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Better All the Time
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RUNNING UP THE SCORE
Re: George Neumayr’s Benedict 1, Europe 0:

With his mention of the failure of the EU Constitution, Mr. Neumayr came THAT close to the minimum score: Benedict 2, Euro Secularists 0.

Although national referenda were not opposed as openly or vigorously by the Church as the Italian in vitro vote, recall John Paul II’s unheeded request for the EU Constitution to at least mention the historic contribution of Christianity to Europe. (There ought to have been room for this somewhere in the 800 or so pages!)

So I’d say the Church opposed the current, incomplete draft of the EU Constitution, which makes at least one more win…and it’s not too much of a stretch to call it a two-fer, recalling the Pope’s “reservations” regarding Turkey joining the EU, the same reservation cited as motivating many French (and Dutch) “non” voters.

That makes it 3-0; isn’t that more than one significant victory per month of the Pontificate thus far?
Kevin Amaro
Hayward, California

MORE FROM IRAQ
Re: John C. Walsh’s Down Baghdad Boulevard:

This article is the funniest I have read in a long time, I am laughing out loud. It is just wonderful. I’d like to read more from this author.
Jackie Carpenter

Please, more by John C. Walsh. His article today was outstanding.
unsigned

MICROSOFT AIDING DESPOTISM
Re: Tom Elliott’s Tear Down That Firewall:

I write with respect to Tom Elliott’s fine recent piece entitled “Tear Down That Firewall.” I thought it pertinent, and wished to point out to your readers, that it has recently come to light that personnel at Microsoft’s Seattle headquarters have acknowledged they are cooperating with Chinese authorities in efforts to censor the blogs of Chinese posters. Although I am not sophisticated in “hi-tech” matters, and so cannot say with any degree of assurance what might be the ultimate impact of such cooperation, I thought the matter was worth noting in principle.

I am old and my memory has, alas, grown fuzzy with age; however, I can recall some words uttered by a communist leader of the Cold War to the effect that he would sell us the rope with which we would hang ourselves. By that he meant, I take it, that certain excesses of capitalism would result in our self-induced demise.

Thankfully, and with much due to the endless sacrifice of countless heroes of freedom, both noted and “unsung,” the Cold War is over and the side of freedom won. Yet the world is still demonstrably a very dangerous place, and the fruits of freedom are yet to be reaped by many. One is left to ponder whether, perhaps, the sort of profit-at-any-price mentality which leads Microsoft to assist the Chinese authorities in stifling dissent is the sort of thing to which this communist Cold War leader referred?

Just thinking out loud.
Rufus Thompson

NO PRICE TOO HIGH
Re: George Mellinger’s letter (under “The Right Appreciation”) in Reader Mail’s NIMBY Recruitment:

I read Mr. Mellinger’s letter today. And I agree totally that our military personnel deserve our utmost thanks and respect for placing their lives on the line for the rest of the citizens of this nation. But, as he saw fit to spend so much space on the aspect of pay, let me blast some 105mm holes in his misconceptions.

First of all, every job in the U.S., with the possible exception of migrant workers, pays at least twice what it did in the 1970’s. And back in 1970, we were not trained in technical skills that were highly sought after in the private sector. We were taught to walk in a straight line, obey orders, keep our heads down and kill people with a rifle. Skills of limited use to Old Howie at the local hardware store when we came back to the world. Secondly, back then we had a draft. Remember that? I do, my number was 52. Hello sunny Southeast Asia.

Second, back when, we were not trying to hold onto highly trained soldiers for twenty years. Two, four, or six years were the terms of enlistment. Men went in at 18 or 20 and were out by 20 to 26, just like VISTA and the Peace Corp. Nowadays it takes almost two years to adequately train a soldier. Add to that the natural tendency for people to marry and have children, military personnel have a large incentive to take their skills to the civilian market well shy of a 20-year retirement.

