Monday, February 4, 2008


Innundated with political conversation, I decided to create a blog just so I could relieve myself of the opinions that well up as I listen to the TV, read the paper, or hear the guys talking in the grill after a round of golf.

Mitt Romney's father, George Romney, was a friend of mine. He appointed me to the Circuit Court in Wayne County in 1963 and asked me to run for the Michigan Supreme Court in 1966. I admired George Romney. I met his son, Mitt, on January 1, 1967 when his Dad invited me and my family to the Romney home to administer the oath of office to begin his new term as Governor of Michigan.

I think Mitt Romney is a chip off the old block. Strong, decisive, confident, knowledgeable. A solid family man; a patriotic American. A church going, tax paying, solid citizen. He gets my vote.

That said, I wish he would stop talking about his experience in business. Let others talk about that to people who care about it. The broad base of Americans are not particularly impressed with business acumen. Of course, they are impressed with wealth; Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Emenem. They don't much care how you made it. If you're rich, you're somebody. The fact that Mitt Romney is somebody is important, but he should talk more about his work in the Olympics.

And I'm not happy hearing him blast John McCain. Or anybody. A candidate for President should not be a hatchet man. He should be above the fray, talking about big issues, uplifting the spirits of the citizens. Romney has charisma, and I think he can inspire the people if he sticks to the broad message of national leadership.

Zapping opponents should be oblique. For example, Romney should remind the American people that our constitution makes the military establishment subservient to the civilian authority. Romney can undercut McCain's military experience by pointing out that the constitution makes the President, a civilian, the Commander-in-Chief. And this is precisely because, as Dwight Eisenhower pointed out, the military-industrial complex does not always act in the true national interest.

I opposed the Iraq War. Not because I knew whether Saddam Hussein did or didn't have weapons of mass destruction. I opposed it because the Congress didn't declare it. The Congress never debated it. The Congress never decided upon waging war. The Congress, not the President, is the voice of the people. If the Congress decides to go to war, so be it. We are then at war, as a nation. In war time, we must all sacrifice for victory. Increased taxes. Rationing. Compulsory military service. These are the things that follow with a congressionally declared peoples' war.

Unhappily, the idea of using the military as a vehicle of geopolitical policy is not completely foreign to the American experience. The Mexican War and the Spanish American War were both examples of American expansionism which were certainly not defensive engagements. There is a certain consistency in our national response to the Alamo, the Maine, Pearl Harbor and 911.

But if we are going to war, we should go to war. Lyndon Johnson's guns and butter notion was wrong, wrong, wrong. Asking young Americans to die in combat is totally inconsistent with pumping up the economy by military procurement.

War is a contest against a national enemy. The War against terrorism, like the war aginst drugs, or the war on poverty, is not a true war. Our invasion of Iraq was a traditional war, though undeclared, but only for a few weeks. When the Iraqi armies laid down their weapons, and Saddam Hussein went underground, the war, as such, was over. From that moment on, and continuing to this day, the United States and its allies are an army of occupation.

So the question today is how long must we occupy Iraq? How long should we keep troops in that territory? Considering our participation in NATO and SEATO, we have maintained military presence all around the world since the end of World War II. We have military bases in Turkey, in Saudi Arabia, and dozens of other places.

I don't recall that anyone has ever ennunciated a national policy on the subject of maintaining standing armies around the world. Is it our national goal to have armies on every continent, in every country? Do we really suppose that we are capable of ruling the world? Or indeed that, even if we could, it would be the right thing to do? Or is it our national policy simply not to have a policy on the subject and to maintain armies wherever by happenstance of history, we should chance to have soldiers there for some reason or another?

The election year of 2008 ought to be a time for the people of the United States to engage in a dialog about the larger issues of national purposes. Unhappily, it seems to be a jumble of sound bites and personal jabs that do little credit to our ideal of democracy.

Enough for now.

Thomas E. Brennan

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