receive DVD's, reading materials, toiletries, video games, food that doesn't require refrigeration, bottled waters and juice boxes, and so much more. If in question as to what is acceptable to donate here and where to send it, please contact Judith.
2.) The Fisher House, hero miles program makes it possible for family and loved ones to visit using donated frequent flier miles.
3.) Operation Comfort is another wonderful organization that has assisted us on a few occasions. We have the use of a rental car here for 2 weeks because of them.
4.) Returning Heroes Home donations go toward the construction of a beautiful home here that is being built to house wounded warriors and families as they heal and reconnect their lives.
5.) Operation First Response, provides support to wounded warriors and their families.
6.) Face the Fire is a supportive ministry for survivors of fire, not just warriors and families, and was founded by Brian and Mel Birdwell. Brian is a burn survivor of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon.
Now that Matthew's condition has started to improve, Janet has taken the time to provide support and post about some of the other families there supporting thier wounded warrior. She's a wonder! I want to wish the best for Matthew, for his family, and for all our wounded warriors. Their strength is absolutely amazing.
I know I'm biased, but I honestly believe that the young men and women who volunteer to serve in our armed forces are special. I also know I'm generalizing; there's always some "bad apples" in every bunch, after all, most of my career has been involved with military discipline in one form or another, but the vast majority of our service members are tough, honest, and dedicated. I do have to admit that since my son has joined the Marines, I seem to have grown a special place in my heart for Marines. Not only to they have the best uniforms, by far, and look really good in them; but they are highly trained and highly motivated protectors of our way of life. They do what they're asked to do the best way they know how. Gotta love 'um.
Well, here's a Marine you should know. Cpl Garrett Jones. Last year, this 21-year old Marine he was on a foot patrol near Fallouja in Iraq when he was injured by an IED. The attack left him without a left leg below the knee. Although his recovery was complicated by infections and fevers, and his weight dropped from 175 to 125 pounds, he did recover. Like a Marine will, he courageously faced months of painful rehabilitation. He also faced being medically discharged from the Marine Corps. But like a Marine will, he fought to stay in. He said he wanted to, as Marine will, pave a path for other amputees to follow. He also said he couldn't bear the thought of not deploying with his buddies and his unit. So when he learned his unit was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan, he demanded the chance to deploy along with them. He fought for it, like a Marine will. Well, he's done it. He learned to use the hi-tech prosthesis available to amputees and has now deployed to Afghanistan with his unit. Now that's courage!
Before being allowed to deploy, Cpl Jones had to pass medical tests and prove during training that he could walk effectively, get in and out of a Humvee, and perform other physical tasks. He passed all the tests, keeping his head even when his prosthesis fell off. In one training session, he was in a simulator designed to teach egress from an overturned Humvee, and his prosthesis popped off. He just put it back on and finished the training. It takes real courage to fight for something that must have seemed impossible, and not let it take over your mind. Cpl Jones even snowboards, and wants to compete as a freestyle snowboarder in the 2010 Paralympics. He says, "I can do stuff on a snowboard I don't think any other amputee can do." He can probably do stuff on a snowboard that a lot of people with two good legs, including me, can't do. He thinks that if he wins at the Paralympics, it would be "good publicity for the Marine Corps." It would.
Cpl Jones knows he will always suffer some pain and discomfort, but he just says, "I've accepted that." As far as his deployment to Iraq, Cpl Jones says he "doesn't want to be a liability." He doesn't demand special treatment; even though he is special. One Marine Sgt says Cpl Jones has earned a special status among Marines because of his demand to be sent back to combat. As the Sgt said, "he didn't just choose to come -- he fought to come. We bled and sweated with this guy in Iraq, and he wants to be with us more than anything. That's awesome." A SSgt says that Cpl Jones, "doesn't want to be treated any different from any other Marine. Everybody respects him for wanting to come back after all he gave."
His job keeps him "inside the wire," but Cpl Jones would love to go on patrol. Even at the risk of being hit with a roadside bomb again. This special young Marine says, "If I were to get the opportunity to leave the wire, I would be throwing gear on in a second, happily. I miss being outside and operating . . . Believe me, the first opportunity, I'll be there." Now that's courage! Gotta love the Marines!
So, whose energy policy makes more sense? The “wrinkly, white haired guy” or the “skinny black guy?” (Oh yeah, we can’t call Senator Obama skinny anymore, its racist. According to Slate’s Timothy Noah, calling a black person “skinny” is a “coded discussion on race” since it “invites people to dwell on his physical attributes” the most obvious of which is his skin color.) Anyway, both candidates agree that we need to become “energy independent.” Of course we do. The question is how we get there.
