Truly the Greatest Generation
Without taking anything away from my father's generation, I think the service members in the military today are truly the Greatest Generation. They volunteered to serve, they have endured multiple overseas deployments and combat tours, but their re-enlistment rate is phenomenal, their morale is high and yet they constitute less than 1 percent of the population of the United States of America -- that's less than 1 percent providing for the national security for the remaining 99 percent. Never have so few, done so much, for so many.
Conflict in the Middle East is not new. Every administration since the founding of the republic in 1776 has had to deal in some way with radical governments or radical elements in the Middle East. Since the oil crisis in the early 1970s, access to Middle Eastern oil has become a serious national security issue. Oil lubricates the economic engine of the United States and that of its trading partners. But here we are more than 30 years later and we still don't have a comprehensive energy policy that lessens our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Make no mistake, if it were not for the oil, the Middle East would be just another large, hot sand box. Once again, we are at war to protect access to Middle Eastern oil after 30 years of stalling, foot dragging and inaction on one of the most critical issues of our time -- energy independence. Both political parties are to blame -- a pox on both their houses.
We are currently engaged in a war that has lasted nearly six years (Special Forces entered Afghanistan in October 2001). Never mind how we got involved in Afghanistan and Iraq; we're there. Yes, huge mistakes were made. Our government was afraid to raise taxes to support the war effort, it tried to use limited force to take down a country the size of California and it attempted to use too small a force to do the job of establishing a democratic government in a country where tribal and religious differences are usually settled by violence and death. Now, while conditions on the ground are showing signs of improvement, some in Congress are ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Once again, we embark upon the "silly season" of political campaigns. We'll hear the same old cliches, promises and witness endless finger-pointing. At the end of the day, the new crowd won't do much better than those they replace. It's disheartening. But that's the system we have, and that's what we shall continue to endure. In the meantime, the greatest generation of young soldiers - Marines, sailors and airmen - with bravery, dedication and love of country, will continue to serve selflessly so the other 99 percent can live comfortably.
-- Bob Ulin, Lansing, taught Middle Eastern Studies at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and International Relations and National Security Policy at the Army War College. He earned two masters' degrees and is a graduate of an executive management program at the Kennedy School, Harvard University. He is currently an adjunct professor at CGSC.