March 2nd, 2017

Reader Response—From a midshipman at the Naval Academy who “thought you might be interested in hearing a reaction to the President’s speech from an officer in training”

I was profoundly disturbed by the moment surrounding the exaltation of Senior Chief Owens and his widow. Most news analysis marked it as the highlight of the speech. Even someone like Van Jones said it “was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period.”

The full context of the situation makes this all very disturbing to me. Hours before the speech, Trump blamed “the generals” for the SEAL’s death. The country lost a highly trained special operator and a multi-million dollar aircraft while at the same time killing civilians and collecting intelligence of questionable value. Yet Trump considers questioning the efficacy of the mission to be unAmerican and disrespectful to the SEAL’s memory.

I worry what this means for my friends and those who I will lead. Are we simply offerings to “American greatness,” to be slaughtered on the altar in far-off lands so our mothers and widows can be glorified on national television in this perverse ritual in our civic religion? Are we to become the pious, saintly martyrs in Bannon’s crusade against the Mohammedans? Nobody in that room could do anything but clap.

I think what happened was the full maturation of what Fallows calls “The Chickenhawk Nation.” We will continue to honor veterans with major league baseball games at the Naval Academy and at the Superbowl, and give the DoD (their contractors) an increase in the defense budget nearly the equal to the size of the entire defense budget of Russia. Yet this administration will at best not rethink American grand strategy in the War on Terror, and at worst, they will undermine the mechanisms that have prevented major-power war for 70 years.

While I certainly consider my 11 years of service to be an offering to the nation that has granted me so much, I never felt I was treated like a simple offering by any of those above me, and certainly not by the two presidents, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan—under whom I served.


  1. ryan says:

    It is common for politicians to deflect criticism of their policies by characterizing it as “disrespecting the troops”

Leave a Reply

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image