Forget How It “Looks,” Protect Our Troops

posted on August 20, 2015
AP Photo/John Bazemore

Time for a recap, given that we’re a month out from Chattanooga. What almost everyone knows is that Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez attacked two recruiting facilities. The first site was a multi-service center where physical security factors may have deterred him. Despite a police pursuit, he drove seven miles to a U.S. Navy recruiting center in a strip mall where he tragically found victims aplenty. Four Marines died at the scene, and a sailor died two days later. The rampage ended when the attacker was shot and killed by responding Chattanooga Police. 

To say that much of anything went right that Thursday a month ago would be difficult. “At least …” this, or “Thank God …” that are achingly hollow too, when you think of the families. 

But what is truly puzzling (read “infuriating”) is how little has changed. If you look at why so few military members are armed even on military installations (to say nothing of far less secure civilian installations like those in Chattanooga), the thread seems to run back to the first Bush administration. Certainly the Obama administration reissue of the policy in 2011 was even more baffling, since it followed the disastrous Fort Hood melee where a serving Army major killed 13 and injured 32 more.

What some states and Congress are doing is slightly more encouraging (see here, here, here and here), though there are many—and we mean many—caveats in virtually all cases. The calendar is a worry, too, as even the very best ideas can sit in state houses or Congress for months and years, yet all the while those who hate our soldiers are festering, calculating, probing for weakness. Mercifully, the Navy has announced it will authorize armed security at outlying facilities like the one attacked in Chattanooga. We can only hope the other services will follow suit.

The bizarre (and revealing) icing on the cake may have come from outgoing Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno. “We have to be careful about over-arming ourselves [because of] accidental discharges and everything else that goes along with having weapons that are loaded.” Really? These are trained, professional soldiers we’re talking about, arguably the best in the world. If they’re unsafe with their firearms, General, precisely whose responsibility would that be, sir?

If you pull at enough of the threads, the whole absurd tapestry unravels. You see that the underlying problem is one of attitude, and perhaps more specifically, of aesthetics.

Yeah—aesthetics, or “how it looks.” ( defines this as “the branch of philosophy dealing with such notions as the beautiful, the ugly …” The Oxford dictionary has “concerned with beauty, or the appreciation of beauty.”)… because the influential, the celebratistas, the media darlings simply don’t like the way armed soldiers look in public places, those soldiers must accept more pervasive levels of personal danger than getting shot at on our behalf on the battlefield already guarantees.

This ought to disgust everyone. It means that because the influential, the celebratistas, the media darlings simply don’t like the way armed soldiers look in public places, those soldiers must accept more pervasive levels of personal danger than getting shot at on our behalf on the battlefield already guarantees. That they’ll soldier on anyway should magnify our gratitude, not abet us in forcing additional dangers upon them and their families.

Before you dismiss the argument as overstated, consider a chilling example: “What we are talking about here is a strip mall with stores, hamburger stands and all that, and I don’t think you just want people walking around everybody with a gun.” This cleverness comes from supposedly archconservative Fox News, granted by way of less-than-conservative Juan Williams.

The likes of Williams, Gen. Odierno and even President Barack Obama apparently will not see that there’s just no aesthetically pleasing alternative to arming soldiers that will also protect them: Mere “precautions” cannot fix this right-here, right-now problem.

What President Bush (41) rightly or wrongly thought was appropriate nearly 25 years ago does not meet today’s threats. It is time for President Obama’s heretofore-willing pen to end compelled defenselessness for our best and bravest. 

Tomorrow would not be too soon. 


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