Monday, January 24, 2011

Washington DC Gun Violence - The Real Lesson Behind the Numbers

On New Years Day, 1 Jan 2011, there was a Washington Post front page article: District, Prince George's report continuing decline in number of homicides ( and I was absolutely delighted with the drop in homicides in the DC area from 299 in 2009 to 278 in 2010 but one needs to delve a little deeper into the numbers to understand the real lesson of the article. The articles states, the DC rate was 22 per 100,000 population (131 homicides & 599,657 population per the current Census website). The 5 Maryland jurisdiction’s (PG, Montgomery, St Mary’s, Charles, and Calvert) rate was 5.6 per 100,000 (119 homicides & 2,140,597 population) while the 5 Virginia jurisdiction’s (Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun) rate was 1.33 per 100,000 (28 Homicides & 2,085,431).

This means that us “gun tottin” Virginians who are fortunate enough to live in a state where firearms ownership is almost unrestricted are 16.4 times less likely to be a homicide victim than an unfortunate DC resident where lawful gun ownership is still almost impossible. We Virginians are also 4.2 times less likely to be killed than a poor Marylander where firearms are also heavily regulated but even they are 3.9 times less likely to be a victim than the unfortunate DC resident.

Now I’m not opposed to registration and some reasonable limits on ownership such as terrorists, ex-cons and the mentally unstable but there should be no restrictions on owning or carrying a gun by average citizens – anywhere in the US. There is a “God-given” right of self protection and a gun is an exercise of that right. These above statistics clearly demonstrate that contrary to liberal rhetoric, “guns actually do make us safer.” Case in point, Virginia has by far the laxest gun laws and the least gun violence of any of the surrounding jurisdictions. Could it be criminals are not so anxious to murder law abiding citizens if they might be "packing heat?"

The obvious message in these statistics - guns make us more and not less safe.

While we’re talking gun violence, here are a couple of other interesting (and maybe) inconvenient FACTS:

In any given year in this country there is one child drowning death for every 11,000 residential swimming pools or 550 children under the age of 10 drown every year in our 6 million pools. Meanwhile there is one child killed by a gun for every one million (plus) guns in this country or with about 200 million guns, approximately 175 children under 10 die. This means a child is over 100 times more likely to drown in a pool than be killed by a gun. Hence, banning residential pools is a much more effective way of protecting children than banning fire arms.

In Switzerland, every male adult is issued an assault weapon for militia duty and required to keep it in his home. As a result, Switzerland has the highest per capita rate of guns in homes in the entire World yet is one of the safest places to live. Fire arm deaths in Switzerland is .56/100,000. Compare that to the United States where Assault Weapons are heavily regulated and automatic ones are outlawed and our rate of fire arm deaths is 2.97/100,000 per year. That means an American is 5.3 times more likely to be killed by a gun in the United States than someone in Switzerland where everyone and their brother has an automatic assault weapon. Go figure!

- (sign me) A "Gun Tottin" Virginian-

Friday, January 21, 2011

Remembering President Kennedy - 50 Years Later!

As a retired Army Colonel who was drafted into Secretary McNamara’s Army, commissioned out of OCS and had the privilege of serving an extended CIB earning Vietnam tour, I don’t believe President Kennedy is given sufficient credit for his committed bi-partisan, anti-communist foreign policy and his principled defense of South Vietnam by sending in U.S. Forces and actually creating the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) on 8 Feb 1962. As everyone that fought in Vietnam knows, MACV was the US Command that prosecuted the war right up until the end.

President Kennedy was totally committed to stopping communist expansion and knew not acting decisively in Vietnam by committing US troops would fatally damage U.S. credibility with our allies. As Kennedy so eloquently stated "Now we have a problem in making our power credible... and Vietnam looks like the place.” He went on to reaffirmed his commitment to defend South Vietnam in his 11 May National Security Action Memorandum 52, which became known as "The Presidential Program for Vietnam." Its opening statement reads: “U.S. objectives and concept of operations [are] to prevent communist domination of South Vietnam; to create in that country a viable and increasingly democratic society, and to initiate, on an accelerated basis, a series of mutually supporting actions of a military, political, economic, psychological, and covert character designed to achieve this objective.”Although initially totally supportive of the Vietnam Catholic minority administration of President Ngô Đình Diệm, the Kennedy administration grew increasingly frustrated with Diệm because his crackdown against protesting Buddhist monks that sparked a Buddhist Revolt where several monks committed self-immolation covered by the world press. Hence, on 1 Nov 1963, with the tacit approval of the Kennedy administration, Vietnamese military officers launch a coup d'état against Diem and on the next day he was assassinated. President Kennedy knew to be successful there needed to be a change in Vietnamese leadership and he was not afraid to make it. By the time President Kennedy was himself assassinated he had established the MACV Command and had 16,000 troops in country with plans for a significant escalation. Although President Johnson presided over the troop increases, he was following the Kennedy blueprint so President Kennedy is due the lion’s share of the credit for saving most of Southeast Asia from Communist domination.

