On Veterans Day

November 11, 2010

On Veterans Day

Commentators are commemorating Veterans Day with everything from simple tributes to analyses of the current state of the military. Swathmore professor Dominic Tierney offers up one of the latter in the New York Times. Tierney urges the military's counterinsurgency reformers to take inspiration from the early history of America's military, when the armed forces were "designed for a wide variety of functions beyond combat." In fact, he writes, West Point used to be "a great foundry of nation-building," where soldiers were trained more for exploring the frontier an spent more time on "scientific pursuits." Tierney would like to see the military academy "supply a nation-builders education" for twenty-first-century soldiers, too (although he glosses over the differences between nation building in one's own country versus doing it for others.)

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald D. Castile (also a former Marine), takes the opportunity to propose "an alternative to jail for former service members" with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He recommends setting up alternative "veterans courts" for veteran nonviolent offenders where they are offered treatment instead of having to "navigate the penal system." And these special courts help "reawaken the service members' pride" and are effective because the vets can foster "a sense of camaraderie" during rehabilitation. Castile also notes that Pennsylvania, California, Oklahama and Wisconsin already have similiar programs.

The Washington Post runs a tribute by freelance writer Patrick Logan, who remembers his parents' experience during and after World War II and pleads for Americans to "feel this sacrifice" and remember the service of all the young men being killed in Afghanistan.

Veteran Peter Hegseth finds hope in the resolve displayed by U.S. soldiers since 9/11. On the Huffington Post, Hegseth's fellow vet (and frequent cable-TV sparring partner) Paul Rieckoff recommends giving a "minute of your time to show your support" and help "unite the country on this important day";  screenwriter Aaron Sorkin asks everyone to "put their pom poms down for a moment" and actually listen to what veterans have to say; and Arriana Huffington suggests making Veterans' Day a national day of service.

But Matt Yglesias would just as soon turn Veterans Day back into Armistice Day, which he thinks would be more reflective of the "tragic" nature of war (but he doesn't say what is tragic about Armistice Day).

Other bloggers, meanwhile, have been focused on Afghanistan. Noah Shachtman reports that air strikes continue to skyrocket, up 50 percent in October from last year. He notes it's the same strategy Petraeus used in Iraq, where airborne attacks "jumped nearly sevenfold," and, he says, is a "dramatic reversal from Gen. Stanley McChrystal's strategy" of restricting airpower.

And still others highlight the administration's "change in tone" on U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Apparently Secretaries Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, made "loosely coordinated comments" at a defense summit in Sydney, Australia, emphasizing that U.S. troops will be there until 2014. There's really no change in policy (administration officials have always cited the July 2011 date as only the start of a U.S. exit), but they're trying "to get past that July 2011 obsession so that people can see what the president's strategy really entails," as the Times quotes one "senior administration official."

Jennifer Rubin says it's the right move but calls it "pathetic" nonetheless. David Rothkopf doesn't like how the administration "let slip" the news and says the strategy is a "miscalculation." Stephen Walt, as usual, isn't surprised, but thinks the report "suggests that the war is not going as well as we're being told."