Today Jennifer Rubin wrote an article in the Washington Post titled, “Why do the troops think so little of Obama?” I find it curious anyone even wonders why. Isn’t it obvious?
According to the Post’s poll of members of the armed services who went to Iraq or Afghanistan, this president is much less respected by the troops he leads than his predecessor: When it comes to their most-senior commander, the vets decisively prefer [President] George W. Bush to [President] Obama. Only a third approve of the way Obama is handling his job, and 42 percent of them think he has been a good commander in chief despite his decisions to bring troops home from Iraq, wind down the war in Afghanistan and increase resources for veterans. By contrast, nearly two-thirds of them think Bush, who launched both wars, was a good commander in chief.”
You see, one can command troops to attend a gathering and they will abide by the rule of mandatory happy, but that doesn’t mean you’re respected.
What civilians fail to realize is that we join the military to serve, realizing that the rigors of combat and privation are a part of that service, sacrifice, and commitment. We’re not looking for someone “posing” as a leader who uses us as political pawns and gives away the hard-earned gains we’ve achieved. What troops want are leaders who are principled and will stand and have heartfelt sorrow when one of our brothers or sisters gives that last full measure of devotion.
What we see happening to our military under the Obama administration is unconscionable. The cutting of benefits to those serving, have served, and their families is disturbing. To have a Secretary of Defense step forward and announce we are cutting our military capability and capacity at a time when the world is far more volatile is perplexing.
To hear President Obama come out and say that we are war weary? When in the heck has he put on combat gear and humped on a patrol or spent years deployed?
Real combat troops don’t look for a fight, but when a fight comes their way, they want to win. And they expect leadership that will stand with them seeking victory, not retreat, masked as some insidious political campaign promise.
Ms. Rubin asks, “How might the president improve his reputation among the troops, while doing himself some good with allies and foes alike on the world stage? Her answers are spot on! Rubin says:
For one thing, the inexcusable and continual cutting of the defense budget should end. The president’s mealy-mouthed Quadrennial Defense Review should be redone to add some specific analysis of our threats and the recommended means of meeting those threats.
Next, in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is time to stop assuring our foes of everything we are unwilling to do and instead devise a concrete strategy for securing the gains our fighting men and women obtained. That may mean providing aid and logistical support to Iraq to fend off Iranian influence.
It would also require a robust defense of our intelligence gathering, which anticipates not only attacks and plots against the homeland but against our troops around the world.
And finally, it is time to install a respected and capable secretary of defense with a competent national security team to exclude political hacks from national security decision-making and to become realistic about the state of the world.
In the military, respect from the troops must be earned. Then it is true. Men and women in uniform will always render proper deference to those who are of higher rank — that is proper military courtesy. But true respect is something far more than just a simple hand salute or rendering of “Sir” or “Ma’am.” True respect is an indicator of immense pride and regard, and can at times be just a simple nod.
I advised young officers that you’ll know your men respect you when, for example, you’re out in civilian clothes off a military installation, and your soldiers see you, come up and greet you in earnest. You’ll know they have utmost respect when they’re with their family and introduce you as “my Commander.” If soldiers see you and evade you, there is no respect.
One could only wish that President Obama would stand up to America’s global foes as he does to his domestic political foes. That would require true courage. But that’s why Obama does not garner true respect.
By Allen West