In 1892, Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about the paradigmatic British soldier, Tommy Atkins, and his paradigmatic treatment at the hands of an indolent democratic society that takes him for granted - until he is needed. It read in part:
"For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' ‘Chuck him out, the brute!' But it's ‘Saviour of 'is country,' when the guns begin to shoot."
Unfortunately, for the first time in a generation, Americans are behaving as though they can safely disdain Tommy's U.S. counterparts - "the troops" - even as the guns are shooting. All other things being equal, that appears likely to be one of the points on which President Obama will be seeking common ground with Republicans in the president's State of the Union address.
Oh, to be sure, there will be lip service paid to the troops on both sides of the aisle. Standing ovations will greet the President's obligatory declarations of support for them, appreciation for their sacrifice and commitment to their mission. If past bipartisan practice is any guide, one or more extraordinary individual in uniform will grace the First Lady's box in the House gallery, perhaps bearing the scars of terrible wounds suffered in the line of duty.
There may even be some fleeting, if basically hortatory, expressions about the dangers we face around the world. This treatment will be, at best, highly selective so as not to offend several sources of a significant part of that danger. That would include Communist China, whose increasingly - and ominously - contemptuous attitude towards the United States was perfectly captured during its president's state dinner at the White House: It featured the singing of a popular Chinese song set during the PRC's last war with us, Korea, in which Americans are depicted as "jackals."
Unmentioned foes will also likely include Vladimir Putin's Russia which, right after President Obama coerced sufficient Senate Republicans to approve his New START Treaty during the lame duck session, arranged for: 1) the Duma to affirm the Kremlin view that it now has a veto over U.S. missile defenses; and 2) its top general to announce that the Russians would have their own "impenetrable" missile defense by 2020.
Despite these and other threats and active combat operations in two theaters, it now seems pretty clear that, after the speechmaking ends, the applause dies away and the klieg lights go out in Washington, the troops are going to get screwed, not supported.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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