Sunday, June 25, 2006
When Pennsylvania Congressman Jack Murtha began speaking out against the War in Iraq, his remarks gained instant credibility with his Democratic colleagues and members of the MSM. As we were told, Murtha was a retired Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve who had served in Vietnam (perhaps you heard, John Kerry was there as well). That experience, coupled with Murtha's long support of defense issues (chiefly, programs that benefitted his district or relatives of his Democratic colleagues) made the Congressman an expert on Iraq whose views must be taken seriously, even if many of his comments make no sense from a military or political standpoint.
Speaking in Miami over the weekend, Murtha illustrated again why he cannot be taken seriously as a military expert, or even as a critic of American national security policy. At a town hall meeting sponsored by Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek (and held at Florida International University), Congressman Murtha announced that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran.
Let that one sink in for a moment. From Murtha's perspective, American efforts to bring democracy and stability to Iraq are more threatening to global security than attempts by two rogue nations to develop and acquire nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them against western targets. It goes without saying that Murtha's logic train jumped the tracks a long time ago, but there is no evidence that the Congressman's Democratic/university audience voiced event a hint of disagreement. To the contrary; I'd guess that Murtha's remarks probably received a standing ovation. Afterall, Murtha is an authoritative Democratic voice on national security matters, or what passes for one in today's version of his party.
When we last checked on Congressman Murtha, he was assuring Tim Russert that U.S. military forces in the Gulf region could be easily re-deployed to "nearby" bases on Okinawa. When Russet suggested that Okinawa is a bit distant for "quick reaction" forces assigned to the Middle East, Murth--with a straight face--assured Mr. Russert that American aircraft could reach the Gulf in no time at all.
Never mind the fact that Kadena AB (our primary airfield on Okinawa) is more than 4,000 miles from Baghdad. Never mind that the most direct route would require overflying China, a prospect that is exceptionally unlikely. Never mind that the "available route" (through the Malaccan Strait and across the Indian Ocean) would require 16-hour round-robin missions, and the support of much of our aerial tanker fleet. Never mind that such operations would create all sorts of diplomatic problems and wreak havoc with aircraft maintenance schedules, crew rest and a host of other operational issues. And finally, never mind that the Murtha "plan" simply doesn't make sense.
The real question here is at what point a (supposedly) informed member of Congress loses whatever shred of credibility he/she has left, and is held up to the scorn and ridicule they so richly deserve. Murtha has been easy meat for the blogosphere, where his pronouncements on Iraq and recent "air support" proposals were savaged by anyone with more than cursory knowledge of military operations.
Obviously, that's not the case in the MSM. Other than a few mildly tough questions from Tim Russert, Congressman Murtha has spouted his imbecelic "strategy" with nary a peep from the drive-by press, who seem to regard him as the greatest military thinker since Clausewitz. In another media era (or, say, if Murtha was a Republican) his remarks would be roundly criticized and quickly dismissed. The New York Times would probably weigh in with a lead editorial deriding the "folly" of such remarks, and invitations for the Sunday talk shows would probably cease.
But in today's media environment, Murtha has become a left-wing hero who will likely remain the Democrats' public voice for defense and security issues. That raises a couple of other questions: first, how did someone with such a marginal understanding of military issues ever rise to the rank of Colonel, even in the Marine Corps Reserve? The Corps has long prided itself on having officers and NCOs who can adapt to rapidly changing strategic, operational and tactical conditions, and "think outside the box" in developing innovative solutions. Murtha obviously missed that class at Quantico, and again failed to absord the lesson at intermediate and senior service schools--assuming (of course) that he actually completed those courses. In reality, Murtha's rise to the rank of Colonel is more a testament to the Corps' efforts to maintain a powerful ally in Congress than the Congressman's ability as a military leader.
And that brings us to our second, more pressing question: has Jack Murtha taken leave of his senses? His comments over the past week suggest a man who will say anything to keep himself in the media spotlight, or someone whose grasp on military reality appears to be fading. As the November election approaches, voters in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District should ask themselves if "Crazy Jack" is better suited for the House of Representatives, or (perhaps) a more confined, comfortable facility, with padded walls, and those nice, long sweaters that tie in the back.