...or so one could conclude from the language Rep. Kristi Noem uses in her August 29 interview with the editorial board of that Sioux Falls paper.

Publisher Randall Beck asks Rep. Noem the extent to which South Dakotans are engaged with the issue of going to war with Syria. Noem gave this interview prior to publication of David Newquist's essay or Michael Larson's discussion of his students' questions about the Middle East or (update!) Terry Sohl's ruminations. She was able to say that Syria as come up "at every town hall" that she's held during this August recess.

Then laying groundwork for political criticism of whatever decision President Obama makes to respond to Syria's use of chemical weapons, Rep. Noem damns America's military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq as fatiguing and fruitless:

...their perspective most of the time to me is that they don't want another Iraq and Afghanistan. And they've seen the millions and billions of dollars we've invested in those countries and there's no assurance that as soon as we pull out that those countries are going to be any better off or be more democratic when we leave, and so they don't want another one of those situations.

I think for them the only way the American public and South Dakotans will get behind an action against Syria is if they know clearly what the objectives are and that our plan is to get in and get back out [Rep. Kristi Noem, interview with editorial board, that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.08.29].

Rep. Noem sets three criteria for backing military action against Syria: the objectives must be clear, we must have a transparent timetable for entry and exit, and the President must guarantee Syria will be more democratic when we're done. The first criterion is doable but must not be mistaken for an inflexible pledge that hamstrings us in the face of changing situations. The second criterion is arguably hazardous. The third is impossible soothsaying.

But under all three, Rep. Kristi Noem transported to 2001 and 2003 would have voted against military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq.

When Rep. Noem says we don't (read: she doesn't) want another Iraq or Afghanistan, she is implicitly saying invading Iraq and Afghanistan were bad ideas. Republicans, is this your new orthodoxy, or is "Not another Iraq! Not another Afghanistan!" just the convenient popular shorthand of the moment to cover your ceaseless anti-Obama campaign and avoid sincere analysis of the unique and complicated situation Syria presents?


A couple weeks ago, we discussed the appropriateness of Governor Dennis Daugaard's donning of military duds during his April visit to Afghanistan.

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard visiting National Guard troops in Afghanistan, April 2012

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard visiting National Guard troops in Afghanistan, April 2012

My reasonable commenters offered protocol and security justifications for our civilian Governor to appear in official military gear in country. But check out the above picture from the Governor's office: look behind the clutch of soldiers, and you'll see civilians in civvies. Maybe those civilians are just decoys for enemy fire. Or maybe David Newquist is right and putting the Governor in camos is about PR for the military and acknowledging his nominal status as commander in chief of those Guard troops.

But check out the real Commander in Chief on his latest visit to our troops in Afghanistan:

President Barack Obama visits U.S. soldiers at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, May 2, 2012

President Barack Obama visits U.S. soldiers at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, May 2, 2012

On base, surrounded by soldiers... and not even wearing his suit jacket, never mind a BDU. Much like Lincoln (why yes, DWC, let's make comparisons), President Obama makes clear in clothes his proper status as civilian commander of the military. His Secret Service guys don't play soldier, either; they maintain their usual men-in-black presence.

This is a small issue, but the question remains open: why does the civilian governor of a state don a military uniform jacket to visit National Guard troops over whom he has little real authority, while the President of the United States appears before the troops he commands in the same foreign war zone in civilian shirtsleeves?


In our discussion of the odd policy decision by the Daugaard Administration to scale back the portfolio of the Lieutenant Governor position based on a personal decision by the current holder of the job, a minor kerfuffle erupts over Dennis Daugaard's taxpayer-funded photo op tour of Kuwait and Afghanistan.

