Opinion: Buttigieg -- Trading on Military Service

Over at National Review, Kyle Smith has a great article out regarding politicians and military service. In it, he focuses on Mayor Pete Buttigieg and his constant promotion of his military service as a qualification for the Commander-in-Chief role of the President.

Read: Buttigieg’s Hollow Military Bragging

The article starts out noting a reasonable phenomenon:

The term “veteran” wields a strange talismanic power in American politics today; the military is almost the only institution in American life that has maintained very high favorability ratings over the past 30 years. Invocation of the sacred words “military service” invariably grants a presumed license to make ad hominem arguments: “Oh yeah? What do you know about it? Did you serve?” A military past, regardless of how extensive it was, tends to be seen as a shining jewel on the résumé of a politician.

Normally, I am loathe to criticize the the service or valor of another veteran. My consistent position has always been, I will not criticize another man’s valor, unless I was there during the incident in question. However, this article makes some great points.

Military service is so alien to most Democrats that they don’t notice the details. Say someone told you he was from Nepal. You wouldn’t have a lot of follow-up questions. You don’t know that much about Nepal. That’s how the military is to most liberals. To them, whether your record is that of Nathan Phillips or Norman Schwarzkopf, it’s all the same. Liberal reporters didn’t notice the weasel words when Phillips (the Indian who provoked the Covington kids by marching straight up to them and banging a drum in their face) kept saying he was a “Vietnam-times” or “Vietnam-era” veteran, which was his way of saying he was repairing refrigerators in Nebraska in the early Seventies. Reporters kept saying he was a Vietnam veteran. He wasn’t.

Like the “Assault Rifle” debate, Democrats generally don’t understand the terms, so they, of course, make false assumptions.

Republicans are far more likely to be familiar with the basics of the military, which is why we are unimpressed with Pete Buttigieg’s military career. Three things stand out about his brief sojourn in the Navy: One, he joined via direct commission. This, to most veterans, is a jaw-dropper. To say the least, this isn’t the way it’s usually done. Many of us recall the intensive pre-commission training (in my case, four years of ROTC in Connecticut and Advanced Camp with the 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg) as the most trying intervals of our careers. Others spent four years at Annapolis or West Point. Buttigieg just skipped all of that. He passed a physical. He signed some papers. Voilà. To put this in terms a liberal might understand: Imagine you heard that someone got a “direct diploma” from Harvard but didn’t actually have to do four years of papers and tests. You’d never forget it. You’d probably think of that person primarily as a short-cut specialist for the rest of your life.

Although doctors and other highly specialized folks are sometimes directly commissioned, they are almost never on the cutting edge of the fight. Below has the money quote (emphasis, mine).

The third thing that stands out about Buttigieg’s military service is his bizarre brag that he used to travel around Afghanistan in various motor vehicles. Has anyone who has ever served the U.S. military on overseas land not driven around? When he launched his campaign last April he bragged about “119 trips I took outside the wire, driving or guarding a vehicle.” That’s . . . not a thing. There are no such stats. Sorties in aircraft are an official military statistic. Motor-vehicle trips are so routine no one would bother to keep track, any more than someone would log how many times Pete Buttigieg took a shower. No one cares. So Buttigieg himself created this phony statistic. Picture it: He made himself a little Hero’s Log but all he had to put in it was “routine trips.” It’s pathetic. It’s hilarious. It’s apple-polishing, résumé-buffing, box-checking, attention-seeking vaporware. Just like his whole career.

Going outside the wire is always perilous, whether you are an Army Infantryman…or a Navy lawyer riding in a convoy from one FOB to another. However, as Smith states, it’s also a routine part of doing business in “the box.” In this era, where so very few Americans put their mortal bodies at risk for this great thing we call, “These United States,” I applaud Mayor Buttigieg’s service. However, like most veterans, I deplore his “waving the bloody shirt,” bragging on his military service. Also, like most vets, if your service is worth bragging about, others will step up and do that without your input. If they aren’t and you think you need to fill that role, then perhaps you weren’t that much of a leader.

Mike Ford
Mike Ford, a retired Infantry Officer, writes on Military, Foreign Affairs and occasionally dabbles in Political and Economic matters. 
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