Sacrifices

As we drove past the rows of white grave markers, in the gravity of the moment, I had a deep sense of the importance of the presidency and a love of our country. In that moment, I also thought of all the attacks we’d already suffered as a family, and about all the sacrifices we’d have to make to help my father succeed – voluntarily giving up a huge chunk of our business and all international deals to avoid the appearance that we were ‘profiting off of the office.’ … Frankly, it was a big sacrifice, costing us millions and millions of dollars annually. Of course, we didn’t get any credit whatsoever from the mainstream media, which now does not surprise me at all.

– Donald Trump Jr.
Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us

 

As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich.

– Mark Twain, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Updated” (1900)

 

There is no featured post this week, but plenty of news to process.

This week everybody was talking about the off-year elections

Going into Tuesday night, every pundit had two narratives ready.

  • The anti-Trump blue wave of 2018 is still rolling.
  • Impeachment has rallied the Trump base and turned moderates away from Democrats.

The results picked out the first story: Democrat Andy Beshear won the Kentucky governorship over the incumbent Matt Bevin. Democrats took control of both houses of the Virginia legislature. And while Republicans held on to the governorship in Mississippi, the margin (52%-47%) was hardly encouraging for Republicans, given that Trump won the state in 2016 58%-40%.

The deeper story was that both sides were energized. 1.4 million votes were cast in the Kentucky race, compared to less than a million in 2015. Bevin got nearly 200K more votes than in 2015, when he won by a comfortable margin; it just wasn’t enough.

Also, the two parties’ geographical bases of support are shifting. 538 summarizes:

Rural areas got redder, and urban and suburban ones got bluer — and not only in Virginia. Even for centrist Democrats like Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Jim Hood, the old, pre-Trump Democratic coalition has been replaced by one that increasingly relies on suburban voters to make up for losses among rural whites.


The Kentucky race didn’t settle the Democrats’ progressive/moderate argument about how to win elections. Progressives argue that you win by energizing the base to get a big turnout, while moderates say you shouldn’t turn off the changing suburban voters, who could easily go back to voting Republican or just stay home.

Beshear’s performance Tuesday, like Doug Jones’ win in Alabama in 2017, showed that Democrats can win in red states if they do both. Beshear got a huge turnout in urban Democratic strongholds, but he also won the suburbs.

It also helps if your opponent is toxic, as Bevin and Roy Moore both were. Even as Beshear was beating Bevin, Republicans were winning the other statewide offices. It’s not clear what that says about Amy McGrath’s chances of beating Mitch McConnell next year.


Bevin has refused to concede, citing unspecified “irregularities” that could account for Beshear’s 5,000-vote margin. That has led to speculation that he could get the Republican legislature to overturn the election.

Think what a huge step towards might-makes-right that would be. Republicans have moved in this direction before: North Carolina’s and Wisconsin’s gerrymandered Republican legislatures both tried to diminish the power of the governorship after a Democrat won the office. But no state has simply refused to let the voters elect a Democrat.

Fortunately, it appears that Kentucky’s Republican legislators aren’t interested in that kind of power grab — particularly for Bevin, whom many of them didn’t like anyway. The Week reports:

“The best thing to do, the right thing to do, is for Gov. Bevin to concede the election today so we can move on,” Rep. Jason Nemes (R) told the Herald Leader. “There’s nothing wrong with checking the math,” added Rep. Adam Koenig (R), but “unless there is a mountain of clear, unambiguous evidence, then he should let it go.”

