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Should the Kids of Presidents, VPs be Sent Into Combat?

The Bread Guy

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Good question (bit of a variation on the "should Prince Harry be allowed to be a bayonet?") - right now, I'm leaning towards "no" after reading this.  Shared in accordance with the "fair dealing" provisions, Section 29, of the Copyright Act.

They don't belong in battle
John S.D. Eisenhower, International Herald Tribune, 3 Oct 08
Article link

As the only living presidential son to serve in combat while his father was in office, I feel an obligation to express my concern that both of the current vice presidential candidates, Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joseph Biden, have sons in U.S. Army units on orders for duty in Iraq. In addition, the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, has a son who is in the Marine Corps and subject to a second deployment to Iraq at any time.

Considering how small the force we have in Iraq is in comparison to the nation's population, this is a startling circumstance. It is not, however, a desirable one. It reflects favorably on the patriotism of those involved, but in itself it can hardly increase the military understanding, the grasp on foreign relations or (least of all) the perspective of the parents.

My unique position in this regard was called to my attention a few days ago in a radio interview. Did I believe that the children of presidents (or vice presidents) should be assigned to combat zones? I was surprised by my own quick reaction: "No," I declared automatically. "They have no place there."

Though my response was impulsive, I have, on thinking about it, concluded that it was the right one. The next president and vice president will be busy enough trying to pull the United States out of its present problems without being burdened with worries about an individual soldier, especially a child.

Let me share a story, one that is tinged with regret. In the summer of 1952, when I was 30, the army assigned me to an infantry unit fighting in Korea. Meanwhile, though, there was other news in my family: My father had become the Republican presidential nominee. As an ambitious young major, I refused any offers for other assignments. Avoiding combat duty was and is an unforgivable sin for a professional soldier.

As the time for my deployment approached, I discussed my intentions with my father. We met at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago, just after the Republican convention, and I explained my position. My father, as a professional officer himself, understood and accepted it. However, he had a firm condition: Under no circumstances must I ever be captured. He would accept the risk of my being killed or wounded, but if the Chinese Communists or North Koreans ever took me prisoner, and threatened blackmail, he could be forced to resign the presidency. I agreed to that condition wholeheartedly. I would take my life before being captured.

On looking back, however, I now feel that I was being unfair and selfish, and that my father was being far too conciliatory in giving me such permission. On the other hand, I don't think that the army should ever have given me an option in the matter.

Today the problem is worse than it was in my time. Unlike the Afghans and Iraqis, the South Korean people solidly supported the U.S. military presence, which was part of a UN operation.

Therefore, once I finished a short stint in combat and was reassigned from an infantry battalion to 3rd Division headquarters, a few miles from the front, I felt as safe as I would have felt walking down a street in the United States.

Iraq is clearly different. Even though the casualty rate in the combat units is low compared to other wars, the possibility of disaster in the nonexistent "rear area" is always there. A female soldier driving a truck along a major highway can be blown up by a roadside bomb. Civilians are captured for ransom by terrorists; journalists are kidnapped and sometimes murdered. A prize hostage also endangers those around him. The British soldiers serving in Afghanistan alongside Prince Harry were in exceptional danger until he was withdrawn.

My inescapable conclusion, therefore, is that the assignment to Iraq or Afghanistan of a service member who is the son or daughter of a president or vice president does not make sense. No matter what the young person's desires are, they are of little importance compared with ensuring that our leaders are able to stay focused on the nation - and not worrying about the fate of a child a world away. Personally, I would like to see someone of stature like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arbitrarily reassign them. Too much is at stake.

John S.D. Eisenhower is the author, most recently, of a biography of Zachary Taylor.
 

GAP

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I think we only have to look at John McCain....

His father was an Admiral at the time of his capture. Because of that special effort was given to break him, and it worked. What everyone overlooks (or is not saying), was the effect of his capture must have had a devastating effect on his father. His effectiveness (real or imagined) would have been compromised....

