It is my usual practice to keep Veterans Day posts limited to a simple "thank you" for our service members and their families.
But this is an usual time.
The looming fiscal cliff will bring with it deep cuts in our defense spending. These will render our military less mission-capable and leave American vulnerable to attack.
Many people looked at Mitt Romney as the last chance to stop this. I don't know if he could: Weakening our defenses on the eve of war is an American tradition that goes back to 1789. It's not going to stop now.
As I mentioned in my previous post, people don't change. Not really, not in the aggregate. Show me the most intelligent, urbane, tolerant, sophisticated collegiate professional and in a few minutes of questioning I will reveal the savage tribesman within. Our taboos change, the tribal descriptions shift, but all the old hatred and emotions are still there.
I make no claim to be immune to this, by the way. The difference between me and a refined liberal is that I know who I am - I do not deceive myself into thinking that I am somehow a better person than a Roman or a Viking.
Indeed, conservatives have - for the most part - embraced this part of them. That is why so many enjoy sports, particularly those with a martial component. We don't lie to ourselves: we know exactly who we are.
The point is that as sure as the sun rises and sets, American will agree to massive defense cuts while expecting nothing bad to happen. Given the choice of guns or butter, we will choose butter every time. It is only when we are backed into the corner with no where else to go that we will (grudgingly) agree to spend money on armaments.
Some will point out to the growing distance between the military caste and the civilian world. Yet this is nothing new. A hundred years ago the Army was a tiny clique and the Navy was its own sea-based culture. The deep thinkers of the time figured that city life and the development of railroads, steam engines and now the automobile had made people too weak and flabby to make good soldiers.
Some things never change.
The difference between then and now is that within the defense community there are thinkers that know what is going on. Our planners know that we will be weak, that we will be caught off-guard and that we will have to improvise. They know that we will be surprised and in so knowing, they ensure that the effect of that surprise will be minimal. They know that the most important trait is flexibility.Today I ask folks to keep in mind not only the veterans of today and yesterday, but the veterans of tomorrow. I fear we will be calling on them all too soon.