Friday, March 2, 2012

Politically Incorrect: Motives and Mandates Inside the Beltway

Original Art Work by Marshall Ramsey
For 30 years, my father never voted.  He was a career soldier from a family of career soldiers.  Until 1969, when he retired from the U.S Army, he held the belief that a soldier should not vote for the Commander-in-Chief.  It was not “seemly”.  Once he retired,  he not only voted but actively campaigned for a presidential candidate.  It was not a political awakening as much as to help secure a Presidential appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point for his wayward, surfer son.  It worked.  In 1972 I was appointed to West Point by Richard M. Nixon. 

As a career soldier myself, I was my father’s son and held true to his belief that it was unseemly to vote for the CINC, so I followed his example. Of course, I was wrong; we are CITIZEN-soldiers.  It is our duty to participate.   That being said,  in the military, one does not talk politics.  Ever.  It is not only discouraged, it can be a violation of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice to exercise command influence over another service member’s vote.   When I retired, I did register to vote, but as the deputy supervisor of elections for the fourth largest county in Florida, I felt that it was important (in 2003) to appear as non-partisan as possible, so I registered with No Party Affiliation.   

My purpose here is not to extol the virtues of not having a party affiliation, but rather to describe the non-partisan nature of the U.S. Armed Forces.  It is a violation of Defense Department Directive 1344.10 to even appear in uniform at a political event.   So when I hear that our esteemed law makers are accusing the military of being partisan in their pursuit of energy security I cannot decide if I am more astounded by their ignorance or their arrogance. 

In another excellent Annie Snider article in Greenwire, Ms Snider reported on a congressional hearing in which, Rep. Randy Forbes (R) from the 4th District of Virginia teed off on SecNav Ray Mabus for the Navy’s biofuels program.  Sec. Mabus thinks that if biofuels were a ready substitutes for petroleum based fuels, he wouldn’t have to put two carrier groups (and America’s sons and daughters) in harm’s way to ensure the free flow of said petroleum to the markets that buy American goods.  Rep. Forbes thinks it is simply a way for the Administration to hide their energy policy (as if they had one!).  Of course it is worth considering what Rep. Forbes is for, as well as what he is against (according to Wikipedia):
  •  To designate the United States as a Judeo-Christian nation.
  • To declare that "the Holy Bible is God’s Word".
  • To declare religion a prerequisite for freedom and reject "the notion that the laws and Constitution of the United States require the exclusion of God from matters of government".
  • To prevent the IRS from assisting the federal government in an "invasion into the health care lives of American citizens".
  • To declare that religion forms "the inseparable foundation for America’s representative processes, legal systems, and societal structures".

There is no energy independence, only interdependence and as long as any nation is dependent on oil from the Middle East, the U. S. will have to spend its treasure and blood to ensure freedom of the seas.  This would not be so if all of our transportation networks could use non-food, non-subsidized, non-petroleum based fuels until we can achieve electrification (still looking for that flying car).  The tactical move of buying as yet expensive biofuels may have the strategic impact of broadening the market, driving down costs and offering an alternative to Venezuelan light sweet crude.  Would have thought that Rep. Forbes, a sponsor of the H.R. 6260 entitled, "New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence" would get that.   Pretty sure the government had a lot to do with the Manhattan Project. 

One of the other quotes in the article was from Ms. Catrina Rorke of the American Action Forum, another one of the endless number of think tanks in D. C.. These "institutions" are there to help us non-Beltwayers understand the intricacies of getting nothing done.  Ms. Rorke says, “"Obama is hiding new renewable energy bets at the Pentagon, charging our Defense Department with major investments in 'low-emissions economic development' while cutting their budget by $5.1 billion,".  Ms. Rorke, who has spent her entire five year career inside the Beltway, first as a congressional aide and then as a proto-lobbyist,  appears not to have gotten the memo on the nation’s current economic situation.  Or that the cuts to the DOD budget stem from the inaction of the very group for whom she wishes to be the brain trust!  BTW, it is President Obama. In a civil society, respect for the office, if not the person, is the norm.  I was taught that at West Point; it may not have been part of the curriculum at UNC.  These attempts to politicize energy security are foolhardy as well as dangerous.  Frankly, I was surprise to see her quoted given her lack of experience.   

DOD is engaged in reducing their energy consumption and finding alternatives because they have congressionally dictated mandates to do so.  They are planning for the implications of climate change because it is prudent to do so for National Security reasons.  They are examining alternative fuel sources because a reliance on a single source creates a single point of failure.  To ascribe political motives is either craven, short sighted or stupid.  Given the behavior of our Congress (and their brain trust), none of those motives would surprise me.  Dan Nolan


B Bergoo said...

Thanks, Dan. It amazes me that efforts to cut and find substitutes for DOD energy consumption are still considered a partisan issue by some. I'm wondering, While the military is mandated to refrain from open party affiliation, what about DOD civilians? And while this may be a more complicated answer, I wonder what your (and others') thoughts are regarding the impact that energy-related initatives can have/are having on the generally right-leaning military's party affiliation, if any? While the DOD is often lauded as an early adopter of and test bed for new technologies, to what extent is it an early adopter of energy security as a bipartisan issue?

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