Obama and Romney's great bayonet-off

Michael Reynolds/AP

The most important military-related question after the third presidential debate is not who has the best policy for the troops, but which civilians can most skillfully deploy military jargon to prove they can hang with the troops. President Obama schooled Mitt Romney in the debate Monday night when he told him we don't need as many Navy ships as we did in 1916 because of technology. "We also have fewer horses and bayonets," he said dismissively. But then Fox News' Chris Wallace schooled Obama, saying after the debate, "The Marines still use bayonets, so it may not be clear who doesn't understand what the military still uses." But then Time's Joe Klein schooled him, writing, "does Wallace really think that bayonets are nearly as important as they were 100 years ago? They certainly haven’t been in my experience in war zones over the past 30 years." Klein launched a schooling counteroffensive:

And meanwhile, Romney made the sort of mistake that makes Marines cringe: early on in the debate, he called our troops overseas “soldiers.” That drives Marines up a wall. The Army consists of soldiers. The Marine Corps consists of Marines. Both exist under the umbrella of American troops or forces serving overseas. This distinction has been so noxious to the Army that in recent years, it has capitalized its troops — Soldiers — to match the Marine code. I would guess that Fox News may have gotten a few e-mails about that, unmentioned by Fox.


Got that, guys? Anyone knows anything knows that Marines are not soldiers and that in the Army soldiers are Soldiers! Yet the debate over what political people more perfectly channel the spirit of the troops raged on. On CBS Tuesday morning, Paul Ryan was outraged on behalf of the military: "To compare modern American battleships and Navy with bayonets, I just don't understand that comparison," Ryan said. "President Obama's comment about 'horses and bayonets' was an insult to every sailor who has put his or her life on the line for our country," Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose daughter served in the Army in Iraq, tweeted. A Fox Nation headline said, "Mr. President, US Special Forces Rode Horses Into Afghanistan." However, horses are no longer in use, as Lockheed Martin has been unable to build a reasonably-priced IED-resistant V-bottomed horse. (See that? That sentence was two things: 1) a joke, and 2) my own way of saying "See I talked to a soldier one time.") The military, like most subcultures, uses jargon to wall itself off from outsiders. But unlike most subcultures, the military is something everyone wants to be associated with. You can show you're "with it" by dropping the right acronyms, or explaining military trivia -- like who uses bayonets in the drone era -- with the right amount of righteous outrage.

What's the truth on bayonets? In the Army's basic training, soldiers used to practice hand-to-hand combat by stabbing tires or human-ish shapes with bayonets. That stopped in 2010. (A GIF of bayonet training in 2002 at Ft. Benning, "Home of the Infantry," is at left.) Marines still use them at boot camp.

Read the full story on The Atlantic Wire.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.