Memorial Day 2017: a worrying recklessness

One of the things I want in life more than almost anything is a government that does not, willy nilly, add to the number of people that we remember each year on Memorial Day.

There was a point in the last couple months where the sabre-rattling made me fear that the United States might be going to war in North Korea. AND Syria. AND Iran. Possibly at the same time. OK, we’re already fighting in Syria, but I mean against the Syrian government.

The notion that the current regime wants to increase military spending by tens of billions of dollars is troubling enough. The fact that the plan has been offered by an amateur chicken hawk bereft of military experience is terrifying. Yes, he has some military brass in his Cabinet, and indeed, arguably, an overabundance of them. But the defense of the United States is supposedly under civilian control.

From The Atlantic, way back in December 2016: “‘Appointing too many generals would throw off the balance of a system that for good reason favors civilian leadership,’ writes The New York Times’ Carol Giacomo. ‘The concern is not so much that military leaders might drag the country into more wars. It is that the Pentagon, with its nearly $600 billion budget, already exercises vast sway in national security policymaking and dwarfs the State Department in resources.’ In The Washington Post, Phillip Carter and Loren DeJonge Schulman warn that ‘great generals don’t always make great Cabinet officials’ and add that ‘relying on the brass, however individually talented, to run so much of the government could also jeopardize civil-military relations.'”

And when the person purportedly in charge doesn’t seem to stand by the very words he says, it’s a scary time. He praises international strongmen, such as in the Phillippines and even, seemingly, North Korea.

The New Yorker’s David Remick: He “flouts truth… so brazenly that he undermines the country he has been elected to serve and the stability he is pledged to insure. His bluster creates a generalized anxiety such that the President of the United States can appear to be scarcely more reliable than any of the world’s autocrats… When [he] rushes to congratulate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for passing a referendum that bolsters autocratic rule in Turkey—or when a sullen and insulting meeting with Angela Merkel is followed by a swoon session with Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the military dictator of Egypt—how are the supporters of liberal and democratic values throughout Europe meant to react to American leadership?”

This letter to the editor of the News Tribute gets to my concerns: “The administration displays a worrying recklessness, and disregard for both international law and constitutional separation of powers. These actions threaten our security and democratic governance. The administration appears to have no/little concern for diplomatic means to conflict resolution.”

My hope and prayer is that the reckless policy does not add to the numbers we memorialize today, but based on history, that is an unrealistic wish.

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