Freedom Isn’t Free


On July 5 1776, one day after the Declaration of Independence was made public, our new-born nation was a mess.  Mostly, we had been clashing with the British since April 19 1775.  The Battle of Bunker Hill was the one exception where large numbers of men on both sides lost their lives.  But in truth, neither side was yet prepared for a full out war.  The British troops were the best trained, best armed, and had the best leadership by far.  England had the ability to fund a short war and defeat almost any enemy she desired.  That British confidence of an impending American defeat was high was understandable.  The single thing that kept America viable over the next 7 years was its dogged desire to prevail.  The be sure, the Continental Congress was bankrupt, unable to pay its soldiers as promised.  The new American army suffered through a very high rate of desertion.  Conversely, the British Army suffered virtually no desertions.  Gen. Washington looked upon the British commander, Gen. Howe, with envy.  His troops were well fed, well armed, well trained, and supremely confident.  While the Battle of Yorktown was the finality of the war, it had truly ended long before by greatly diminishing the English war coffers and the distance at which the war was fought.  Also, sentiment in England was of a country weary of a civil war, that being that Americans had previously been viewed by the English public as brethren who had previously been an integral part of their country.  But the cost of that war, on both sides, lingered for decades after 1783.  For the first time, America had to deal with its war veterans and the promises it had made to them.  Some of those promises were not fulfilled until well into the 19th century.

When Thomas Jefferson took office he took offence to the large standing army he inherited and did his level best to entirely disband it, claiming that such an army was entirely unnecessary.  And although his feeling about the American Navy was not quite so draconian, he still reduced its size as well.  But then came the War of 1812.  The war was started over the impressment of American sailors in the British Navy.  And even though the war was started at sea, it was entirely completed on land.  Britain had entertained the idea that it could recapture this country that had slipped its rule only 30 years prior, well within the memory of most in government and power.  But again, the cost of a protracted war at a great distance proved too much.  Britain had actually conceded the war prior to the Battle of New Orleans because of that reason.  But America had quickly reassembled its army but not before the British army lay waste to the new American capitol at Washington and ran with impunity for well over a year.


The American army was relatively stable, well trained, and well equipped until the end of World War 1.  Many called that war, “the war to end all wars.”  It was believed that after WW1, a war which counted its casualties in the 10s of millions, there would never again rise the desire of any country to war upon any other country at such a scale.  The allies, America, Britain, and France agreed upon the size of the world’s navies.  It was believed that only a navy could transport large armies to other countries and by limiting those navies would necessarily limit any country’s desire to do war.  That, of course, proved hugely fallacious  By Americans, gripped by isolationist ideas, reduced its army by such large numbers that had the Japanese attacked the US mainland 1940 with its marines and armies using it large naval fleet, we would have been in serious trouble.  Couple that with its ally, Germany, and an invasion by Germany, American’s 458,000 men in uniform would have been severely tested and, in many cases, eliminated owing to poor training, being poorly equipped, and marginally led.  I mention that number because it was only due to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s belief that the US entry into the European war being eminent, he increased the size of the military to 1.8 million in 1941.  Even so, that military was not particularly well trained or well equipped.


That 1940 number is worthy of note because it is the number at which today’s Army stands.  The total number in today’s military, all branches and both active and reserve, stands at about 1.3 million but declining.  Since 1988 the US Congress has been hell bent on reducing the size of the military, and the number of its installations when there were about 2.1 million men in uniform.  People viewed, and still do, our defense budget as out of control, over-burdening, and unnecessary.  The present day public has this view that we can somehow conduct a war at a distance and with a “World of Warcraft” mentality.  We have smart bombs, high tech aircraft, and cutting edge equipment at every point.  But what the American public forgets is that in the end, it is the individual soldier would fights and wins, or God help us, loses the war.  High tech equipment is rendered useless without men to operate and maintain it.  But even more importantly, and something we all should be intimately aware of right now, is that today’s war, today’s battles, are largely fought and won by the rifleman.  We fight large numbers of enemies who do not wear any uniform, are terrorists who blend in with the local population.  We should have learned that lesson back in the 1970s when in Vietnam we had to fight the Viet Cong who did the same.  But it seems we have forgotten and so we have doomed ourselves to repeating our past mistakes.

