About a week ago, the Washington Times ran a piece by Major Daniel L. Davis entitled “The battle of ideas: US losing in recent years.” Before attacking the many foolish points in this article, let me emphasize—if this is even necessary—that one can be a gallant soldier and still be clueless in other areas.
Davis’ thesis is that we are failing on the psychological battlefield, and this portends losses on the physical battlefield. He starts off by quoting a certain Lt. General Peter Chiarelli, who notes that only 40% of winning a war is based on the “kinetic fighting,” in which we excel, but 60% is predicated on winning the battle of ideas. Chiarelli advises us to:
“Look at our enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is cutting people’s heads off, murdering women and children, blowing up religious sites—and yet we say he is winning the information war? That’s got to change.”
Presumably, although “winning the information war” is conveniently never defined, the tone of the article implies that it is related to some notion of restoring admiration and respect for America in the minds of people across the world. He reasons that our flagging reputation is based on our “pride, arrogance, and hubris.” However, this concept is specious and absurd.
In what manner can a foreigner can respect and admire a country? Should he admire portions of its culture, its politicians, its people, its fast-food restaurants, its health care system, or its sports teams? Moreover, what benefit does any particular American citizen derive if some guy from Holland respects and admires America?
But, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Suppose a certain proportion of Iraqis really respect and admire America, but if they say so, and attempt to help us, they will be killed by insurgents. Oh, wait, that has already happened—many times. In fact, there are more than a few stories of Iraqis who risked their lives to help us and pursued official channels to do so, and who were not only rebuffed by American authorities, they DID end up getting killed.
Does Davis not remember how we blew off thousands of Vietnamese civilians, who respected and admired Americans? Perhaps Davis has been in the bureaucratized military too long, and chooses to believe its spin on history…
“There was a time in the not-too-distant past when America possessed considerable admiration and respect in the minds of people across the world.”
Gosh Major, when was that? Was it when we bailed out Kuwait, and they hated us 10 minutes later? Was it when we saved victims of massive tsunamis, a disproportionate number of whom were wearing Al-Qaeda t-shirts? Was it when there were worldwide demonstrations against the Vietnam war? Was it when we teamed up with the Russians in a war whose principal outcome was that it kept the world safe for Communism for another 44 years?
Please don’t tell me it was when those French women embraced our GI’s upon liberation. Even then, we were feared and resented—and we still are. How quickly the French, with their large army, succumbed to the Germans in WWII; how rapidly the British went socialist. Can you just feel the warmth?
Ironically, Chiarelli misses the grander point of his own statement. The other side is ruthless and brutal beyond reason, but our side has imposed rules of engagement that virtually guarantee failure. Osama bin Laden can elude capture forever, if he surrounds himself with sympathetic “innocent” civilians, and we are afraid of inflicting any collateral damage. One would have thought we had learned this lesson in Vietnam.
Sorry Major, but arrogance and pride have nothing to do with. Our leadership does not believe in anything, our country does not stand for anything, and even if it did, we don’t have the courage of our convictions to follow through. That is the model created by LBJ, and it’s been used by every one of his successors.
We killed the messenger with Joe McCarthy, and it has been downhill ever since. Full marks for noticing the decline, but smarten up on the reasons why.