In the early 1980's the standing orders for most Marine sentries on armed posts (exclusive of MP's and 'red line' posts) dictated that the sentry's weapon be carried unloaded, with his ammunition carried in two magazines in the pouches on his belt. I experienced this regulation personally, both on the Island of Okinawa and later at MCAGCC 29 Palms as a sentry on interior guard at the respective armories.
The seventies and early eighties were a very tough time to be in service in any branch. The response of the DoD and services to the aftermath of Vietnam was to retract and retrench within their own bureaucracies. The willful ignorance of the federal government at the highest levels and resistance by the same to address the problem of the hollow force that evolved in the seventies caused military procedures to be oriented to almost babysitting standards. The leadership and philosophy from the national command level that managed to make it down to the troops sent a clear message: in the time of detente, boots and rifles count for little or nothing in the big world picture. We were an afterthought - an annoying subculture that was tolerated when not outright ignored. Even as a boot I wondered who exactly we were supposed to be a threat to - the Sov's or our own society?
I enlisted in 1979 and arrived at my first duty station in 1980. I volunteered to take another Marine's orders to Okinawa in an effort to escape the drug culture entrenched at Camp Pendleton. My first regimental formation on the Rock was called to publicize the arrival of the first two new M151A1 jeeps to be accepted for delivery into our motor pool in over three years. The regimental motor transport chief addressed us from the hood of one and gave us all the word: he'd personally rip the nuts off the driver who rolled, wrecked, or allowed any parts to be scavenged from either jeep. We stood in a periodic monsoon rain for an hour to get that message. The time wasn't entirely wasted. My section managed to steal two truck batteries from the Regiment stash in the confusion following being dismissed. That meant that we could finally operate our section truck without having to get a jump every time the motor stalled.
We were a bunch of sad sacks.
Things began to look up as my time on Okinawa drew to a close. Reagan's administration envisioned military preparedness as a key to restoring national pride and an essential component to counter the relentless expansion of the Soviets. If you were born after 1970 you may not remember just how the scorecard of freedom v. Communism was trending. Cuba (and covert Soviet) troops were active in Africa, Central and South America, and in the Caribbean. Half of Europe had been under Soviet rule since the end of World War II. The best and brightest of public policy, punditry, education, and media all defined the friction between communism and democracy as an insurmountable competition between 'different economic philosophies'...except for Reagan and the conservative movement.
The Soviet Union, the PRC, and all their surrogates, were the enemy in a war that would end only with the complete and utter defeat of one side or another. Reagan laid out the case that the seeds of the defeat of the Soviet Union were inherent in its structure BUT that they would only fall if they were defeated by the conscious resistance of the free world, lead by America. If you were born after 1980, you were probably taught in school that the Soviet Union 'liberalized' on its own hook.
That's a lie. They were forced to compete militarily and economically, and they collapsed under the weight of their own fatally flawed system. Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had everything to do with the fact that today there is only one communist regime in the Western hemisphere (I don't count Canada, outside of Quebec, or San Francisco/Berkeley/NYC)and that most of the Warsaw Pact nations are now NATO members. I watched the Soviet Union collapse from the living room of my San Diego apartment...and was proud to have been a miniscule part of the reason it happened.
My kids don't practice hiding under their desks for civil defense like I did...but today they do carry contact cards to get in touch with either the wife or me, or our closest friends locally. They also have numbers for relatives on the other side of the country. Just in case.
This presidential election is a referendum on our national policy toward Islamist terror. George Bush came to power from Texas after almost two terms as governor. His most notable accomplishments before the presidency were the modernization of the state bureaucracy, improvements in the public school system, and his acknowledged ability to achieve bipartisan progress in a traditionally contentious state political environment. He has since delivered action on every campaign agenda he ran on. Since 9/11, The Bush Doctrine he authored has been published: terror will be confronted and defeated, and he has led a coalition of allies in a world war to transform the swamp that breeds our enemy. The challenge is global, the stakes are deadly.