Third, back in the day, serving military personnel WERE screwed. And returning veterans were screwed even worse. But, I have higher expectations for my children. I want them to have the benefits that I never had. Things like adequate pay and benefits and a good retirement system. The past is the past and we are living in the present with the future before us. I for one do not intend to stand by and watch our current crop of military men and women get screwed as my generation did. And combat readiness is not incumbent upon the pay scale. A man isn’t any more careful or fights any harder for $1.29 a day than he does for $100 dollars a day.

And finally, if anyone is concerned about the level of taxes that they pay to the federal government, and I most assuredly am, then take a quick look at all the unnecessary pork in the yearly budget and appropriations. How about 18.7 million dollars for Alaska Seals and Stellar Sea Lions. Now I like seals and sea lions as much as the next guy, but I don’t know of any of them squatting in an alley in Fallujah being shot at, nor have I seen them building houses for Habitat For Humanity. This country can certainly reevaluate its spending priorities and act accordingly.

The bottom line to all of this is simply that this is a new era. Times have changed and the idea of the citizen soldier as the backbone of the US military is an anachronism. In time of concerted and continual attack upon this country by a clearly defined enemy, shopkeepers will put down their brooms and accountants will put aside their keyboards and enlist to defend this country. But, in the meantime, there is a real and pressing need for a significant standing army of highly trained personnel who are willing to make the military a long-term career. Increased pay and benefits may not increase enlistment, but we owe it to the members of today’s military and their families.

As for the anti-military sentiments expressed by the anti-military crowd and their accomplices in the MSM, the answer is simple. Don’t buy the New York Times, Washington Post or the Boston Globe and switch your television set to Fox News.
Michael Tobias

DUMP THE DRAFT
Re: Gene Wright’s letter (under “Don’t Abandon Iraq”) in Reader Mail’s NIMBY Recruitment:

Regarding “NIMBY Recruitment” and the comment by Mr. Gene Wright, “But history can be a hard mistress. For, if one’s country is not personally worth defending, then one will not have a country for long.” I would add that if we can’t get the citizens of our Republic to defend it FREELY it’s not worth defending. Using a form of slavery like the draft to try and defend freedom is repugnant.
Boris Berejan, M.D. (former USAF Major)
Neenah, Wisconsin

SERVING THE COMMON GOOD
Re: Christopher Preble’s You and What Army?:

Firstly, kudos to the editors for consistently providing thought-provoking articles. I visit the site at least three times per week and have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to be educated, confronted and challenged.

After reading the article written by Christopher Preble I find that I actually cannot move on to the next article without first writing a response. Many of his arguments are certainly interesting and show a great understanding of social constructs of the United States. Mr. Preble presents a clear, well-written and systematic argument to support his conclusion. However I question his statement in the seventh paragraph that “conscription is morally reprehensible” The fact that, as citizen, we all have a responsibility to each other to support the community in order that it may continue is not in any way reprehensible. An obligatory time of service to one’s country as manifested in a draft is an ancient concept that has great value when used properly. The fact that conscription was and is abused throughout history makes it no more morally reprehensible then the crusades made Christianity moral reprehensible.
Martin Gang
Seoul, Republic of Korea

I am an occasional web visitor, usually thru links from the Rational Review news digest. I would like to comment on the article by Christopher Preble, entitled “You and What Army?” First I want to thank Mr. Preble for writing the article. There should be more exposure of stories like this one. The article is representative of what I perceive as an apathy of sorts, or perhaps a fear in that those who are aware of current events and who should be vocal in the face of obvious atrocities and egregious acts of hubris are demonstrably reticent to make waves, remaining relatively silent. He masterfully builds the plot with passion and concise arguments. And then in the last three paragraphs, the old primrose path feeling of abandonment. I believe that what should have followed is, that as a result of the current administration’s misuse and (if it doesn’t stop now) the certain destruction of the military services, they have put America in grave danger. If the National Guard and Reserve forces are decimated from misuse, unconstitutional in all aspects, who will protect and preserve the home front? Already, the inability of some states to properly field a National Guard unit leaves them ill-prepared to fight the forest fires that are sure to occur during the upcoming dry season. The ability to respond to any natural disaster or to help after an act of terrorism on our cities and citizens is destroyed. As the administration is so fond of saying, “There are a lot of bad people out there…” Maybe they’re not all “out there.”

