Sunday, October 26, 2008
McCain: War Hero, Patriot, Military and Foreign Affairs Expert
What exactly is the advantage of having a person with a military background as President? Better disciplined? Loves America better?
We have a volunteer army. Most of the volunteers are young men from small towns in rural America that are dying out. The other greatest number are from the slums of our big cities. I don't think they are joining primarily because they love America, but because they are desperately looking for some way out of a dead end
future. Most of them would prefer NOT to be stuck in a chaotic war, esepcially one that was pointless to begin with and is still lumbering on.
What is a war hero? A hero is defined by one dictionary as one who exhibits courage, is idealized because he/she exhibits courage in past situations, is admired because of outstanding achievements, or who seems to possess noble qualities. When most people think "war hero" their image is of a person who exhibits extraordinary valor in combat. Of course, one can argue that every soldier who jumps aboard an unarmored Humvee often without proper body armor is a hero. Most people, though, think a war hero is a person who moves outside the requirement of duty and puts his life in jeopardy to ensure the mission is a success, to save the lives of his fellow soldiers -- over and beyond the call of duty.
John McCain was one of many bomber pilots in the Vietnamese War, dropping bombs usually from high altitudes, out of the range of anti-aircraft guns. He was shot down. He was a POW for five and half years. Some were there longer; some shorter. There were close to 800 POW's in Vietnam. If McCain is a war hero because of his hardships as a POW, there were 700+ other war heroes. I am not going to get into whether McCain had it worse or easier than most POW's. There seems to be some question on this point.
If a person were a genuine war hero, is this a qualification for President? What does it bring to the office? Will a former war hero be a more courageous President? Will he be one that loves his country more as President? Should we have more of a reason to think we and the nation are more secure with him/her as President? Will being a "war hero" really enable him to be an effective and constructive U.S. President?
John McCain is a Patriot. This is another theme that the GOP and McCain himself frequently emphasize. Are they implying that Obama is less of a Patriot because he was not in the Navy, not shot down over Vietnam and not in a Vietnamese Prison for five+ years? Do any of the things that Mc Cain did which provide him the opportunity to call himself a Patriot --- also cause him to be able to do a better job as President?
Are teachers, doctors, bricklayers, bus drivers patriots? I suppose it depends on how you define patriot. I think we need to start becoming patriots of the world. We have to make a start sometime.
I looked up six or seven definitions of the word patriot. Here is one that is fairly representative:
One who loves his country, and zealously supports its authority and interests. I also looked up synonyms for the word patriot: nationalist, loyalist, chauvinist, jingoist, flag-waver.
We must be careful in today's world not to be too nationalistic. Nationalism is becoming a dying concept as we realize that the world does not end at the borders of our country. We are citizens of the world -- or should be. My country right or wrong is not patriotism and is more properly called jingoism --- or just plain -- stupid. Act local. Think Global.
Does being in the military, claiming to be a war hero, and taking pride in being a patriot ---
make a Presidential candidate the ideal person for directing military strategy? Does having been a regular soldier, a regular sailor, or a regular pilot --- give a person expertise as a military tactician? I don't think so. If the former military man was an officer in charge of planning tactics, e.g. Eisenhower, Colin Powell -- yes. Although Eisenhower knew quite a bit about military planning he had generals who worked these matters out when needed. However, having been a general, admittedly, would give him a better frame of reference in these matters.
Will having been a bomber pilot give McCain talent in defending the security of the United States? Should we feel safer having a war hero and a a former bomber pilot as our national leader?
It has been said that McCain is expert in foreign policy. So far in the campaign he has not said anything that I have heard to demonstrate expertise in this field. In fact, he tends to act, at times, before thinking. Not a good trait in international relations. I sought in his career in Congress evidence that he took an interest in foreign affairs, that he was on the foreign relations committees of Congress, that he initiated major foreign policy initiatives --- I could not find anything significant. Several times in the campaign he has made mistakes in knowing the facts about national boundaries, matters of foreign policy, and displayed a tendency to utilize our military power first, rather than diplomacy first. There are other nations and other peoples with needs, concerns and interests. We must make a start in seeing ourselves as a participant, a player in world events -- rather than the one in charge, the kingpin. the "main man".
We are all in it together. Think global. Act local.