This week it was announced that of the 4.7 million American veterans of World War I, only 44 are still alive. For many of us, there is deep poignancy in that statistical realization that we are losing direct human contact with that great event and those fine men. The cycle is reaching its completion; history is replacing memory. It is one more reminder that inevitably our breathing lives must pass away, but what we do while here may live on for the benefit (or detriment) of our future countrymen. Years may pass when our decisions and actions may seem not to matter to history -- and then suddenly, something big and terrible happens, such as September 11, and honest people are forced to admit that we are making our decisions and taking our actions not just for our petty selves, but for millions of others and for the fate of mankind itself.
Just as the country that sent those 4.7 million young men off to the Great War disrupted or ended those young lives for a larger purpose, today, the country that is America must decide whether it is prepared to disrupt or end young lives for another, greater, purpose. (As the father of two healthy teenage sons, I think about such matters on a personal as well as theoretical basis.) But it is becoming ever more obvious that we do not have sufficient armed forces to face and master the many perils that are assembling against us.
The challenges of Iraq, alone, are clearly pressing our government into military deployment decisions that distort sound judgment. Under the new deployment, almost 40 percent of in-country American troops will be reserve and Guard forces (with little or no time for further training). The stalwart 3rd Infantry Division from Ft. Stewart, which took Baghdad and only recently returned home, is slated to return to duty. Likewise, 20,000 leathernecks from Camp Pendleton's 1st Marine Division, barely back from heavy fighting duties, are to be returned to the combat zone. Rotating in for the long-serving 82nd Airborne is the Hawaiian-based 25th Light Infantry Division. While a fine fighting unit, because they lack helicopters, they are not a perfect replacement for the 82nd. Of course these soldiers and Marines will do their duty -- and do it well. But if there were a larger military force available for deployment, these are not the sorts of decisions that would be forced on our military commanders.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.