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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Track Palin, the Next Palin Family “Controversy”

The world heard that on September 11, 2008, Track Palin, the son of Todd and Sarah Palin, will deploy to Iraq as an infantryman. While idiotic manufactured controversies about the Palin family have sucked the oxygen away from discussion of more important matters of state, the question of young Mr. Palin’s deployment doesn’t seem to have yet excited any discussion in the media. This is despite the fact that his deployment will certainly be a legitimate question of some importance to the nation and to our military in Iraq. I wonder if Track Palin’s deployment actually will occur. I wonder further what the arguments – and there will be arguments public and private – will reveal about us as a society, and about some of us as people.

Sarah Palin is the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States. Iraq is still rightly considered a war zone and in five days (as of this writing) our nation will send within shooting range of vicious, propaganda-hungry, implacable and still capable enemies, a target of enormous propaganda value. Do we really want to do this?

Let me re-phrase that. Of course we want to do this, by which I mean we are the kind of country in which the elite should share the risks of combat when there is combat to be done. The man enlisted, his unit is being deployed, and he is required to stand his place in the ranks. Everything I have read so far about the man’s family leads me to imagine he would not be left behind if he could help it. I will be surprised if he doesn’t fight vigorously for his ‘right’ to be with his unit when that unit steps off an airplane into the heat of Iraq.

But his needs, wishes, and determination are one thing, and the good of the nation perhaps something else. Let’s take as given he wants to go. Let’s take as given that it is in the nation’s interest that the sons of politicians get no special treatment and that keeping Track Palin from going to Iraq would certainly be seen – by some - as special treatment of the worst sort.

But would it be? Would it be special treatment for Track Palin to avoid making his unit the preferred target of every terrorist jihadist in Mesopotamia? I don’t know the man, or his buddies, or his sergeant, his lieutenant, his captain, major, or colonel. I don’t have any reason to think they feel anything but pride at the idea that their team includes Track Palin, son of the remarkable Governor of Alaska. I do strongly suspect however that all those men are flying into far greater danger than they otherwise would be, were they not in the company of the son of the Republican Vice Presidential candidate two months leading up to an election that is still, in part, a referendum on the war in Iraq.

How many jihadist fighters, bomb-makers, assassins, and suicide bombers would the enemy be willing to sacrifice in exchange for a shot at this young soldier? What measures will the army have to take to mitigate the special risk caused by his presence?

Because we are in an election during very partisan times this will likely be presented as another “controversy” about the family of Sarah Palin but it is not. It is a question about military decisions that ultimately have to be based on political and military reality. I do not look forward to seeing Track Palin excoriated in public for no fault of his own (or of his mother’s) but due only to opportunistic and mean-spirited attacks of rabid partisans. If the first week of Sarah Palin’s national life is any preview, such ugly attacks will come as surely as al Quaeda attacks will rain down upon Track Palin and his unit if he is patrolling Baghdad. I think the United States Army needs to consider, for both the convenience of the government, and for basic military prudence, cutting Track Palin a new set of orders.

I think he should not be deployed to Iraq next week.

UPDATE: There was an article yesterday in, I think, the Telegraph On-Line, discussing Palin's deployment with details on unit, general location, and his duties. (Ed: Jeesh! Why not give out his frick'n barracks location too!) Also I guess I hadn't realized that Joe Biden's son, Beau, is also going to Iraq as a JAG lawyer. God bless him as well.

1 comment:

Glenn said...

A few months ago it was "discovered" (i.e., it came to the attention of the press) that one of the British princes was being deployed to Afghanistan. (I've forgotten which one now. I could to the research, but whether it was William or his brother doesn't really matter here.)

Now, on the one hand, it is an old tradition that all British princes serve in the military, often in the Navy. So there is an expectation that they will go into dangerous situations, even into combat, and that's part of the "deal" they've made with their subjects.

On the other hand, it was obvious that the prince's unit would become a target for suicide bombers and other attacks. A lot of his colleagues would have been endangered, and their mission compromised, by his presence, or so it was felt. So he was shipped back to England.

Several of President Roosevelt's sons served in the military during World War II. I believe that some of them spent quite a bit of time in staff positions, but there was some exposure to combat. One of Teddy Roosevelt's sons, Quentin, was killed in World War I; many people feel that contributed to Roosevelt's death in 1918.

I expect that Track will go to Kuwait, and that he may accompany his unit into Iraq. After that, it'll be up to the judgment of his commanders whether his contributions compensate for the added risk to his unit. Unfortunately, if he's transferred into a safe billet for good reasons, he, and his mother, will be criticized for "pulling strings."