Today, the US Army has a total of 13 divisions, 1 armored, 1o infantry of various sorts, and only 2 reserve/national guard.  During the conduct of the Vietnam War, the Defense Department guaranteed each soldier that he would be required to serve in a war zone for only one 12-month period in his career.  Today, soldiers are required to serve 2, 3 and even 4 tours in our present-day war zones.  We have known since World War 1 the hugely negative effects of war upon soldiers and we strived for 50 years to protect our soldiers against such circumstances.  What in World War 2 and Korea was called “battle fatigue” is today known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Most, if not all, our soldiers today who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq suffer for some degree of PTSD.  This too is a cost of war.


We have two choices right now, as I see it.  We can either withdraw all our troops for the worlds battle grounds or greatly increase the size of our military.  Our military is extremely stressed and stretched far too thinly for the mission it has been given today.  Too few are being asked to do too much.  And since I do not see us withdrawing from the world’s battlefields at any time in the near future, it is our duty, an imperative, to adjust the size of our military to fill those needs.  And as distasteful as the American public may find it, the best deterrent to terrorist and like activities in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan is the presence of a large infantry force until that country is capable of defending itself.  Clearly neither Iraq nor Afghanistan is ready to defend itself.  This is exactly what we did at the end of World War 2 in Germany and Japan, and it worked extremely well.  Why is it we cannot commit ourselves in the same manner today?

Americans really need to consider its mindset towards our military and those we serve.  While it has become common practice to thank those who serve, those words ring rather hollow when we do not back them up with actions that show our support.  Americans should insist that soldiers not be forced into harms way more than once in their military service and back that promise up with the dollars it takes to keep that promise.  Americans need to suck it up, bite the bullet, or whatever cliché you care to use, and commit to a force that not only serves our country in general, but those who serve within it as well.  Right now we are asking too few to do too much.


What Price Defense?


The picture above, as you all probably recognize, is of a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber.  What you probably do not realize is that this bomber, of which 92 are still on active duty, was first manufactured in 1955 with the last being made in late 1962.  That means the youngest B-52 is 51 years old!  How many of you would consider driving a 1962 Ford or Chevy as your everyday car?  Well, that is exactly what we ask the men who man these bombers to do.  The B-52 has a 5-man crew.  To be fair, only the latest models are still in use, and they receive a degree of maintenance which guarantees the safety of the crew.  Still, it is flying on something you cannot replace, the airframe, and that airframe is at least 51 years old.  The Boeing 707 was the heart of the long-range commercial fleet when these aircraft were first produced.  Anyone flown on one of those lately?  Why do you think that is?

Within the Air Force inventory are the B-1 and B-2, but neither can fly the mission of the B-52.  So why do we not just retire them?  Because we are not ready to say the nuclear bomb era is over and this aircraft still reigns supreme when it comes to carrying such a payload.


The front aircraft above is a KC-135, a refueling aircraft, which just happens to be refueling a B-52.  This aircraft was first delivered to the Air Force in 1956, and if it looks a little familiar, it should, it is the military version of the Boeing 707.  According to the Air Force, it stills has 414 of these aircraft on active and reserve status.  The last KC-135 was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.  That fleet is no younger than 48 years old, most older.  To be fair, the Air Force, reinforced its refueling fleet by buying a military version of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10, the KC-10, which were built after 1981.  But military cutbacks allowed a purchase of a total of 59 of these aircraft, far fewer than needed to replace an already aging KC-135 fleet.  The entire KC-10 fleet is at least 20 years old.


The picture above is of an Air Force C-5A.  This air craft was first delivered to the Air Force in 1970 and were produced, in the “B” and “C” models, until 1989.  A fleet of 59 C-5 “M” models are scheduled to be delivered.  Still, the bulk of this fleet is at least 20 years old.  In 1991 the Air Force started taking delivery of its replacement, the C-17.


The picture above is of the Navy’s F-14, first delivered in 1970, but fully retired in 2006.  The Navy replaced this aircraft with the F/A-18, seen below.



The picture above is of an Air Force F-15.  It was first delivered in 1975.  This aircraft, however, is still in production costing taxpayers about $140 million a copy.


