Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Game Changer

No metaphors are perfect when attempting to describe or clarify a situation, but they often help. Jesus used metaphors to explain things His disciples, and often even with His clarity and Godly talents of speaking, they just confused the heck out of them, causing the Savior to have to just lay in out in good ol' plain Aramaic. Somtimes they do help us grasp the heart of an issue which may otherwise just be a little to abstract to understand. Well dog-gonnit, I've got one that's darn good, and it involves our recently named presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, and the Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff.
Rooted in our country's constitution is the principle of civilian leadership of the armed forces. Our founders knew that if generals controlled foreign policy, their esoteric views may distort the true national interest. History would indeed be very different if this check were not in place. World War III, for example, may have started in the winter of 1950 with MacArthur's nuking of China. Operation Iraqi Freedom may have been rendered moot with Stormin' Normin Schwarzkopf's victorious march into Baghdad in 1991 to topple the Hussein regime once and for all. But alas, for better or for worse, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces during both of these times was not a seasoned General of the Army, he was a polititian, with a much broader view of the situation than the men calling the shots on the ground. There have been several occasions when these brilliant military men of great accomplishment saw their successes sweep them into the role of commander-in-chief through their popular election as president: Washington, Taylor, Grant, Eisenhower -  to name a few. With the glaring exception of the first man in this list, these men did not make extrordinary presidents, as tacticians don't often make great polititians. I suppose all of the B.S. in politics tends to not jive well with a man who is accustommed to his success being evaluated by how many of his enemies he was able to have killed. 
Take a look at the picture of this man. General Martin E Dempsey. West Point grad, served in Desert Storm and went on to command all of CENTCOM, overseeing Baghdad during the time in which insurgency was reaching its peak. He then went on to be nominated as as Chief of Staff of the Army, before assuming the role as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Dempsey is decorated with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star with “V” Device and Oak Leaf Cluster, the Combat Action Badge, and the Parachutist Badge. Translation: this guy is a badass. See all the color on his chest? That means he's been around... and I dont mean in the Jersey Shore sense, I mean in the sense that you could probably count on one hand the people in the active military that have seen more or accomplished more than him. So what does this all mean? All of this knowledge, experience and ability, while it has given him the ability to think globally about all of our armed forces (hence his appointment as Charman of the Joint Chiefs), still wouldn't necessarly make him an effective commander-in-chief, let alone a great civilian leader. His views of the world are still esoteric -  framed by a lifetime of leading men to battle, planning and executing military operations, and ensuring that a mission is accomplished with speed, efficiency and effectiveness. There have been dire times throughout history, however,  in which men with military backgrounds have been effective national leaders: Winston Churchill many times outright overruled his top admirals and generals in the field on matters of tactics. Having gained a discerning military perception through his backgound in the Royal Navy, Chuchill had a global yet incredibly specific way of thinking about things . If we somehow had plunged into a new global war in the late fifties which required moving masses of armies around the world for battle, I could think of no better commander-in-chief than Dwight Eisenhower or Winston Churchill (granted, a war during that time would have probably involved wholesale nuclear exchanges, for this no general or leader would have been prepared). They could have stepped into a job for which their specific knowledge of war would have been incredibly useful - if you're going to have two world wars in as many decades, you may as well have the guy that won the first one for you take care of the second one, right? Unfortunately when Ike did step into office, it was duing a time in which knowing more than any man alive about amphibious operations and commanding mulltinational forces across mulitiple continents didn't do him much good. Hence as a president, he'll have to settle for a legacy as a highway-builder, not a world-saver.
Enter Paul Ryan. Political Science and Economics Major at Miami University - he received the best formal training in economics and politics that money can buy. That's right, chew on that Univeristy of Chicago and Harvard. Mr. Ryan is the Chairman of the House Budget Committee and easily the most outspoken congressman on the Hill when it comes to the budget.  He's advanced ideas that could bring spending to levels that would be sustainable over the long term, allowing us to get out of our current "throw money at anything that moves" strategy of economic stimulus. His plan (perhaps to his own detriment) also addresses the "third rail" of American politics: entitlement spending. Any responsible budget must address how the current exponential spending growth for entitlment programs is unsustainable in the long run. Like his ideas or not, he's talking about it. Anyone who isn't talking about it (almsot everyone else), isn't capable of proposing a credible budget for the next decade.
Our country has big, big problems right now - the consequences of our problems lie a decade or two down the road, which is why no one is doing anything about it now. Just look at these trends. Notice the change in slope of the line every eight years. That's no accident folks -  and the slope has never been steeper than the last four years. If you follow that little line four more years out, it doesnt fit on the graph - were talking about moving that y-axis mark to... oh probably closer to the 25 mil mark. And no, that's not 25 million, it's 25 million million... that's right, 25 trillion dollars. Our national debt in four years under the current trend. See the problem, now? We need to change the slope of the little blue line, fast. Whether or not you think that means raising tax rates on the super rich is enough to do it is up to you, and hopefully that's a conversation we'll be having this fall.
Were in a crisis situation right now with the trajectory of our deficit spending. If that chart doesn't convince you of that, I dont know what will. We need leaders that have the capability of thinking incredibily specifically of how to solve this problem - numbers crunchers, budget gurus, Miami economics majors... dare i say. We need people capable of fundamentally changing the way our government conducts fiscal policy and revenue allocation. Someone that has sat in Laws 100 and daydreamed about how they are going to change the world one day for the better. If Paul Ryan doesn't fit this description to a tee, I don't know who does. He's the Dwight Eisenhower to your World War III beginning in 1958, no nukes invloved... the Aroldis Chapman to your bottom of the ninth, one run lead, any month but July and not in Ohio (did you know that the guy hasn't given up an earned run yet this year outside of Ohio? Whee doggy he's good... but I digress). We NEED to have this debate this fall - and I don't care if you are a Democrat, Republican, or anything in between, Paul Ryan's message is essential to getting that converstion going.

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