Kentucky could be a preview of the national situation a year from now: If Trump loses, he almost certainly will blame his loss on fraud, whether any evidence supports that conclusion or not. (That’s how he has explained Clinton’s 2.8 million vote margin in the 2016 popular vote.) Then the question will be what levers he can push to hold onto office, and whether other elected Republicans or Trump-appointed judges will support him if he does.

and impeachment

If you’re not watching Chris Hayes on Friday nights, you’re missing out. Hayes has been doing his show in front of a live audience on Fridays, and the format works really well. This Friday’s opening piece was Hayes’ response to Trump’s “read the transcript” mantra, which Hayes and I both believe he is putting forward cynically. Trump knows that his voters will not in fact read the transcript, but will conclude that he wouldn’t invite them to read it if his claim that it is “perfect” weren’t true. (One way to tell Trump’s supporters are not reading the transcript is that only 40% of Republicans say that Trump mentioned the Bidens in the call, when anyone who has read the transcript would know that he did.)

Hayes says “Yes, read the transcript”, and walks the audience through what the transcript says.


Public impeachment hearings will start Wednesday, when the House Intelligence Committee will hear testimony from Bill Taylor and George Kent. Ambassador Marie Yovanovich, whose dismissal is a key part of the story, will testify Friday.

This week the committee also released transcripts of several of the closed-door depositions: Colonel Vindman, Fiona Hill, George Kent, Bill Taylor, Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker. The depositions were each hours long and altogether the transcripts run over 2500 pages. I haven’t attempted to read them, and will wait for public hearings to pick out the highlights.

In the meantime, it’s important to remember the sequence of events:


Friday night on CNN, David Gergen said the exact words I’d been thinking: Trump’s defense is basically a “Catch-22” that plays hearsay off against executive privilege: If a witness in the impeachment probe didn’t talk to Trump face-to-face, then his or her knowledge of the Ukraine extortion plot can be written off as hearsay. But people who did talk with Trump face-to-face can’t testify because of executive privilege.

In particular, all the testimony released so far points to three people: Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo, and Rudy Giuliani. Each claimed to speak for Trump and was very explicit in detailing (in front of witnesses who have testified under oath) the plot’s quid-pro-quo: releasing the money Congress had appropriated to defend Ukraine from Russian aggression in exchange for investigations into Biden and into the Ukraine-framed-Russia conspiracy theory of 2016 election interference.

It is hard to imagine any or all of these men cooking up the extortion plot without Trump’s approval, but they are the ones who had the most direct contact with the President. So the obvious thing to do is ask them: Were you free-lancing or were you following the President’s orders? But Trump won’t let them testify because of executive privilege.

In my mind, the whole notion of reasonable doubt goes out the window when the defendant creates the doubt by withholding evidence and blocking testimony.


Lindsey Graham is trying out the next line of Trump defense, which is to simply refuse to think about the evidence of his crimes: “I’ve written the whole process off,” he said. “I think this is a bunch of B.S.”


The Republican strategy for the public hearings seems to be to turn them into a circus. Among the witnesses they want are Hunter Biden and the whistleblower, as well as a DNC staffer who is supposedly involved in the 2016 Ukrainian interference conspiracy theory, and Nellie Ohr, who had something to do with the Steele dossier.

Other than the whistleblower, none of these people have any light to shine on the question before the committee: whether or not President Trump abused the power of his office to extort partisan political help out of the Ukrainian government. It’s totally crazy that Hunter Biden and Nellie Ohr should have to testify, but not Mulvaney or Pompeo.

The focus on the whistleblower is also misguided and wrong. Exposing his identity strikes at the heart of the whistleblower protection laws. The main purpose of exposing him would be to intimidate other government officials who might blow the whistle on Trump’s crimes. At this point, the claims in the whistleblower complaint have been substantiated by testimony under oath from other officials, so it’s not clear what the whistleblower could add.

Here’s an analogy: Somebody pulls the fire alarm in a big office building. The building is evacuated, the fire department comes, and a real fire is discovered and put out. Afterward, investigators look at how the fire started, how it spread, and what can be done to prevent similar fires in the future. But a second set of investigators cares nothing about those questions. Instead, their efforts are focused on figuring out who pulled the alarm.

