Sunday, May 12, 2013

Best in Show?

Trey Smith

Since as long as I can remember, I have been told that the US military machine is the best in the world. In all of the movies I watched as a kid, US soldiers were always smarter, stronger, more determined and braver than ANY foe they came up against. Our boys may have found themselves pinned down and outnumbered 10 to 1, but we always won out in the end because...well, we're Americans!

This very same message carried over to our domestic police forces. No matter how crafty the criminals were, our men and women in blue [eventually] always get their man. True, they might need to resort to bending the rules just a wee tad, but, when it comes to nabbing the bad guys, rules are made to be broken to uphold the grand American way.

Because the public has bought into these images, many support the egregious amounts of taxpayer dollars we lay at the feet of our military forces and police departments. Our nation spends more on our military that the next several nations combined. These days a lot of that military money is finding its way to state, county and municipal police departments. In fact, in many instances, it's getting very hard to tell the two apart. During the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings, I wasn't altogether sure what I saw on my TV screen. Was the city being locked down by the police or the army?

And yet, for all our supposed prowess, neither our military nor local police seem that adept at living up to their heroic and victorious depictions.

The "best military in the world" did not win in Korea or Vietnam. We didn't come home victorious from Iraq either. Chances are we aren't going to win in Afghanistan. Our last big victory came in 1945 -- nearly 70 years ago! Despite the fact we are mortgaging our future on military spending, it seems that the best outcome for our military machine is to break even (not winning or completely losing).

On the domestic front, consider the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the men suspected of the bombings in Boston. Despite shutting down an entire metropolitan area and deploying hundreds of law enforcement personnel, the capture was made possible by a local citizen who stepped outside for a smoke. Tsarnaev somehow was able to elude the police and may well have bled to death in his hiding place, except for that local citizen. While the police did apprehend the suspect -- after literally trying to blow him out of his hiding place with unrelenting gunfire -- it wasn't due to their own crack investigative work.

And consider the manhunt for Christopher Dorner. In their overzealous pursuit of him, officers nearly killed three innocent people who were driving pickups that didn't even match the description of Dorner's truck. Once they cornered the suspect, they didn't try to arrest him. No, they set his hiding place -- a cabin -- on fire. In this particular case, I suppose some people will say that this was okay because they got their man.

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