Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back When America Played To Win

How long has it been since the USA declared to the world that “If We’re In, We Win”?

World War II in the Forties? Has it really been that long?

We gave up thousands of war dead in Korea and settled for a partition. We gave up thousands more dead in Vietnam and then snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory when we lost our political will. We learned that victory on the battlefield was irrelevant. It's all about the politics, and what the elected leaders state as the end objective. And what an expensive lesson that was. And still is.

Colin Powell famously said of Iraq’s infamously inept Republican Guard that “we’re going to cut them off, then we’re going to kill them.” But we didn’t finish. We left the job for what turned out to be another day, where Harry Reid later declared before the surge offensive that the war was lost. And, it seems, he was perfectly okay with it. You win some; you lose some (yawn). Let’s be frank: It’s the real world out there, people. What’s for dinner?

Now we’ve got Libya. It is, we’re told, a humanitarian mission. And we haven’t officially taken sides (of course not; that would be judgmental). The adversaries are seen by the civilized world as the good guys (the rebels) and the bad guys (Gaddafi’s thugs). Gaddafi has a history of killing Americans. But somehow he’s still alive and making mischief. So now we’ve sent American warplanes and launched dozens of missile and drone strikes to kill and maim lots of people and destroy tons of equipment in a non-partisan act of humanitarian ecstasy. Can’t you feel the love? So, if there are no further questions, let’s get back to feeling good about ourselves. But wait—I thought what our sailors and Marines are doing to help our Japanese friends was humanitarian. Or what we did to help out Haiti.

Hey, we have to be careful with American power and how it’s perceived. It’s complicated and nuanced out there. We could offend someone who otherwise wants to blow us into misty pink particles.

What about getting in to win or not getting in at all? I’m not for committing American troops to Libya or anywhere else where the explicitly stated and expected outcome is something other than victory. We win; they lose. It’s ain’t complicated. No ad-hoc “humanitarian” missions that reveal an astonishing amateurism in the very people who send our kids to war.

Thank God George Washington cared about winning. And Lincoln. And Roosevelt. And Petraeus has shown he can win if we’ll let him. But are we so ambivalent about winning or losing that we no longer look at the scoreboard? Is winning so macho, so yesterday? Is it now all about self esteem and image?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any of our young Americans in uniform put in harm’s way for any reason other than victory. No stalemates, no setting of arbitrary exit dates and then scampering home, no partitions, no humanitarian missions involving the use of deadly force as its primary tactic.

If we go, we go to win. And our men and women take their orders from American commanders. If not, then stay out.

And leave Libya to the French.

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