Kerry and the Military...

US service men are heavily republican and Bush more than ever has toned up the rhetoric about using military power. Should Kerry win would this impact negatively in the performance, moral or discipline of US troops ? Especially those in Iraq ? Especially if Kerry clearly withdraws from the gung-ho style presently being conducted and appears “weak”?

How much are the military tired of Bush or not I guess should also be an issue to better answer the first question....

I served in the Navy from 1993 to 1998. There probably hasn’t been a president in recent times less respected by the military than Clinton. Yet every order he gave was followed to the letter, without question, at least from what I saw.

Kerry should do better than Clinton in this regard, since he’s a veteran himself. Of course, this hinges on how he stocks his defense and national security staff and cabinet and what his actual policies are.

I have to say, though, Kerry isn’t popular with many troops and veterans. He should especially do some fence mending with the Guard and Reserve community, since he shot himself in the foot with these folks with this recent statement:

This was interpreted by many Guard veterans and current Guard members as equating Guard service morally with fleeing to Canada or going to jail. These folks have been hopping mad since.

Well, I think that was kind of his point, only he should have clarified that it was in the context of Vietnam. He can’t really pump up the Guard and bash Bush for having the connections to get in it at the same time.

He hasn’t really touched that tack since. I think it’s more adventageous for him to point out that he’s been shot at several times, and our current president used the Guard to avoid that. I don’t see what’s wrong with pointing out that the Guard was a method for the wealthy and connected to duck Vietnam during the sixties.

But that doesn’t change some basic facts:

Most members of the Guard and Reserve, even at that time, were not wealthy or connected. My father served in the Army Reserve from 1966 to 1972, while simultaneously working as a drugstore manager and as a steelworker. He used no connections to get in, and served honorably.

He has lots of friends and acquaintences who are Vietnam and Vietnam era veterans. I asked him recently if anybody had ever called his service into question. Nobody ever had, in over thirty years. And few of these men seem inclined to question George Bush’s service, either. It’s a nonissue for my father, especially since he voted for Bill Clinton twice.

I don’t think Kerry really said anything one way or the other. Kerry gave a very political answer. He touched on this being a bad thing, but touched on the rights that people have to do these things becuase they can make their own desicions.

As far as the military is concerned, one fact to keep in mind is that about half of the military, at least the Navy, is from Texas. (or so it seems) That might be part of why Bush is so supported, and he appeals to the younger “warrior” for his apparent cowboy attitude. Most junior servicemen don’t really care about policy, they care about getting paid and kicking some ass.

If Kerry is elected, I think he’ll do a fine job. He won’t be running the whole shebang by himself. He will have advisors, etc. The military will listen to him, follow his orders, and if he proves himself as a leader, respect him. The chances of the US Military not following the orders of the commander in cheif are so slim, I have a better chance of winning the lottery ten times.

I have made this point many times on this board.

There is not a veteran’s status litmus test in American politics, nor should there be one. And I say that as a veteran myself.

I give due credit to John Kerry’s genuine heroism, and always have. But it doesn’t show what kind of president he’ll be.

Anyone who plays up his medals in this race over George Bush’s more modest service needs to ask themselves very basic questions. When Bill Clinton (who as we all know, avoided the draft) ran in 1996 against Bob Dole, a partially paralyzed veteran and Bronze Star winner, who did you vote for?

And when Bill Clinton ran in 1992 against George H.W. Bush, the youngest combat pilot in the Navy in WWII and holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross, who did you vote for?

Anybody who voted for the draft avoider then, but say they can’t do it now on principle, is a hypocrite.

However, if you voted issues all the way through, you can have voted for John Kerry and for Bill Clinton with a clean conscience, just like I can vote similarly for George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush with no worries on that score.

Living near a US Army base, and working with several current and former members of the military - I can say that many current members of the military have extremely serious doubts about the Bush administration and especially our Department of Defense. One officer that I know will not hesitate to tell any civilian how poorly planned and managed the occupation has been…

But they haven’t seen much so far that indicates that John Kerry would do a better job, in fact they really don’t anticipate any real change in policy. We are pretty much locked in our position at this point.

I think John Kerry’s veteran status will put him a few notches above Bill Clinton in the eyes of the military. But I don’t think it was Bill Clinton’s “draft dodging” that made him really unpopular in the active duty armed forces (but certainly among many older veterans). I think his actual military policies were what did it. If Kerry brings aboard people such as Madeleine Albright and Wesley Clark then you’ll hear some audible groans. Many military men felt that our Kossovo War was also rather poorly planned, and the idea of a war based entirely on air power is not popular at all. We Americans often forget that that Kossovo fueled some serious anti-Americanism too (the world didn’t just love us until Dubya came along as some seem to put it). Believe it or not, most people in the military don’t like war at all, even if the ‘war’ is entirely fought by cruise missiles. But they accept it when it clearly involves the defense of the United States’ vital interests (after 9-11).

