Nearly all the Republican presidential candidates are showing their muscles, supporting the war on terror and a robust military while also vowing to do whatever it takes to disarm Iran. They know that it is essential to play the jingoistic “American exceptionalism” card, and they understand that being president also means becoming commander in chief of America’s armed forces with the responsibility for committing U.S. soldiers to die for their country. But how are they qualified to do that? Of the sorry lot on display, only Ron Paul and Rick Perry have ever served in the military in any capacity, Paul as a U.S. Air Force medical officer and Perry as an Air Force pilot. The dramatically bellicose Newt Gingrich, who wants to coordinate a joint military operation with Israel to attack Iran, did not serve during the Vietnam War. He received deferments because he was a student and because he was, at the time, married to his first of three wives. Other candidates, including Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman, are too young to have been subject to the draft, but neither volunteered for military service. Santorum entered a law firm, and Huntsman went to Indonesia as a Mormon missionary before stepping into the business run by his father.
But perhaps the most spectacular chickenhawk of all is Mitt Romney, frequently cited as the likely Republican candidate, who alone among GOP aspirants to the highest office in the land has advocated increasing the size of the Defense Department. Romney apparently is not aware of the foreign policy misadventures of the past 10 years and is eager to double down on a formula that has not worked very well. He believes that the correct response to the many threats in the world is to throw more money at the Pentagon. He also apparently has not noted the sinking economy, which might suggest to anyone but the politically ambitious that retrenchment would be preferable to more interventionism. But as an experienced self-described “businessman” he is not afraid of running up a little more debt.