“HOW A DEMOCRAT CAN GET MY VOTE”….Our June issue has a pretty provocative set of short pieces called “How a Democrat Can Get My Vote.” The pieces are written by seven recent war veterans and offer competing perspectives on how a Democratic presidential candidate can win the votes of the active duty military.
The whole package is here, but there were two pieces in particular that I feel like highlighting. The first, by Ross Cohen, a former paratrooper and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, is probably the one that liberal readers are going to find most congenial. It’s called “Withdraw Decisively”:
A candidate who proposes a speedy withdrawal need not fear an overwhelmingly negative reaction from the troops. That would be the result only for a candidate whose position seemed camouflaged in fuzzy language and hedged bets. The “Fighting Dems” — Democratic veterans such as Jim Webb, who ran for largely Republican-leaning congressional seats this year — represented a good start at speaking clearly.
….In November 2004, most of my colleagues, officers and enlisted alike, voted to reelect George Bush in spite of the fact that he had sent them to fight a poorly planned war being waged for ever-shifting rationales. They overlooked these flaws because his firmness inspired their confidence. If Democrats come out with equal firmness for withdrawal, they may find themselves picking up some unexpected new military votes. The men and women of the military fear, above all else, someone who will abandon them to the kill zone. They want someone who will lead them through it.
Cohen’s piece is followed by a bracing dose of castor oil served up by Clint Douglas, a former staff sergeant in the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) who served in Afghanistan in 2003. Douglas is a Yellow Dog Democrat, but even so his advice is not likely to be so well received:
Conservatives appear genuinely to respect people in the service. They don’t just assume that soldiers are economic victims or refugees from an unfair free market. They might even allow that one could enjoy soldiering without being a nut, a sadist, or a fascist.
Most of my non-Army friends would identify themselves as liberals or progressives or Democrats. My experience may be atypical, because I tend to hang around with opinionated people, but nearly all of them, I find, are suspicious of the military. “They’ll change you,” most warned after I announced my intention to enlist. “Don’t do it.” One acquaintance suggested psychotherapy instead. (This was my personal favorite in patronizing offensiveness.)
….My peers in this group have no qualms about holding forth about the armed forces, an institution with which they have no experience. Worse, when the windiness has subsided, they have no concrete suggestions on defense policy. They’ll do butter, but they won’t do guns.
Also worth noting is Andrew Exum’s “Understand the War We’re In.” His advice is simple: “The destruction of the Army and Marine Corps stemmed from a failure of the Bush administration — its greatest failure: the inability to articulate or even understand what kind of war we’re fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere….I’ll carefully read and listen to the statements that come from the Democratic candidates. Because if they really get it, if they properly articulate the nature of the war that began on September 11, then a Democrat will earn my vote in 2008.”