Melvin B. Miller
Editor & Publisher
Romney’s last stand
When Mitt Romney withdrew from pursuit of the presidency, he inadvertently performed a great public service: His speech announcing the suspension of his campaign demonstrated a major problem with the all-volunteer military.
Throughout his campaign, Romney worked to reshape himself into the ideal social and economic conservative to appeal to conservative Republicans. But the presence of John McCain in the race prevented Romney from asserting that he would be the ideal commander in chief. Nonetheless, on the way out the door, Romney the neo-patriot burst forth with a speech full of saber-rattling.
First, he criticized President Bill Clinton of reducing U.S. armed forces by 500,000 troops and cutting the military budget. Then he asserted that while he would prefer to fight on to the convention, he had chosen to step aside as some sort of boon to the war effort.
“We are a nation at war,” Romney said. “And Barack [Obama] and Hillary [Clinton] have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror. They would retreat and declare defeat. And the consequence of that would be devastating. It would mean attacks on America, launched from safe havens that make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like child’s play. About this I have no doubt.”
In conclusion to this line of reasoning, Romney said, “If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign by a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”
Nowhere did our noble former governor mention that it would cost an estimated $30 million of his personal funds to continue his campaign. Nor did he note his family’s less-than-inspiring zeal for military service: According to multiple published reports, neither Romney nor any of his five sons have ever served in the military.
In an earlier era, the sons of the gentry were only too eager to train for military service. Attired in their handsome uniforms, they were sought out as companions for social galas of the times. Military conscription was the national method used to raise military forces since the Civil War, creating an armed service where rich and poor young men served side by side. The draft was finally ended in 1972, and several efforts to revive it have fallen flat.
Since then, America has had an all-volunteer military. While many soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen hail from families with a proud military tradition, there are still too many young men and women who enlist because they have few other options.
In the 36 years since the end of the draft, Americans have grown increasingly disengaged from the military. It used to be that almost every family had someone in the military and were emotionally connected to the service. The abuses inflicted on the soldiers in Iraq would not have been politically tolerable in those days. These abuses include:
- Deployment of military vehicles with insufficient armor to survive the explosion of a roadside bomb;
- Ineffective body armor;
- Substandard care for wounded servicemen and women returning to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.;
- Countless reports about unreasonable refusal to determine that soldiers’ injuries are related to military service to avoid long-term disability payments; and
- the G.I. Bill and other recruitment benefits falling short of what was promised.
Americans who had other, more promising opportunities and did not volunteer for the military feel no connection at all to these problems. However, with so many blacks, Latinos and other minorities in military service, black leadership has to be certain that those who serve in the military receive the rewards they deserve.
“Well, I guess we can
always join the army.”