That was in a symmetrical war, what about now in an Asymmetrical War? With some of the crazies out there, can you imagine the video tape being broadcast of a beheading, torture, whatever, leaving the parent in a decision making position vulnerable....
 

tomahawk6

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Personal security detachment for either the battalion or brigade commander,I forgot which.
 

GAP

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tomahawk6 said:
Personal security detachment for either the battalion or brigade commander,I forgot which.

Not exactly sitting back in headquarters, is it? Commanders are prime targets, that why the PSD...
 

Gager

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'The British soldiers serving in Afghanistan alongside Prince Harry were in exceptional danger until he was withdrawn.'

As opposed to other units that aren't in 'exceptional danger' in that theatre? Is there something showing that they were in exceptional danger - other than what could be chalked up to media speculation?

I'm going to approach this from another angle and suggest that if they feel they would be compromised, perhaps some of these figures shouldn't run for public office when they have children in the service. Withdrawing someone because of 'what ifs' is a waste. If you want to kill the enemy and are capable of doing so then you should be damn allowed to.
 

crystalrh

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I'm on the fence here...
I agree with the OP article but at the same time I also agree with General. It's a tough one to decide...
 

George Wallace

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General said:
'The British soldiers serving in Afghanistan alongside Prince Harry were in exceptional danger until he was withdrawn.'

As opposed to other units that aren't in 'exceptional danger' in that theatre? Is there something showing that they were in exceptional danger - other than what could be chalked up to media speculation?

I'm going to approach this from another angle and suggest that if they feel they would be compromised, perhaps some of these figures shouldn't run for public office when they have children in the service. Withdrawing someone because of 'what ifs' is a waste. If you want to kill the enemy and are capable of doing so then you should be damn allowed to.

I'm not sitting on the fence.  I think that the Eisenhower article has some very good points.  The soldier's with Prince Harry were in no greater danger than any others in Afghanistan, AS LONG AS HIS PRESENCE WAS KEPT SECRET.  The same could be said for any person that this article may refer to.  Unfortunately that is not always possible, nor is Murphy's Law a predictable Law.  Even a fluke can bring one of these people into the hands of the enemy and then they become a tool of the enemy.
 

daftandbarmy

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I'm afraid that Eisenhower is an idiot.

Every level in society should share in the dangers of the frontline once a country is committed to a conflict. It's one of the basic tenets of national leadership and to do otherwise is cowardice, which was aptly demonstrated in the Vietnam war when those with 'pull' extracted their tender darlings from harm's way. George Bush Jr for example.

Eisenhower should know better. His old man had BGen Roosevelt under his command at Normandy in 1944 - when they were planning on over 50% casualties in the assault - and this fact didn't seem to alter the then president's resolve.

Bravo Palin et al! Looking forward to finally seeing some of our politicians and 'social and business elite' contributing their sons and daughters efforts to our nation's conflicts (won't hold my breath).
 

Shamrock

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Absolutely these children of powerful and influential people should be expected to meet the same liability in their terms of service as every other schmuck who dons a uniform, willingly or not.  They are citizens under a system that holds all people being created equal; giving special treatment to one child to lessen one parent's stress is an insult to all the other parents who have undergone what the politico's are too good for.  If the socially elite become too good for service then what the hell is the military doing?
 

medaid

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No special treatment. They wear the same uniform, fires the same weapon. They are people just like anyone else.
 

Old Sweat

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Closer to home, Sir John A's son, Hugh John, served in the 90th Winnipeg Rifles in the Northwest Rebellion and the only son of Frederick Borden, the Minister of Militia and Defence, was killed in action in the Boer War.
 

LineDoggie

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daftandbarmy said:
Eisenhower should know better. His old man had BGen Roosevelt under his command at Normandy in 1944 - when they were planning on over 50% casualties in the assault - and this fact didn't seem to alter the then president's resolve.

Different animal altogether though, BG Theodore Roosevelt Jr, wasnt FDR's son, but a Cousin(and one FDR had a tepid relation with*)- and as a Field Grade Officer Teddy wasnt expected to wade ashore with the first wave.  That Teddy did so showed the Soldier he was,  I Guarantee that FDR had no prior Knowledge of it.

