- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 29, 2000

Army needs leadership, not new hats

What's wrong with the Army isn't our headgear ("Beret-for-all policy angers Army elite," Oct. 19). The problem is the lack of leadership demonstrated by the men and women, civilian and military, who are supposed to be leading us.

Gen. Eric Shinseki says that he wants to show the youth of America that the Army has/is changing. Yet he substitutes a minor cosmetic change for real substantial changes that would address the real problems we face. Changing from the BDU (battle duty uniform) hat to a beret is akin to putting a Corvette hood ornament on an AMC Pacer, and expecting to win a race.

We need spare parts, replacements for worn vehicles and weapons, training ammo, and fuel. We need decent quarters for both married and single soldiers. We need world-class health care for military members, dependents and veterans. We need rational deployment schedules, and missions that are worthy of the sacrifices that must be made to accomplish them.

We in the reserves need the same types of aircraft, trucks, radios, etc, that our active brothers and sisters use. What my unit gets in the way of vehicles are usually worn active castoffs that we lack the funds to repair.

We reservists need clearly defined missions and cogent reasons to leave our families, homes and jobs, when called away to travel to the other end of the globe, not a mishmash of sound bites designed from a leader trying to create a legacy for himself.

Lastly, the black beret has been a proud symbol of the Rangers for years, and taking it from them is a needless and grievous insult to a fine unit.


A-1/18th Cavalry CA ARNG

Huntington Park, Calif.

Self-defense is not a sport

Your editorial "Issues: gun control" (Oct. 24) was a rare example of honesty in the popular press about the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment was not included in the Bill of Rights to protect hunting and sport shooting any more than the First Amendment was included to protect Hollywood movies. While it is true that hunting, sport shooting, and Hollywood movies are protected by the First and Second Amendments, respectively, that was not the original intent. As you so aptly stated, the Second Amendment was written specifically to enshrine the right of the people to armed self-defense. Thank you for having the courage to write the truth about this issue.


Granite Bay, Calif.


Thank you for a ringing, unqualified endorsement of our right to bear arms as private citizens ("Issues: gun control," Editorials, Oct. 24). Twice in my ministry I have had to draw a handgun and prepare to defend my home against intruders. Once in Chicago and once in rural Indiana people of questionable character made an assumption about a minister's ultimate ability to defend his home and family. My clear intent to shoot, followed by the unmistakable sound of the pistol's hammer being cocked, was sufficient to deter them. I thank God for the intruders' ability to hear. I thank the Founding Fathers for giving me the unimpeded right to possess something for them to hear.


Richmond, Va.

Absence of Clinton, Gore speaks volumes

There is no better example of selfish, unprincipled behavior in the saga of Bill and Hillary Clinton than the president's refusal to hold a public signing ceremony for the Breast Cancer Bill, recently approved by Congress. Realizing that he would have to invite New York senatorial candidate Rick Lazio, the strongest supporter of the bill, to the event, Mr. Clinton has decided to hold a private signing.

Because the bill will not receive the national attention of a public signing, women will be deprived of an opportunity to become fully informed about how the bill will affect this very important health issue simply because they don't want to give Mrs. Clinton's opponent any credit for his advocacy of women's health. Does anyone still believe that the Clintons are interested in anything but their own thirst for power?


Flower Mound, Texas


Vice President Al Gore claims to embrace and respect the U. S. military. However, I noticed that Mr. Gore with wife Tipper, President and Mrs. Clinton all attended the funeral of the governor of Missouri. But where were Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore after our sailors were killed on the USS Cole? Were they at the White House planning a counterattack? No. Were they in Norfolk to welcome home our injured sailors? No. Were they at Dover Air Force Base to welcome home for the last time the bodies of our fallen sailors? No. What was so important that all four of these so-called leaders couldn't meet our sailors? They were all campaigning. Shame on Mr. and Mrs. Gore and Mr. and Mrs. Clinton. Actions speak louder than words.


Aiea, Hawaii

Military endorsements threaten public trust

Franklin Margiotta misses the point about military endorsements of presidential candidates ("Retired military's right to speak out," Oct. 22). My chief concern is the health and effectiveness of the armed forces, not who wins this election, and not the activity of retired officers, but the actions of retired four-stars, who by virtue of their rank and former responsibilities represent the profession of arms in particularly powerful and symbolic ways.

Mr. Margiotta badly underestimates the extent to which their political endorsements poison the well for their successors. Will not sitting presidents and harried secretaries of defense get the message, look for pliable loyalists, and vet them for agreement with current policy? Does he want them nominated and confirmed the way we now fill the Supreme Court?

There is a fundamental difference between standing for office and endorsing somebody else. Winfield Scott, Leonard Wood, John McCain, Ullysses Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower crossed over into politics and by their act (if not in their campaigns) presented themselves as politicians to the American people. They did not cloak a partisan act in the non-partisan tradition of the military profession.

Obviously, people in uniform discuss issues of importance to them that often are, or become, partisan. But only in the last generation has the American officer corps abandoned its historic non-partisan self-identification. While this will not produce disobedience to orders, it can and obviously has led to less loyalty, respect, and propensity to serve leaders, policies, and decisions officers dislike. Endorsements by retired four-stars encourage, indeed legitimate, partisanship. The old traditions of not voting, and in the Navy of keeping certain divisive subjects out of wardroom conversation, had very real functional purposes.

Of course, retired and active military have (and should have) rights and no one denies them. The issue here is the wisdom of political endorsements by the retired leadership of the profession: the implications for the relationship between the military on the one hand and the politicians and the American people on the other, and in turn, the effect on the nation's safety. Is an election worth risking the trust, confidence, and to some degree the respect of the American people and their political leaders, carefully cultivated over many generations?



Curriculum in Peace, War, & Defense and Professor of History

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, N.C.

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