These are times when the true Patriots should stand as one and beat the drums of truth. I hear whispers everywhere that what is going on is wrong, completely un-American. Many of those doing the whispering have the means at hand to reach many thousands of people crying for the truth. But little is done to rectify the wrong. Many are aghast at the arrogance, corruption, and greed of the politicians; yet they remain in office. The press should be having a field day with all the Administration and Congress has given them. Where are the cries of outrage? Are we so far gone that as a nation we don’t care anymore? This is not like golf; there are no mulligans. We can’t undo much of what we do and there are always unintended consequences.

I served (volunteered) during the Vietnam police action and separated from the Army after 10 years (for financial reasons.) I have always been proud of my service, proud of my Army. After 23 years, I still have a few good friends from my service years. People I can trust with my life. It pains me deeply to see what has happened to the service and our service members. They have done all that has been asked of them and it is immoral for this government to treat them so. That is truly unpatriotic — truly anti-American.

If the results of the actions of the administration are unintended consequences due to haste and poor planning, they should be impeached and removed from office for incompetence and ignorance (might as well throw in arrogance.) If, on the other hand, the situations of today are a direct result of a course of action made with full awareness and foreknowledge then they should be impeached, imprisoned, and prosecuted as traitors to America and the Constitution. But, for what it’s worth, that’s just this old Curmudgeon’s opinion…
Brian Drew
Tampa, Florida

We are having a problem meeting recruitment levels. This could be helped by bringing troops home from Bosnia, Western Europe, and South Korea. Why do we need a military presence in those areas? NATO should take care of the Balkans. We have no national interest there. They are not a threat to the U.S. Western Europe doesn’t have to worry about the USSR anymore. Why are we there? South Korea doesn’t want our troops there. They are only Cannon Fodder if the North would ever attack. Don’t we have ICBMs that were trained on the USSR? Why can’t we tell the crazy man in North Korea that they are now aimed at him, and if he doesn’t disarm his atomic weapons we will destroy him. The same goes for Iran, and Syria. Why must we wait for someone to do something to us before we attack? That usually happens only in old Western movies, but that is fantasy. We went into Iraq. If we had put the fear of God in Saddam, and our so-called allies would have backed us there probably wouldn’t have been a need to invade Iraq. I’m sure Saddam didn’t really want to lose his power, and wind up in his spider hole!

The politicians and press have made it impossible for us to win any type of war. I spent 17 years in the military and after Vietnam I became very disillusioned with our leadership. If a soldier is stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, while the duty is not only lousy, he must fight the war with one hand tied behind his back, just as in Vietnam and Korea. The politicians put us in a no-win situation. These people understand only one thing — pure naked force, without mercy. How do these dictators remain in power? We did it after WWII: Germany and Japan were totally under our control. Any resistance was brutally ended.
Frank Dollinger
Channahon, Illinois

LOOK AWAY
Re: Ben Stein’s Recruitment Improvement:

What the MSM is doing now is of little importance in the long view, though still entirely evil. When the next major attack on our country occurs — and it will — one hopes that we give voice to what we already know, but are reluctant to admit: it’s us or them, and there’s no happy medium. They’ll settle for nothing less than our annihilation or our complete subservience to their primitive beliefs.

They danced in the streets when the Towers fell, and they’ll dance again if they manage to nuke the entire city. I give Bush credit for his steadfastness in this war, but demerits to his message. If Islam were truly a “religion of peace,” we’d have no lack of Muslim allies in this war.

