Broad stripes and bright stars

National politics should not get in the way of respect for members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

On Veterans Day, we salute all those who have served in our armed forces.

Originally known as Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I, it has broadened into a specific commemoration of all those who have served. (Memorial Day marks those who died during their service and Armed Forces Day salutes those currently serving.)

Area American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts are planning ceremonies. That’s pleasing — because Monday should be more than just a day off for some government workers. We commend schools around Pacific and Clatsop counties which have hosted assemblies at which teachers and other staff who have served their country are honored.

When a young man or woman enlists, they present their nation with a blank check, payable with anything up to and including their lives. We defy anyone to identify a more significant commitment.

On their return to civilian life, we owe it to them to offer more than just recognition once a year. If we expect soldiers to do the nation’s work in hostile environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan, we must take care of them when they return.

As we mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, as we have since 1918, we honor our veterans and thank them for their service and sacrifice.

Time for a reset in D.C.

Monday’s commemoration comes at a time when respect for our military appears to be reaching a new and despicably low point in our nation’s capital.

Our nation is intentionally set up with some very specific longstanding laws that call for the commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces to be a civilian.

That’s as it should be. Civilian legislatures set policy for nations — then career senior officers are tasked with crafting strategies and carrying out missions to meet those policies’ goals, often in conjunction with the forces of our international allies.

It is entirely fitting, however, for the commander to take counsel from professional experts in uniform. They can properly gauge the benefits and disadvantages of strategies, and weigh the success of potential missions, because they are trained to do so — and have served in the field.

Presidents Clinton and Obama both showed deep respect for our military, but neither served in uniform; like George Bush, who trained as a pilot in the National Guard, they relied enormously on advisers who provided input before foreign policy objectives were translated into boots on the ground.

Right now, the current administration seems to value unquestioning loyalty over independent thinking and advice from our finest military minds. Since 2016, President Trump has lost his chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the secretary of defense and several other high-profile national security advisers with military backgrounds. While often reluctant to speak candidly about their departures, all these distinguished national servants clearly put integrity first and retired instead of being “yes men.” Inevitably, White House leaks have revealed the true cause: our commander in chief does not respond well when the advice is contrary to his ill-informed notions.

A vivid example involved our fellow Washingtonian, Gen. James Mattis, who exemplified professionalism as secretary of defense, but who now is in the doghouse for disagreeing with decisions such as that to abandon our Kurdish allies in Syria.

The latest news from Washington, D.C., concerns Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a trusted officer at the National Security Council. His grave concerns over the president’s inappropriate behavior with an Eastern European foreign power led him to blow the whistle. The furor that followed, as leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives built a case for the impeachment of the president for his criminal acts, has led to most inappropriate attacks on Vindman himself. The officer, who was wounded in Iraq in 2004, has basically been accused of disloyalty to the nation he has served with distinction. And there is every likelihood that his noble actions have sandbagged an honorable career. Frankly, this stinks.

Smartly support our troops

During the Vietnam era, protestors failed to separate distaste for the overseas conflict with the patriotic men and women tasked with carrying them out. It was pleasing to see that change 180 degrees during the First Gulf War and thereafter. Now it is possible, and common, for intelligent people to support our troops while still questioning the wisdom of the missions on which they are sent.

We used to believe that support for these loyal individuals who commit to service in uniform was the one remaining unifying factor in our fractured nation. Apparently not. It seems ethical behavior is out of fashion in Washington, D.C., too.

As we mark Monday’s salute to veterans whose days in uniform are over, we certainly hope that our civilian leaders learn better ways to respect those still serving.

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