President Barack Obama addressed the 2009 graduating class of the Navy Academy and made a number of interesting points that illuminate his approach to national security. One point was dead on, albeit obvious. Two were debatable.
“In a culture where so many chase the outward markers of success that can so often lead us astray-titles and status, materialism and money, fame and popularity-these Americans have embraced the virtues that we need most right now. Self-discipline over self-interest. Work over comfort. Character over celebrity.
“After an era when so many institutions and individuals acted with such greed and recklessness, it is no wonder that our military remains the most trusted institution in the nation. And in a world when so many forces and voices seek to divide us, it is inspiring that this class came together and succeeded together, from every state and every corner of the world. By building an institution that is more diverse than ever-more women, more Hispanics, more African Americans-the Naval Academy has reaffirmed a fundamental American truth: that out of many, we are one. “
Barack Obama’s words were good praise for those who chose the profession of arms as a career. But he was also making a back handed attack against other people, those who pursue business, to make money, or even politics to garner power. There were two problems with this foray. Those who create and grow businesses also serve a societal good, by creating wealth, jobs, and economic growth. Indeed, the businessman makes possible the soldier by providing the tools and equipment that are necessary to defend the country against foreign enemies.
The second problem is that Barack Obama could well have been criticizing himself, though he likely never realized it and would never acknowledge it if it were pointed out. He pursued a career of self interest, of titles and status, money, fame, and popularity. What is worse, he never created anything. Barack Obama has never produced a single product or service. He has just garnered political power and wealth for himself, climbing with great nimbleness up the greasy pole of politics to the very top.
Barack Obama went on to describe the challenges of our age.
“For history teaches us that the nations that grow comfortable with the old ways and complacent in the face of new threats-those nations do not long endure. And in the 21st century, we do not have the luxury of deciding which challenges to prepare for and which to ignore. We must overcome the full spectrum of threats. The conventional and the unconventional. The nation-state and the terrorist network. The spread of deadly technologies and of hateful ideologies. Eighteenth century-style piracy and 21st century cyberthreats. “
True words, but rather obvious. One suspects that the 2009 Academy graduates had these truths drilled into them when they were plebes. It would also be nice if President Obama were not proposing to be so stingy with funding the military to meet all of those threats.
President Obama chose the graduation ceremony at the Navy Academy to continue a fight he is having not only with former Vice President Cheney but with his party in the Congress.
“Yesterday I visited the National Archives and the hall that holds our Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. I went there because as our nation debates how to deal with the security challenges that we face, we must remember this enduring truth: the values and ideals in those documents are not simply words written into aging parchment, they are the bedrock of our liberty and our security. We uphold our fundamental principles and values not just because we choose to, but because we swear to. Not because they feel good, but because they help keep us safe.
“Because when America strays from our values, it not only undermines the rule of law, it alienates us from our allies, it energizes our adversaries and it endangers our national security and the lives of our troops. So as Americans, we reject the false chose between our security and our ideals. We can and we must and we will protect both. And that is just what you will pledge to do in a few moments when you raise your right hand and take your oath. “
The day before, former Vice President Dick Cheney made a devastating critique of Obama’s national security strategy. The Congress has refused to fund Obama’s plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Both still seem to stick in the President’s craw.
Cloaked in his falutin rhetoric about American ideals and the Constitution, Obama chose the occasion of the 2009 Navy Academy graduation to launch a partisan attack on his predecessor. It was just a little bit disgraceful.
War is all Hell, as General Sherman once observed. One reason for that is that one is called upon to do things to other human beings that would never be thought of in peacetime. The Navy Academy graduates know that. One wonders in their commander in chief fully knows it. And if one is a newly minted Navy Ensign or Marine Lieutenant, one has to wonder, does the commander in chief has his back? Or is he liable to be second guessed for something that has to be done in battle just because it might make the President squeamish? That is a terrible thing to have to think about if one is becoming a military officer in time or war.
Sources: Barack Obama’s Naval Academy address, MSNBC, May 22nd, 2009
Dick Cheney’s Speech on Terrorism, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, May 21st, 2009
Senate Blocks Funds for Guantanamo Closure, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, May 20th, 2009