Monday, May 31, 2004

On this Memorial Day The day in which we remember the heroism and sacrifice of those individuals of commonality called upon to do great and noble things, i.e. the American Soldier, it is good to remember their heroism. But it is also right to remember that not always has their sacrifice been done under the auspices of heroic leadership. Oh, it often has...for example we approach the sixtieth anniversary of a Kansas farmboy looking across the channel at sketchy weather reports when the destiny of the war was in his hands and made the call by saying "OK, we'll go". But even the great leadership of an Eisenhower, still, as he would be the first to admit, ultimately comes down to the heroic efforts of the everyday soldier. But let us also remember that like all soldiers throughout history American Troops have also been led by men who were outclassed, or out of their depth as commanders. For every Washington there is a Gates, for every Sherman a Burnside, the United States had its share of amateur and political generals that caused needless and wasteful deaths. The rise of the merit system in government, had a side bonus of also improving greatly the class of military leaders, as was amply demonstrated in the Second World War, though this has its shortcomings too, it is a far sight better than having a Dan Sickles commanding troops. Now it is the political leadership that determines, as always, whether to spill the blood of our soldiers. The general competency of the military leadership is a given, the causes upon which they are sent, however, remain in doubt. While the United States won in Mexico and in Cuba, the political wisdom remains in question. When political incompetency asks for the impossible, military competency will matter only in minimizing the losses. Such was the case in Vietnam and now such in the case in Iraq. So on this Memorial Day, I pay tribute to those soldiers, stationed around the world and who, though afflicted by the faults and short-comings of us all, nonetheless by and large do their duty. But to those leaders in our history that have asked for the last full measure of their devotion, in the name of faulty and ill-fated quests, I acclaim them not.
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