Friday, October 22, 2004

THIS KIND OF SUMS UP WHY KERRY DOES NOT GET IT

He never has gotten it. He didn't get it in Viet Nam, the Gulf War, Bosnia, Afghanistan or Iraq.

What is "it"?

This e-mail from a soldier to Andrew Sullivan sums it up far better than anything I've read from the most astute analysts and pundits:

"I was stationed at a base (Al Taqqadum) South-West of Fallujah that we took over from the 82nd Airborne. Your writing about the Abu Graib prompted me write this. It is an explanation of why so many in the military favor Bush, even though we are the ones suffering the most because of his mistakes:

It is an old military maxim that blunders can be forgiven, but a lack of boldness cannot. There will always be blunders. The simple becomes difficult in war. Take for example the following question: what is 2+2 equal too? An easy question right? Now imagine I gave you 15 such questions and you had 2 seconds to answer them. Most likely you would answer some and leave the rest. Looking at those questions you missed in isolation I might say, "What kind of blathering idiot are you? You can't even answer simple questions like 2+2=4".

That is why Armchair Generals are so annoying. They look at one thing in isolation with all the time in the world to think about it and say confidently "the answers obvious". But when you are out in the fight everything looks different. Nothing is ever seen in isolation. You never have enough time. You never know more than 1/10 what you need to know. There will always be blunders.But the job has to get done anyway. And to get this kind of job done boldness is essential.

A leader who never blunders, but who doesn't take the fight to the enemy is worthless.

A leader who sets about to win - win ugly if needs be - is priceless.

One thing the Marine Corps taught me is that a 70% solution acted on immediately and violently is better than a perfect solution acted on later. My experience has proven this true time and again. The sad fact is however, that a 70% solution is a 30% mistake. And those mistakes can be hard to take. In WWII for example, 700 soldiers drowned in a training accident in preparation for D-Day (that is about how many combat deaths we've experienced so far in Iraq). (NOTE: the balance of the over 1,000 deaths were non-combat related.)

There is a scene in the movie "We Were Soldiers" that says it better than I can. In the scene a young soldier on the ground is giving directions on enemy positions to aircraft flying overhead. The aircraft then dropped Napalm on the enemy. At one point the soldier gets the directions wrong and stares horrified as the Napalm is dropped on his own unit. The soldier is shaken beyond belief. He sat there doing nothing - paralyzed by his mistake. Then his Commanding Officer gave him the confidence to carry on. The CO told him to "forget about that last one" and "you're keeping us alive here". And so the soldier swallowed his guilt and kept doing his job and thereby saved the unit.

That is what a 70% solution looks like in real life. And those are the 70% solutions that win wars.Most people and events are beyond your control. Most questions you don't have time to answer. Most facts you will never know. But you have to press the attack anyway. No matter how ugly it gets, you keep going until you win.

Kerry doesn't understand that. Everything he did during the Cold War and everything he says about this one states as much. He represents those who would never blunder, but who would not take the fight to the enemy. He would just sit there - like the soldier in the movie - paralyzed by America's mistakes."

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