Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Can Hillary be elected commander in chief?

Can Hillary be elected commander in chief?

Interesting headline above, seen in USA Today. Not "President," but "Commander in Chief". It illustrates to some extent the barriers to women candidates - but in perhaps a larger sense it goes to the heart of the presidency and indeed the national identity.

The implication is that the primary duty of the presidency is military, and by extension the primary function of the government is the use of force. You also see this in the use of the phrase "serving your country" as a synonym for military service. You don't hear, say, a teacher described as "serving our country," though one could make a strong case that educating children is a greater service than carrying a weapon and shooting it on order.

We tend not to think of women as military leaders, though Joan of Arc might disagree. But we're asking the wrong question. It's as if we still envision the president as our king, Richard the Lionhearted personally leading the troops into battle. Any military thinking a president does should be strategy, not battlefield tactics. The personal scars candidates like Bob Dole and John McCain suffered were noble - but does it necessarily make either of them specially qualified in any of the non-military duties of a president? Or even in global-political type thinking?

Soon post-draft era people of my generation will near the top of the leadership ladder and maybe then this false emphasis on personal military experience will end. Perhaps we will one day be a stronger country if we focus our identity on our non-military strengths.

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