Committee Chair Adam Schiff has veto power over witnesses, and is going to use it:

This inquiry is not, and will not serve … as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the President pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit, or to facilitate the President’s effort to threaten, intimidate, and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm

Schiff’s refusal will lead to a new round of process complaints from Republicans. The Devin Nunes letter listing witnesses already complains “You directed witnesses called by Democrats not to answer Republican questions.” I believe he is referring to questions intended to identify the whistleblower.


Steve Benen makes essentially the same argument I made a few weeks ago: Removing Trump can’t wait for the next election, because the whole issue here is that Trump will abuse his power in order to cheat in that election.


When this is all over, there needs to be legislation codifying a bunch of stuff that was taken for granted in all previous administrations: about Congress’ oversight powers, the responsibility of members of the executive branch to testify, and so forth. In addition, there needs to be a streamlined process for courts to adjudicate disputes over these issues, so that a president can’t simply use the courts to delay, as Trump is doing.

but what about censure?

The WaPo’s conservative columnist Marc Thiessen proposes that Democrats try to censure Trump instead of impeach him. (A censure resolution would be a moral condemnation, but would not result in removal from office or any other substantive penalties. Moreover, a House censure resolution could be ignored by the Senate.)

Thiessen argues that since the Senate is not going to remove Trump from office anyway, impeachment is really just a fancy kind of censure, and he offers the possibility that a censure resolution might gain Republican support:

A bipartisan censure vote would ultimately be more damaging to Trump than impeachment along party lines. The impeachment inquiry is energizing Trump voters, who believe Democrats are trying to invalidate their votes by removing Trump from office. Censure would take away that argument. It would be dispiriting to Trump’s base, especially if some Republicans joined Democrats in voting to rebuke the president. Trump would be furious at a bipartisan vote of censure.

That may sound reasonable, but we’ve seen this game before. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated, “moderate” Republicans would often hint that they might support it if it were watered down: if the public option were removed (it eventually was), or if it also included conservative features like tort reform (it never did). However, those Republican moderates never made a genuine counter-proposal, i.e., “Here’s an amended version of the ACA that I would vote for.” In the end, none of them did vote for the ACA, but we were left with the myth that somehow Democrats had been unreasonable and had passed up genuine compromise opportunities.

I fear the same thing here: Democrats retreat to censure in an effort to get Republican votes, and Republicans still don’t vote for it.

Here’s how I think the process should work: Democrats believe that Trump’s crimes are impeachable and that removal from office is the appropriate response, so that’s what they should propose. If Republicans believe the proper response is censure, they should propose that. In other words, if Republicans want to compose a censure resolution, introduce it (with a list of sponsors) in either the House or Senate, and try to persuade Democrats to vote for it instead of impeachment, they should go right ahead. But absent some legitimate counter-proposal from Republicans — one they would advocate in public and not just hint at — Democrats should continue doing what they believe is right.

If a Republican censure resolution existed, then its pluses and minuses could be discussed: Is the wording strong enough? Could it pass overwhelmingly? Would the Senate pass it too? Would such a public condemnation deter Trump and future presidents from committing similar crimes in the future? And so on. But until some number of Republicans in Congress are willing to clearly say, “Here is how we want to condemn the President’s actions”, there’s nothing to talk about.

and other Trump-related news

A New York state judge ruled that Trump must pay $2 million to a consortium of non-profits to resolve a lawsuit charging him with misusing the Trump Foundation for personal gain. The judge’s ruling sharply criticized the January, 2016 event Trump scheduled to conflict with the Republican debate he was boycotting. The event was billed as a Trump Foundation fund-raiser for veterans’ groups, but the Foundation allowed the Trump campaign to distribute the money in campaign events.

Mr. Trump’s fiduciary duty breaches included allowing his campaign to orchestrate the Fundraiser, allowing his campaign, instead of the Foundation, to direct distribution of the Funds, and using the Fundraiser and distribution of the Funds to further Mr. Trump’s political campaign.

