Monday, June 30, 2008

War And John McCain * repost

Though I only kind of like Gen Wes Clark, here you are again...

I won't denigrate John McCain's service or his suffering in Vietnam but I will take a look at what this has to do with his viewpoint regarding warfare. John McCain flew jets for the Navy, fighter bombers. John McCain was shot down over North Vietnam and captured. He suffered at the hands of the North Vietnamese. John McCain is a brave man. His experience of warfare is also one of the extreme minority of those in combat.

John McCain's experience of combat involved flying high over it and dropping bombs, a quiet removed experience with moments of extreme danger. This wasn't a safe job, in fact, the percentages of airmen injured, killed, or captured in combat was quite high. This isn't about bravery, it's about the experience.

Between hours long missions the jets were parked on an aircraft carrier in virtual safety and their pilots had safe beds and good food. Pilots are officers, support are enlisted personnel. In John McCain's world of war, gentlemen engaged in combat and were cared for by enlisted men. Their world was safe pampered and had very limited contact with native civilians, it was a closed society of volunteers.

Contrast this with the life of ground troops. These men endured the climate exactly as it was, heat, mud, rain, filth and fought in it. Their beds were cots or the ground and at no time safe and you have to experience food under these conditions to appreciate that C-rats and MRE are fuel not food. No matter where the troops went in country an enemy could be found at hand. If they were lucky enough to have barracks, there was no assurance that a grenade wouldn't roll through the door or that the base wouldn't come under mortar attack. Ground engagements took place at close range, the blood stink, and cries of wounded all right at hand to be experienced. The vast majority experiencing this were enlisted men and of them a good percentage were conscripts. The numbers involved meant that injury and death were a regular experience, and that experience was personal, it happened to people at arm's reach.

These men came from a wide spectrum of the United States and their experiences involved large numbers of families and friends. These men came home to a country torn by the war. They had experienced it on television before going, in country, and after their return. Their families and friends had the war on television before, during, and after their return. The nation as a whole dealt with the second hand reality of war.

John McCain went to war as the child of he military world, the top of its hierarchy. He grew up in that world and served as one of that group. Once a prisoner he had no experience of the conflict at home and the slow grinding of opposition and loss. John McCain started the war, served in the war, and came home from the war divorced from its social and political costs. John McCain suffered as a consequence of being shot down, but he never experienced the war in the context of more than a handful of people compared to the rest of the nation. What John McCain actually knows of warfare comes from a unique perspective and serves us poorly. A few visits to Iraq in the hands of the propaganda machine have nothing to do with the suffering of the civilians and the grinding danger filled life of a trooper. A faux fighter jock got us into this mess and the idea that another fighter jock has a clue about it is ludicrous.

I make no argument regarding military service as a benefit in a candidate for any political office. It has nothing to do with judgement, what it has to do with is personal experience. You can find any number of Vietnam War ground combat vets who state that the war was sold out and could have been won. It is not a basis for political judgement to have been shot at in war. A combat soldier's life is measured by minutes, decisions and actions have immediate consequences, thinking is drawn down to the very narrowest of considerations. This is the very antithesis of political thinking, where decisions may not have measurable effects for years. The measure of John McCain as candidate has nothing to do with military service, it has everything to do with his record as a politician. He has demonstrated with votes who it is he serves, the elite of money and power - not Americans.


Phil said...

An excellent assessment of McCain's qualifications--or, rather, lack of qualifications--to serve as the next POTUS, Chuck. "Former POW" is not the highest recommendation one can bring to a Presidential campaign, nor is "former combat pilot." And McCain's political record speaks for itself.

KISS said...

As for McCain's service, I think that being a known Hot-Dog and causing a great fire on the USS Forestall, and ricks[ unnecessary?] speaks loudly his unmeritorious service. Little is known about his POW time and in time I'm sure we will learn more of his interment. Could this be a reverse " Swift Boat"?

Chuck Butcher said...

I think leaving McCain's service entirely alone would be a good idea and any 527 that tried it would cause more harm to the Dems than virtually any other line of attack could. I know about his reputation and the Forrestal was ruled equipment failure. I also know he was an Admiral's son and etc etc etc and I'm not about to get into squabbles over his service.

Flying fighter bombers is a risky business and landing on a carrier takes serious nerve, I'll certainly give him all of that - and turn right around and say, "so what?" Like I did in this post.