January 21, 2005 | Commentary on
Saluting our Troops
To take the true measure of a man,
they say, watch not what he says but what he does.
Here's what President Bush did this week: He opened the festivities
for his second inauguration by saluting America's military -- and,
in the process, showed what a class act he is. At a time when he
could justifiably boast of clear electoral success, of capturing
the largest number of popular votes in American history, he
graciously took the spotlight off himself and shined it on the
people who defend our way of life every day.
Attendees for the event at Washington's MCI Center included
thousands of men and women in military uniforms. Young soldiers
recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital, some with missing
limbs, were joined by Medal of Honor winners who are 80 years old.
They heard from family members who have lost loved ones. They
listened as others read letters to home that expressed a love of
God, family and country that remains undimmed even amid the
heartbreak of war.
President Bush said, "As we prepare to celebrate our nation's 55th
presidential inauguration, I can think of no better way to begin
than by giving thanks for our freedom and those who make it
possible." Hear, hear.
We at The Heritage Foundation recently made our own humble
contribution to those brave soldiers who defend us so ably -- and
we did it, not surprisingly, using the currency we're most familiar
with: ideas. Perhaps the best way we can follow President Bush's
lead, and thank our troops, is by advancing practical solutions to
the challenges they face in a world beset by violence and fear from
A chapter in our new "Mandate for
Leadership," by defense experts Jack Spencer and Baker Spring,
provides a sensible blueprint for ensuring that the best military
the world has ever seen remains exactly that -- the best. Among
Focus on advancing U.S. national
interests. That sounds obvious, but plenty of people are
only too glad to send "the world's policeman" to every corner of
the globe, on every mission imaginable. But even for a nation as
capable and generous as the United States, that's not possible.
Besides, our forces are already stretched thin right now, Spencer
and Spring say. Since the early 1990s, we've spent billions of
dollars on non-warfare operations, including several costly
peacekeeping missions, and it's taken a toll. We can't become
isolationist, but we must pick and choose our battles --
Safeguard taxpayer money by reducing
waste and funding top priorities. It's a delicate balance,
but Spencer and Spring underscore the need to do three things
simultaneously: 1) sustain our current forces, 2) modernize them
appropriately to meet present needs, and 3) invest in the research
and development of tomorrow's weapons -- next-generation
technologies that will ensure our competitive edge.
Maintain robust defense
budgets. Over the next four years, expect certain
politicians to exert considerable pressure to cut defense budgets.
Yes, defense spending has risen since the post-Cold War defense
holiday of the 1990s, but chronic underfunding persists, Spencer
and Spring say, on items such as vehicle armor and military
construction. "The fact is that the U.S. military is heavily
committed," the Heritage experts write. "Unless Congress and the
President want to sacrifice the war on terrorism, U.S. commitments
to allies, near-term readiness, or the ability to prepare for the
future, they must maintain robust defense budgets."
Transform our nuclear
force. We won the Cold War, but as Heritage Foundation
President Ed Feulner often says, there are no permanent victories
in Washington. We need to maintain our nuclear arsenal, especially
as China proceeds with its nuclear modernization and nations such
as Iran and North Korea work to become members of the nuclear
I t's good to know, with the glow of another presidential
inauguration behind us, that America's military is in the hands of
a leader who understands the vital role our military plays in
keeping our country safe.
As President Bush himself put it earlier this week: "History moves
toward freedom because the desire for freedom is written in every
human heart. And the cause of freedom is in the best of hands --
the hands of the United States Armed Forces."
Rebecca Hagelin is a vice
president of the Heritage
First appeared on WorldNetDaily.com