Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beau Biden in Iraq--why he has to go (a reply to Dana Garrett)

Dana Garrett has a post up suggesting that Delaware Attorney General and son of VP elect Joe Biden should not be deployed to Iraq with his National Guard unit.

Here's the key paragraph:

With his father's election to the Vice Presidency of the United States, Beau would constitute a security risk in Iraq. He could easily become a target for attack or kidnapping. That not only places him at higher level of risk than the usual soldier deployed to Iraq, but it also places those soldiers working with him at a higher level of risk. Besides, if (heaven forbid) anything should happen to Beau Biden, the effect that it could have on the judgment of the Obama presidency respecting Iraq could be significant. Why create an unnecessary problem?

Let's take those issues separately:

1) Beau would constitute a security risk in Iraq, for himself and those soldiers working with/around him.

Stipulated, but not relevant. Here's why: (a) ask the soldiers themselves who will serve with/around Beau; you will discover that they admire him, they trust his leadership, and they want to serve with him--regardless of the increased danger. The delicacy too often displayed by Generals and politicians is not shared at the front line. Ask the servicemen and women who served with Prince Harry, with FDR's son, with John McCain's son, and you'll get the same answer. (b) To remove Beau from his assigned position is to transfer his duty, and his risk of death or wounding to another officer who may not be as well trained for the position, certainly will not enjoy the same confidence of the troops, and who will be getting his or her own kind of special treatment.

2) Besides, if (heaven forbid) anything should happen to Beau Biden, the effect that it could have on the judgment of the Obama presidency respecting Iraq could be significant.

Ridiculous. And a dangerous precedent. Barack Obama as President of the US will have to follow 43 predecessors in making life and death decisions for thousands of our men and women in uniform. Undoubtedly some of them will die because of his orders. That goes with the territory. To avoid the kind of irresponsible military adventurism engaged in by Dubya (and even Clinton on occasion), my President--and Obama will be my President and Commander-in-Chief--needs to ask himself not only "Are American interests involved here?" but also "Is this situation worth sending my own children to die, if necessary?" Barack had young children; Beau Biden will be the closest link he has with that military. If what he's doing doesn't justify the risk of Beau's life--even to the point of allowing a captured Captain Biden to be executed by terrorists rather than to negotiate with them--then it doesn't justify sending anybody's son or daughter into harm's way.

Beau Biden is no more or less valuable as a human being than the lowest-ranking private from the barrio.

Moreover, one of the great problems of American foreign policy in the last fifty years is that fewer and fewer of our leadership elite has cultivated the tradition of service that places themselves, or their offspring, in harm's way. If you aspire to be part of that elite, fine, but that means you and your children acquire a greater obligation toward deadly service, not the latter.

The sons of Presidents, Vice-Presidents, and so on MUST go to war, MUST take the same risks as other American citizens, and--absolutely--MUST die standing their ground when the time comes. Otherwise, our republic is an empty sham, equivalent to the Senate under late, decadent, Imperial Rome.

To their credit, both Joe and Beau Biden get this, and to my knowledge neither man has ever breathed the slightest suggestion that it is not Beau's responsibility to go to war and face the same risks as every other American citizen.

This is not an ideological stance in the libertarian-progressive sense [in fact, many of my fellow Libertarians eschew military service]. It is a personal conviction born of 21 years of military service and a belief that countries in which the leadership does not expose itself to the dangers inherent in war do not deserve to survive.

Robert Heinlein once said, "Roman mothers used to send their sons off to war with the admonition, 'Come back with your shields, or on them.' Later, the tradition declined. So did Rome."


Duffy said...

IIRC, Prince Harry publicly threatened to resign his commission if his unit was sent and he was not.

One of them also served in the Falklands war as well.

tom said...

"This is not an ideological stance in the libertarian-progressive sense [in fact, many of my fellow Libertarians eschew military service]."

Perhaps this wouldn't be the case if "military service" actually meant defending our country from invading enemy forces, rather than invading other countries to inflate the President's ego, or dropping bombs on brown or yellow people to distract attention from the President's latest sex scandal.

a most peculiar nature said...

I just don't think it's that important of an issue. I don't think more than 3 people in the entire world even care about this ...

Do you think the enemy is worrying about Beau Biden? Please.

I think Delaware might be just a little too full of itself at the moment.

Thomas L. Knapp said...

Four of FDR's sons served in WWII -- one as executive officer of the 2nd Marine Raider battalion, one as a pilot and bombardier in the Army Air Force, and two in the Navy.

For that matter, FDR's cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, lost two sons to war after his presidency: Quentin, killed in aerial combat over France in 1918, and Teddy, Jr., who fought in both World Wars, was the only general to accompany the first wave of his troops ashore on D-Day, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor (he died of a heart attack a month after the Normandy landing).

You can attribute it to courage and commitment, or call it a price of maintaining the fiction of "America as a classless society," but either way Beau Biden will go.