Kevin Drum's "Political Animal" column has become quite popular with many on the left recently. He's a good writer, and he sometimes has insightful comments, but he has absolutely no clue how the military works. It was obvious during the dustup over Bush's National Guard record, and it's obvious in this column, in which he fails to understand the workings of the Inactive Ready Reserve. I can only speak for myself, but it was made VERY clear when I first enlisted that it was an eight-year obligation (six years active duty, followed by two years of IRR; for most people, it is a four/four deal). Similarly, when one completes twenty years of service in the Navy, one can transfer to the fleet reserve (part of the IRR); it is not until 30 years have elapsed that one actually retires. Now he is doing his best Chicken Little impression, wailing that the draft is right around the corner, despite the fact that nobody who really cares about the DoD's fighting ability has suggested any such thing. The Hagel, Hollings, and Schumer proposals are grandstanding efforts by publicity-happy pols looking for press (and I know Hagel is a Republican; he's still an idiot on this issue.)
More interesting, and the reason for my post, is the reaction of Drum's commenters. Many seem to be frenetically pushing the "chickenhawk" meme, suggesting that only people who have served in the military are qualified to deploy our troops. (It's fascinating that this concept was appliedin a limited fashionby a few conservatives in 1992, and the liberals were outraged that any such "litmus test" should be applied. Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.)
The problem is that the US constitution clearly spells out the duties of the president, and one of his duties is that of Commander in Chief of the armed forces (see Article II, section 2, clause 1). He has the ability to appoint (with the consent of the Senate) Department heads (Clause 2). Nowhere in the constitution is there an eligibility requirement that one must have previously served in the Armed Forces before assuming any office of the executive branch; in fact, neither Woodrow Wilson (president during World War I) nor Franklin Delano Roosevelt (president during World War II) had military service. Of the last five Defense Secretaries, only two (Les Aspin and yes, Donald Rumsfeld) had any military experience.
If we were to carry the "chickenhawk" meme to its logical conclusion, nobody who has not been in the military can become president. Nobody who does not have military experience is qualified to discuss military issues. Shall we reduce it further, and say nobody who does not have military experience shall be allowed to vote (a la Starship Troopers)? And do we have to create tiers, such as Active duty vs. Reserves, Front-Line vs. REMF, Army vs. Navy (see Charles Rangel), and so forth? Enquiring minds want to know. In any case, until we live in a military dictatorship, the jihad (irony intended) against Richard Cheney needs to end. As John Kerry himself has said:
We do not need to divide America over who served and how. I have personally always believed that many served in many different ways.
I could not have said it better myself.
posted on May 19, 2004 02:32 PM
Hillary better jump on the fast-track to getting some combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Where would you put this woman?