20 December 2007

Victory is an orphan

Victor Davis Hansen on impatience, historical amnesia, and the juvenile demand for perfection.

[M]ore likely the American public, not the timeless nature of war, has changed.

We no longer easily accept human imperfections. We care less about correcting problems than assessing blame — in postmodern America it is defeat that has a thousand fathers, while the notion of victory is an orphan.

We fail to assume that the enemy makes as many mistakes but addresses them less skillfully. We do not acknowledge the role of fate and chance in war, which sometimes upsets our best endeavors.

Most importantly we are not fixed on victory as the only acceptable outcome.

What are the causes of this radically different attitude toward military culpability?

An affluent, leisured society has adopted a therapeutic and managerial rather than tragic view of human experience — as if war should be controllable through proper counseling or a sound business plan.

We take for granted our ability to talk on cell phones to someone in Cameroon or select from 500 cable channels; so too we expect Saddam instantly gone, Jeffersonian democracy up and running reliably, and the Iraqi economy growing like Dubai's in a few seasons. If not, then someone must be blamed for ignorance, malfeasance, or inhumanity.

It is as though we expect contemporary war to be waged in accordance with warranties, law suits, and product recalls, and adjudicated by judges and lawyers in stale courtrooms rather than won or lost by often emotional youth in the filth, confusion, and barbarity of the battlefield.

This excellent essay offers some important reminders from the past, putting the state of our current conflicts into much-needed historical perspective.

H/t Power Line

Update: In semi-related news, this couldn't have happened to a nicer guy: (via CDR Salamander at Milblogs)
After months of congressional pressure, the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General has opened an investigation of an Army general who tried to bring murder charges against U.S. troops. ...

"I am troubled by the premeditated-murder charges levied against Master Sergeant Troy Anderson and Captain Dave Staffel" of Special Forces, said Mr. Jones, in an October letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. "Based on his own statements, Lieutenant General Frank Kearney directed that charges be brought against these two American heroes despite the fact that the two soldiers were exonerated by the Army's Criminal Investigation Command." ...

The three-star general angered many Army Special Forces and Marine Special Operations Command members when he tried twice to bring legal actions against U.S. forces.

Whether Lt Gen Kearney's motives were personal or based on the aforementioned unrealistic expectations of perfectionism and PC-ness in war, as a good friend of mine quipped last night, "Nothing is quite so difficult to watch as a big organization with a very big ass trying to cover it."

Good to see that people are waking up to the fact that some of these CYA, kneejerk reactions can be legally considered "overreach".

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