I hope we win this war soon, but I’m positive it will take another horrific attack to open the eyes of the “see no evil” mentality that political correctness forces upon most of us. Fortunately, our elders didn’t wait for Pearl Harbor 2 before they took care of business. Unfortunately, it seems that we will. But when it hits the fan, the military won’t need recruiters, they’ll need to borrow those “take a number” dispensers from the DMV, because every damn one of us will try to enlist. Well, maybe not Alec Baldwin, because he moved to France, right?
Michael Selick
Akron, Ohio

Ben Stein’s recent column in which he cited negative portrayals in the media as a major source of the current recruiting problems facing the Army and Marines struck me as missing some very important elements. Anyone seriously considering a military career who would depend on media information in coming to such a decision has no business being in the armed forces at all. Anyone seriously considering a military career who doesn’t understand that the whole point of the armed forces is to fight and kill the national enemies of our country, while they try to do the same to us, likewise has no business joining up.

In my opinion, a better explanation is to be found by considering the way the military has sold itself to potential recruits ever since the advent of the all-volunteer force in 1973. Specifically, in the heavily materialistic recruiting pitch the military makes to potential recruits. Join the military and you’ll get college money. Join the military and you’ll get an enlistment bonus. Join the military and you’ll get job training and marketable skills. Join the military and you’ll have something on your resume for when you leave. Join the military and you’ll get excellent health benefits, great child care (especially if you’re a single mom), decent schools for your kids (the military’s school system is quite good), etc. Join the military and you’ll get to go to different places, work with really state-of-the-art equipment and leading edge technology etc. And, of course, deployments will be such that you’ll still be home enough to watch your kids grow up. Oh yes, and all of this in addition to the satisfaction of knowing that you’re serving your country. Don’t misunderstand these remarks. I have no doubt that patriotism is a strong and sincere factor in the decision of many who join the armed forces. But, so too are the material benefits offered and it is wrong to pretend otherwise. If the latter didn’t matter, why would we offer the benefits? And why then are we surprised when kids who are being pitched on all the military can do for them then engage in a cost-benefit analysis and decide risking their life isn’t quite enough of a bargain? In this context, it is worth noting that the Air Force and Navy, neither of which are seriously engaged (by which I mean their personnel are not at serious risk of death or injury) in the War on Terrorism are easily meeting their quotas while the Army and Marines are not.

I would suggest that we have built a middle class military, full of married people with children and animated by a managerial and materialist rather than a soldierly ethos. We have not succeeded in creating a long-service truly professional fighting force. What we have may have been adequate for the Cold War, when the emphasis was on deterrence, or for fighting short, sharp conventional battles, but it is clearly not working well now that we have to fight protracted, open-ended guerrilla-style wars of attrition. The assumption that no one would serve, or that no one who is any good would serve, unless we offered all of the frills (and it costs close to $ 100K on average per soldier) is belied by the history of our own military in all periods except the current one. The “old” (i.e. pre-WWII) military was an all-volunteer force, too. The principal difference between it and our current force is that the former made little or no attempt to sell military service in terms of money or benefits, nor did it make any concession to recruit sensibilities in order to fill its ranks. Its training and discipline were much harsher than today, pay was lower and there was a wider spread in pay between ranks, promotion was slower, and both the NCO and officer corps were much smaller than now. And yet, it managed to attract and hold onto good men in both the enlisted and officer ranks. These men went on to win unequivocally the last war we fought against competent, first-class professional enemies. It might be worth asking ourselves why the military found and held onto such men despite being unable to offer material benefits comparable to those offered today, even during the 1920s when the economy was booming and despite a culture that at the time thought the military was a dead-end for those who couldn’t’ “make it on the outside.” In the end, maybe we need to consider a different sort of volunteer force, with different incentives, a different structure, a different ethos, and a different sort of man in its ranks, if we are to meet our military commitments now and into the future.
Anthony Mirvish

