The Best Defense

Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week: Hunting for land mines in snowy Afghanistan

By Rebecca Frankel

Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

Winter Postcard:

Working at a clip on the snowy ground at Bragram Air Field is Drake, a mine detection dog, and his U.S. Army handler Sgt. Garret Grenier. This dog team (only doing training exercises in this photo taken on Jan. 8th) is part of the 49th Engineer Detachment and their job is to find buried explosives, specifically land mines.

U.S. Army Capt. Jeffrey Vlietstra, the officer-in-charge of the 49th Engineer Detachment, says that the original mission of these dogs that arrived in Afghanistan in 2004 was to find the mines on Bagram Air Field but that "eventually the program expanded and they started working in Kandahar" searching for IEDs.

"Our dog teams are the tip of the spear," Vlietstra explains. "Our engineers clear the way ahead of the maneuver force and our dog teams clear the routes to ensure their safety."

Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Atria Books in August 2013.

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake

The Best Defense

Did Obama end the Reagan revolution? Or did Bush kill it, and Obama bury it?

I was thinking over that question last night as I fell asleep at the Army War College, where I am visiting. I think one reason President Obama excites so much emotion is that he represents the end of the Reagan revolution.

Look at this way. FDR's New Deal lasted about four decades, until it began collapsing under President Carter. Then Reagan came along. In a nutshell, he inverted the New Deal: Government was not the answer, he said, it was part of the problem. He also began a massive transfer of wealth from the middle classes to the top 1 percent of our society. One reason he could do this is that he didn't get us into an expensive war.

In both cases, eventual successors from the other party lived with the work of their predecessors. Just as Eisenhower did not try to undo the New Deal, Clinton did not try to reverse the Reagan revolution.

I don't think Obama killed the Regan revolution. I think it was getting old -- it had lasted nearly three decades. But I think the Reagan influence effectively was killed by President Bush's lengthy Iraq war, which proved so expensive that it was no longer possible to transfer wealth to the rich at the Reagan-era rate without running up huge deficits.

Obama, I think, buried the corpse, especially with his second inaugural. Government, he is saying, often is part of the answer. I think people are ready to hear this. They don't mind paying taxes as long as they believe the results are concrete: fewer potholes, longer library hours, healthier kids -- and disaster relief for the victims of Sandy.