Weariness and sadness

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.

January 5, 2012 1:13:27 PM PST
Back when I was my oldest child's age - meaning in college - there was a popular bumper sticker that said something to the effect that "It will be a grand day when child care centers are funded and the Navy has to hold a bake sale to pay for its aircraft carriers."

This was at the height of the Vietnam War, and there was a growing sense of war weariness, and a fatigue with the notion that we could afford both guns and butter.

It didn't take long for Americans to feel that way about Iraq and Afghanistan - the two longest wars in U.S. history, and two of the costliest.

The weariness these days comes not from feeling like we can't afford both guns and butter; it comes from feeling we can barely afford either.

President Obama - who promised to get out of Iraq, and did, and who promised to get out of Afghanistan and will but only after escalating the war - today offering his plan for a scaled down vision of the U.S. military.

It's driven partly by money - saving at least $450 billion over the next 10 years. And $500 billion more could be cut if Congress stays on course for deeper reductions. But there's also another component - and this one's driven by the sense that politically, militarily and financially, we can't keep taking over hot spots around the world and staying there.

The Middle East will be less of a focus; Asia will be more of one.

That is the big shift in U.S. military/foreign policy, and it will be a source of much debate.

The Republican candidates for their party's Presidential nomination don't agree among themselves on this issue. But the sentiments of the American people have been clear for a while - and the feeling that the U.S. can be the world's police force has long passed its nadir. What happens when the U.S. leaves a country? It's not always pretty. It's been less than three weeks since the last American troop left Iraq, and the violence has been as constant as the political chaos. Today was another deadly day - and the death toll since Christmas stands at 68 with more than 100 wounded.

The issue is a lack of leadership - and a security void since the U.S. left. And it's the people who take the fallout. "When politicians have a problem, the citizens are usually the ones who pay," a minibus driver who was near today's attack in Sadr City was quoted as saying. Smart guy. Hey - he could have been talking about the United States! I'm just sayin'.

We'll have the latest on the new military strategy, tonight at 11.

We'll also have the story today of the Badger children's' funerals. More than 2,000 people showed up in Midtown Manhattan, to hear their mother speak publicly for the first time about the deaths of her three children and her parents in that horrible house fire on Christmas morning in Stamford, Connecticut.

Madonna Badger this morning gathered her courage and paid tribute to her kids. I read much of what she said, and I found myself nearly sobbing.

"Why did this happen to my parents and my children, and why now? Nothing will bring my babies back."

The sorrow and pain are incomprehensible.

Also at 11, we're taking a closer look at the active form of a vitamin - Folate - and whether this "medical food" (as the FDA calls it) can actually reduce depression.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Amy Freeze (in for Lee Goldberg) with her AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11.


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