Trump isn’t pursuing an appeal.

It marked an extraordinary moment: The president of the United States acknowledged in a court filing that he had failed to follow basic laws about how charities should be governed. Previously, Trump had insisted the charity was run properly and the suit was a partisan sham.

This scandal points to the same character flaw we see in the Ukraine scandal and throughout the Trump administration: He is incapable of distinguishing between himself and the roles he has taken on. He sees whatever power he has as his own, to do with as he likes, rather than as part of a role that includes responsibilities and restrictions.

The $2 million reminds me of the $25 million he had to pay to settle his Trump University fraud. Defrauding donors, defrauding students … what’s a guy gotta do to go to jail around here?


The Roger Stone trial started, which means that we might finally find out what all those redactions in the Mueller Report were about. Mother Jones summarizes the government’s case against Stone, and Rolling Stone discusses Steve Bannon’s testimony. And there’s this Dylan-parody meme.


Beppe Severgnini gives a European perspective on Trump’s decision to abandon America’s Kurdish allies. Another wave of Syrian refugees will result, he fears, and Europe (not America) will have to deal with them. “[W]e felt betrayed. No warning, no consultation. Trust has been shattered.”


The anonymous Trump official who wrote a controversial op-ed a year ago has a book coming out a week from tomorrow. It’s called A Warning, and to a large extent it contradicts the message of last year’s op-ed. That article assured the public that the administration was full of people who would control Trump’s venal or insane impulses, and thwart his ability to do illegal or destructive things.

This book — if the excerpts we’ve seen so far are typical — argues that those people (the “Steady State”, the author calls them) are failing, and that things will get much worse if the voters give Trump a second term.


Nikki Haley’s book With All Due Respect is coming out tomorrow. In it, she tells of Rex Tillerson and John Kelly confiding in her that they were intentionally undermining the president in order to “save the country”. Maybe one of them is Anonymous.


You may have heard that the Trump campaign is so desperate for black supporters that it has begun photoshopping its hats onto black people. Snopes tones that accusation down a little: The fake photo doesn’t come from the official Trump campaign, but does appear in an advertisement for the hat on the Conservative News Daily web site. The hat is not an official piece of Trump-campaign merchandise and is being marketed by someone else.

So the photo is an attempt to scam conservatives, who are often targeted for scams (and have been for years) because of their well-known gullibility. But it’s not an official Trump scam.


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: The founder of Students for Trump just pleaded guilty to a $46K fraud scheme. The 23-year-old posed as a lawyer with 15 years experience, and charged for online legal advice.

and Mike Bloomberg (and the Democratic presidential race)

I have two contradictory opinions about the number of candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination. On one hand, I want everybody who thinks they have the right message or ability or experience to run. I don’t want any Democratic voters looking at somebody on the sidelines and thinking “If only …”. A lot of Democrats did that with Hillary Clinton in 2004 and Elizabeth Warren in 2016. Let’s not do it again.

On the other hand, I’m tired of seeing ten or more candidates on the debate stage, or still running even though they can’t meet the debate-stage requirements. John Delaney, Steve Bullock, Tulsi Gabbard, and a bunch of other people whose names I can’t even think of right now — aren’t you just wasting everybody’s time, including your own?

So anyway, it looks like we might be getting a new entry: Mike Bloomberg. And part of me says: Why not? He served three terms as mayor of New York City, which has a bigger population than most states (way more than Steve Bullock’s Montana). He’s at least ten times richer than Trump, and got there by starting new businesses rather than being a scam artist. He’s got a national profile for gun control and some other issues. Why not?

But I’m very skeptical that he’s going to shake up the race. The beltway narrative is that he’ll compete with Joe Biden for the moderate vote, but I think that’s a misperception of Biden’s support, which is not fundamentally ideological. Biden represents a return to normalcy. The elect-Biden fantasy is that then the adults will be back in charge, the Twitter circus will be over, and we can pretend this whole Trump thing never happened. Bloomberg doesn’t offer that same comfort.