The military is indeed a conservative institution, in the classic sense of that term, and that means that they are entirely beholden to George W. Bush. But Kerry has to do a lot more to convince the military that he would improve the situation on the ground.

whoops, I meant “the military is conservative in the classic sense…meaning that they are NOT entirely beholden to Bush”…

I forgot to put not.


Hit the nail right on the head. I alluded to this a little bit in my first reply, but this was the real source of unpopularity in the ranks of the Clinton administration.

For several years, as an example, I seldom heard Madeline Albright referred to by her proper name on our ship. In casual, non-official conversation, it was always “Madeline All-dumb”.

So if Kerry announces “good choices” for his Cabinet especially regarding military then the military might be more inclined to vote Kerry ? They wouldn’t fear Albright and Wesley coming aboard then ?

If Bush does win and tries to pull off another Iraq… will the military play along ?

Huh? Unless the military is ordered to do something unconstitutional why would they not follow the orders of their CnC?

I mean I can see some senior officers resigning in protest which would weaken any President’s political capital trying to get funding through congress but an outright revolt? The military is a servant of the civilian government. It’s not their place as an organization to refuse orders.

Well Senior Generals did try to get in the way of Rummies reforms…

I’m sorry, I must have missed where policy reforms equated to direct military orders from the Commander in Chief.

I am searching for this quote from Mrs. Albright on the military…I recall her stating something like “What good is having the world’s strongest military if we don’t put it to use” - I can’t find the exact quote, but I sure as hell remember its impact a few years ago.

That angered military people like you wouldn’t believe.

Some of the “neocon” beliefs over projecting American might abroad were very apparent in the Clinton administration. People think this mentality is all something that Bush and Cheney cooked up. 9-11 simply made it boil over.

I don’t know what specific cabinet appointments Kerry would make that would please the military, but there are Democrats that would be very acceptable as secretaries of defense. Sam Nunn or John Breaux - someone who is relatively conservative in defense affairs.

The real question is whether Congress will “play along.” You seem to keep forgetting that the president can’t wage war. That authority is explicitly reserved for Congress by the constitution. Congress has, thru the war powers act, granted authority to presidents to use limitted military action, but it can withdraw that support at any time. The Iraq war could **NEVER ** have happened without the approval of Congress.

Yes, the Iraq war would never have come about if Bush didn’t push for it. The Congress wasn’t the driver for this action. But they could have shut Bush down and essentially told him to “take a hike” if they thought the war was a bad idea, and he couldn’t have done a thing about it.

You know, I’m as conservative as they come. But I have a hard time with this construct.

I don’t think standing up for the defense of America, advocating modernization of our military forces or bringing hardheaded realism into foreign policy are solely conservative positions. And there are some good liberal Democrats who haven’t let America down in this regard. Scoop Jackson, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman instantly come to mind in this regard. And nobody can accuse them of being right-wingers.

However, in recent years the Democratic Party has gone soft on both foreign policy and defense. They’ve advocated cutting the defense budget far below levels I consider sane, and they advocate an approach to foreign policy that would guarantee that actions we need to take in the future to protect our vital interests could be prevented by parties in world bodies with their own agendas.

It’s conservatives right now who oppose this. But these stouthearted Democrats I mentioned probably would probably have had a problem with it as well. And, before anybody accuses me of cherrypicking and choosing only dead Democratic hawks, keep in mind live ones are a rare breed indeed.

Maybe they have this quaint idea that money budgeted for defense should be spent on, oh I don’t know, defense?

And that if the US uses it’s “defense” forces to jaunt around the world starting pointless wars, then that’s a sign it’s overspent what’s prudent?

Can’t say I buy that, sevastopol, after helping fight Bill Clinton’s war in Yugoslavia with vastly inadequate resources.

The Navy P3 squadrons we were sending out to do Sharp Guard and Deny Flight missions would burn through their operational funds very quickly. They’d then use their training funds to wage these operations, therefore cutting into the resources neeed to keep up their readiness.

Even these funds proved inadequate, so the squadrons started diverting other funds to the war effort. All of this was done anticipating furure resources, which never came. Indeed, more P3 squadrons were cut in the 1990’s.

I don’t think Breaux and Nunn are “right-wingers”, just relatively conservative Democrats with credibility on defense issues.

Those “good liberal Democrats” who have defense cred are no longer around…and as I am a Democrat, it pains me a bit to say that.

Well, then I have to ask, is Kerry credible on defense and national security? He’s certainly a liberal. There’s no question on that score.

I don’t think he is, though he certainly could become so in the future. It would take a lot of work and a lot of support from the right people.

Why on earth have liberals abandoned defense as a subject worthy of their serious attention, except as a target of weapons system cuts and social engineering? I cannot for the life of me understand this. It has done nothing for liberals except cost them elections and make governing much harder.