Friday, October 06, 2006

Who Should Lead?

Newspaper Publish Date of 5 October 06

The rhetoric leading up to this year’s election clearly portrays a difference between the Republican and Democratic views of what it takes to defend this nation. It leads to the often asked “who is more capable of leading America during a time of war?”

When asked this “more capable” question my conservative attitudes made the answer obvious and easy for me. But I also pondered the question from a military view and wondered if military service were used as a barometer, an indicator of propensity for action and a willingness to fight an enemy, would it give any insight for answering the question. Specifically, did the beliefs of the Republican populace, not politicians in D.C., move them to “put up” more when it came time to actually fight, or did the Democratic populace “put up” more, or were they equal?

If we use the typical standard of red states (those who voted for President Bush in 2004) representing Republican America, while blue states represent Democratic America, the percentage of military recruits among equal numbers of youth from each state is illustrative of the difference in views about the defense of this nation.

Research from the National Priorities Project released in September indicates that of the top 24 states who gave the highest ratios of sons and daughters for military service in 2005 per 1000 of their youth ages 15-24, 8 of the top 10 and 21 of the top 24 were red states.

An analysis of Defense Department and Census Bureau data collected by the Heritage Foundation revealed that of the states who gave the highest percentages of sons and daughters for military service in 2003 per 1000 of their youth ages 18-24, 15 of the top 20 were red states. Of the 20 states which gave a disproportionately low number of their youth to the service in 2003, 13 were blue states. Their study also confirmed a “strong Southern military tradition” (red states) and “found an exceptional tendency for lower than average military participation in New England” (blue states).

But does that necessarily mean those states have sons and daughters who tend to have a red state mentality themselves? Although not completely scientific, but still the most comprehensive representation of military attitudes available, the most recent Military Times polling of military members showed 60% of respondents identified themselves as Republican and 13% identified themselves as Democrats. Additionally, pre-election Army Times polls in 2004 showed 73% of members planning to vote for President Bush and 18% planning to vote for Democratic challenger John Kerry.

The Heritage Foundation study did not discuss an unwillingness to serve under a Commander in Chief of a different political stripe, as it looked at data from 1999 and 2003.

The object of these observations is not to portray the political leanings of the military. Nor is it an attempt to segregate military members based on their backgrounds. I firmly believe my brothers and sisters in arms serve their country equally well and with the same spirit regardless of background or political persuasion.

But these observations do help us understand manifestations of the philosophies and ideologies about our national defense held by different groups. It’s the philosophies and ideologies of the places where military members come from we are interested in because they bring clarity to the differences between actions Democrats and Republicans are willing to take for the defense of this nation.

Many distinctions can be made about attitudes and beliefs throughout the country. One way to solicit the differences could be illustrated by the responses given when asked to choose between fighting for Constitutional protections for terrorists or fighting against the terrorists in defense of the country the Constitution represents. When confronted, do they choose to fight first for the rights of the terrorists or fight against the terrorists? Chances are New Englanders will tend to answer the question differently than Southerners. The military service decisions of our youth from different states or areas can then be used as a barometer for war time leadership preference because they are the manifestation, the reflection of the same values and beliefs which drive our answers to these types of questions.

There are differences in attitude toward service to the country and how much is willingly sacrificed to insure our safety. Again, I’m not talking about the military members themselves; all who join must be willing to make every sacrifice, even the ultimate sacrifice when called upon to do so. But the prevailing attitudes that exist in areas where military service is encouraged and supported indicate a heightened recognition of the need and willingness to defend our country. In order for youth to take action and be willing to make the sacrifices required of military service, the predominant atmosphere among the families, neighborhoods, and hometowns which urge and support their service must include recognition of the threats to our country and a penchant for action against them.

When given the choice between leadership derived from a philosophy which lacks understanding of the threats we face and is reluctant or even unwilling to take action when confronted by these threats or leadership that recognizes danger and willingly takes decisive action against these threats as needed, I’ll choose the latter.

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