All of FDR's sons Served, One (James)made the raid to Makin  Island and came close to being captured by the Japanese. Evans Carlson was debating surrender to the Japanese over the inability to get the rubber boats through the strong surf. At the last moment, the outboard motors finally kicked to life, and they evacuated to the USS Nautilus.  9 Raiders accidentally left behind were beheaded. You can Imagine what the Japanese would have done to the "Enemy" Presidents son if captured.

Some Facts:

The Last Presidential child Killed in Action was Lt. Quentin Roosevelt, shot down July 14th, 1918 by Feldwebel Greper. Quentin is buried at Normandy American Cemetary next to his brother Ted (Plot D Row 28 Graves 45 & 46)

The Last Children of a President to serve in the Military were:

Ensign Jack Carter, USN aboard the USS Grapple during Vietnam
2Lt. George Bush TXANG

My Personal belief is that if they wish to Serve they take their chances like any other Soldier.



*( FDR and Eleanor savaged Ted Jr. unfairly during his run for Governor of New York)
 

1feral1

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Sons/daughters of kings/queens, presidents/primeministers, MPs/senators/congressmen-women etc, should not be exempt, and they should be allowed to serve along side fellow citizens in whatever roles assigned to, regardless of who their parents are.

Whats next, kids of movie stars and the rich and famous???

OWDU

EDITed for spelling
 

tomahawk6

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LBJ's son in law was USMC Captain Chuck Robb who went on to 2 tours in Vietnam
Chicago Mayor Daley's son Patrick,is in Afghanistan with the 82d.
 

daftandbarmy

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And the Canadian politicians/ social elite with kids/ relatives stuck in to the great battles of our time in central Asia are...? OK, I need help here...
 

George Wallace

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Shamrock said:
Absolutely these children of powerful and influential people should be expected to meet the same liability in their terms of service as every other schmuck who dons a uniform, willingly or not.  They are citizens under a system that holds all people being created equal; giving special treatment to one child to lessen one parent's stress is an insult to all the other parents who have undergone what the politico's are too good for.  If the socially elite become too good for service then what the hell is the military doing?

I agree, but that is not the argument.  It isn't the fact that these children shouldn't serve as anyother member of the society; but the fact that their capture or death could be used to influence a person in a position of power and decision making. 

Would you want a President put in a position where they may have to decide to risk sending in troops in an attempt to rescue their child?  Would you want a Prime Minister to push for the removal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan because their child was captured by the Taliban?  This is an argument to remove a possible factor that may play a part in influencing a person in power in their decision making.
 

Snafu-Bar

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I thought we didn't negotiate with terrorists??

Anyone of that kind of importance does clearly impact the "potential factor" when it comes to war. That being said these people are obviously old enough to make thier own decisions and thus should be prepared for anything happening. That doesn't mean that should they be killed or captured that anything out of order be done about it. There are propbably contigency plans already laid out in black and white for dealing with such circumstances.

The monkey wrench is the media coverage and public outcry afterwards that have more of an impact on these types of situations.


Cheers.
 

George Wallace

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Snafu-Bar said:
I thought we didn't negotiate with terrorists??

Anyone of that kind of importance does clearly impact the "potential factor" when it comes to war. That being said these people are obviously old enough to make thier own decisions and thus should be prepared for anything happening. That doesn't mean that should they be killed or captured that anything out of order be done about it. There are propbably contigency plans already laid out in black and white for dealing with such circumstances.

Let's see.

The US bungled an attempt to rescue the US Embassy hostages in Iran.  Perhaps you remember the movie BlackHawk Down, as well.  Do you want someone in power put in a position where they may make a decision to order a similar attempt?  What would the British have resorted to, had Prince Harry been captured?

As for not negotiating with terrorists; the Italians have.  The Spanish have withdrawn troops from Afghanistan.  The French are already seeing the results of the 10 KIA, in that some French Troops are refusing to go to Afghanistan.  There are segments of the Canadian Public crying for us to bring Canadian Troops home.  So don't kid yourself on the influences that the enemy can apply to people in power, or the society as a whole.
 
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