A Changing America: The New Faces of National Security
One of the things I enjoy about getting older is observing the social, cultural, political and attitude changes over the years of our great nation. I grew up in New Jersey in the 1950’s and ‘60’s but spent summers in the racially segregated south where both of my parents grew up. I experienced firsthand the whole separate water fountains and rest room thing. As well as not being able to stay in hotels and motels or eat in restaurants as we traveled through the south.
Flash forward to the early ‘90’s just after the first Gulf War. I was the senior intelligence officer in one of the Navy’s commands. I was being transferred back to the states and some of the young men who worked for me wanted to take me out to dinner and a movie as part of the going away ceremonies. They were all in their early twenties; I was in my forties and figured it would be a hoot. With the exception of one, they all happened to be white. Dinner went well and after, they dragged me to the movie theater on base. I forget the name of the movie but it was about some black thugs with an “attitude.” Close to the beginning of the movie there was a scene where the thugs were strutting down the street doing that hip hop walk thing. One young white business man approaching from the other direction saw them coming and crossed the street in a panic. The majority white audience in the theater laughed, clapped and yelled very loudly. They loved the black Thugs and where rooting them on! I shook my head in amazement.
As the movie continued, I found it so offensive and anti- social, I lied and said I had a headache and left early. I have to add it takes a great deal to offend me. Watching guys on the screen curse and grab their crotch is …well you get the picture. My young escorts were so enjoying the movie I told them I would see myself home. I had such a good time with them at dinner, I still considered the evening tremendous a success but marveled at how racial attitudes had changed. As the years went on, I knew there had been a major shift when the top golfer in America was a black guy and the top rap artist was a white guy. This brings me to what I’d like to blog about, Governor Romney’s acceptance speech. He became the first Republican candidate since 1952 to not mention war in his talk. I tend to swing liberal on social issues and conservative on national security. Where are my beloved Republican Hawks?
To gain solace I did the Geek thing and reread the Governor’s white paper: “An American Century: A Strategy to Secure America’s Enduring Interests and Ideals A Romney for President White Paper”. In the paper he talks a lot of defense. He promises if elected to reverse the Obama era defense cuts and increase the defense budget to 4% of the GDP. He says he believes he can fund that through increasing efficiencies in the way the defense department does business. He also says under President Obama our military has become a “hollow force”. For instance our Navy now consists of 285 ships. In his paper, the Governor states:
“Our naval planners indicate we need 328 ships to fulfill the Navy’s role of global presence and power projection in defense of American security. Our Air Force, which had 82 fighter squadrons at the end of the cold war had been reduced to 39 today.”
As for the war in Afghanistan Governor Romney criticizes President Obama for not listening to the counsel of his commanders and also for giving a timeline for the ending of the “surge”. Okay, after reading this I can gain some solace, the Republicans still care about defense but I still wonder why it wasn’t a prominent part of his speech? What did the young men and women serving in Afghanistan think? Did they feel forgotten?
I will be hanging out at the Democratic convention. By my standards, President Obama has surprised me and shown Hawk tendencies. He’s heavy on the drone thing and took out Somali Pirates and Osama Bin Laden. I am uneasy about his budget cuts and sequestrian but it will be interesting to see what he says about defense and the war during his talk this week. I tell ya’ it’s getting strange out there in political land. Think I’ll end here. As always, my views are my own.
Gail Harris is a Truman Senior Security Fellow.