Commenter Robert Cordts finds offense in the Governor's donning of a military jacket:

I just think members of the Daugaard administration are liars. Daugaard was wearing an Army uniform (BDU) the other day in Afghanistan while doing a television interview. I realize that he is commander-in-chief of the SD National Guard but I think it is a stretch for him to wear the uniform of the armed forces. Wearing leather and chaps to promote the Sturgis rally is one thing but putting on the uniform of the armed services is another. Has he ever served in the military? I have not found any information indicating that he has. Daugaard is either pretentious or deceitful &ndash I don't know which is worse [Robert Cordts, comment, Madville Times, 2012.04.20].

Commenter Troy Jones defends Daugaard's sartorial security sense:

FYI: High value targets (Senators, Governors, etc.) who go into hostile territory are often advised/required to wear BDU's for security reasons. My memory is a bit fuzzy as it was 30 years ago. But I remember a picture of a Senator or Congressman (guessing maybe Bill Bradley or I think his name was McMillan who was also a former NBA player) who went to Lebanon/Israel during that conflict and he was wearing BDU's (looked like capris) and dress shoes because they didn't have pants and boots that fit him. It was hilarious looking but the purpose was security.

Don't know if that played a part in the Governor's attire as I don't know what threats the Governor was under but it wouldn't surprise me [Troy Jones, comment, Madville Times, 2012.04.20].

Cordts appears to be referring to images from this Wednesday KSFY report. Let's check KSFY's video of Governor Daugaard's interview from Kabul:

Gov. Dennis Daugaard in Kabul

Gov. Dennis Daugaard in Kabul, Afghanistan, from KSFY remote interview, April 18, 2012

Gov. Daugaard says he is speaking from the International Security Assistance Force headquarters after a full day out and about at a "forward operating base." The interview appears to be a planned indoor event, certainly not some cameraman's scrum on the fly. The Governor wears a military coat with his name, a U.S. flag, and Guard insignia.

Now compare that with other photos from Daugaard's globe-trot:

Governor Dennis Daugaard in Kuwait

Governor Dennis Daugaard visits South Dakota National Guard troops in Kuwait, April 17, 2012. Photos by SDNG Sgt. Jessica Geiger

Governor Daugaard appears outside in civvies with uniformed soldiers. The South Dakota National Guard says these photos are all from Kuwait. Kuwait is not currently a war zone; Afghanistan is. The Governor said in his video interview from Kabul Wednesday that he had not yet met with South Dakota troops in Afghanistan, but he planned to Thursday. I have not yet found photos of those Thursday visits to compare... but I'm willing to bet that when those photos turn up, with the heightened security concerns in Afghanistan, we'll see Daugaard in fatigues outdoors there as well.

I'm not sure I see a major foul here. Mr. Jones's point on security may hold some water... although as I check the record, I find Commander-in-Chief Obama visited Iraq in more dangerous April 2009 wearing his regular suit. When the President visited Bagram Air Base in December 2010, he wore a leather bomber jacket.

Military readers, I welcome your perspective: what is protocol for elected officials, particularly commanders-in-chief, wearing military garb in country?


The 842nd Engineering Company of the South Dakota Army National Guard, based here in the Northern Black Hills, left yesterday for Fort Bliss, Texas, from where the 161 part-time soldiers will then head to Afghanistan for a year of building roads and earthworks, keeping their eyes peeled, and Skyping mom, dad, spouse and kids to let them know everything is o.k.

The soldiers left Spearfish yesterday morning, under police escort and the hopeful eyes and heavy hearts of hundreds of friends, family, and fellow citizens. Here's the view from North Avenue, where Spearfish High School and Middle School students, accompanied by the Spartan marching band, wished the soldiers a safe mission:

The two best ways to support these troops:

  1. Pay for the endless and amorphous war they are fighting.
  2. End the war and bring them home.

Right now: South Dakota Public Broadcasting is hosting a really interesting conversation with three soldiers from the 211th Engineer Company from Madison and DeSmet. Included in the conversation is Madison's own Austin Slaughter. The men are talking about their experience clearing roads of explosives for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Every man in the 211th came home alive to South Dakota, where clearing roads of snow surely seems like child's play.

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