NIHILISM OF THE LEFT
Re: Brandon Crocker’s Moral Equivalence Rides Again:

Mr. Crocker’s brilliant analysis of “moral equivalence” explores the great mystery of the liberal mind and its juxtaposition to reality. We conservatives are perpetually bewildered at the convoluted thought processes that pass for the pithy enlightened intellectualism that the left praises itself for. For instance, how does it come to pass, (in only two generations) after Neville Chamberlain’s disastrous proclamation of “peace in our time,” that the British left would be at it again with the “nuclear freeze” inanity of the ’80s? After all, the British left had to suffer along with the rest of Britain while London was decimated night after night. It’s not that they got a pass on their huge intellectual gaff. Yet here they are again, equating Bush and Blair with Saddam as the specter of militant Islam grows like another gathering storm. As perplexing as all this is, the greater mystery is how to explain Americans like Ted Kennedy, the majority of the MSM and the MoveOn crowd. Granted, the American left has (so far) been spared the depravations their rhetoric and policies would inflict on all of America. Still, I’ve yet to see a comprehensive rationale that explains this systemic insanity that the left is imbued with. I submit it is more than intellectual and moral bankruptcy, more than a strain of self-loathing and more than pure nihilism.
A. DiPentima

SWEET COMMIE IRONY
Re: Dana Brand’s letter (under “Keep Plugging”) in Reader Mail’s Keep Plugging, Ben:

Only a complex person like Dana Brand could fail to see the justice of a communist ending up in the gulag he helped create. Only a complex person could see the Soviets backing the local Stalinists in Vietnam, overwhelming all other movements and the egg breaking that followed and describe that history as “filled with complexities and contradictions.” How many times did that scenario have to get played out for complex Dana to see a pattern? Communists murdered 100 million people last century. Anybody who was a communist or a “useful idiot” should spend the rest of their lives feeling ashamed and perpetually apologizing for the mayhem they helped create. I like the way we treat Nazis and KKKers, why can’t we shun commies and their sympathizers in the same way?
Clifton Briner

WILLFULLY BLIND TO WMD
Re: Jed Babbin’s Not Missing: Moved:

Jed Babbin reinstructs us in the facts that Saddam Hussein’s WMD were trucked out of Iraq and into Syria before the initiation of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This information has been out there for almost two years now, but the “hyperlibs” (love that moniker!) continue to play the game of holding their collective hands over their collective eyes and ears and crying out, “They don’t exist, they’re don’t exist, Bush lied!”

Terrorism expert John Loftus (who has had more top level security clearances than the entire readership of this website and magazine combined) clearly pointed out on Larry Elder’s radio program in May, 2004 (and later on Fox News) that Saddam’s WMD, at the behest of his Russian advisor who told him that the nerve gas was useless against the rubber suits of U.S. troops, were shipped across the borders of Syria and Lebanon into the Bekaa Valley. Most notably, the stuff is stashed inside tunnels under the town of al-Baida in northern Syria, in the village of Tal Snan (adjacent to a Syrian Air Force base), and in Sjionsjar, on the Syrian-Lebanese border.

Other writers and investigators such as Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, NRO’s Jim Geraghty and WorldNetDaily’s Mike Evans have given further evidence to this “WMD Shell Game.”

There is no doubt in me that concrete evidence exists that Saddam pulled a fast one with his Baathist buddies in Syria. The only question now is: when is that evidence going to be made publicly known? I think we’ve waited long enough.
Jim Bjaloncik
Stow, Ohio

ONE MORE
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski’s It Ain’t Cool:

Wlady Pleszczynski forgot to mention another McQueen film. Hell is for Heroes should be worth mentioning. If it wasn’t part of Warner, MGM, or TCM’s McQueen celebration, it was probably because of how it (somewhat) honorably portrayed men in uniform.
Les Largent

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