Also, the Biden moderate-lane narrative, the one that has him challenged not just by Bloomberg, but also by Mayor Pete and maybe Amy Klobuchar, ignores the racial component of Biden’s appeal. At the moment, here’s the most likely scenario: Warren, Sanders, or Buttigieg wins in Iowa, Warren or Sanders wins in New Hampshire, and then the black voters of South Carolina save Biden’s bacon by coming through for him. Then we head into the big-state primaries with two or three viable candidates: Biden, the Iowa winner, and the New Hampshire winner.

The black vote is what saved Hillary Clinton’s candidacy after Sanders’ New Hampshire wipe-out in 2016, and so far it’s lining up the same way for Biden. An Economist/YouGov poll that is otherwise quite favorable to Warren — she trails Biden 26%-25% — shows Biden getting 47% of the black vote, with Warren at 17% and Sanders at 14%. Kamala Harris is at 7%, Julian Castro 5%, and Cory Booker 3%. Buttigieg and Klobuchar clock in at zero.

Bloomberg is Mayor Stop-and-Frisk. He’s going nowhere with blacks. If there were a sudden boomlet for Harris or Booker, that would threaten Biden’s path to victory way more than Bloomberg does. But so far I see no sign of it.


After I wrote the previous note, the first Bloomberg-inclusive polls came out, showing him with single-digits of support.


Exactly why Biden has so much black support is an interesting question in its own right. Generalizations about large demographic groups should never be taken too seriously, since there will usually be gobs and gobs of exceptions. But let me toss out this theory: In general, the black electorate is wary and pragmatic. Falling in love with a candidate is seen as a luxury privileged people have. Blacks (especially older blacks) are used to the idea that the candidate they would fall in love with probably has no chance. They also distrust bright new faces and big promises, because they’ve seen their people get conned again and again. So they look for a candidate who can win and has a longstanding relationship with them. Right now, that’s Biden.

That can change. In the 2008 cycle, blacks were wary of supporting Barrack Obama against their longstanding ally Hillary Clinton. Eventually they did support him in a big way, but only after Obama’s performance in Iowa proved that white people would vote for him too. They loved Obama, but they weren’t going to do a charge-of-the-light-brigade for him, just like they’re not doing one now for Harris or Booker.


Elizabeth Warren has made an interesting tactical decision: She’s not going tit-for-tat against all the other candidates who are attacking her and her healthcare plan.

Warren aides said they’re not adopting a pacifist posture; they expect that some attacks will require a response. Rather, they say they’re adapting to the modern media environment where responding to everything can distract from more important tasks and muddle their message.

It’s too soon to tell whether this works, but I understand the impulse behind it: Next fall, Trump wants the national debate to be a food fight rather than a discussion of where the country is going or should go. The Democratic nominee will have to figure out how to deal with his constant name-calling and lies without just getting into a shouting match. The approach that worked against gentlemanly candidates like George Bush the First or Mitt Romney may play into Trump’s hands.

meanwhile, it’s Veterans’ Day

It used to be Armistice Day, marking the 11/11/1918 end of the shooting in World War I, then known only as “the Great War”.

Veterans’ Day, like Memorial Day on the other side of the calendar, can be a tricky holiday for liberals to celebrate. We have opposed many of our country’s recent wars. (And not-so-recent wars. Twain’s “Battle Hymn” protested the war in the Philippines. The Christmas carol “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” lamented the Mexican-American War of 1848.) We would like to see a less militarized country and culture. We think our government overspends on weapons and puts too many of our soldiers in danger overseas. Too often, national security is used as an excuse for restricting citizens’ rights and increasing government surveillance.