The aircraft above is the Air Force F-22.  It cost about $140 million a copy.  This is the aircraft the Air Force prefers to the F-15.  Strangely, the F-22 is no longer produced, the last coming off the assembly line November 2011.

Keeping the peace is expensive, particularly in a world as unpredictable as this one is.  The majority of servicemen and women are not interested in going to war, but when they must, they would prefer to do it with equipment that was developed for today’s circumstances.

Take your 1962 Ford to your mechanic and tell him you want it to have a catalytic converter, GPS, satellite radio, air conditioning, and all the other bells and whistles.  He can do it but by the time he gets finished you will wonder why you did not just buy a new car in the first place.  Yes, you will have all the bells and whistles of today’s car but you are still going to have a 50-year-old body, frame, and numerous other parts.  As foolish as all this sounds, it is exactly what people are expecting of the military.  You are asking our military men and women to fight tomorrow’s wars with yesterday’s equipment.  Please, tell me the logic of that?

I was recently told that the money we spend on new F-22 aircraft would be better spent on education.  The sophistry of that argument is incredible.  I absolutely think we should spend more money on the education of our young people, but not to the detriment of those charged with protecting our country.

Just as a bit of a post script, present plans include keeping the venerable B-52 for the next 20 years!

Killing the Federal Government’s Sacred Cows

This post may seem rather odd coming from a lifelong registered Democrat and yet it does.  But I do believe that there are entire agencies within the federal government that need to be greatly reduced if not entirely disbanded.  Our government is trying to be all things to all people, and that is just an impossibility.  Most agencies were founded with the idea that since they apply to all people in the United States the federal government is the natural head.  That is both idealistic and overly optimistic.

One of the sacred cows of the Democrat Party is Health and Human Services.  This is an agency that should probably exist, in a much reduced form, under another cabinet head with most of its services being relegated to the individual states.  I think this also applies to housing and urban developement.  This does not mean I am in favor of eliminating welfare, but it does mean I believe welfare should be entirely funded by the individual state.

I have no idea why the Department of Energy exists as a cabinet post at all.  It would seem that its various organizations are better fitted beneath other existing agencies such as transportation and commerce.

Another cabinet post that thoroughly aggravates me Homeland Security.  This was a knee-jerk reaction by the Bush administration to the events of September 11, 2001.  While I agree in principle that greater security measures were needed, I entirely disagree, obviously with how this was carried out.  Title 10 and Title 32 of the U.S. Code dictates how our military troops can be used on U.S. soil.  Events following the incident at Kent State in the 1960s forced the issue of how the army can be used during civil discord.  It was affirmed that they cannot arrest any U.S. citizen for any reason, that is the domain of local, state, and federal police forces.  It should be noted, however, that there is absolutely no function which is the domain of Homeland Security that did not exist under some other authority prior to the events of 9/11.  It did mean that such activities needed to be better defined and expanded, but not to the extent that has happened.  Our troops, to included the Coast Guard, can be and should be used to assist in security our airports and seaports.  In fact, an open military presence at such facilities would likely underscore the commitment of the U.S. Government to the protection of its people.

Democrats are calling for a huge reduction in the Department of Defense’s budget citing the reduction of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Republicans seem to be complicit by the simple fact that they have not raised much of a fuss over proposed budget reductions.  This is one, along with State, of the cabinet posts that neither needs reduction in personnel nor funding.

The Department of Veteran Affairs should be made a part of Defense.  And with that, a compact needs to be struck such that anyone who has honorably served in our armed forces can expect lifetime care by the DoD.  This would not only make the military a more attractive place to young men and women, but would also enable all disabled veterans to get a consistently high level of care they deserve.  Understand, the VA would not go away but would become an active arm of DoD and find its funding there.

The federal government does need to redefine how its distributes funding among its various agencies to support the needs of the states.   Republicans are fond of saying how American business is better suited to do certain things the government now does.  And where the Department of Energy is concerned, save the regulatory portion, I could not agree more.  I believe that all portions of research and development done by the DOE, as well as any number of other agencies, is better left to the private sector.

Every person in every state must realize that to reduce the size and cost of the federal government means individual states taking on those tasks.  Health, welfare, housing, and many other programs now run by the fed will be taken over and funded by individual states.  As an individual you have to come to terms with what that means and what it is going to look like.  Personally, I am all for it.