CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

centuries of policy, damned good policy. Throwing it all away is nothing

short of idiotic!”

“If I may, Mr. Waring?” Heideman cut in. “Admiral, we all know your

views. You’ve expressed them often enough, and loudly enough, for all of

us to know where you stand. But this is a political decision, not a

military one.”

“It means putting more American servicemen in harm’s way, Mr.

Secretary,” Scott said. “And that is always a military decision,

regardless of the politics involved.”

“Damn it, Scott, this perennial foot-dragging is getting damned old!”

Gordon West, the White House Chief of Staff, exploded. “If you can’t get

with the program, for God’s sake, at least get out of the way so the

rest of us can do something constructive for a change!”

“Take it easy, Gordon,” the Security Adviser said. “I invited his

opinion, and he gave it. We have enough hot spots around the world

without turning the Cabinet Room into another one, okay?”

West didn’t answer, but he visibly controlled his temper and settled

back in his seat. The other presidential advisers gathered around the

long oak table relaxed, but there was still an air of tension in the

room. After nearly two years of this administration, quarrels like this

one were an almost routine part of any foreign policy meeting. This one,

though, had all the earmarks of a really serious fight–the kind that

ended in resignations offered and accepted, and in Senate hearings over

new nominees for top-level government posts.

It wouldn’t be the first time, either, Magruder thought as he glanced

around the table. As a matter of fact, Admiral Scott wouldn’t have been

quite so touchy if it hadn’t been for the last such argument, the one

that had led to the resignation of Secretary of Defense Vane six months

previously. Vane had always backed his military experts when it came to

questions of foreign policy and American power projection, but those

days were gone now. Scott wasn’t exactly a lone voice in the wilderness,

but sometimes it must have seemed that way to the man. It couldn’t be

easy working for the new secretary.

Magruder’s eyes rested on Secretary of Defense Samantha Reed, former

congresswoman from California, one-time member of the House Armed

Services Committee, and powerful friend to the feminist left and

champion of a liberal social agenda. Her appointment to the Cabinet had

barely squeaked through the required Senate approval process despite the

political pressures that made it all but impossible for many senators to

vote against her. The nomination of the first woman ever considered for

a powerhouse Cabinet position like Defense was one of those historic

moments for women everywhere, and headline-conscious politicians weren’t

about to go on record as voting against the tide of history. Too many of

them remembered the “They just don’t get it” mentality engendered in the

early ’90s by incidents like the Anita Hill allegations against Clarence

Thomas, and the fight over the retirement of Admiral Frank Kelso, the

Navy Secretary who had presided over the Tailhook scandal.

Even so, the vote to confirm her in her new position had been a close


Tall, dignified, and with the experienced politician’s charm and ready

smile, Samantha Reed turned to face the President’s chief adviser. “Mr.

Waring,” she said. “As far as I can see, this could be an excellent

trade. We remove a potentially dangerous military force from the Crimea,

and the UN moves in and takes charge. The UN’s prestige is enhanced as a

world peacekeeper. I don’t need to remind anyone here that the American

public is not enthusiastic about our becoming the world’s policeman, do


“Madam Secretary,” Scott said. “With all due respect, where’s the

difference? If our military is policing the world as a part of U.S.

foreign policy or at the behest of the United Nations, we’re still

footing the bill.”

“Not at all, Admiral,” she replied, her voice silk-smooth behind a

glacial smile. “The UN would pay the costs of the deployment. A share of

that is ours, of course, ultimately, but it won’t be as though the

American taxpayer is shouldering the entire burden.”

“The bill I was referring to, Madam Secretary, was the butcher’s bill.

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