None of that, though, should turn us against the individual men and women who have stepped up to accept the risks of defending our country and its allies, and who have fulfilled their commitments honorably, often at dire cost to themselves and their families. If you’re not a pacifist (and I’m not) you’re consciously or unconsciously counting on someone to train for war and be ready to meet violence with violence. Particularly if we don’t take on that job ourselves (and I haven’t), we owe some gratitude to the people who do.

The soldier is the most visible symbol of militarism, but we must be careful not to let symbolism blind us to soldiers’ humanity. Soldiers didn’t send themselves to Vietnam or Iraq; our leaders sent them there. Soldiers don’t steal their pay or their equipment from schools and poor families who need help; it is politicians who set those priorities and distribute the nation’s resources. (Many soldiers come from those poor families, and see military service as the only viable ticket out of poverty for themselves and their children.) Again and again, voters have endorsed those choices.

The members of our armed forces have put their lives in the hands of our nation’s leaders, and ultimately in our hands. Veterans’ Day is a time to remember the costs of military service, and to rededicate ourselves to making sure that the nation does not abuse the trust that these men and women have placed in it.

and you also might be interested in …

Deciding which streaming TV services you want has gotten complicated over the past few years, and is about to get significantly more complicated. The Washington Post breaks it down.


Finally, the future I was promised is starting to arrive: an all-electric air taxi.

and let’s close with something stunning

SkyPixel has a contest for the best aerial photographs. The Verge has picked its favorites, including this image of Hong Kong that has been warped to make the sky a small circle of light surrounded by skyscrapers.

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Comments

  • pauljbradford  On November 11, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    I don’t see that a quid pro quo is needed to make this an impeachable offense. Even without one, a president asking the leader of another country to publicly start an investigation of the POTUS’s political opponents meets my definition of ‘abuse of power’.

  • George Washington, Jr.  On November 11, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Photoshopping MAGA hats onto black people is just run-of-the-mill fake advertising. What’s stranger is white people wearing “Blacks for Trump” shirts.

    https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/shirts-blacks-for-trump/

  • Anonymous Poster  On November 12, 2019 at 7:53 am

    An important point I saw raised on MSNBC yesterday, though I forget on which show it was raised: Of all the people the Republicans could’ve asked to testify before Congress for the impeachment inquiry, they didn’t ask for the most important witness: Trump himself. The GOP has defended Trump (begrudgingly, at least). Why wouldn’t they ask him to testify on his own behalf and give himself the “due process” he claims to want from the inquiry?

    We all know the answer, but I’d be interested in how a Republican Congresscritter would answer that question. I bet they’d complain about the process than the witness being an unpredictable idiot.

    • Anonymous  On November 12, 2019 at 8:47 pm

      Good point. Why not have Trump testify in his own defense. Rather than just insisting that his call was “perfect” when he’s standing on the lawn at the White House, why not come testify to Congress?

  • Jeff R.  On November 12, 2019 at 8:39 am

    A casualty of Trump-centric news is that developments, such as those in Hong Kong, get lost or downplayed. Imagine having a CEO who is totally preoccupied with himself. It’s no way to run a business.

  • Guest  On November 12, 2019 at 10:51 am

    Thanks for pointing out the Warren strategy shift, Doug, had missed that. Like James Carville I’m kinda scratching my head over this. Nobody, not even Trump, responds to each and every criticism/attack, so the explanation offered by staffers doesn’t pass the sniff test. If you’re the front-runner, avoiding the spotlight can maybe help in the short term (like Biden especially early in the year, and even Clinton before him to some extent) but you cede some control over narratives. Warren never had their leads though. Among others, Matt Bruenig at People’s Policy Project outlined some reasons why Warren’s Medicare approach is unsound from an implementation view and thus in terms of getting it passed to begin with. I haven’t heard any rebuttals and apparently I won’t be getting any soon. Whether the move is an unforced error or a stroke of brilliance remains to be seen. In the meantime, Bernie picks up a big nurse’s union endorsement…

    A bit off topic if I may, Doug, but i thought you’d get a kick out of this if it hasn’t crossed your desk already. It’s a couple weeks old at this point, but The Christian Post did a series on “Leaving Christianity” and invited a couple atheists to write pieces for it, starting with “I lost my faith in a Chick-fil-A.” It’s refreshing to see such a group take on “the rise of the nones” head-on, even if the apologia offered in response is lacking. A lot of commenters condemn even raising the issue. Figured it would be right up your alley. Cheers.

