Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Caring and Sharing US Armed Forces

The Nanny mindset as a factor in the debate over the Iraq War:

Earlier today, I was perusing a take down of John Kerry in, of all places, Newsweek, that bastion of liberalism, simply for the novelty. Actually, I was wondering how long I could read before the Democrat spin cringe set in, but that's another story. On that scale, this one wasn't too bad, though I came across a couple of funny lines - inadvertent, of course, which is the best kind.

According to "a prominent New Hampshire Democrat activist", Ann McLane Kuster, what precisely was the problem with Kerry's joke? It turns out he was stressing the wrong yardstick to measure himself against the Republicans.
“It’s not that this gaffe was so bad,” says Ann McLane Kuster, a prominent New Hampshire activist, “But it plays into all the traits he has that are out of touch, like using intelligence as a way to distinguish himself rather than compassion. The underlying joke wasn’t funny.”

Compassion, huh? We're still talking about a joke that mentions soldiers, right? And this is the preferable Democrat yardstick?

The way Kerry had the joke "originally", or at least in the notes he presented later, the butt of the joke was supposed to be President Bush. And the soldiers were passive victims. Simply inserted into his speech for no reason other than to allow him to make a joke at Bush's expense. Serving no purpose on their own except to gawk at and excite pity. Exhibit A in someone else's cautionary tale. That's the preferred reading, right?

It was all about the victimology.

So, either the soldiers are stupid - the way that John Kerry actually told the joke - or they're passive victims, caught up in someone else's evil plans for them. In neither case are they proud actors in their own destiny.

And yet, somehow, Ann McLane Kuster believes that the soldiers would not have been offended if only John Kerry had expressed his greater compassion for them?

This, it struck me, was wildly offbase as an analysis of what was problematic with the remark.

It is, however, perfectly illustrative of the entire culture of difference between Democrats and Hawks. In the nanny approach to the troop, more compassion is the key.

That was my offhand analysis. So I really sat up, a few hours later, when I noticed this other article today at Real Clear Politics, The Caring Culture vs. the Warrior Culture, making largely the same point.

Watching a wide range of talking heads the last few days on the various news shows, it became clear that some Democrats at least were genuinely hurt and confused by the implications drawn and accusations made that they did not care about and support the troops.

In fact, many Democrats do care, deeply, and do support those troops, with sincerity. The divide is in how they do so...

There is a clash of cultures at work in this, between the historic Democratic culture of ‘caring’, and those who value the ‘warrior culture’ of our military. Both sides care, but express that care with very different methods.

One can hardly find a Democrat anywhere who, when addressing the topic of support for our troops, does not immediately go to the subject of Veteran’s medical benefits, followed shortly by education and retraining programs. When it comes to addressing actual combat, the Democrats again almost invariably go to a lack of body armor or a shortage of up-armored Humvees and the like.The better of the Democratic left (and they are better than the condescending-to-hostile left from Kerry to numerous KosKids) look at the military and the veterans the military produces as another demographic constituency.

Like any other needy Democrat constituency, military and veterans need their help and care, naturally delivered through the offices of a paternalistic government. The warrior culture of the military rightfully views itself as the protector and defender of citizens, politicians and the state itself. The enormous gap between those two conceptions offers a profound clash of cultures

There was an oddity during the months long hi-tempo media onslaught about the troops not having enough body armor. One could find on the Milblogs and a very few news outlets complaints from soldiers in combat about being weigfhed down by too much body armor. The professional military folks understood that, as it was in the days of the armored knights, there is a tradeoff between defensive armor and aggressive mobility. Sacrificing either to the other may at times and places get you dead.

If one only listened to the media and the Democrats, one had the impression that the military were all crying out to be totally encased in body protection, even should they then have moved like Robocop.The familiar Democrat solution of spend more was obvious implicit solution...

The troops want the nation to support their commitment to victory. They do not aspire to the status of needy client, they want to be victorious warriors and commit their very lives to it.


Thus the mindset of John Kerry, in the "best" construction of his joke, and the Democrat activisit Ann McLane Kuster is revealed. Both of these two see the troops as victims, as deserving of compassion, stooges played by others, needing rescue.

I don't see them as dispossessed or pathetic. And I believe that the fact that they are reenlisting in record numbers means that they don't have this view of themselves or their service either.

There's one other interesting point in the original Newsweek article, more post mortem from a Democrat strategist, which shows a fundamental misconception of what just went on this week, and how it will be construed across the country:

“There is not a Democrat in Washington who thinks John Kerry is a viable presidential candidate after last week,” says a longtime Democratic strategist (who isn’t working for one of Kerry’s potential rivals). The strategist, who spoke freely and at length about Kerry on the condition of anonymity, says the gaffe reminds Democrats that he is politically inept. “This is not something that will linger in pool halls and bars and normal places in America,” he says, “but among the donors and activists who like to win, this memory will last a long time. Remember, his entire candidacy is based on electability. And when that’s the basis of your candidacy, and you’ve already lost once, amateur hour doesn’t begin to describe John Kerry. And that’s without even getting into the personal animus towards the guy.”


So for this strategist, the ordinary people won't remember it; but the people who count, i.e., donors and activists will remember it.

Just yesterday I read an anecdote by Austin Bay that demonstrates the utter fallacy, the cloisteredness, the unadulterated elitism of this line of thought.
I’ll add a personal story. In 1999 I briefly served as deputy commander of a Hurricane Mitch recovery operation headquartered in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. An earthquake (6.6 magnitude) struck the region and damaged our barracks area as well as several of the dikes our engineers had erected along the Motagua River. We had to evacuate our barracks, in the midst of heavy rains spawned by a tropical depression. The day after the quake I flew to the US air base at Soto Cano, Honduras, to meet with our regional commander. After I met with the brigadier general in command I: (1) washed and dried two sets of BDUs and (2) bought a bottle of Chivas at the PX. The next morning I caught a plane flight back to Guatemala, and transfered to a helicopter to fly back to our base.

That night I took the still-boxed Chivas to one of the troops –a tired, exhausted fellow who had earned a gift so precious. He shook his head when I passed him the scotch. I told him, “You’ve earned it.” He looked at his watch, observed we were ten minutes from midnight, and said “You and I are now off duty.”...

We chatted for about twenty minutes, about my trip to Soto Cano, about the task force’s new job (earthquake relief), about the lousy weather, about how tired we were. The discussion of weariness led the conversation to our advanced age and years of service, which in part explained the conversation’s next turn. My friend asked, with a glint in his eye: ”You remember what John Kerry said about those of us who served in Vietnam?”

I nodded.

“I was in Vietnam in 1971,” my buddy continued. “I didn’t commit any war crimes and I didn’t see any. Kerry said we were committing war crimes everywhere all the time.”

Remember, readers, this is 1999. We’re in a creaky barrack, wearing t-shirts, BDU trousers, and boots. Earthquake aftershocks occasionally boom –and the booms sound and feel like heavy artillery. And he mentions John Kerry.

“I despise the man,” my friend said. “He lied and benefited politically from his lies….He lied about me.”

I simply listened — that’s what you do in a moment like this. I remember noticing I still had scotch in my cup. He had barely touched his drink. He took a long sip, put his cup down. Plop. Period. End of moment.


Just which side is out of touch with America? And their memory of politicians?

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