Posts Tagged military

Why We Remember

The degree and intensity which Americans commemorate Memorial Day tends to rise and fall depending upon the nation’s level of active involvement in a foreign conflict.  During the height of the recent Iraq and Afghanistan operations – which produced a tragic number of American military deaths – the day was observed with greater solemnity than in years past.

Although our service men and women continue to fight and die in foreign lands, particularly Afghanistan, the military mission has substantially run its course and the media spotlight has moved on to the next big story.  That, however, does not change the fact Americans remain in harm’s way and the threats to our national security continue unabated.

Largely as a result of popular entertainment we expect any “story line” to be wrapped up by the end of a two-and-a-half hour movie or a one hour episode of CSI.  The real world does not work that way.  The “bad guys” are not defeated in a battle that has a neat beginning and ending.  If anything, the lines marking progress, or lack of progress, are more blurred than ever.  Unlike in the world wars, congress doesn’t “declare war” anymore.  From Korea to Afghanistan we have “conflicts” or “operations.”  The new terminology doesn’t change the fact Americans are still fighting and dying.  And we don’t have official endings to such military ventures.  There is no “V-J” day with jubilant celebrations in Times Square.  We just sign “security agreements” meaning our presence in the foreign land will continue for the foreseeable future.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a rally for our troops on the steps of the state Capitol Building.  The numbers were substantially less that when the event was first staged during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan missions.  America has grown weary of wars that began after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and have dragged on ever since.

But the battle continues.

In a recent article for Imprimis, a pamphlet published by Hillsdale College, Brian T. Kennedy of the Claremont Institute sounded the alarm on the need for continued national defense by recalling the lessons taught by Harold Rood, a professor of international relations at Claremont-McKenna College who passed away in 2011.  Mr. Rood was a soldier in General George Patton’s army in World War II, so he knew and understood the nature of war and conflict from first-hand experience.

Said Kennedy: “He (Rood) taught his students that war is permanent to the human condition and that in war it is better to win, for no one ever had to accommodate a loser.  America will always have enemies, he told them, and those enemies will forever be planning and expending resources to place themselves in a position to defeat us.  It would be nice if it was otherwise, he was fond of saying, but it is not otherwise.  It is the way the world works.”

It is the way the world works.

This Memorial Day, as our nation’s recent experiences in open warfare begin to fade, we would be wise to remember that our enemies around the world continue to plot against us.  And as September 11, 2001 morphs from a current event into history we must remember the threat of terrorism within our borders also remains a constant.

That is why deep cuts to the American military now being undertaken in Washington, D.C. should be viewed with alarm.  Just as “no one ever had to accommodate a loser,” few are willing to challenge the biggest kid on the block. Or, as Ronald Reagan put it: “peace through strength.” From the mid-east to Russia challenges to our national interests continue to grow as do the domestic threats to our nation’s vital infrastructure from the electric grid to tele-communications systems.  Now is not the time to be cutting back, now is the time to be gearing up to meet these challenges.

So this Memorial Day there are three thoughts that should be on the minds of Americans:  First, we must continue to remember and venerate those who gave their lives so that this nation might prosper.  Second, we must remember the need to always remain militarily strong and vigilant.  And third, the reason why we do all of this, in the words of Abraham Lincoln: “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”


(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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It’s for the Children

Unsurprisingly, in the realm of politics and public policy folks often say one thing while meaning something entirely different.  For example, when a public official decides to retire to “spend more time with the family,” you can almost always assume it is because he or she has decided running again would lead to certain defeat and retirement is a preferable option. It’s not that elected officials don’t value their families, or cherish time spent with them; rather the citing of family obligations is more often an excuse rather than a reason.

The most often used catch phrase – usually uttered when all other arguments have failed – is that it is “for the children.”  By throwing in that line the user immediately places any opponent on the defensive.  After all, who among us is against children?  It is a rare unifying trait that people of all political persuasions, ideologies and backgrounds care for their children.  Among the admirable attributes of our society is that we universally strive to protect and nurture the youngest among us.  So, by claiming a policy objective is “for the children” the user cloaks any argument in difficult to assail body armor.

Just like a politician retiring to spend time with one’s family is cover, so too are arguments claiming a policy’s end goal is “for the children.”  If the policy being advanced benefits children it is typically a by-product of the proponent’s real goal, and not the central objective.  We are all, of course, pleased when children benefit, even tangentially, so this argument often achieves the desired goal of garnering support.

President Obama recently gave interviews to major television networks bolstering his request for congress to authorize him to take military action against Syria.  You might think bombing a third world nation even further back into the Stone Age would be detrimental to children, but not so!  During his interviews the president claimed he was acting to “protect” the children of Syria from chemical weapons. It is true children were victims of the Assad regime’s chemical attack, and nobody doubts President Obama wants to prevent further deaths – children or adult. But the driving factors behind the proposed Syrian attack have more to do with the regional power struggle underway in the mid-east and the Obama Administration’s credibility on the world stage.  Preventing the deaths of more children is certainly a goal, but one stated much more often as the other arguments fail.

Here in Penn’s Woods teachers in a number of school districts are attempting to nurture young minds by going on strike.  Pennsylvania is a perennial national leader in teacher strikes. This year organized labor is working hard to defend that title by staging several walk outs.  Of course young Johnny and Suzie cannot prosper academically if their teacher doesn’t get regular pay hikes and continue to receive Cadillac health insurance benefits without contributing a co-pay.  Never mind that many moms and dads in the private sector have seen wages stagnate and health care costs escalate, teacher compensation is “for the children” therefore taxpayers must fork over whatever is asked.

The sad fact is teacher union contracts have virtually nothing to do with “the children.”  Former Governor Tom Ridge said it best when he claimed the next teacher union to care about the kids will be the first.  Teacher unions are especially well positioned to play the “it’s for the children” card, but in reality their main objective is the preservation of union power and the special privileges, like using school districts as dues collection agencies, they now enjoy.  Teachers don’t go on strike for better books or technology for the kids; they go on strike to enhance themselves economically.

The political Left is far more adept at playing the “it’s for the children” card than the Right.  Part of the Leftwing narrative is that conservatives don’t care for children.  This despite the fact conservative policy proposals are aimed at empowering parents and strengthening families.  Actually, the Left uses the “it’s for the children” line more frequently because all other rational arguments fail. Global warming revealed as junk science?  OK, let’s argue we must preserve the planet for our children.  Congress set to reject military strikes on Syria?  We must do it to save the children.  School district unable to meet contract demands?  They must do it “for the children.”

So the next time you hear someone argue that a policy or political position is “for the children,” stop, look deeper, because typically it is about anything and everything – BUT the children.


(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Navy Vets Denied Benefits

Radio Program Schedule for the week of January 14, 2012 – January 20, 2012

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with former Virginia Governor James Gilmore, now Chairman of the Free Congress Foundation about their proposed “Growth Code” to re-energize the U.S. economy
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story behind Republican attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital
  • Adam Tragone of Human Events profiles the GOP Presidential race headed into South Carolina
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA had an American Radio Journal commentary on who should be Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential running mate

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Bob Ford author of War Against the U.S. Navy about Vietnam-era Navy veterans being denied benefits for exposure to Agent Orange
  • Joe Geiger from the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations has Scott Shirley of Uplifting Athletes in the Nonprofit Spotlight
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has a commentary on why Justice Kagan should recuse herself from hearing the case on Obamacare

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

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