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September 23, 2006

Webb's problems

Blogging has recently been seen as a great way for the voice of the common man to be heard, but it is certainly not the first. Letter's to the editor still are very effective at doing so, sometimes even more so than blogs. Wayne Wilkins (second letter listed) does a particularly good job of relating to Virginia voters why he feels that James Webb would be a bad choice for senator.
James H. Webb Jr. is something of an icon for military folk, among whom he often approaches demigod status because of his decorated service in Vietnam and his directness and intellect. However, his recent debate with Sen. George Allen highlighted two fundamental reasons why he would be the wrong choice for senator.

Most important, Mr. Webb seems to have forgotten the lessons penned in his historical novel "A Sense of Honor" (a leadership course book at the Air Force Academy when I attended), in which he argues effectively that, above all, a public servant must maintain his integrity in order to lead.

His two-stepping on his positions on women in combat and affirmative action and his recent use of the name of Ronald Reagan to bolster his campaign show me that he has traded in the integrity he so eloquently wrote about for a base political pragmatism. Time to try to win an election, I guess.

Second, as a military theorist, he certainly knows better than to castigate those who have not worn a uniform as somehow unfit for public office. Not only does this commit a fallacy (ad hominem), but one only need look to the example of Jimmy Carter, himself a Naval Academy graduate and officer, to realize that honorable military service is not a precursor for effective military command. It is certainly not a trump card to be pulled out whenever your positions are challenged, as Mr. Webb did several times during the debate, most notably when his opposition to the 1991 invasion was called out.

I was hoping for a more principled tack from someone whose writings have been studied for years by cadets and midshipmen.

Unfortunately, in this debate, he did not seem to remember the words he penned several years ago about the linkage of integrity, public service and leadership.
Indeed.