Monday, June 30, 2008

Patriotism in Politics

It only took a weekend – and Wes said it again on Sunday to waiting microphones. (I can call him “Wes” as we were in the same West Point class. We became acquainted in “plebe” summer when all new cadets are allowed to think of themselves as a minor step above the lowest insect alive. Only later did he become First Captain of the Corps of Cadets, a Rhodes Scholar, a four star general, and a presidential candidate.)

I had heard Wes the first time – at a book launch (not one of his) on Thursday when he made his observation that being a prisoner of war or the commander of a carrier air wing in peacetime were not necessarily credentials for the presidency. Clark said he was not in any way questioning McCain’s patriotism or what had been an honorable and long military career.

The relevance of Clark’s observations – they were not “accidentally” overheard through an open mike – to the political race for the White House – still escapes me in light of the fact that McCain’s opponent in the presidential sweepstakes is Barak Obama, not Wesley Clark. Clark intimates that he is more qualified to be commander-in-chief since he was in command when the “hard” decision had to be made to bomb Serbia.

Well, I never had to make a decision to bomb anybody – and I suggest that well under half of our West Point class had to decide whether todrop bombs or fire long-range rockets at an enemy. I never commanded any unit above an infantry platoon (the Army calls that position “platoon leader” and not “platoon commander”) and that was in a non-hostile theater.

The point is that all three of us had jobs to do when we were in uniform, different jobs at different levels. What is important – what is “patriotic – is that Clark and McCain (and I trust others will so judge me) served honorably and well.

Americans need to get off this kick that measures “patriotism” by whether or not people wore a uniform or whether they did or did not go into a war zone. War has nothing to do with patriotism. Even everyday language shows us that by “defining” patriotism to be love of country.

War, by contrast, has nothing of love, only death and destruction.

Ask anyone who has been in one.


Blogger rasphila said...

Very well put. I am always very sad when patriotism becomes a stick to beat an opponent with. This is no substitute for talking about the issues, and it makes solving our problems a lot more difficult.

2:13 PM  

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