washington_dc_075_national_mall_view_from_capitol_big
Run your memory back a decade or so ago if you will, especially in the run up to the invasion of Iraq.

Even before 9/11, there was a lot of discussion how as the WWII generation passed on and retired, that fewer and fewer members of Congress had military experience. With each generation, fewer and fewer people served in the military as a percentage of the general population, and you saw a similar drop in those in political power who had even a few years of seeing the world through that lens. When it came to making decisions about war and peace, that lack of experience at the national leadership and policy making levels was not seen as a net good.

While superior ideas, leadership, and vision can come from those who never served one day in uniform – it is always helpful to have a cadre of those who know the practical vice the theoretical working of the military. If they can do both, then even better.

As the build-up and discussions on if we should lead an invasion of Iraq gained steam, when you looked around the Hill, there were a scattering of WWII, Korean War Veterans, as well as a Cold War skirmisher here and there, and even closer in time – a core of Senators, Congressmen and members of the Executive Branch who served in Vietnam.

Experience with actual combat covered the spectrum. Some with quite substantial exposure to combat and sacrifice you could find humble in word, and often in the background providing counsel. On the other end, there were some with limited service who seemed to crow and remind everyone at every chance about their “special” perspective – and would take a peer out in the rush for a camera.

As their experience was varied, so was their advice in quality and quantity. What was generally appreciated, from exceptionally honorable service on left and right such as Senators Inouye (D-HI) and McCain (R-AZ) on down, was that in the Hearing Room and briefing table, there was someone who at least had an understanding of the “So What” and “What Next” when someone gave them the “What.”

Some memories fade with time, and the experience in one conflict may not translate well from then to now – but for those being asked to go unto the breach once more – it was reassuring to know that someone knew what they were asking other to do.

Veterans-and-Congress_2

So, here we find ourselves a dozen years in to war – and of this cohort of veterans quite a few have made it in to Congress. Not just the professional politicians who are also Reservists JAGs and Intel Officers (not that there is anything wrong with that); but combat arms personnel who, after their service, decided to serve in another way.

As we look to opening a door to a dark room again, before we step in, to answer the question, “Where do these veterans in Congress stand?”, I think we have our answer.

Via TheHill;

The majority of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans serving in Congress are lining up against President Obama’s plan for military action in Syria.

Of the 16 veterans of those two conflicts serving in Congress, only GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) have publicly supported the White House’s plan.

Three other members — Iraq War veterans and Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio, Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) — are undecided.

A fourth, Scott Perry (R-Pa.), said he hasn’t made up his mind either, though he told a town hall this week he wasn’t inclined to support a resolution authorizing force.

Ten of the remaining members have announced their opposition to a military strike.

As of Saturday when that article came out, that is 2/10/4, for/against/undecided.

Two of the more vocal opponents are of the President’s own party – one from his own state and the other from his adopted state; both Army;

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii bemoaned the carnage in Syria after a chemical weapons attack, which the U.S. says killed hundreds of civilians, including children, last month. However, after participating in public and private sessions on Capitol Hill, she said a U.S. military strike would be a serious mistake.

“As a soldier, I understand that before taking any military action, our nation must have a clear tactical objective, a realistic strategy, the necessary resources to execute that strategy, including the support of the American people, and an exit plan,” Gabbard said in a statement. “The proposed military action against Syria fails to meet any of these criteria.”

Gabbard, who served near Baghdad for a year and was a medical operations specialist, is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Gabbard joins other Democrats from Obama’s native state, including Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, in opposing aggressive U.S. military intervention in the Syrian civil war.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., lost both legs and partial use of an arm in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Iraq. She has not made a final decision on whether she would vote for a resolution authorizing force, but the freshman lawmaker from Obama’s adopted state has serious reservations about any strike.

“It’s military families like mine that are the first to bleed when our nation makes this kind of commitment,” Duckworth has said.

Seniority means a lot in DC – but so should personal authority, one would hope. Many in DC asked for more military experience in Congress, well they have it in both parties. The Long War Caucus seems to have reached a bi-partisan consensus.

Does it matter?




Posted by CDRSalamander in Hard Power
Tags: , , ,

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

  • Old Nuke

    How about what a partisan hack (non-Veteran) thinks …. against all intervention in Syria, but will vote for military action anyway. Blood in exchange for political points scored.

    Letter To Constituents On Syria

    Monday, September 9, 2013

    Dear Friends,

    The last week has been the most difficult I have experienced in my more than eight years in public office. What I share with you now will not win me any popularity awards, and some of you may well never forgive me for my decision today. All I ask is that you read this entire letter and seek to understand how I came to make this decision.

    I have always believed that my decisions in public office should reflect my best judgment and what I believe to be the best course for our nation. Most of the time that leads to votes that are well aligned with most of you as constituents. Just as importantly, it means that I can look my children in the eye and explain my positions with honesty, never having to explain why a vote was the result of politics or pressure. Today, I am taking a position that I believe is in line with those values.

