29 August 2007

The best of people...

I get the rare privilege of meeting a lot of very interesting people. Some of these folks come to me through my service as a reserve officer in the Navy. The reserves are a much misunderstood aspect of our military. Since the end of the Cold War, the reserves have been remade into a part-time arm of the military. Routinely I have to juggle family life, civilian career and Navy duties in a single day (hour even!).

On occassion, we get the chance to do something we feel passionately about full-time. A fellow officer has been mobilized in support of our ongoing operations in the present conflict. He has built a great website, with stunning visuals and personal reflections.

He has a young family and may not have ever thought he would have to go back to active duty life. But he is and he is bearing that burden of duty with typical Navy grace and commitment.

Many others live in this strange dual world. Bridging the civilian and the military. Major John at Miserable Donuts is another member of this club. I think the members of the reserve components have a unique perspective on our way of life and the meaning of service. Unlike our opposite numbers in the civilian world (who have never served) or career military (who have never been a civilian), we experience the varied perspectives of each existence.

Those members who have retired or civilians who join, lose the advantage of simultaneous comparison. When immersed in one's own world it is very difficult to alter one's view. I can no more explain to my beloved spouse (adequately) my reasons for serving. Individuals who clamor for mandatory service also miss the point of service. Either they wish some "sharing of the burden" by some mysterious elite (either on the right or left) or wish to instill some nationalist pride they feel is lacking in the fabric of our society.

Everyone serves the nation in some way. No matter how small, their presence is important to our way of life.

It is the nature of service given by people like my friend, however, which permit all of us to be what we wish to be.

May Providence favor your journey and carry you safely home.

26 August 2007

How it is...

I like Gary Trudeau. I think his Doonesbury hits home in many ways. I rarely agree with his left of center views, but his observations are often a great source of insight and reflection for me. This Sunday's strip may be the most pertinent for me ever. The character of BD, surrounded by well meaning loved ones stands for all the service members of our all volunteer armed forces.

His statement of "most people are completely baffled why anyone would serve" is a concise summary of our present society's attitude. Ponder on this a bit.

Why we serve is a frequent headline for many internal armed forces publications. Most times the member only scratches the surface of this issue. Bill Whittle of ejecte!eject!eject! wrote a nice piece about this topic called Tribes.

Check it out.

PS - All my regular readers, both of you, congrats to Captain Jack for making the leap across the pond and taking on the challenge of a colonial educating the mother country's youth!

17 August 2007

Young People Should Find Ways to Serve, not Just at McDonalds...

Peter Pace, the ejected former CJCS, has an opinion about national service.  While I agree in principal, I think the prospect is at odds with the founding basis of our nation.  We must be a nation which freely gives.  Service should come from an inner desire, not an outward compulsion.  This topic seems to be a recurring theme in the blogosphere and in philosophical circles.  Where do our obligations as citizens begin and end?  What are we abrogating by not engaging within our society? 
Is the "service" rendered by a staunch anti-war activist any less important than that of a soldier in combat?  It would be easy for me to say that that person picketing safely at home is not doing their nation any service - and I would offer just that assessment when their tactics exceed the bounds of our society's laws.  But our nation is built upon freedom, tenets which I strongly support.  These allow individuals to make choices about how they will "serve" their nation.  If our nation, as a whole, decides not to protect their individual and sovereign rights, then we must live with our decision.
Every person must do an equation in their head.  What have I received and what shall I give?  To each their talents and measure for the same.  We live in an amazing time.  It is a rare period of civilization where self-sacrifice is not a requirement for survival in the industrialized world.  One can live quite comfortably on the margins of society (the slacker / working poor) lifestyle and not suffer appreciably (compared to prior centuries).  In short, we can "tune in and drop out" and not suffer any real consequences.

Young People Should Find Ways to Serve, Pace Says
Thu, 16 Aug 2007 14:34:00 -0500

American Forces Press Service

Young People Should Find Ways to Serve, Pace Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

YONGSAN, South Korea, Aug. 16, 2007 - Whether it's through military service or another means, young Americans should find some way to serve their country, the U.S. military's top officer said here today.

"I do believe that each of us who has had the blessing of the accident of birth of being born in a free country ought to find some way to repay our country," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a town hall meeting at Collier Field House here.

"If we have a system that allowed people to join the Peace Corps or allowed people to do good work inside the United States where it's needed, or join the military," it would help the country.

Young people should give a year or two of their lives to making society better, and U.S. leaders should take such a commitment seriously, Pace said. "We would be a much stronger society, and we would be giving back to the world what we should be giving back," he said.

The general also put to rest rumors about a possible U.S. military draft. "Nobody in any leadership position is having any serious discussion about a draft," he said.

Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

Related Articles:
Pace Receives Korean Award, Thanks U.S. Servicemembers
All-Volunteer Force Meets Nation's Needs, Official Says

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13 August 2007

We don't want you...

I have often said that the last thing our military needs is an involuntary draft imposed. The great economist Milton Friedman, partly responsible for ending the original draft, described it as the next closest thing to slavery. At our heart, we are a free society. That means we must act freely to defend our way of life – or not. If we choose, as some nations have, to hang our defense on allies and neighbors – Canada- then that would be our choice.

However, no one needs to serve against their will. In my opinion, this is tantamount to a state endorsed religion of nationalism – remember the Third Reich? Germany still retains compulsory national service, although not always military. A citizen may elect some non-military form of public service. This might include caring for the elderly or very young. A noble purpose, but this does nothing except prop up Germany’s already overburdened welfare state.

Frankly, as a military officer, I want no Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine serving who does not choose to be there. The commitment required to yourself, your comrades and the Constitution is not one to be created through duress or coercion. There are a host of other practical reasons no to have a draft in this nation, but most can be summarized simply.

