Confehr: Soldiers are always last to endorse new battles

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wayne Coomes' voice almost trembled. He'd paused. It seemed clear that the man who simultaneously served as police and fire chief here had personal experience on the subject he discussed in two penultimate paragraphs of his speech Sunday in Rock Creek Park.

Coomes is a Marine, still. While the subject of the day's event was honoring first responders, such as those who'd perished as a result of the terrorist attacks 10 years ago, the program did, and had to, be broader because that day prompted America to go to war on two continents in counties with one foot still in the Dark Ages.

"Those who have served on the battlefield," Coomes said, "have the deepest understanding of the price of freedom... That comes when you kneel down and zip shut a body bag with your friend inside. Freedom has a cost and is only sustained through strength.

"Ignoring the heart breaking investment, already made, would be a sacrilege to those who have served and those who made the ultimate and final commitment for the peace, security and freedom of the United States of America," Coomes wrote.

A copy of his prepared text landed on the news desk here Monday.

Wayne shared the overview of his message a few weeks ago. He opposes federal budget cuts that would weaken this country's military preparedness. Wayne quotes the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee from July 26 remarks and concludes "Diminishing capabilities and increasing threats do not bode well as to the future security of our country."

The House Armed Services Committee chairman's statistics compare forces available in 1990 and now: Army brigades, 76, down nearly 41 percent to 45; Air Force squadrons, 82, down 52 percent to 39; Navy ships, 546, down 47 percent to 288; and strategic bombers, 300, down 48 percent to 154.

Wayne named three threats to our country. The first is Chinese trade agreements and a desire to drive the U.S. out of the Pacific region. It might be a threat that's countered with what some call conventional weapons as listed by the House committee chairman. The other two are "radical Muslim terrorists" and "porous borders."

The latter can't be overcome directly with brigades, squadrons, ships and bombers.

The North American Free Trade Agreement was to make life better in other countries so their residents wouldn't be motivated to come to America. Better trade agreements are needed. Tax incentives need to be changed.

Better education on an odd combination of studies could help ward off terrorism: foreign languages, international religious studies and diplomacy to name a few.

These disciplines may also enhance a defense intelligence system to capitalize on China's growth and our own prosperity.

Dwight Eisenhower's warning against the so-called military-industrial complex comes to mind.

The warning is good. The institutions aren't bad.

Good soldiers are usually the last to endorse an act of war as a solution. They know what Wayne Coomes felt on Sunday.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.