The Unforgiving Minute
By Hank Martin
I judge the two preeminent interviews that Rob has completed as of late, to be the ones with Michael Del Rosso and Jim Patterson. In both, the guests made it more than copiously clear, that in the face of America’s current narcissism, where we seem totally captivated with either money, (the economy), or sex, (the contraception debate), that during all of this, is the seemingly abject failure by most all of our elected representatives, to adequately address foreign policy. Or rather, the failure of the politicians to permit the military to do its job, and to hold sacrosanct, the concept that the one position that both sides of the political aisle will not attempt to intervene in, is in the regards to the prosecution of a conflict. “The unforgiving minute,” is a phrase from Kipling that referred to certain times in war when the collective will of a people or an army can without warning collapse – critical moments that must be capitalized on. Thanks to the feckless pantywaist policies of politicians, our enemies in the Middle East are capitalizing on that axiom making the United States continue to repeat the one grave mistake it can no longer afford. It must have an established code of conflict that is easy to understand and leaves little room for error, while maintaining great room for flexibility. It must allow our servicemen to do what they were trained to do, and not turn them into construction workers whose uniforms just happen to be desert camo and bullet proof vests. It must let them keep weapons in their hands, not handing out ice cream and watercolor paints. There is room for that no doubt, but for another party, another time, one that follows after the men who’ve completed the call of front line duties. However, this approach to armed conflict seems to run deep in our history, regrettably.
America was still getting itself together when WWI broke out. Then, as now, there were those that falsely believed that if America just acted helpless, and simply kept a small standing army and navy, with little in the way of munitions, we would somehow receive a pass from the rest of the world. We were a little late to the party, taking three years and nine months for congress to take action, and only after seven of our ships were sunk by German submarines. Playing catch up, we were sending 10,000 G.I’s abroad everyday, and saved the day. Regardless of the warning of members of the military to the contrary, America was prepared to hammer its swords into plow shears, and once again rely upon the false notion that the “war to end all wars” had actually been fought. The military had to beg and plead to keep itself as strong as it was, when the eyes of the pacifists were once again awakened on the sleepy Sunday morning of December 7, 1941. Certainly there has been enough written and discussed, that it need not be reiterated here. However, the one thing that should be recognized is how “politics” began creeping into the manner in which we prosecuted that war. To some degree it was orchestrated out so that all of the allies were allowed to share in moments of glory. Much to the chagrin of men like Patton, who had to stop his advance into Germany, so that his fuel could be diverted to Montgomery, in order to allow him to catch up. Eisenhower angered a lot of our military leaders by failing to let the military do its job, and get it over with. Many have speculated that WWII in Europe could have ended many months earlier, had we heeded the advice of the professionals. We spent a lot of time and money fighting the cold war with the Russians, after again, failing to heed the advice of our military leaders, who warned of the dangers of not taking Prague, or Berlin, before the Russian’s could get there. History has written the correct but unheeded prophecies of those men.
The Korean War, or police action as well as Vietnam equally show the vain waste of human life, when the military is wrongly bridled with feckless policies of opinion poll driven politicians. This criticism is not pointed at any one political party. It matters not to me whether you are a democrat, republican, independent, etc. If you, who represents WE THE PEOPLE, are willing to send our soldiers into hostile territory, then it is incumbent to know what it is you want done beforehand. Having listened to the two interviews, it seems abundantly clear, that senators and congressmen should be required to attend a through briefing by the joint chiefs, so that they quickly and completely comprehend the threats from abroad, that WE THE PEOPLE, expect to be protected from. After which, it seems cogent for a code of conflict to be formulated given those threat assessments and understandings.
What then should be those understandings? First and foremost, everyone in a suit and tie should know what General Leonard Wood stated concerning the purpose of an army. “The purpose of an army is to fight!” The second point is to realize that of paramount importance is to make the number one goal of our actions, to be the defeat or destruction of our enemies. All other actions, no matter how well intentioned or noble they may be, are secondary, and must never conflict with the first goal. Thirdly, the goal must not require infinite resources, human nor financial, and twenty-year time lines to accomplish. Fourthly, our code of conflict can not nor should not be designed with the notion of political correctness in mind. It can not be drafted in order to make ivory tower elites or media personalities happy. It has to be predicated upon the notion of winning conflicts in the fastest manner possible, at the greatest cost to the enemy, and the least cost to us. It is understanding that all the hardware that has been developed, has been for that to transpire effectively and efficiently.
Our civilian leaders seem not to understand the nature of our enemy. Our “war on terror” is a misnomer. There has never been a war against a method, which was effectively fought and won. We are no more in a war against terror than our servicemen were in a war on “ Zero’s,” or “ U-Boats” or “Panzer tanks.” If we are to be gravely straightforward with ourselves, we would recognize that we are at war with Islamic fascists, more often than not from the Middle East, who have played on the frustrations of customarily regularly male, jobless young people, whose autocratic governments are unable to provide the conditions for decent employment and family life. A tiny group of Islamists appeals to the anxiety of the disaffected through a reflective and intransigent turn to a fabled Caliphate, in which religious purity trumps the material advantages of a decadent West and protects Islamic youth from the contamination of far-off technology and insidious ideas. Millions within the Islamic world daily scrutinize the West’s struggle against Islamic fascism. Somewhere within the recesses of their being, they perhaps would prefer, understandably so, and with some idealism, to live under Western-style freedom and democratic auspices. Their inability to let go I believe, is partly due to nationalistic, and religious reasons that has created an ethnic solidarity in this war, which ultimately seems to produce far greater resentment against a powerful America, even though it is America’s power that can bring the very freedom that the Arabs for decades, have declared they wished for. Correct code of conflict would not be bothered by such inconsistency. Rather it would make sure that it had not only overwhelmed the terrorists and their cohorts, but had done so in such destructive fashion that none in the Middle East might find such a repugnant cause at all romantic, bringing as it did utter ruin as the wage of the wrath of the United States. Therein has been the problem in allowing the empty suits to overrule the professional soldier. We always seem to stop short of fully achieving our objective. Politicians should formulate their plans first. Work out the details, and agree on what they want the end scenario to look like. Once they have done that, give it to the Joint-Chiefs, and then get the heck out of the way. But instead, suits with no skin in the game will flap in the breeze of public opinion, allowing the winds of conflict to blow in unnecessary chaos.
No doubt, given the recent turn of events in Afghanistan, an august body of men will gather together to formulate a new and revised code of conflict. One group will have experience, wisdom garnered from blood stained service, and braid upon their sleeves. The others will be in three-piece suits, checking their face book accounts, current public opinion polls, and scheduling meetings with their lobbyists. Mean while, our enemies are quietly gathering together, licking their collective chops, awaiting our “unforgiving minute.” That minute may come only when the spoiled and lazy elitists and the subculture of dualists they have spawned that keeps government ever growing, all suddenly find they have no power to their various entertainment devices, and see the headline news declaring that a couple of million people have just been vaporized. I pray not, but it is possible.
With a father who was a veteran of WWII and Korea, I grew up in American Legion Halls and VFW Posts, both here and in North Carolina. I’ve heard war stories that will never be made into motion pictures by Tom Hanks or Stephen Speilberg. The one fact I can count on, is that noble young citizens will always be asked, and will be ready to risk their lives for our country. They should not be expected to die for a code of conflict crafted in ignorance and forged in political correctness.