“Your sire rules. He has charged me to act, even kill, as your protector. My strength, my choice, my will, arise in answer to his Majesty’s demand. Here is the paradox. I am the weapon a king has taken to hand, yet I am not his to possess. My power to act in his name is not his. I know this. He may not. Or he might forget at his peril. Therefore, the gift of my oath to serve enacts the potential for dangerous consequences. If I misuse his majesty’s trust, the earned debt is entirely mine. If he misdirects me, there could be dreadful cost. The balance becomes mine to guard, do you see? I choose when to strike or when to stand upon mercy.
Where I act, death follows…. Death has no repeal. It is a brute ending that leaves us the legacy of an inscrutable silence. Therefore, I understand the voice of mercy very well.” To Ride Hell’s Chasm – Janny Wurts
Words written for a book set in a world of fantasy, of demons and heroes but as is often the case it has bearing on our current election and the world.
During the last week buried under the torrent of incredulity that is Donald Trump was the statement that during “his presidency” if those “little ships approached US ships and men made those horrible gestures he would order US sailors to attack”. As you let that sink in remember that Trump has also said that he would order the US military to commit torture. Then remember that he has said that he would order them to kill civilians (women and children) just for being related to terrorists. Then remember that he has said that we should have “taken the oil” stealing the resources of another country – a war crime. He has said that anything is justified in war. He has said that men are chopping off heads or setting people on fire so we must do more. He has asked why can’t we use nuclear weapons – “we have them why not use them“. He has said that US citizens should be taken to “Gitmo – Guantanamo Bay”. He has said that the only climate change to worry about is nuclear winter. He’s said that the “US generals” are a disaster.
I’m sure I’m missing many statements but here’s the crux of the matter – the US military is not a toy. Nor are the men and women who serve in this country. It is the honor of the US President, of our Congress, of our Supreme Court, even of our state governments – of our unique system of government – that stands to protect and defend the honor of our military. It is our system of government where we see all people as equal that holds the United States of America to a position of honor and of responsibility around the world.
Despite anything that Mr. Trump may say it is not the might of our weapons that gives our country a position of honor among the world. It was not a loss of strength that led to a weakening of that position when America led her allies into a questionable war. Nothing of military might has been key to rebuilding our reputation among the world as President Obama tries to lead us out of a morass that was none of his making. Just as we must abide by laws and a system of justice within our country so must we abide by and honor laws that we, as citizens of the world, have said must govern all conflicts. Just as within this country committing murder must never give free reign to murder in turn so is it that people who violate the basic tenants of humanity must not bring us to do the same. Having a weapon does not mean that you use it. Having power does not give you rights to use that power unrestricted.
Our military holds great power and they are careful in how they use it and to ensure that they do not misuse it. Over my life I have been honored to know many leaders within the Navy and the Air Force. Their strict honor code, their rules and regulations even something as simple as the politeness they use in everyday interactions plays a role in keeping that power checked. They protect and project our country’s honor around the world and in turn they expect that their power will not be misused. Over the course of the last year we have heard something that in my memory is unique. We have had a Presidential candidate who has said straight out that he would order our military to conduct torture, in direct contradiction to international law, military law and tradition, and basic human decency. We have also had former leaders of the military (current leaders are not allowed to speak out in political forums) who have said that the military would refuse illegal orders.
Take that with a man who disrespects not just the President of the United States but also every aspect of our government and our military. He says that he will just replace “the generals” who do not agree with him. He calls our military leadership disasters. He seeks to play on the worst natures of those who serve. To say that they should lessen themselves to play on an “even playground” with an enemy who’s weapon is terror. He wants to say “you’re fired’ when honor and law might thwart his will.
When people call Donald Trump dangerous it is more than his policies that we have to worry about. This is not an election about differing policies. This is not an election where you have two people who have differing policy prescriptions for the country. This is an election where you have a man whose sole answer is “I can fix it”. “Just trust me” he says. “What have you got to lose”?
When the man who asks that question has little or no demonstrated self-control the answer is to that question is everything. We have seen that Mr. Trump can indeed be baited by a tweet. We’ve seen that he does not appear to understand the basic tenets of self-control for himself and so we have to question will he be able to exercise the needed aspects of control that are required of the President of the United States. It’s about even more than guarding the precious lives that are put in his hands. The President of the United States guards the honor of the men and women who serve this country, which ties back to the words at the beginning of this post. Our President, and our Congress are expected to hold to our Constitution. They are meant to be the guards that ensure that we do not take the weapon that is our military and use it improperly. That was important when our country was first founded and we fought with muskets and cannons. Today, when the weapons available can kill thousands, millions, billions it is even more important.
Ultimately, the horrendous weapons of war that are now available rest on the twin shoulders of the President of the United States and the men and women who serve. The President can order the launch of nuclear weapons that can destroy this world. No one can stop that order, no one checks that order. The military is expected to follow that order. If they cannot trust our President. If that person has said that they will order the military to commit war crimes that trust is broken. If that trust is broken we are lost.
This election is about more than social or economic conservatism versus progressive policies. This election is about a man who does not respect our military. It’s about a man who thinks that our military is a disaster. It’s about a man who has seen things on the internet that terrify him and who thinks that the answer to that terror is to commit more and greater terror. It’s about a man whose only response to challenge is to “hit back” – his words. It’s about a man who sees insult and knows only one response attack. It’s about a man who does not know how to back down. it’s about a man who does not understand the use of soft power. It’s about a man who does not understand why we would have a weapon of deterrence. He sees any chance of power, of attack, as an opportunity. Its about a man who contemplates nuclear weapons and doesn’t see horror rather he sees opportunity.
Donald Trump does not understand that using our military and it’s weapons should always be the last option not the first impulse. He doesn’t understand that he needs to hold the honor of our military above his own. If he cannot see something as simple and as complicated as that he doesn’t deserve to hold the highest office in this country and we have to stop him. It’s not about policy anymore it’s about putting party above country. It’s about not allowing what happened to Germany in the 30s to happen to the United States. It’s about making sure that a nuclear arsenal does not fall into the hands of petty bully who will use the power of our military to further his own agenda. He has told us that the consults with his brain first and foremost. We owe it to the men and women who serve to give them as a leader someone with honor and integrity. We owe them more than Donald Trump. We owe them a woman who sees and understands that she holds their integrity in her own hands and will put them above herself so they are never forced into a position where to safeguard the honor of the United States they would have to say no to a President Trump.