March 2, 2007 [LINK / comment]

The Walter Reed scandal

A series of articles in the Washington Post has exposed substandard physical conditions and poor postoperative care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, DC. Walter Reed is an aging facility and is slated to be abandoned in the next few years, though I'm not sure why. Surely they could tear down the older buildings and remake the facility. Yesterday, Maj. Gen. George Weightman was removed from command of the hospital after less than a year on the job. Is he being made a scapegoat? Oddly, his predecessor in that post, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, was named temporary replacement, even though the problems have been known for many months. A retired colonel wrote a letter to the News Leader today, calling on citizens to demand action from their members of Congress as the best way to show support for our troops. I would agree wholeheartedly that wounded and disabled veterans no less than the best care, and there is no excuse for shortchanging them.

This case highlights the severe budgetary strain our armed forces are under as they fight on several fronts in the global war against Islamic terrorists. Obviously, more resources are needed, including better armor, better pay, and better medical care for the troops. That means higher taxes. Conservative heresy, you say? Well, that shows why conservatives are generally averse to warfare, in spite of their patriotic inclination, because it tends to make the government stronger. It's a stressful role-reversal described as the "Liberal - Conservative Conundrum" by Bruce Porter in his book War and the Rise of the State (1994).

Cheney visits the battlefront

The Taliban detonated a bomb to welcome Vice President Dick Cheney on his visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan this week, as both sides gear up for major battles this spring. Whether you agree with him on all issues or not, Cheney's consistent display of rock-solid determination to prevail in the long struggle is exactly what we need in our leaders. (It's one of the more admirable traits of President Bush as well.) Cheney then traveled to Pakistan and put heavy pressure on President Pervez Musharraf to crack down on al Qaeda. The question is, can Musharraf do much of anything in the face of heavy pressure from Islamists in the Pakistani armed forces and the civilian sector? He has adopted a very low-key posture since his book In the Line of Fire came out last year.