Today two nations have been rid of odious dictatorships, one has held the first democratic elections in its history, and in Iraq January will see those people hold their first free elections since the 1950's. Libya has agreed to divest itself of WMD materials and programs. Pakistan is an ally in our efforts to defeat the remnants of the Taliban and in the pursuit of Osama bin Ladin. North Korea has been forced into multilateral talks, and our military presence in the Republic of Korea has been changed from that of a sacrificial speed bump at the DMZ into a viable, potent deterrent to North Korean aggression.
All of our successes since 9/11 have been built on an unambiguous policy that the United States will not negotiate, will not tolerate, and will not relent in the pursuit and destruction of Islamic terrorists be they individuals, groups, or nation states. If we send the message that we are too timid to fight, too bored to care, or lack the will and faith to see the transformation of the Muslim arc into democracies through to success, we will have surrendered the initiative in this war to our enemy.
John Kerry is the distilled remnant of the political culture that defined our country during my adolescence and early adulthood. I am not going to critique his conduct as a Naval officer or speculate on his motivations after Vietnam. In his senate career he has consistently voted against almost every improvement of national security that came before him. Ditto tax reform/cuts. Ditto welfare reform. Ditto opposition to communist expansion. Ditto second amendment issues. Ditto federal education reform.
His politics served him well in a liberal enclave. His votes to gut intelligence capability during the eighties, his opposition to U.S. action in Desert Storm, and further attempts to cut intelligence appropriations after the 1993 WTC attack were the actions of one senator pandering to his Massachusetts machine constituency in a body of one hundred . We could afford that. We cannot afford that behavior in our national executive. Not only is Kerry profoundly lacking in the vision, character and principle demanded by these times, he has surrounded himself with persons equally lacking.
The duties of the president are just that - duties. They are not a minor aspect of a position of privilege and power, as I fear Kerry, his peers, and supporters view the office. We already spun the wheel based on the end of history, and it didn't work.
And now it's time to wrap this up. Where's the "Who Knew?" in all of this, you ask?
The U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, was attacked with a truck bomb in April of 1983. Sixty three people, including the entire CIA staff and CIA middle east section chief, were killed. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility; they used a van stolen from the embassy motor fleet the year before to deliver the estimated one ton bomb. Six months later, the Marine guarding the gate to the U.S. peacekeeping mission at Beirut International Airport watched as a familiar yellow Mercedes truck approached his post. This morning, it was driven by a Hizbollah fighter and carried an estimated 12000 pounds of explosive. The truck crashed through a wood and wire barricade, past the sentry, and toward the concrete tower housing the off-watch personnel of the Batallion Landing Team of the 24th MAU.
After being in Beirut for months, after the U.S. Embassy had been bombed, after being shelled, mortared, and sniped at daily, the Marines in Beirut were still prohibited from carrying a weapon with a chambered round. The rules of engagement prohibited them from returning fire without express command authority, including in cases of self defense. That was the conventional wisdom of the national command in 1983.
The sentry who had witnessed the truck crash though the barricade frantically dug out a magazine for his M-16, inserted it, cycled the action, and attempted to disable the truck as it lumbered away.
The rifle clicked on an empty chamber. The magazine fell free of the rifle and clattered to the ground. In the heat of the moment it had been inserted upside down.
The truck drove against the face of the barracks and exploded. Eventually, 244 deaths would be attributed to this attack.
The only CIA entry for Beirut that morning was an observation that the Iranian Embassy had been evacuated with haste about two hours earlier.
The SOP in place at the gate that day made perfect sense to politicians and commanders half a world away from the shooting. What's a few troops here and there, right? Right? Who knew there would be a bomb there on that day?
Those were the 'good old days' when terror was just a nuisance.
I want a leader who will fight to win. Not a dilettante seeking power for power's sake.
So yes, I'm voting for Bush tomorrow. I don't think the election will be nearly as close as the pundits and MSM have sold it to be, either. I will not be surprised by widespread fraud, or legal challenges, but in the end Bush will win with more than 300 ECV and a sizeable PV margin over fifty percent. My earlier prediction of 57% PV is probably too high given the amount of fraud we are going to see in urban areas, but Bush will pull better than 53% by tomorrow night.
Be a citizen. Vote tomorrow.