A free nation should not want for defenders.

Simplistic, jingoistic and all that, but I believe it is true. There is ample evidence throughout the history of our nation. Despite the relative peace of our times, actual conflict across the globe has declined, there are still a long line of applicants who are willing to stand and defend the Constitution.

09 August 2007

Detainee Transfer Announced...

Just in case anyone wondered what was going on at GITMO.

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense

August 09, 2007
Media Contact: (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public/Industry(703) 428-0711

Detainee Transfer Announced

The Department of Defense announced today the transfer of six detainees
from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Five detainees were transferred to
Afghanistan, and one was transferred to Bahrain. These detainees were
determined to be eligible for transfer following a comprehensive series
of review processes conducted at Guantanamo Bay.

Approximately 80 detainees remain at Guantanamo who the U.S. government
has determined eligible for transfer or release. Departure of these
remaining detainees is subject to ongoing discussions between the United
States and other nations.

Since 2002, approximately 420 detainees have departed Guantanamo for
other countries including Albania, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh,
Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Jordan,
Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain,
Sweden, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, and Yemen.

Approximately 355 detainees remain at Guantanamo.

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03 August 2007

Mud Shark's View - Next Great Powers...

A colleague of mine (and classmate) has posed a first stab at the next great powers in 50 years in the comments. They were so cogent, I felt compelled to post them directly for additional comment.

Picking the world leading powers for the next fifty years seems easy, yes? Well don't be too sure. Fifty years in our modern age is a lifetime. The Soviet Union rose and fell in just under 80. The Third Reich did the same in about fifteen years. So who will the great powers be and what will they be concerned with? Will Islam remain a destabilizer in the world? Will we still be dependent on hydrocarbons as a fuel source? Extra points to those who cite references in their analysis!

50 Years: *THE* World powers: Not in order.

1. USA; USA Profile We have been counted out before but the US economy is HUGE! The technology base is uniformly spread across every aspect of our society, and the basic nature of "Americans" is still scrappy (we LOVE to compete). The Governmental system is still self correcting (if a bit slow for the A.D.D. society), and generally speaking, there isn’t anything better out there.

2. The EU: EU Profile IF they don't devolve into civil war they will be players. They are slowly beginning to run into the same issues the USA ran into. Only for them it is much worse. The surrender of one's sovereignty is difficult. In the USA we have a much more forward looking mind set than in Europe. The EU nations are much more focused on the past. And, in my opinion, there will be a transitional time when some member countries will decide they want to opt out of the Union. Perhaps even to form a separate Confederation in order to maintain their sovereign rights to manage internal and external commerce and taxation. Though, if trends continue on their current path, the caliphate will declare victory in Europe and THEN things will get very interesting. A review of Muslim birth rates and the accepted multi-cultural societal structures in Europe can only spell the current EU's doom. Civil/Cultural war will be rampant. IF the EU can overcome these issues, World power status. If not, I think they will remain interesting also-rans.

3. Korea: North Korea Profile Unification after Kim's death. Economic power house already. Add the North's resources and BAM! Major Player.

4. Japan: Japan Profile A resurgent Korea and stronger China will FORCE Japan to rearm. These folks HATE...no, LOATH each other. Unless you have spent some time with them, you can not fully understand this. They would sell each others souls in a heart beat. Japan's Navy could probably take down China's in an afternoon. But quantity has a quality all its own. Japan is already positioning it self to rearm. Its initial forays into armed deployments has begun. Watch the multi-national fight over the Spratley islands for indicators and warnings. They remain FIERCELY nationalistic and are rivaled only by the Koreans in the area of homogeneity. They are the GROUP THINK KINGS!

5. China: China Profile There are so many ifs here I am reticent to put them on the list, but: IF they can drag their population out of the stone age and subsistence farming. IF they can educate their population without a haves vs. have-nots civil war. IF they can keep their nationalism in check and not provoke a catastrophic war with their neighbors and the USA (Japan, Taiwan, Korea, India, Thailand, etc. etc.) IF Islam does not take root and create a civil war. IF the Southwest does not revolt. IF the Northeast does not revolt. Then, I think they will be true powers. Right now they have money, people, and resources. They lack a uniform technology base, uniform basic education, and an involved population. As the education levels rise, the population will DEMAND a more active voice. Additionally, the traditionalists, though thinned dramatically during the cultural revolution WILL make themselves felt as their country moves towards industrial/imperialism. And yes they WILL get imperial. Every nation does. Its like the terrible twos. All WE can do is try to influence without appearing imperial ourselves (hard to do when every military HQ has a map of the world displaying the areas of responsibility for each of the military governors, err, I mean regional combatant commanders. China sees this, measures it against its long history of European (and yes, US) intervention, and it maneuvers to prevent it from ever happening again.

Semper Fi!

01 August 2007

On to Pakistan....

Senator Barack Obama has said that, as President, he would invade Pakistan if that government will not do more to deal with terrorists. His foreign policy vision is already the talk of many.

Isn't this the same logic precipitating our action into Iraq? Is the left radically changing their views? Are some nations more sovreign than others? I mean we had asked the (then) government to comply with UN mandates. They failed to do so, we had an active military action under constant attack in the northern and southern no-fly zones. Thus we acted multi-laterally in removing the non-compliant government.

Am I missing some moral equivalency? We did the same thing in Afghanistan (the good invasion). I mean are there bad guys out there who deserve military action or not? Is simple diplomacy enough?

UPDATE: Read the comment by Mud Shark. I would also like to invite our dear readers to post their top five foreign policy concerns (for the purposes of this discussion, free trade and immigration will NOT be a foreign policy concern). In addition, I would invite the readers to post their top five solutions - and any references to candidates who seem to be aligned with their views.