The Tommy Hanlon Problem in Conservativeland

I took eighth grade “civics” class with a boy named Tommy Hanlon.  Tommy was a big, red-faced Irish kid whose father was the local district attorney.  Tommy was an average student, as far as I knew.  In eighth grade, there is not a great deal of intellectual conversation, even in civics class.  But this was 1967.  The Vietnam War was in everyone’s living room every evening.  For many families, it was much closer than that.  My parents’ circle of friends had already suffered the death of one son.  More would follow.

As a younger teacher who saw her profession as a mission, Mrs. Suttles was not the type for stale lectures and rote memorization.  The one day that remains in my mind was our discussion of Viet Nam and the possible mining of Haiphong Harbor (it was mined years later, in 1972).  Our teacher pointed out that if the US mined the harbor, Canadian, British, other European and Soviet ships could be sunk, causing an international crisis.  While we took that in, Tommy jumped up and yelled; “Why are they there?  They are supposed to be our friends.  Bomb them too!”

There are many in the GOP that hold the Tommy Hanlon position.  Even in 1967, it was absurd, but in 2015, it dwells on the outer edge of insanity.  The United States is no longer the world’s foremost economic power.  Soon we will no longer be the foremost military power.  As for effective conventional military power, we have probably already lost that to China also.  “Are you kidding!!  Look at all the countries we are in!”  Exactly.  The United States reacts, regardless of which party is in power.  We put in troops, whether “advisors” or “boots on the ground”.  We win – we die – we leave.  They win.  The Chinese watch and wait.  Putin sends in two divisions wearing Nike T-shirts and Levi’s.  Suddenly, there’s a vote and territory X becomes part of the Russian Federation.   The Chinese watch and wait.  We go broke, holding a fire sale in Germany – “All Bases Must Go!  Tanks Included!”  We bomb ISIS targets in Syria –  two bombs a week.   The Chinese watch and wait.  Soon, Russian officers will be touring Estonia, Latvia, and Georgia.  The Chinese will be building a naval base in the Spratly Islands.  We will be busy telling Israel that they cannot defend themselves, while we create a thousand terrorists a day.

I am all in favor of the application of military power.  Smart military power.  Only where it’s needed.  Use a knife, not a nuke.

While Tommy Hanlon and Tiny Tim struggle for votes in America.


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