President Barack Hussein Obama’s leadership style is obvious. He commits just enough money and personnel resources to stay in the game, but not enough to win. After months of dithering he finally gave General Petraeus two thirds of the minimum number of soldiers requested to win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To some this delay in supplying troops, and then only supplying them in reduced numbers, might appear to be caution and frugality. In fact, it only demonstrates indifference and lack of commitment. That is why some are having a trust and confidence problem with our Commander in Chief.
It is not just in war that Obama plays a game of “symbolism” and “photo ops.” His administration plays the same game in all that it does or fails to do. Most recently the Governors responsible for securing our southwest border asked Obama for the help of 3,000 National Guardsmen. After an unconscionable delay, Obama reluctantly agreed to send some troops, but not enough to make a difference. As of this writing none have arrived.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in step with his boss, says he will reform the Pentagon through austere spending, cutting back the Pentagon bureaucracy, and by eliminating unneeded weapons systems. My experience while commanding the Army’s Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, where the Army evaluates weapon systems and military equipment, was that austerity was seriously needed at every level of weapons and systems development.
If Mr. Gates is not just paying lip service, I commend his efforts and offer to help in any way I can. I question, however, whether or not this isn’t just another of Obama’s tricks to undercut badly needed weapons systems, military equipment, and personnel requirements.
It does appear that Obama intends to cut the military health care budget; concurrently he wants to reduce growth in military pay. Our armed forces are being repeatedly sent off to fight two wars at the same time. In the meantime their families live in dread of answering the door bell and finding someone in uniform standing there bearing the news that daddy or mommy isn’t coming home.
Is this really the appropriate time to reduce military pay, benefits, or the availability of artificial limbs? As one who served two tours of duty in Viet Nam, I think it’s criminal for a president to send the nation’s youth back again and again to be mangled by the jaws of war.
And while the austerity broom is cleanly sweeping through the corridors of the Pentagon, perhaps it could broaden its sweep to address the most significant military problem the nation faces. We are requiring too much sacrifice from too few of our citizens. To adequately face up to our world wide military commitments, the threat of a possible war on the Korean Peninsula, a nuclear Iran, and defeating terrorism, requires a significant increase in the numbers of soldiers, sailors and airmen on active duty.
To be prudent the size of the Army and Marines should be increased, perhaps by as much as fifty percent? Yes, I hear the groans coming from Obama, Gates, the news media and the Washington elites, but I bet that I won’t hear any groans coming from the thinning ranks of our armed forces and their families.
Perhaps President Obama and Secretary Gates should be required to go to Walter Reed Army Hospital and face the soldiers whose legs have been blown off and whose arms have been amputated and tell them and their children why they don’t merit a 1.4 percent pay increase in 2012.
I’ll be the first to confess that military spending should be restrained in some areas. But it needs to be increased in areas such as medical care, pay, and benefits. We also need to better equip the warriors who are safeguarding our liberty and our Constitution. Perhaps then President Obama can win the war-time trust and confidence of the nation’s armed forces and of the American people.
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