- - Monday, July 20, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Oh, really, Mr. Trump? So you think Senator John McCain was never a war hero? That he somehow doesn’t deserve that distinction after having survived the fiery shoot-down of his jet, capture by the North Vietnamese, and five years of torture and imprisonment? When challenged by the moderator, you refused to apologize, even adding gratuitously that, “The country is going to hell.”

Well excuse me, Mr. Trump, but if the country really is going to hell then
maybe it is because someone like you is taken seriously by anyone for more
than five minutes – a TV show taking on an improbable reality of its own.
The only conceivable reasons: your millions and your abrasive,
take-no-prisoners public persona, constantly reprising the myth of being
your own best success story.

Maybe that makes for good television when the competition is running endless
episodes of “Bachelor Bimbo.” But the really frightening thing is that you
might actually believe your absurd rhetoric on immigration or anything else.
Changing anything is Washington DC is far more difficult than snarling,
“You’re fired!” Better men than you have tried that same tactic and come up
short.

But as a thirty-year veteran, what I find most offensive about your
denigration of Senator McCain is that you exemplify the downside of the
all-volunteer military. I was one of the last draftees of the post-Vietnam generation. For the ensuing forty years, our military has become the finest in our history and arguably the global gold-standard. But the flip-side of that equation is something that a free-marketeer like you should certainly understand.

Paying those volunteers inevitably means that a more capable force is also
much smaller. Even after 9/11, we never resuscitated the draft, sending our
soldiers back to the combat zones three and four times. Right now, less than
one percent of the American people ever serve in the uniformed ranks.

Unlike the Greatest Generation, we have developed the New National Tradition of Non-Service. In her scathing 2006 book, AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s upper classes from Military Service, Kathy Roth-Douquet pointed out that the offspring of our most powerful families – the Roosevelt’s, the Kennedys, the Sulzbergers and the Bushes – regularly wore the uniform. “Now, however, not one grandchild from those powerful dynasties serves.” We send our kids to Harvard while Other People’s Kids go to Kandahar.

Now does any of that sound familiar, Mr. Trump? It should because, despite
your differences in race and class, you have far more in common with Barack
Obama than you might imagine. For one thing, both of you are military
illiterates. You spent a professional lifetime looking out for Number One
while Mr. Obama followed the equally demanding career path of a Chicago
community organizer. Even here, you must give Mr. Obama due credit for
persistent ignorance despite nearly seven years of constant and contradictory experience.

For example, who but Barack Obama and the millennials who elected him could possibly believe that, in the Age of ISIS, our Army’s most urgent problems were: (a) to be made smaller than at any time since World War II and (b) kinder and gentler to transgendered soldiers?

That larger reality becomes easier to understand – though possibly more
troubling to a Trump candidacy – once you recognize that the Obama White
House is a kind of national malaise, an object lesson bequeathed by Founders
who well understood that the defense of the Republic should never be a
spectator sport. Military illiteracy is a persistent civic defect. While Mr.
Obama has a better stand-up routine, you are more effective at delivering
broadsides and braggadocios to those less wealthy than you (admittedly, most of us). But since your direct military experience is even more modest than
Mr. Obama (then or now), how could you possibly represent the slightest
improvement?

You lately seem to have developed an interest in Mexico. So have you noticed
that the defense of our southern border is a complicated problem, not one
solved by simply building a fence? I live in San Antonio, close to the
oil-fracking revolution, where many of our people have family ties on both
sides of the border. So what happens to that fragile, undefended
infrastructure if and when Israel attacks Iran? Since we cannot even control
illegal drugs, aliens or human trafficking, how would you use our military
forces to defend our southern border? Is a wall really enough to stop Iran
or ISIS if their terrorists to attack us at our most vulnerable point?

So before shooting your mouth off anymore, maybe you should haul your draft-dodging butt down here pronto to check things out more closely? But fair warning: Apologize first.

Ken Allard, a retired Army colonel, is a military analyst and author on national-security issues.

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