Match military policy to rhetoric
With leading Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz calling for "carpet bombing" and "kicking butt" over recent events in Iran and Syria, it's time to consider policies to bring American military forces up to strength in fighting conflicts in multiple arenas. And since these leading candidates and Republicans in general are vocal in their support of Israel, which has one of the best militaries in the world, why not follow its example for military recruitment?
First and foremost, every citizen of Israel, male and female, must serve in the military at the age of 18. Following mandatory service, males serve in reserve units until age 51 (with some exceptions) and single females until age 24. While in the military, soldiers perform many functions, from educating immigrant conscripts to providing educational services for depressed populations and underserved areas of the country — similar to the VISTA program in the United States in the 1960s. Deferments are allowed for some college students and people with religious objections or physical limitations.
In times of national crisis, reserve units provide most of the fighting forces, and like the National Guard here, reservists train regularly to be combat-ready.
With many of the Republican candidates denouncing President Barack Obama's recent diplomatic overtures and accomplishments with Iran and urging no-compromise positions and the threat of military force, it's time that U.S. citizens, all of us, accept responsibility for national defense and be prepared to give our sons and daughters to the cause. Will Trump, Cruz and the other saber-rattlers be first in line to offer their children and grandchildren as punctuation marks for their words of war?
Charles Bishop, St. Pete Beach
Pursue elevated Gandy lanes | Jan. 18, editorial
Debate is over; build it
As a Tampa resident who has used Gandy Boulevard to commute between Tampa and St. Petersburg for the past 17 years, I think the time for reasonable debate about elevation of Gandy in South Tampa is over. The state has already taken a responsible lead to elevate part of the road in Pinellas County. There is daily gridlock between Dale Mabry and West Shore, and backups after 4 p.m. traveling the Gandy Bridge eastbound into Tampa.
Opponents of the upgrade suggest businesses will die along the 1.6-mile link, but there is no credible reason to believe businesses like Walmart will suffer, nor that local commuters will stop using the existing stretch. Wisdom needs to prevail.
Charles Arnold, Tampa
The end of a bad Mideast marriage | Jan. 17, Perspective
Foreign policy realism
This article makes it clear that only one Republican presidential candidate, Rand Paul, has a clue about the situation in the Middle East, and he hasn't got a chance. He doesn't have a solution, but at least he has some understanding of the problem.
Most other candidates are focused on ISIS. As bad as it is, eliminating it doesn't really gain much. In Iraq, many Sunnis, including former members of Saddam Hussein's military, thought it was a better alternative than the Shiite payback they were suffering.
President George W. Bush was wrong when he said everyone wants freedom. They don't. With the exception of Israel, there is no country in the area that supports any of the freedoms we claim under our Constitution. In other words, none of these countries shares our basic values, so any "ally" we may try for among them will not either.
So why are we there? There may be reasons, but in determining why and what our fundamental strategic objective should be, we cannot ignore the realities of the situation. We can ill afford a president who has no concept of what is really going on in the Mideast.
Joe Crites, Clearwater
GOP eve of destruction Jan. 20, commentary
Defeat, then rebirth
A canvasser for Donald Trump, complete with T-shirt and iPad, stopped by the house the other day. I assured her I would be voting for Trump as I closed the door. "But not for the reasons you think," I thought.
I grew up in a family — parents and grandparents — of moderate "Rockefeller" Republicans. I'm a registered Republican. I used to vote Republican, but today's Republican Party has drifted far from my values in both tone and substance.
To my mind a Trump or Ted Cruz defeat in the general election would help the Republicans shake out the hate swamp viper ideology that so plagues otherwise sober and sensible discourse that makes for a functional Washington.
E.J. Dionne's new book, Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond, as well as David Brook's article Wednesday, pretty much lay out the case for reorganization of the party.
Bill Harris, St. Petersburg