News has come today that Buck McKeon, the California Republican, is retiring from the House at the end of this term. He has been in Congress since 1993, and I certainly believe in rotation in office. But I regard McKeon’s retirement as bad news. He has been chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and has done his best to prevent yet another hollowing out of the U.S. military. Born in 1938, he has some sense of history, and the tragedy it reliably inflicts.
These days, the “constituency” for defense is shrinking. The Left is the Left, and always will be. But the Right is different now, as we can see all around us. Only a few were exercised at the “sequester” and its meaning for defense. The Reagan Republicans seem a dying breed — and Buck McKeon is one of them.
I hate sentences that begin “History has taught us,” but history has taught us that the American people will not — will not — refrain from gutting defense, only to have to build it back up again, in painful circumstances. (I wrote a piece about this a year ago.) The lesson has to be learned and relearned, ad infinitum. But people like McKeon help — and I’m sorry he’s leaving. Maybe some of the interns will listen to him, before he goes.
“Peace through strength” — is it an idea so musty, it ought to be written in Sumerian? (It would still be true.)