I read a recent piece by Clarksville Online author Tom Paine which supports our soldiers overseas (as we all do) but which also suggests that leadership for those soldiers at the highest levels today is faulty, less than inspirational. It’s not the soldiers, it’s the policies (and national leadership) that are the problem.
In talking about the PBS series The War, the author says those World War II soldiers didn’t crab and complain and simply did their duty with honor and integrity, as our present soldiers are doing. In fact, they probably complained about heat and cold, rain and mud, and war in general, but they still held fast to their mission.
The difference between the two generations, as I see it, is that in that “great war” they were, first and foremost, fighting the right enemy in the right places for the right reasons. That greatest generation had leaders with integrity, leaders who had the ability to inspire, motivate and fuel cohesiveness within the country without the intrusiveness of a ‘sound bite press’ in need of shock value for the evening news, without the petty bickering, political sniping, corruption and intense jockeying for position that marks the current war. The greatest generation had some truly exceptional LEADERS and a common focus. A goal, and a plan to reach it that people could believe in. A plan for ‘aftercare’ that people could believe in. People will rally around what they believe in.
I no sooner finished Tom Paine’s article than I stumbled upon another that paraphrased a military commander saying he’s rather see his marines fighting on the killing fields in Iraq as they have been trained to do rather than staying home bored and “getting a DUI” stateside.
Still, “it’s a beautiful thing being in Iraq,” says one officer, “because you aren’t worrying about Corporal Jones stateside getting a DUI.” That is the durable voice of the Marine Corps, which is “first to fight,” and is happier when doing so than when dealing with garrison duties stateside or chores properly belonging to civilian agencies abroad.
— George Will, Washington Post Writer’s Group
That’s inspiring. Keep them killing, keep them away from home, and for heaven’s sake don’t let them loose at home on leave with a car.
I have every respect for the Marines and the work they are trained to do — they ARE the front lines in the worst of what the world has to dish out. They do what they are told, when they are told, where they are told. One of their commanders just insulted them publicly, and they will probably suck that up too.
To be honest, the gist of Will’s commentary is a message that marines have been trained as “expeditionary forces” who make the front raids and pave the way for other forces (civilian and military) to continue. They are not occupation forces. Will comments on the fact that perennial relentless tours of duty defined as ‘nation-building’ efforts are usually assigned to other military and civil factions. For the “first in” forces of the USMC, Iraq represents a change in job description. He’s right.
When I run through the comparisons between these generations, though, the tally on the balance sheet comes up short not on character but on mission and objective.
Those soldiers of the greatest war (WWII) knew what they were fighting for, who the bad guys were, and were committed to a greater global cause.
Vietnam came along and the lines blurred, the issues were muddied, and the plan simply didn’t work.
The first U.S. sojourn to Iraq was cut short and the game of pick-up sticks now underway in Iraq II is being fought without truth, without popular support, without a plan other than what is shaping up as endless occupation, without sound and consistent leadership, without a game plan that will conclude the conflict.
The greatest war left our soldiers and their families often bereft and grief stricken but with a sense of pride in their loved ones and a belief in their country’s leadership.
This Iraq sojourn has left our troops and their families overworked and overstressed, our country’s financial resources mired in indebtedness, our populace distrustful of government, and our soldiers paying the ultimate price of failed policy.
Give us a reason to stay in Iraq that we can believe in — or get us out.