    From my position on the Intelligence Committee, I have been briefed regularly for eight months now on developments in Syria. Those developments have been very difficult to watch. Most people only hear about these things on a news report, where it is difficult to imagine the scale and intensity of this violence. I have had a much closer view.

    Bashar al-Assad is a dictator who has shown a willingness to reduce residential neighborhoods to rubble, to imprison and torture children, and who has watched callously as his actions have killed over a hundred thousand civilians and displaced millions of Syrian refugees.

    Despite that, I remain of the belief that as a nation, we cannot become directly entangled in a civil war that we do not fully understand. It is for this reason that I do not think we should arm the Syrian rebels and I do not support sending American troops into this conflict.

    However, over recent months I also learned of the facts that are now the subject of so much debate here and around the world. What I can tell you from my perspective, having seen the public evidence as well as much that remains classified, I do not have any doubt about the following facts:

    One: a chemical weapons attack occurred on August 21;

    Two: that attack was planned and carried out by Bashar al-Assad’s regime; and

    Three: that as a result, hundreds of children and non-combatants were gassed to death in the suburbs of Damascus.

    I have seen how Assad incrementally tests the international community as he employs more and more brutal tactics in order to cling to power. And I can tell you that August 21 was not just some anomaly, but that it is part of a long and predictable pattern of behavior.

    What’s more, I believe that when any country chooses to ignore the international norms against chemical weapons, they have made a deeply immoral decision with worldwide implications, implications that the United States and the international community cannot ignore. If you want to understand why chemical weapons were singled out for international actions,you can watch videos that were taken in the aftermath of the Damascus attacks. These videos show the real effects of chemical weapons and are completely consistent with international forensic evidence showing that the agent was Sarin nerve gas. I would warn you not to view these with children in the room. They are real and they are horrible.

    I know that we are a nation that is not only rightfully weary of war, but also jaded by the dishonest use of cooked intelligence reports that led to terrible mistakes in Iraq. But this is not Iraq and we have a moral obligation to deter Assad and every regime watching him from thinking that they can gas their people with impunity, commit genocide, or employ internationally prohibited weapons.

    It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that I will support President Obama’s request for the authorization of use of military force.

    I will seek to make sure that the resolution before the Senate remains narrow in scope and does not put American troops on the ground in another Middle Eastern war. But I believe that President Obama and the international community should be able to send a message to Bashar al-Assad: that he is not above international norms and that he will suffer real, military consequences should he choose to gas civilians.

    I will continue to support additional foreign aid to alleviate the humanitarian and refugee crisis in Syria and neighboring countries, and I will also continue supporting diplomatic options so long as they are credible, verifiable, and enforceable.

    While I know that my vote on this matter will be controversial, especially among some of my closest supporters, I want you to know that I have little doubt it is the right decision.

    Sincerely,

    Martin Heinrich

    United States Senator

    Democrat
    New Mexico

    • xformed

      “While I know that my vote on this matter will be controversial,
      especially among some of my closest supporters, I want you to know that I
      have little doubt it is the right decision.”

      And when it all heads south, runs off the rails, requires more and more “resources” and becomes a political person’s nightmare of Vietnam Part What ever we are on now, what will he say then? Like the “No War for Oil Crowd who granted GWB the authority, they will be for it beofre they are against it, but…they will have been lied to, so…no fault of theirs…OOPS! It will be a “D” they have to blame on any falsified case.

      Oh, what a tangled web they weave, as they slowing create the trap they will walk into…you know, like walking across the trip wires for the Claymores you just set up for an ambush….

    • xformed

      +1 for the feed, but definitely -1 for the content of his character. I’m conflicted as to the message if I click the up arrow for your comment…:)

  • xformed

    As a minor point of reference, time for the Salamander to fully embrace his status as a “R” (not Republican” but “Retired”) for his bio on this site…full disclosure (and the 1st Amendment fully restored to his virtual voice) and all that jazz..

    • http://cdrsalamander.blogspot.com CDR Salamander

      That was once fixed. Will send a signal.

  • BudgetGeek

    About 20% of the House and 25% of the Senate are veterans. Only about 8% of the general population are. To the extent the Congress should be representative of the people, it is disproportionately filled with vets.

    Consider that the federal government spends more on health care than it does defense: what percentage of the Congress should be physicians or nurses? More than are vets, right? But you can count on one hand those with medical backgrounds. If a vet runs against a doctor for a Senate seat, we should probably vote for the doctor, right?

    Having experienced something is only one way to acquire knowledge or understanding. Because everyone’s practical experience is limited, it has the potential to distort the perspective of the policymaker as much as it enlightens.

    There is a particular Senator with an extremely commendable military record who is also the most reckless in terms of wanting to commit our forces. He seems to think the military is our only tool for influencing foreign states. Being too familiar with the military’s capabilities can be a curse, not a blessing.

    I want sitting in Congress people who study the issues objectively and apply a broad spectrum of wisdom. Having worn the uniform does not bestow any special powers of judgment.

2014 Information Domination Essay Contest
7ads6x98y