Letter to the Editor: A Political Mess

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Last night I was awakened by a low flying aircraft and a blast of wind that followed. The combination led me to recall auditory signals that might precede a nuclear blast. I fell back to sleep rather quickly, but first I noted I only had this thought because Russia continues its assault on former Soviet Republics thought safe from attack until 2003.

I oversaw refueling operations; bulk fuel receipt, storage, and transfer; provided quality assurance so fighter pilots could be sure our fuel wasn’t going to produce an inflight malfunction; and trained personnel to ensure they handled fuel safely and were prepared to respond if a fire or major fuel spill occurred, threatening the wetlands we abutted. I ensured we were prepared to do this in environments where we might be called upon to defend mobile refueling facilities from enemy attack, both overt and covert.

I had studied the terrorism counteractions used in the Middle East after the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, so was a good candidate for this work. I worked with Secret Service Officers and other security officials who traveled in advance of certain assets because of this. After that attack they were concerned terrorists might find a way to sabotage operations like ours, even inside the United States, because there was plenty of explosive potential behind them. I learned a lot working with them.

This experience is why I was sent to the Naval Officer Training Command, then housed with the Naval War College, to begin the commissioning process. I knew we’d either prevent terrorist attack or be drawn in by it because that was the stated intention of al Qaeda. Their’s was a simple strategy informed by intelligence that said, “attack the United States and the political wing will force the military to abandon a strategy that has given them an advantage in the Middle East for decades.”

They knew military leaders suspected we’d struggle to contend with the tactics used to drive the Soviets from Afghanistan, and relied on terrorism to force a confrontation between our forces and guerrilla fighters who would happily fight for generations. We were concerned our politicians would overcommit and leave Europe, former Soviet Republics, and Asia vulnerable to extremist political leaders, like Vladimir Putin. Decades later it’s clear our concerns were valid.

It’s more likely now than at any time since the Cold War ended that Russia would launch a nuclear strike. It’s not incredibly likely but it is more likely than the chemical attacks politicians told you to fear after 9/11. (Iraq never had missiles that could reach us, wasn’t involved in the plot Saudi extremists devised, and wasn’t threatening us. Those thoughts were in our politicians heads.)

Our present reality is the product of political overreach. I don’t suppose that can be helped so long as so much money remains in politics, but it sure would be nice if politicians would defer to experts. Perhaps we could add a clause that says, “In case of attack or natural disaster the political arm of the government will be sequestered and the appropriate departments given command until such time as order is restored.” At least that way our experts would have some opportunity to communicate with the public before what they have to say is politicized.

Jamie Beaulieu
Farmington, Maine

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