Jan. 1, 2008

The Seat of Government

“In explaining any puzzling Washington phenomenon, always choose stupidity over conspiracy, incompetence over cunning. Anything else gives them too much credit.”—Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Oct. 19.

Cut Too Much

“The Air Force … in 2005 made a decision to reduce its force structure by 40,000 people. We are getting close to fully implementing that decision, and I’m concerned that it is not working. The savings from this personnel reduction have been eaten up by operating costs and have not served to boost modernization accounts as intended. And since 2005, the Army and Marine Corps have decided to increase their ranks considerably as I have been suggesting since 1995. As a result, the Air Force appears to be short of the people needed to support a larger ground force.”—Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Oct. 24.

Underweighted in Strategy

“?‘We should create a US national security policy based principally on the deterrence capabilities of a dominant global Air Force and naval presence. … The US Air Force is our primary national strategic force … yet it is too small, has inadequate numbers of aging aircraft, has been marginalized in the current strategic debate, and has mortgaged its modernization program to allow for diversion of funds to prosecute’ unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”—Retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, as quoted in Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), Oct. 20.

The Fat Bomb

“Obesity is a terror within. It is destroying our society from within and unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf 9/11 or any other terrorist event that you can point out. … Where will our soldiers, sailors, and airmen come from? Where will our police and firemen come from if the youngsters today are on a trajectory that says they will be obese?”—Dr. Richard H. Carmona, US surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, in forthcoming documentary, “Killer at Large,” announced Oct. 25.

Duty, Honor, Safety

“It’s one thing if someone believes in what’s going on over there and volunteers, but it’s another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment. I’m sorry, but basically that’s a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded?”—Jack Crotty, senior foreign service officer, at State Department “town hall meeting” where Crotty and hundreds of other diplomats objected to the possibility of involuntary assignments to fill requirements in Iraq, Associated Press, Oct. 31.

NATO Commitment Gap

“In Afghanistan, a handful of allies are paying the price and bearing the burdens of allies to create the secure environment necessary for economic development, building civic institutions, and establishing the rule of law. The failure to meet commitments puts the Afghan mission—and with it, the credibility of NATO—at real risk. If an alliance of the world’s greatest democracies cannot summon the will to get the job done in a mission that we agree is morally just and vital to our security, then our citizens may begin to question both the worth of the mission and the utility of the 60-year-old trans-Atlantic security project itself.”—US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Conference of European Armies, Heidelberg, Germany, Oct. 25.

History Lesson

“The new song and the flag became known as ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and became a rallying cry for the American patriots during the Revolutionary War.”—Exhibit in the Kentucky state capitol, getting several decades ahead of itself about the national-anthem-to-be that Francis Scott Key wrote during the War of 1812, Associated Press, Nov. 7.

Non-Veterans Day

“For our Veterans’ Day celebration, my class will be making a banner that honors conscientious objectors and Veterans for Peace.”—Rolf Hanson, fourth-grade teacher at Bay Haven elementary school in Sarasota, Fla., whose program switched to honoring veterans “in a very traditional way” when his original plan provoked an avalanche of public criticism, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Nov. 8.

Untouched by the War

“Riding home that day with my parents, I felt nervous, too exposed in their Ford Taurus. There was no armor on the car, and it felt light. We stopped at every red light and stop sign, and I saw potential dangers everywhere, even though I-94 heading into the city was nothing like Baghdad’s Airport Road.There were no torched trucks or craters left by bomb blasts. I think it was the neatness of it all that made me uncomfortable. It seemed that staying alive shouldn’t be so easy.”—William Quinn, on riding home from the airport in Detroit after service with the Army in Iraq, Washington Post, Nov. 11.

Relative Outrage

“Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay.”—Hungarian-born Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who escaped from a Nazi forced labor camp during World War II, in a discussion that offended members of the Dutch Green Party, Associated Press, Oct. 28.

Intelligence Withheld

“If you’re a parent, explain this one to your kids: It’s OK to share a foxhole with an Aussie, have him die for you, but we can’t tell him which way the threat’s coming from. It’s just ludicrous.”—Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on prohibitions about sharing classified information, Geospatial Intelligence 2007 Symposium, American Forces Press Service, Oct. 23.

The Modernization Imperative

“There is a time to park the B-17 and move on to a new aircraft.”—Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff, Government Executive interview, Oct. 31.