As a student of the Vietnam War who strongly believes holding the line there until the mid 1970s (ground troops left in 1972 and Congress withdrew support allowing the South Vietnamese Government to fall in 1975) actually stemmed the tide of Communist aggression in Southeast Asia, I believe the contributions of President are often overlooked.

The fact that President Kennedy established MACV and introduced combat troops into South Vietnam in sizable numbers providing the “breathing room” that kept most of Southeast Asia free should be a proud part of the proud Kennedy legacy and I am honored to have been one who was inspired to answer the President’s call “to ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Susan Eisenhower's 16 Jan 11 Washington Post OpEd: 'Military-Industrial Complex,' what Eisenhower Really Meant

In the 16 Jan 2011 Washington Post OpEd piece, 50 years after the 'military-industrial complex,' what Eisenhower really meant, (, Susan Eisenhower commented on her Grandfather’s concerns “about a rising ‘military-industrial complex,’ which he described as ‘a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions’ with the potential to acquire - whether sought or unsought – ‘unwarranted influence’ in the halls of government.” She went on to say “…. the logic of nuclear deterrence made the conventional wars Ike had commanded in the 1940s obsolete. Now, there could be no margin for error; the Cold War brought with it different calculations, which were very costly by nature. These new realities meant that the United States would not only need to project power and resolve, but also had to ensure national solvency …. as the Soviet Union appeared to reach military parity with the United States, political forces in Washington cried out for greater defense spending and a more aggressive approach to Moscow. In response, the administration publicly asserted that there was no such thing as absolute security… he followed through, balancing the budget three times during his tenure, a record unmatched during the Cold War.”

All this is true but how did he do it? Ike slashed the Defense budget some 26% and took huge cuts in conventional forces while investing heavily in our nuclear arsenal. Did putting all our eggs in the “nuclear basket” make us safer or was it a high stakes gamble?

Her brother, David Eisenhower, wrote a wonderful biography on his grandfather’s war years and when he was visiting my class at the National War College I asked him the following question: “as the son of a career military officer growing up when your grandfather was president, I remember those were tough times as he all but emasculated the conventional military with massive cuts; why did he hate the military so much?”

He answered that his grandfather didn’t hate the Military but needed to convince Soviet leaders that he was serious about using nuclear weapons so that “massive retaliation” and “mutually assured destruction” were not just slogans but a credible US defense strategy. The only way to do that was to cut conventional military forces to where nuclear weapons were our only option to retaliate against a Soviet threat.

The question Susan should have addressed in her OpEd was, was her Grandfather really prepared to use those Nucs to respond to Soviet aggression or was he bluffing? With his dismantling of Conventional Forces there was no third option. Did Ike’s National Security Strategy make us more or less safe? As a school kid I do remember several Air Raid drills every year and learning how to respond in the event of a nuclear attack. Also, I remember neighbors constructing and provisioning underground nuclear survival shelters in their backyards. After becoming a Soldier myself and attending Nuclear Training I discovered how useless those shelters and everything we did in school would have been in any real nuclear attack.

Of course upon taking office and after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, President Kennedy immediately began rebuilding our conventional forces so he had that option to incrementally react to Communist aggression in places like Southeast Asia. It was President Kennedy’s rebuilding of our Conventional ground forces that enable him to react to Communist Aggression in Vietnam by sending in Army and Marine Corps troops rather than having to solely rely on Air Power with nuclear bombs. Hence, with this newly reinvigorated capability, the Kennedy Administration was embolden to support the assassination of South Vietnamese President Diem which led to the Kennedy escalation of American involvement in that country and it was just carried on by President Johnson…. and the rest is history!

In closing I would observe that if he had lived, I truly believe that President Kennedy would have pursued the Vietnam War every bit as vigorously as Johnson did. Not withstanding the “revisionist history” of Ted Sorensen, his speechwriter and Camelot’s “keeper of the flame” biographer, who maintained Kennedy would have pulled out of Vietnam in a second term, all unbiased studies of the Kennedy papers indicate differently. I suspect Sorensen (God rest his sole), who had registered as a conscientious objector with his draft board, was projecting his own anti-war sentiments and not those of the dead President.

But I’m getting off topic and this will be a good topic for a future Blog so stay tuned and check back for it.