They Took a Desert and Made It Peace

The campaigns of COL (Ret.) Chris Gibson, a retired, active duty  Army officer running in the New York 20th District, and Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowsky, an Army Reservist seeking the Republican nomination in the Michigan 9th, reflect  the general meme of veterans of the “Long War” seeking political office.  However, they also demonstrate the variety of experiences Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines have had in this “Long War.”


While both are Airborne officers and hold combat decorations for their service, the nature of each man’s service differs.   Gibson commanded an Airborne Infantry Battalion in Iraq, while Raczkowsky served in “the softer side of Special Operations” as a Civil Affairs Team (“CAT”) Leader in the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan.  Gibson is a retired career Soldier seeking to continue to serve his country as a citizen-legislator, while Raczkowsky is a career state legislator, attorney and businessman, who has also served his country in war as a citizen-soldier.


Gibson and his battalion from the storied 82d Airborne Division, attached to the Armored Cavalry Regiment (“ACR”) commanded by the legendary H.R. McMasters, used their military prowess to bring peace and security to the troubled Iraqi city of Tal Afar during the 2005 elections.  Raczkowsky, as a CAT Leader in the Somali National Regional State (“SNRS”) of Ethiopia’s rugged  Ogaden region and as a liaison officer to the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya in 2004, used his lawyer and politician’s skills at negotiation and bringing consensus to help keep the Horn of Africa the least eventful place in the Central Command (“CENTCOM”) Joint Operations Area (“CJOA”).


However, both of these men are part of a generation of Army and Marine Corps leaders who reversed the famous quote from Tacitus: they took a desert and made it peace.


Equally important, in a real way, the fight each of these men fought overseas will continue in Congress.


In Iraq, Gibson contended with “dead-enders” who did not want to admit the Baathist/Arab Socialist day of Saddam was through.   Both Gibson and Raczkowsky faced Al Qaida (“AQ”)-related Salafists, who long for some lost former paradise of Islamic fundamentalism that they believe could be realized if Modernity (to use Naval War College scholar Michael Vlahos’s useful phrase) could be done away with.


The opposition they will face in Congress is not composed of evil or violent men and women.  However, their opponents are animated by the same refusal to accept reality.


Those who espouse the failed ideas of Keynesian Stimulus and centralization do so less violently than Saddam’s “dead enders.”   However, these Keynesians’ nonviolent resistance is rooted in same misguided unwillingness to realize that their ideas have failed and have brought in their wake misery for all but a favored few that animated the Baathist’s violent and nihilistic struggle.  In the same way, radical environmentalists, like AQ and the Salafist movement, have an implacable hostility to Modernity, in favor of a sylvan dream that likely never existed and surely will not be made to exist in any real way.


Both Gibson and Raczkowsky’s experiences are the converse of John Reed, the American Journalist who visited Soviet Russia early on, who said, I have been over into the future, and it works.  After tours in Post-Baathist Iraq and Post-Communist Yugoslavia, Chris Gibson, for example, can say of the aftermath of the socialist experiment, “I have seen this future and it failed.”


Men and women who have seen the end state of societies that were not built on free men and free markets and free pulpits will not be quick to embrace centralized, one-size-fits-all solutions imposed from on-high. 


They will fight for tax cuts so that people and businesses can decide how to spend their own money.  They will fight to ease the endless, meaningless Harrison Bergeron regulatory impediments imposed on small business.   They will fight the kind of unthinking, bureaucratic, empire building centralization that the Army traditionally (and memorably) characterizes as “chickensh-t.”   


They have read our Constitution and understand that our federal government is one of limited powers, if supreme in that limited scope. They understand that, in many cases, instead of the cry being, “There ought to be a law,” it should be, “There should be a contract, freely made at arm’s length, with the minimum of government interference.”  In the spirit of the Framers’ generation, who were men who mostly fought for this country yet were ambivalent about large standing armies and military adventurism, they will fight to insure we have what we need to defend our country, but will not be quick to go to war for less than compelling reasons.


Radio Talk Show Host Mark Levin said something last week that was very perceptive: after the financial crisis, the welfare state is no longer sustainable—everything has changed.  Levin went on to say that the Democratic Party, in the face of this sea-change, is attempting to make our society more socialized and less free.  The American people know this is unworkable, hence the burgeoning Tea Party/Liberty Movement and hence the poll where 55% of likely voters characterize President Obama as a socialist.  (One wonders what kind of socialist, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Fred Kite from I’m Alright Jack or, more probably, some academic Marxist from Harvard Yard?)


To achieve a return to limited government and the fractal distribution of power between the federal government, the states and the people called for in the Constitution, we will require the services of men and women who have seen and heard and smelled and tasted what happens if we go toward centralization and away from freedom. 


Those people, people like Gibson and Raczkowsky, have earned our support, not because they served, but because of what they learned while serving.   Elect them, so they may serve us yet again in Congress.