Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

An Exaggerated Sense of His Own Importance

Dear Mr. President:

I hope this finds you well.

I hope this finds you, actually.

I hope you’re as much of a relentlessly temperate man as my observations of you, these last six years, suggest that you are. (Considering that the legislators with whom you work have been statistically proven to be more do-nothing than the actual “Do-Nothing Congress”, and considering the legion of people who would take issue with you if you commented that the sky was blue … you might be the most patient President who ever lived.)

Since I don’t wish to test that patience, I’ll try to cut right to the chase.

Can I make a tiny request?

If you do decide to send US military personnel back into the frightening cauldron that is Iraq – more people than just 300 people with the disconcertingly familiar moniker of “military advisors” – may I ask that you don’t do it lightly?

It would be a welcome contrast to the last time the US sent military personnel there.

I see what you did with Syria, last year. Rattled the sabers nicely, got everybody over there good and jumpy. Really had a few of us genuinely jumpy too, got us suspecting that US military involvement in the Syrian civil war was imminent. To the point that it convinced otherwise scary people to give up their scary weapons when nothing else had convinced them to do so. Made me freshly impressed – even made me embarrassed that I’d seemed to underestimate your capacity for the ol’ Head Fake, the concept of the diplomatic “made you look”. Anybody who conducts a lengthy political career anywhere near Chicago, as you did, has to be at least a little bit good at political negotiation. I was gently reminded.

The present Congress appears not to be capable of doing much of anything, never mind pass a resolution about a contentious issue such as this. If the Republican-controlled House passes something, the Democratic-controlled Senate slaps it down, and vice-versa. So, in this era of the unitary executive, I guess the decision ultimately is yours.

I suppose that these factors should make me a bit more relaxed – not in a Constitutional-scholar way, and certainly not in a future-terrifying-President way, but in a living-in-the-moment way.

If I were a Constitutional scholar, I would really rather seat the ability to send this nation into combat with more than just one person. I would like at least the illusion that a group of people had gotten together and debated and then decided. I’m not totally convinced that our legislative branch represents its actual individual constituents – ya know, the ones that physically go to the polls to vote, rather than just sending campaign contributions and paying for TV ads. But it would be a more comfortable illusion than the “l’etat, c’est moi” alternative.

If a future unitary executive turned out to be a loon or a sadist or a sociopath, I assuredly wouldn’t want wartime to exist on her or his say-so alone.

Living in this moment, and using the evidence provided to me by what’s left of our journalistic Fourth Estate, I observe that your style appears to be, “let everybody have their say, and then if the decision really is mine alone anyway, do what I think is wise”. Selfishly, I tend to gravitate toward that, perhaps because it’s been my style, too. You don’t come off, most times, as an autocratic fellow. And even though I don’t necessarily agree with absolutely every decision you’ve made as President since January 2009, and even though sometimes I think you actually have let people yammer on for far longer than they deserve, given their relative standing in the world, without hauling off and verbally smacking them on the back of the head … my political leaning and my admiration for temperance has caused me much more often than not to be on the same page as you are.

So, by all means let pundits and politicians dive in front of the nearest TV camera and try to convince you (or at least everyone else) to send soldiers back in to Iraq. I would hate to think that the President of the United States has time to watch every Sunday-morning chat show and every prime-time cable news channel commentary program, and anyway they’re probably not displaying any opinions you haven’t already heard and considered and damn sure they’re not always offering too many actual immutable facts.

I’m sure you know what it looks like when the mass media gives a platform to people who, twelve years ago, had advocated for US military action in Iraq on the basis of evidence that was later discredited, or had predicted outcomes that did not occur (ignoring thirteen hundred years of historical record), and in doing so had revealed themselves or their organizations to have been paying attention to the nicely corrupting influence of the military-industrial complex rather than to the memories of their history classes (or a relatively easy trip across their study to a damned encyclopedia).

I’m pretty confident that you do look at the occasional video clip and shake your head and allow one of your measured chuckles to emerge.

As long as we’re all (including your critics) pretty lathered up over the recent revelations of stupidity within the VA, and all reflexively expressing Support For Our Troops, I hope we can all keep in mind the inevitable effects of sending soldiers into combat. Win, lose, or stalemate, soldiers are humans, not “Iron Man 2” automatons, in spite of how we dress them nowadays – and the horrors of war are of a sort that I cannot imagine, and that Hollywood movies apparently don’t come close to simulating accurately. People return from combat damaged somehow. If we’re going to inflict that on them, we’d better be damn sure it’s for a good and achievable cause.

I’m not making this request based on any information about how possible it may be to land US military boots on the ground in Iraq and be able to make a spit of difference in what’s going on there now, or what has been going on for more than a century. You have access to more Intelligence than I do. And while I fervently wish that no more innocent Iraqis die because of a relatively small but violent bunch of militant insurgents running around with pickup-truck-mounted machine guns and IEDs, and an official Iraqi government that seems unable to get its act together for whatever legitimate reasons … that’s not my main impetus either.

I am, instead, making this request based on two major things.

First, I’m responding to squishy, bleeding-heart-liberal concerns like “war is awful and we ought not get into it lightly”. And second, this past week I have had a bellyful of the fear- and war-mongering and “we would’ve won this thing if we’d just have stayed longer, kinda like forever” of Senators McCain and Graham, Messrs. Kristol and Wolfowitz, and especially our most recent former vice president, whose Wall Street Journal op-ed piece revealed once and for all a roiling, bitter case of psychological projection. (Just about the only thing missing from this week’s bouquet of unwanted advice is the former half-term governor of Alaska supposin’ that we ought to send in our armor-plated kids to baptize the heck outta those bad guys with guns, you betcha.)

Speaking of unwanted advice: mine. You’re a busy man (he suggested, with understatement on a Biblical scale); it’s likely that you’ve got more on your plate than “read this blog post”. So I suppose I can hope that someone else inside the White House is expressing this gentle request:

Think hard. Support our troops in deeds, not just words. And don’t cave, on some third-rate media pundit’s say-so.

Sincerely (and I mean that),

Your friend, the fourth-rate blogger,

Rob

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June 21, 2014 - Posted by | current events, government, media, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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