    • weeklysift  On November 13, 2019 at 8:05 am

      Thanks. For everybody else’s reference, here’s the link to “I lost my faith in a Chick-fil-A”. From there you can easily get to the other parts of the 8-part “Leaving Christianity” series, which has a wide range of voices.

      I found a bunch of the comments depressing, though.

  • kcfromchi  On November 12, 2019 at 11:40 am

    I mostly agree with your viewpoints, but I take issue with the last item in your post. After you expressed concerns about the over-militarization of our country, you wrote:

    “None of that, though, should turn us against the individual men and women who have stepped up to accept the risks of defending our country and its allies, and who have fulfilled their commitments honorably, often at dire cost to themselves and their families.”

    I have great sympathy for the individual soldier who is misled into believing he is “defending” our country. (I was once one of the misled.) But, it is hard to think of a recent use of our military might that was, in fact, defensive. Also, can one serve honorably in a dishonorable cause? We have killed and continue to kill innocent civilians — millions in Southeast Asia; thousands in the Mideast; and countless others, like these victims of air attacks: boys gathering firewood in Afghanistan, a wedding party in Yemen, and thirty farmers in Afghanistan. Has this been honorable defense of our country?

    You went on to write: 

    “The soldier is the most visible symbol of militarism, but we must be careful not to let symbolism blind us to soldiers’ humanity. Soldiers didn’t send themselves to Vietnam or Iraq; our leaders sent them there.”

    People always have choices; especially today, without an active draft, joining the military is a choice. Also, soldiers don’t need to follow orders that are illegal, and the U.S. military excursions today are mostly in violation of international law. In War and Peace, Tolstoy explained that Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was not his decision alone. It required thousands of privates, corporals, and others to choose to participate, without whom “there would have been so many less men in Napoleon’s army and the war could not have occurred.”

    As far as the notion that the military is “the only viable ticket out of poverty,” the same has been said about dealing drugs or joining a street gang. There are other choices.

    I, too, “would like to see a less militarized country and culture,” but by honoring the veteran and his “service,” we are honoring the military and its mission, which is basically to kill and destroy. Thus, we perpetuate the militarized culture. Instead we should restore November 11 to its original intention: Armistice Day, a day to commemorate peace.

    • weeklysift  On November 13, 2019 at 8:40 am

      My point of view is influenced by having watched the career my high school best friend made in the Marines. (He served for decades and retired as a warrant officer with very high honors.) Sometimes he was involved in things I objected to. Sometimes he was the guy on the ground trying to keep the bad policy of higher-ups from falling completely to shit, as in post-invasion Iraq. Sometimes he was on the side of the angels, as when he kept the peace in Bosnia after NATO stopped the genocide. A chunk of his career was spent processing intelligence about the Colombian drug cartels. It’s a very mixed bag.

      In addition to the wars we’ve fought, you also need to consider what we’ve prevented. When I look at what the Russians are doing in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, I have to believe they’d take over the Baltic Republics in a heartbeat if the US pulled out of NATO. Ditto for the Chinese and Taiwan, if we lost interest there. I like that we are helping African governments fight Boko Haram. The war crimes against the Kurds are happening because our soldiers were ordered to stand aside. I regret that we didn’t do anything to stop the Rwanda genocide.

      So I believe there’s a role for US power in the world. By and large, the men and women in our armed forces believe they are a (sometimes misused) force for good in the world, and are trying to do the best they can wherever they happen to find themselves. I respect that.

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