Senator Obama wants: -- immediate conservation measures, like driving less, taking the bus, and filling up our under-inflated tires. (Didn’t we try that during the Carter years? And did it really work then?) -- legislation creating a windfall profits tax on the profits made by oil companies to fund $1000 rebates to energy consumers. (Been there, done that, and it didn’t work the first time. By the way, isn’t this a classic move to directly redistribute wealth? I’d rather take my share of the oil companies’ profits through increased dividends through my mutual funds shares, thank you.) -- to release 70 million barrels of oil from our strategic reserves. (Why? Those reserves are for a national emergency. I know I hate paying high gas prices, but are higher prices truly a short-term national emergency or something we must deal with long-term?) -- finally, to increase the emphasis on developing new technology including clean coal technology, and collection of power from solar and wind sources (something I’m all for), but not including nuclear power. (Why not? We are no longer living in the 70s; nuclear technology has developed along with the rest of the world.)
Senator McCain wants: -- a short-term rebate on Federal gas taxes. (A good idea to immediately lower the cost of gas, although the loss to the treasury would eventually need to be made up.) -- to open up our coastline to offshore drilling. (Other companies, including China, are tapping into that oil just off our shore; why shouldn’t we?) -- to offer a $300 million prize for major advancements in technology for hybrid or plug-in electric cars to make them even more fuel efficient and marketable. (Encouraging technological development, by offering prizes or tax incentives, seems to me to be a really good idea to me.) -- to encourage technological development in wind, hydroelectric, solar, and other alternative sources of energy. (Again, a great long-term solution, but we also need short- and medium-term solutions, too.) -- finally, to build 45 new nuclear power plants. (Wonderful idea! Just ask the French.)
OK, so what’s the same? It looks like both candidates understand that we need to develop technology and alternative fuel sources. So both candidates more or less agree on the long-long-term solution. For the long- to mid-term solution, Senator McCain sees us using our domestic off-shore oil supplies and using nuclear technology to generate electricity. Senator Obama wants only to look at clean coal technology, wind, and solar power. He would limit any solution to those that the environmental lobby consider “green.” I’m all for proper stewardship of the environment, and we have to balance how we use our resources with the need for those resources, but the resources are there to use; particularly when we can do so safely, effectively, and in an environmentally conscious way.
There are even more differences between the candidates when you look at their proposed short-term solutions. Senator Obama would also release oil from our strategic reserves, potentially impacting national security. Those reserves are there for a reason, and absent that reason they shouldn’t be disturbed! Additionally, Senator McCain’s plan to suspend Federal gas taxes would immediately keep money in consumer’s pockets. Senator Obama’s plan to tax the oil companies and give a $1000 rebate to high energy consumers would still take money from gas-buying consumers, give it to the oil companies, then to the government (who would then have to decide who was a “high energy consumer”), before the government could give $1000 to those they thought deserved it (whether they deserved it or not).
Now, ask yourself, which plan makes more sense, the one proposed by the “white haired dude” or the one advocated by the “other guy?”
UPDATE It seems that there's another energy plan out there besides those of the two Presidential candidates and T. Boone Pickens. In a saterical response to a McCain campaign ad comparing Obama's celebrity to that of Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears, Paris Hilton has proposed her own energy plan. I've seen the Hilton ad, and frankly, I think its extremely funny. But what struck me most is that her proposed energy plan was pretty good. Here's what she said,
We could do limited offshore drilling with strict environmental oversight while creating tax incentives to get Detroit making hybrid and electric cars. That way the offshore drilling carries us until the new technologies kick in, which would then create new jobs and energy independence. Energy crisis solved.
According to a story on FoxNews.com, Texas Representative Micheal Burgess thinks Paris' plan is pretty good, too. He's one of the Congressmen continuing to call for a vote on energy, despite Speaker Pelosi recessing the House and turning off the lights on them. (Something we don't hear about in the mainstream media.) The McCain campaign also likes Paris' plan, calling it more substantive than Senator Obama's plan. Frankly, I think it is, too.
An extremely rewarding aspect of my military career was the chance to work with very talented and very dedicated people. I was constantly amazed (and I continue to be amazed) by the legal talent serving in the Armed Forces. All the services set the bar high for attorney accessions, and the quality of legal work shows. But all of this legal talent would not amount to the proverbial hill of beans without the backbone of any legal practice; the paralegal.
