Via Avedon Carol, Kevin Drum seems to be missing the point that veterans are attempting to make about War And Peace, and the chickenhawks. Obviously veterans need to be clearer about what they are saying.
The group of veterans with whom I identify are not saying that you have to be a veteran to decide on military issues. We took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and that means everyone gets to vote. Everyone’s taxes support the military, so we all have that much of a stake in any action.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not all opinions are equal. If you have a problem with your toilet, the opinion of a plumber would reasonably carry more weight than the opinion of a barber. That is not to say that the barber may not have had the problem, and knew the solution, but the odds are better that the opinion of the plumber is more informed because of his/her experience and training.
The disaster that is Iraq is not simply because the advice of the military was ignored, but the advice of the State Department was also ignored.
Teddy Roosevelt stood foursquare behind the war with Spain and when he was refused acceptance in the regular Army, he formed a volunteer regiment so he could fight it. I’m not saying that the chickenhawks should have formed a regiment to fight in Iraq, but they have made every effort not to fight in any war. If you don’t believe in the war enough to fight yourself, why should your advocacy be accepted without comment?
The Iraq war was based on lies, as is now obvious. There aren’t enough men or materiel and there has been no provision made to add more. The counsel of military and diplomatic professionals was ignored and many of the people most responsible for egregious errors in judgment and execution of the war have been given medals. At this point because of the cumulative effect of the multiple errors and incompetence our choices are to continue to suffer casualties or to withdraw.
Veterans realize that the units in Iraq are not trained or equipped for occupation or the training missions they have been given. They are front line combat units, not civil affairs people. Non-veterans are probably not familiar with the difference. The Army had to create the Combat Action Badge to recognize the reality that many people are not doing to the job they were trained for, they are acting in a totally different specialty. The Marines are moving around the deserts of Anbar province in amphibious vehicles and the swamp ready vehicles of the Louisiana National Guard were not available for use after Katrina, because they were also left in the desert. These are things that veterans know because of their experience and training that non-veterans don’t know.
The “all volunteer military” is being subjected to “stop loss”, recalls and extensions that are definitely not voluntary. There is a “back door draft” going on that affects those people who thought they had a hard and fast contract. Members of the National Guard and Reserves are being destroyed financially by unexpected and extended call-ups that weren’t mentioned when they volunteered. There has been no effort to relieve any of these problems by expanding the regular forces. Veterans understand these details and worry about them, non-veterans don’t know what we are talking about or what the effects are.
The Chief of Staff of the Army has called for a major budget increase to cover the cost of broken equipment that is not being repaired. The Commander of the National Guard Bureau has warned that the Guard is in serious trouble. The new Commandant of the Marine Corps has just said that the Corps needs to be expanded or it will break. Non-veterans probably don’t pay attention to these things, but veterans notice them.
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan