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September 14, 2008
On GuardBy Greyhawk
"I deal with trade issues with Mexico and Canada all the time, so you have that," Napolitano said in an interview. "You're the commander in chief of your National Guard and, in this context, many of us have been to Iraq and Afghanistan. We've been deploying Guard over there. We talk to the families of those who have died over there. So I think the current crop of governors has more relevant foreign policy experience perhaps than our predecessors."That's Arizona's Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano, in July, 2008 explaining why a Governor would be a great pick as a Vice Presidential candidate.
An odd argument. Given that George Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter were governors before they were presidents (the two Democrats were unknown on the national stage proir to their campaigns, and Bush only had a familiar name) and no Senator since John Kennedy has moved into the White House, one might perhaps wonder why a governor would be forced to explain their qualifications for higher office at all. But Arizona's was asked, and that's her response. So there you go.
I'm glad to hear of a Democrat proud of her position as commander of her National Guard. I've been a little worried about that lately. Democrats are having a tough time with the National Guard these days, as they have in the recent past, even though many are members and many are commanders. And I am sure there isn't a Democrat anywhere who would insult or denegrate the contribution of the Guard to the total force, or undermine an individual member of the Guard's contribution to the whole. Unless that individual is a Republican. Or unless that contribution to the total force can cost Republicans some "political points".
To seize control of the mission, Mr. Bush would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in times of unrest to command active-duty forces into the states to perform law enforcement duties. But decision makers in Washington felt certain that Ms. Blanco would have resisted surrendering control, as Bush administration officials believe would have been required to deploy active-duty combat forces before law and order had been re-established.
Obviously Guard troops can be called up for overseas duty (or "federalized") in time of war, and in such cases they are clearly under federal control. But as evidenced in the aftermath of Katrina, there's a more complex relationship between Guard and Federal forces stateside - where and when they can be used, who commands, etc. etc. Confusion reigned supreme in 2005, and answers were as clear as Mississippi mud.
But few (and certainly none in the Bush administration) would deny that Governor Kathleen Blanco was in command of the Louisiana National Guard. Regardless of your feelings regarding her performance in that role, and no matter how badly (or rightly or wrongly) the national media wanted to "blame Bush" for all things Katrina, Blanco's perceived (by Louisiana voters) failures in that capacity contributed to this:
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) announced last night that she will not seek a second term this November, bowing to a political reality created by her handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005....and led to the election of Bobby Jindal, the man she defeated in the Governor's race four years before.
Such is the importance of the Governor's role as National Guard commander. Hopefully, any other Governors who didn't take that responsibility seriously enough to learn the complexities involved in coordinating with other Governors and Federal Agencies - perhaps in hope that television appearances screaming "HELP" would override the legal/constitutional requirements - learned something valuable from Blanco's experience in 2005. (Or 2007.)
Clearly Bobby Jindal did. Here's a quote from Alaska's Adjutant General, (then-) Major General Craig Campbell, Alaska National Guard:
I have soldiers and airmen deployed right now -- In fact, let me just tell you about this past weekend with the hurricane down southeast. We deployed a C-17 airlifter with the Alaska National Guard. We took two of our Alaska National Guard helicopters and 30 Alaska National Guardsmen, and they went down to respond to that hurricane. and it was by order of Governor Palin because she had had the request from Governor Jindal from Louisiana. That's governor to governor, action of what they need to do for a National Guard. It didn't require presidential approval. It was under the deployment direction of the governor.Seems like a long way to go (although Gustav was expected to be a "big one") but perhaps some day Louisiana can return the favor.
But that brings us to today - and the odd position that Democrats find themselves in regarding the importance of Governors, and their role as commanders of their state's National Guard. This began with the introduction of Governor Palin by John McCain, about which his campaign released a statement containing this line:
As the head of Alaska's National Guard and as the mother of a soldier herself, Governor Palin understands what it takes to lead our nation and she understands the importance of supporting our troops.That launched the New York Times (and others) into rapid response mode:
However, a review of Palin's 20 months in office shows that aside from overseeing the National Guard's state-level emergency missions, as all governors do, the first-term governor played no role in any territorial defense or other national defense operations involving military forces.I'm not exactly sure who was ever arguing otherwise, and unless Russia (or Canada, I suppose) invades Alaska, that fact won't change (and then only briefly, 'til the Feds take control).
For the record, I don't see the "Commander of the National Guard" responsibility as equivalent to Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, but other than direct military service (or US Secretary of Defense, if one wants to argue purely from the civilian control of military POV), it is the only "stepping stone" job thereto. Likewise, it is Palin's title. John McCain was once a prisoner of war, later a unit commander, then a House member and later a Senator. Barack Obama was once a community organizer, later a Senator from Illinois. Joe Biden was.. well, in the Senate forever. They is what they is, and listing their qualifications isn't the same as claiming that one specific accomplishment makes them Presidential material.
But Sarah Palin is Governor of Alaska, and commander of that state's National Guard. Does that matter? Should that information be withheld from voters? Should any information be withheld from voters?
There are those who would answer that final question "yes". We'll meet them in part two.
Posted by Greyhawk / September 14, 2008 12:45 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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