Military paralegals are some of the most intelligent, competent, and professional Airman, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, or Coasties. They take their professions (both legal and military) seriously. They work hard at their job, and they work hard at keeping the attorneys in line. When I was a young JAG, fresh from the civilian world, it was the NCO paralegals in my office who took me under their wing and taught me how to be an officer. It is through paralegals that I learned about leadership, compassion, integrity, and professionalism. As with most of the military, in the JAG-world, the NCO Corps is truly the backbone of the service.
All this is a rather lengthy lead-in for the purpose of this post: honoring a paralegal I did not have the opportunity to meet, but who seems to represent the best of all the paralegals I've known; Technical Sergeant Jackie L. Larsen. TSgt Larsen passed away last month from illness while deployed to Iraq. In a tribute written by Lt Col Pete Teller, her staff judge advocate, she is described as a "tough and competent NCO" who could "reach out and touch others with gentleness and compassion." She was a mentor to the younger paralegals. She wasn't "flashy," she saw what needed doing and did it. For example, Lt Col Teller describes how TSgt Larsen deployed in the place of a young NCO, with a young family, who had deployed a year earlier and who was married to another Airman who had deployed twice in the past 18 months. TSgt Larsen volunteered to take the place of the young wife and mother to allow that family a little more time at home. That was just one example of her selfless service. Lt Col Teller calls TSgt Larsen a "hero" for the way she looked after those she considered "her folks." According to Lt Col Teller, like many NCOs and paralegals, TSgt Larsen had a tough exterior, but underneath was a heart filled with "fierce dedication and compassion."
It appears to me that TSgt Larsen was a quality paralegal and a great person. I'd like to join the rest of the Air Force Judge Advocate Corps in honoring her memory.
Eight members of the Vets for Freedom organization have written an excellent opinion piece published in the Washington Times discussing Senator Obama's trip to Afghanistan and Iraq. I highly recommend reading it. In it the authors note how their organization (the largest group of veterans from both Afghanistan and Iraq) urged Senator Obama to visit the war zone and talk to both leadership and troops "on the ground" before deciding his policies on the War Against Terror. Senator Obama gave in to the pressure from Vets for Freedom and other organizations and took the trip overseas. Unfortunately, he finalized his policies about the War and announced them in a major speech before he talked to the experts. While his presumption that he (and his advisers and monied sponsors) know better than those leading and fighting the war is bad enough, it is his actions after the visit that is most troubling. As the Vets for Freedom op-ed says,
After months of furiously denying that security was improving in Iraq, Mr. Obama now acknowledges that a remarkable turnaround took place under the surge -- and yet bizarrely, he continues to insist that he was right to oppose the surge and that, if given the chance, he would do so again.
Mr. Obama likewise at last acknowledges that our military commanders on the ground in Iraq oppose the fixed and arbitrary timeline for withdrawal he wants to impose and they say doing so would be "extremely dangerous" -- and yet he continues to insist that he will impose it on them anyway.
Most frustrating of all, Mr. Obama says that he thinks our troops have performed admirably in Iraq -- and yet he and his surrogates continue to downplay their sacrifices by suggesting at every opportunity that the hard-won gains we see in Iraq are not due to their efforts, and indeed, would have materialized in their absence.
In my opinion, Senator Obama's troubling refusal to acknowledge that he just might have been wrong about the surge strategy, and in fact about the overall effort in Iraq, is just another example of his lack of leadership and judgment. A good leader will gather the facts before making exercising their judgment and making decisions. A good leader will constantly assess their decisions and will acknowledge their mistakes. A good leader will work to correct mistakes they've made and will "adjust fire" when necessary. I don't see any of these traits in Senator Obama.
The Vets for Freedom organization plans on sending 8 Iraqi War veterans back to Iraq to ask the questions Senator Obama should have asked. They will return to the Iraqi cities where they previously served to do a "before-and-after assessment from the ground." What a wonderful idea! Why didn't Senator Obama think to listen to people who have "been there; done that" to see what has changed and determine whether the change has been for the better before he decided what policies he would announce(whether those policies are designed to get him elected or whether they are formulated to actually serve the country remains to be seen). Again, his inability to seek information from those who could realistically give it shows why he would not be a good President. The Vets for Freedom organization says that "America's veterans, their families and those still serving deserve honest answers to...difficult and complex questions." I agree. Senator Obama needs to hear them as well.....