Sunday, September 30, 2007

Unconditional Surrender

I've been watching the PBS series on World War II. It has seared in my mind what it must have been like living as family in the United States at that time, and suddenly your beloved children are called up to go to war in either the Asian or European spheres - in distant and foreign jungles filled with diseases and the the very high likelihood of combat and casualty.

What was especially interesting was the high body count in the major battles, both in Europe and in Asia - so great a number, that the government was able to hide them from the people. No blogs around then. No reporters to report in some of these places, or if they did, the reporters complied with government censoring. But the body counts were in the thousands per day! Not thousands per four to five years, though any number, large or small, is tragic.

And mistakes were made by the leadership - political and military - that cost men's lives, and thousands of them. The commander over the battle at Anzio, which could have been a huge success for us, hitting the enemy "where they ain't" as MacArthur would express, slowed his approach because he was very conservative (small c); but had he hit the ground running, the outcome would have been hugely different in terms of men's lives, and the length of the war.

When I consider the character of the nation then in comparison to today, I have to wonder why it is we do not have the patience and resolve to win. We simply want to turn our heads, mumble that war is bad, and that we don't want any part in it, even though we cannot control the circumstance.

And there is new hope that we are and can win this war in Iraq, and it has a lot to do with the strategy on the ground that is allowing sufficient backbone for an eventual political solution as well, here described in a recent WSJ Op Ed.

When President Roosevelt announced that America would not accept anything less than full and unconditional surrender of the enemy, this too got me thinking about our circumstances today. This is exactly where there has been a failure of leadership. We need the bully pulpit of the presidency to be touting the same idea - we want nothing less than the full and unconditional surrender by Al Qaida. That's what we need to aim for; that's what we need to fight for.

Let's put history to work for us for as George Santayana said, for those who do not regard history are destined to repeat its mistakes.

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