The Best Defense

Hanoi to U.S.: Will you bug out on us?

When Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke in the Vietnamese capital the other day, the first question, ironically enough, was whether the communist government of Vietnam can be confident that the United States government won't just run away with the going gets tough:

Q: Mr. Secretary of Defense, I have -- actually, we are from the Vietnam National University and military universities and colleges in Hanoi. And we'd like to take this opportunity to ask you a few questions.

The first question: ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] highly value cooperation with the United States for security, stability and peace in Southeast Asia. But how can we be sure that the United States won't just walk away when their national interests are served in a certain way? The second question --

SEC. GATES: Let me -- as I get older, I can only remember one question at a time. (Laughter.)

First of all, the United States has been active in Asia for more than 150 years. We have never turned our backs on Asia in that long time and with all that history. We are a Pacific nation. We have a presence in Asia. We border the Pacific Ocean. We have long-term interests here and we have friendships that go back many, many decades.

I think all Asia can be confident that the United States intends to remain engaged in Asia…

Not so funny to the Vietnamese, of course. The more assertive China becomes, the more they will be looking to the United States (and to India) to provide some balance in Southeast Asia.

The U.S. Army/flickr

The Best Defense

10 things she isn’t going to do next year

In case you haven't been keeping up with The Steel Magnolias, a Fort Stewart, Georgia, newsletter, here's how a military wife handles the latest deployment of her husband -- the third year-long tour in Iraq -- with grace and humor. I am reprinting it here with her permission.

Ten Things I'm NOT Going To Do Next Year
By Jill Sanders Crider

It's been a looonnnggg year, again. For as much as I'm proud of my husband and excited about his impending return, I'm a little weary of this "solo act." I married my best friend because I loved him and I wanted to spend every day of the rest of my life with him. This "change of mission" hasn't always been easy or fun. With that in mind, I can't help but chuckle, albeit to myself and ONLY my closest of friends, as I think back to the times this past year that I've REALLY missed him… and not in the typical missed "anniversary or family holiday gathering, gee, I wish he was here" kind of way either! I get misty-eyed just thinking about the TEN THINGS I'M NOT GOING TO DO NEXT YEAR…

10. JUMPER CABLES. No more going out and hooking up the endlessly tangled, wiry, used-to be-black cables to the battery every time I want to drive the truck anywhere! As many times in my life that I've done the whole "red to red, black to black, wait for it, wait for it, let it run before disconnecting" ritual, I'm not going to have do it anymore. Of course, had I routinely and regularly driven the big honkin' beast of a machine, I would never have had to fool with it in the first place.

9. GARBAGE. No more letting the kitchen garbage can pile up until not one more thing will fit into it. No M'am… I'm going to make sure that stinkin' bag gets changed and removed every single day once he gets home! No more playing "JENGA" with the leaking milk carton on top of the cardboard soda can carrier over the 3 juice containers squashed up next to the Lunchable boxes! That goes double for dragging the industrial size waste container to the curb, in the rain, BEFORE the garbage truck shows up first thing in the morning!

8. DOG WALKING. No more jumbled up nylon ropes of leashes! I'm still going to walk my dogs, of course, it's just that I have THREE dogs and there has only been TWO of us to get the job done lately. It doesn't sound like a big deal I know, but that extra set of hands is going to come in handy because two of the dogs have never quite figured out HOW to walk on a leash properly. One pulls on the leash like he's plowing a cornfield the whole time and the other… well, it's like trying to walk a bowl of jello!

7. WEED EAT. First of all, please answer me this ONE question! Does a weed eater that doesn't break its line every 15 seconds EVEN exist? Gas, electric, battery… it doesn't matter, because I'm not going to have to worry about that either! In fact, if my darling husband likes the charm of my "English Garden" landscaping I've got going on in our backyard, I might just stick with it!

6. ARMADILLOS. That's right. No more Armadillos, or ground hogs, or pesky fire ants or even squeaky little squirrels to be dealt with by me! Oh, I'm certain there are still going to be regular sightings near and about my residence. However, I am not going to have to DVR the entire "Billy the Exterminator Marathon" to know how to get rid of them before they shred my internet and cable lines or chew up the computer harness in my new car or even ravage my delicate ankles as I prepare for one of my "Garden" parties. Helloooo… not my job anymore!

5. PINEWOOD. If you have a son, of any CUB SCOUTING age, the very word "PINEWOOD", strikes fear in your heart. It is absolutely mind-boggling what one can build (or not) out of PINEWOOD and RACE it. Heretofore, again, not my task this next year. I don't care if the finished product promises to be a Cessna CJ3 custom-built for me and my entire family, I am not going to be the one at Lowe's for a month of Saturday mornings listening intently to the "Man in the Blue Apron" tell me how to properly sand a block of wood into something remotely resembling a race car!

4. JIMMY BUFFET AND KENNY CHESNEY. No longer will I have to endure listening to those catchy little "beach-calling-my-name" melodies while I wish that I could just hop in the car and "drive til the map turns blue"… alone. HECK NO! I'm not going to have to do that even once! Because soon, I can endure listening while I wish I could hop in the car and "drive ‘til the map turns blue" WITH my husband. (Still gonna have to deal with that whole "Could you please just take a flippin' day off for a change?" issue, but hey, my JB will be cranked up so loud I won't hear what his response will be!)

3. LEAN CUISINE, WEIGHT WATCHERS AND DIGIORNO FOR ONE. I am so utterly over "SINGLE SERVING SIZE" in anything and everything that I could just SCREAM! Even what I believed to be the very last holdout; the very one I could always count on… Nope not anymore. Gone. Done. Over. End of an era. The Ben and Jerry's that I have so lovingly shared with mon'amour has finally caved to the mounting consumer demand for individual servings. Please tell me what is CHUNKY about a 3.2 ounce serving of MONKEY?! No more purchasing SINGLE-sized anything! From this moment on, it's going to be nothing but Stouffer's FAMILY DELUXE BUFFET and Banquets HUNGRY HUNGRY MAN dinners getting my money!

2. LUGGAGE. For those that already know me, this comes as no surprise. I DETEST carrying my own luggage. I am not going to do it. It's not that I'm incapable of it or that I'm "above" doing so. It's just such… a laborious PAIN. In the past year, I have gone from "Toting my Brightons" to "Hauling my Samsonites" from one end of this planet to the other! I loathed every second of it. I was in DC over the summer and daaaannnngggg if that bellman at The Willard Hotel didn't look like THE best thing I had seen in MANY, MANY months! Okay, okay, maybe it WAS the uniform… I do happen to LOVE A MAN IN UNIFORM, but the waaaay that fella' handily lifted and loaded my Louis Vuittons was downright breathtaking.

1. TAKE A SINGLE MOMENT FOR GRANTED. We've spent, yet another, year apart. We've both experienced things that have changed us individually. I've tried new things and visited new places… without my best friend. Our son, it seems, has grown at least a foot taller, has new friends, and new interests… all without his Dad. We have laughed and loved and cried… without him. My husband has missed all of that… even though I endeavored to include him and make him feel a part of it.... 6000 miles away from us. Long days have passed too slowly and lonely nights have seemed eternally long. But… I'm not going to do that this next year. From this point on, we're going to remember that every moment together is a true gift. One that we will never take for granted ever again.

Rich Anderson/flickr