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Lauding the Bush team and our military

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted May 5, 2003

Bush walks the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln after landing there aboard an S-3B Viking, as the carrier steamed toward San Diego, California on May 1
Bush walks the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln after landing there aboard an S-3B Viking, as the carrier steamed toward San Diego, California on May 1

It was a terrific prelude to a pivotal speech, and certainly great fun to watch over the television airwaves. On May 1st, President George Bush arrived on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a most spectacular manner -- The President flew in on a twin-engine Navy S-3B Viking jet that landed nicely on the flight deck. Emerging from the aircraft, co-pilot Bush appeared every bit the "Top Gun", garbed in full pilot jumpsuit, helmet and gear. Formerly a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard, President Bush took the opportunity to do a little flying, as he readily admitted, "Yes, I flew it! Yeah of course I Iiked it!"

Most Americans want their presidents to be real men -- forthright, resolute, reliable, uncomplicated guys that adeptly get the job done. These are the type of men that are not particularly verbose, but do exactly what they say they'll do. And, essentially, that's what President Bush is all about. Instinctively, people understand that complicated intellectuals, charismatic double-talkers, and pathological narcissists rife with personal foibles are not the makings of a great commander-in-chief. Americans expect solid leadership that can capably evaluate national security threats and effectively utilize military force when warranted. This is not complicated stuff.

Was former president Bill Clinton willing and able to come to grips with the dangers posed by terrorism? The obvious answer is "No". It was not enough for Clinton to assert an aggressive rhetorical stance -- he was required to enact substantive military actions against terrorist thugs. In a nutshell, Clinton shirked his responsibilities and continued to undercut and demoralize both the military and intelligence community despite ongoing attacks upon American assets during the 1990's (NYC's Twin Towers-1993, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, USS Cole in Yemen, etc.), which was the significant run-up period to September 11th.

Something in Clinton's psyche made him unable to appreciate the proper use of military power -- and my hunch is that he was fearful, as well. Confronting transnational terrorists would have involved extensive warfare throughout the Middle East and around the globe, and Clinton simply lacked the stomach for the military campaigns and the inherent political risks that could play havoc with his all-important legacy. Clinton was only comfortable with bombing assaults from 15,000 feet (which, by the way, resulted in numerous civilian casualties in the former Yugoslavia) and the often-cited cruise missile strikes.

But this is a different era, and we are blessed with having the right people spearheading our military efforts, and the magnificent troops that comprise our professional voluntary forces. Americans are tremendously proud of the Bush administration and our military personnel in the wake of well-fought, arduous combat over the past 18 months. The events of September 11th unleashed this "war on terrorism" that is truly a World War being fought on multi-fronts, and in multi-phases.

Last year, America and its allies successfully toppled the ruling Taliban and its al-Qaida comrades in Afghanistan. And, now the US-led "coalition of the willing" has ousted Iraq's Saddam Hussein -- a wicked tyrant that had worked in tandem with myriad terror groups over the years, al-Qaida among them, as newly discovered documents substantiate. Both the Afghanis and the Iraqis have been liberated from dictatorship, and they can look forward to greatly improved prospects thanks to America and allied nations.

However, we cannot sufficiently fathom our victories in Afghanistan and Iraq until we examine the profound influence of key player Donald Rumsfeld, our Secretary of Defense, affectionately known as "Rummy". I love this often quoted line about Rummy: "He's not much of a Secretary of Defense, but he's a hellava Secretary of War!" With that in mind, Rumsfeld reportedly said, "You can't defend except by offense" in terms of tackling terrorism.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has transformed the military, not only by virtue of high-tech, state-of-the-art weaponry, but by his emphasis upon speed, mobility, flexibility and innovation. In an excellent article by Victor Davis Hanson (National Review magazine, 5/5/03 edition), the author states, "But while the Army's Bradley fighting vehicles and Abrams tanks were vital in smashing Iraqi defenses and preventing Mogadishu-like nightmares, other things were equally important -- the speeding motorized convoys that bypassed initial resistance; the air drops; the irregulars who organized the Kurds; and the small squads of highly trained skirmishers who proved masterful house-to-house fighters". Rumsfeld fully appreciates that "we will need lighter, more mobile forces that can be rushed to hot spots until the heavy muscle arrives". Because Rumsfeld has given impetus to this renaissance in the military, the author has rightly dubbed him the "radical for our time."

The Battle of Iraq is now one for the history books. In his May 1st speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush announced that our forces have prevailed, the major combat phase in Iraq is now complete, and the nation expresses its considerable gratitude for all the efforts of American and coalition troops. To quote President Bush, "This nation thanks all the members of our coalition who joined in a noble cause.  We thank the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland, who shared in the hardships of war.  We thank all the citizens of Iraq who welcomed our troops and joined in the liberation of their own country.  And tonight, I have a special word for Secretary Rumsfeld, for General Franks, and for all the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States:  America is grateful for a job well done". Homage was also paid to those soldiers that made the ultimate sacrifice during this military engagement.

Moreover, the speech continued to advance the larger perspective of American foreign policy that has been considerably impacted by September 11th and the consequential "war on terrorism". Other salient points noted in the Bush speech were as follows:

*America has an ambitious foreign policy that cogently embraces American idealism, specifically, the virtue and value of freedom.

*America has embarked on a new era in warfare that permits "precision, speed and boldness" to enact surgical strikes against enemies, minimizing harm to civilian populations.

*America will continue to confront terrorist groups and outlaw regimes with terrorist ties and weapons of mass destruction.

*We have made notable progress in this "war on terrorism" but the work of the coalition is far from over since "al Qaida is wounded, not destroyed".

*We are rebuilding Iraq, and we will not leave until the job is done.

*We fully stand by the new Iraqi leaders in efforts to "establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people". 

*The fight for freedom (in Iraq and elsewhere), and the fight for our security are inexorably intertwined. As President Bush underscored, "Our commitment to liberty is America's tradition -- declared at our founding, affirmed in Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms, asserted in the Truman Doctrine, and in Ronald Reagan's challenge to an evil empire.  We are committed to freedom in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in a peaceful Palestine.  The advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world".

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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