I remember President Carter’s Army. I remember Carter’s gasoline lines. I remember Carter’s interest rates. I remember his turn your thermostat down and wear a sweater energy policy speeches. I remember him really showing the Russians how tough we were by boycotting the Moscow Olympics. I remember his policy of restraint while Americans were held hostage and abused by Iranian terrorists. I remember his cheerleading for the “moderate” religious man to replace the “despotic” Shah of Iran. I remember his amnesty and upgraded discharges for military deserters and draft dodgers, most of whom got a better welcome home than our Vietnam combat veterans did. One of them almost became our president. But, mostly I remember his Army because I was in it. Money was scarce and because of that training, equipment, spare parts and maintenance suffered. It was a worn out Army and it was still hung over from the political surrender of the Vietnam War. It was a volunteer force. It was a hollowed out, underpaid and underappreciated volunteer force.
I remember President Reagan’s Army. I was in that one too. I actually got some pay raises although I was still paid less than some big city welfare recipients and qualified for food stamps in most places. With President Reagan, our military got the attention it needed. It was peace through strength attention or as Soldiers of the time called it, peace through superior firepower. Leaders who endured Carter and some of his predecessor’s finally got the wherewithal and mission to rebuild the force. Given the means and the mission, they did one heck of a job.
This masterfully rebuilt force was handed off to the first President Bush. The Berlin wall fell, with nary a shot fired. Sort of put things in a Biblical perspective – when Reagan fought the battle of Berlin, the wall came tumbling down. It showed its stuff when it ran through Iraq’s “elite” faster than berries can pass through a goose. The combination of asking Americans to read his lips and the third party candidacy of Ross Perot, Bush number one did not have time to do us much damage. Although, he did herald in the era of the cold war “peace dividend” – a cute buzz-phrase that ushered in filleting of the military.
With lip reading and Perot’s help, Americans sent the draft dodging William Jefferson Clinton to the Whitehouse. President Clinton’s legacy was “downsizing” the military while quadrupling deployments of our war fighters to so-called “peace keeping” missions. He also left us with a bevy of political and politically correct generals. They called the “drawdown” the “builddown” and assured those of us serving that we would be a smaller but more effective force. Down sized military bases were called “power projection platforms.” For certain, we were good with buzz phraseology. Ironically and maybe somewhat prophetical in title, one of the general officer books born of the era was titled Hope Is Not A Method. “Drawing from their military experiences in downsizing, restructuring, and reengineering….” We were not likely to ever see another heavy armored corps barreling across the plain with the ability to absolutely crush an enemy. For my liking, Clinton’s Army looked like a downsized politically correct version of Carter’s Army. He did not leave office with hostages held in Iran, but he did leave behind him the first World Trade Center bombings, the Kohbar Towers bombing, US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania bombings, the USS Cole bombing and all of them unanswered and the legacy of “that woman.” He also left us his, not the military’s, “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy meant to circumvent Public Law 103-160, Section 654, Title 10 U.S. Code passed by veto proof majorities in both houses of Congress and held that homosexuality is incompatible with military service.
After they finished counting pregnant and hanging chads in Florida, the second George Bush became our President. He did not have much time to think about the status of our forces when the attacks of September 11, 2001 happened. We finally went to war against the people who had been at war with us for years and most intensely through the previous eight. Our Soldiers have been at war since. We have young men and women with more combat stripes on their uniforms than they do service stripes. In case you do not know, a Soldier in the US Army gets one service stripe for 3 years of service and one combat (or overseas stripe) for each six months of such duty. Bush inherited the remnants of Daddy’s peace dividend and President Clinton’s downsizing. By the end of his time, he decided to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps. Fortunately, the legacy of training doctrine left by the leadership that rebuilt the Carter era Army served our men and women well. They were and remain prepared to confront our nation’s enemies. Unfortunately, the President had to contend with political and media enemies on the home front who really wanted to hang a military and a political defeat around his neck. These people long for another victory like they produced in Vietnam. Their actions showed how little they truly cared about the men and women serving in uniform. George Bush was not a conservative of the Reagan mold, but he was and still is a decisive, trusted and respected commander–in-chief.
After Bush was elected and the country had suffered the 9/11 attacks, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said Clinton had cut back the military so much that we might not be able to fight a war on terrorism on several fronts. He listed the problems brought on during the Clinton years: lost air and sea lift capacity, two or three years during which nothing was procured for the military, and cuts in R&D. – Human Events
In January 2009, the promise of hope and change came to the Whitehouse in the form of President Obama. Before he arrived, he told Americans his intentions. Watch the short video clip. I do not know how much hope this brought, but it did bring the promised change with the Secretary of Defense Gates’ proposal to cut defense by 400 billion over 10 years. Analysis of the Reid/Obama plan shows planned cuts closer to 900 billion over 10 years.
“Immediately the plan would cut defense in real terms below the FY11-enacted level of $553 billion and hold defense below the FY11-enacted level through FY13. It represents a $16 billion cut to our FY12 levels for next year and a $26 billion cut for the following year.”
He cheered the removal of Egypt’s Mubarak who is destined to be replaced by the Muslim brotherhood. We know how well that generally turns out. Our casualty rates in Afghanistan in the past two and a half years exceed the number for all the years prior to that. The media keeps reporting these as “NATO” losses and none of them are running the daily body count and demanding to photograph their flag-draped caskets. Much of this increase in casualties is attributable to his administration’s rules of engagement. The Stars and Stripes, the newspaper published primarily for overseas serving military members, reminds our serving Soldiers of what the administration deems most important – guidance on observing Ramadan. In his January 2010 state of the union address, President Obama reiterated his promise to homosexuals that he would repeal Public Law 103-160, Section 654, Title 10 U.S. Code. Bolstered by Whitehouse leaks of phony military polling data, his lame duck Reid and Pelosi lead Congress gave him what he wanted and he repealed the law – in spite of what most Americans and Soldiers think.
Let me see if I can sum it up. Reduce defense spending by nearly one trillion dollars. Usher in “moderate” Middle Eastern governments. Abandon missile defense, abandon space, abandon development of future combat systems and use the military as a tool to normalize homosexuality. Mr. Carter’s Army is looking pretty good about now.