- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

The historic image of President George W. Bush, making a tailhook landing in a S-3B Viking onto the moving deck of the USS Aircraft Carrier Abraham Lincoln, stirred the hearts of all military men and women, and especially America’s veterans. Three images have been stamped in our mind: the president’s tailhook landing; his genuine enjoyment of mingling with the officers and sailors on deck in full flight gear; and finally the presidential speech with the carrier’s bridge looming in the background. Hopefully these images have steered our great nation on a new course … away from the memories of Vietnam and Mogadishu toward a new age and new prestige for our military.In fact, in analyzing the declaration of the end of active hostilities in Iraq by the president, and in Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, broad and dramatic policy and strategic statements were made. While some presidential candidates whined about defense spending, and others about the economy, the political pundits missed three key elements subtlety enunciated by the president:• The precision and might of the American military cannot be matched by any other one nation on Earth, and that our might will be used, even if it is used pre-emptively, to protect American citizens and our strategic interests.c  Former military tactics of inflicting maximum damage on civilian targets and resources critical to their survival and comfort, along with their leaders, is no longer needed in this age where total armored and air superiority rule. The president eloquently spoke of targeting a mass troop deployment or a single vehicle, which while not perfect, can be done on today’s modern battlefield by our military. Despot leaders and terrorists can no longer count on hiding in the midst of civilians, because if we know where they are, and many of their own will betray them, we can strike, whether by precision bombing, Predator drone surveillance flights, Special Forces or Navy Seal teams, or sophisticated “quiet” helicopters that can blow up tanks or APCs en masse, or land at hospitals and ferret our POWs to safety.c  The American people all understand that our president is also our commander in chief, and that having a commander in chief who actually flew the plane that landed on the Carrier Lincoln, certainly made a difference to our sailors on board, and certainly sends a message to foes and allies alike that we have a leader and warrior who must be reckoned with if mischief is at hand. This is especially important to young Americans, many of whom now realize what it means to volunteer and participate in an exciting and rewarding military career, as well as to our politicians, where military service will again be a premium to boost support in upcoming elections.Looking forward, this most recent speech of the developing Bush Doctrine will have significant impact on the use, makeup and organizational structure of our American military, and it is critical to keep this speech in mind as we enter a new debate about the economy and our domestic priorities.The opposition that was nearly silenced by our commander in chief’s success will now clamor to dismantle and tear down the same military that is successfully implementing our new strategic mission. The argument to let down our guard is the most dangerous threat to our nation, as we continue to ferret out terrorist cells and engage rogue nations.The threat from our own shores due to political ambition, ignorance, or simple belief in peace at all costs rather than peace through strength, could be our undoing. Each time in recent history where American military success has come to pass … in World Wars I and II, the end of the Cold War, and the Persian Gulf war, the U.S. Congress has capitulated to the left and made enormous cuts in critical defense and intelligence needs. If we, the people, allow this to happen, then the next sneak attack against our shores will be the one we have always feared the most … the loss of one or more U.S. cities or key economic interests, at incalculable human and economic loss.We cannot allow the success in Iraq to lull us into a false sense of security whereby we go back to the failed policy of cyclical military and intelligence funding.America has remained a free nation for more than 200 years because of the countless sacrifices of the men and women in uniform who defend her. As a people we know and accept the words spoken by Thomas Jefferson, that “The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Our commander in chief understands these words and is striving to ensure we remain strong and prepared for any threat we might face in this dangerous new world. Now is not the time to let down our guard.• James J. Carey is a retired rear admiral of the U.S. Navy and chairman of the National Defense Committee. Robert v. L. Hartwell is vice chairman of the NDC.

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