COMMENTARY: I guess it’s just human nature for people to want to elbow their way to a microphone and declare failure, especially when it comes to wars and military actions. Over the years we have observed notables including such opposites as Bill O’Reilly and Harry Reid, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, along with various activists, celebrities, and wanna-be public figures relishing the opportunity to shape a miserable narrative of defeat to describe our post 9-11 fight.
It has become fashionable, even socially requisite, to agree that the Iraq war “was” (a bad selection of terms since we are building up troop strength there) a mistake.
For those who rose to the occasion to serve their country, it is a kick in the gut, but political opportunists see only a military adventure they are bored with and therefore decry, and a convenient point of view the gullible in our society swallow as easily digested political judgment requiring no critical thought.
The September 2001 attack was intended to tear into and tear down America’s economic and military confidence, and its essential leadership position in the world. Instead of recoiling, America responded. Regardless of retrospective arguments over justification of entry or exit, and regardless of how the strategies and tactics were eventually diluted by micromanaging political amateurs, one lesson was made clear — at least back then — in the minds of strongmen and heads of state, especially in the Middle East: Don’t mess with us. Things will change, and leaders will fall.
“Mistake” is a qualitative term that changes on the whim of the political winds, and appears on a misplaced template a dozen years after the fact. It is also a term that savagely cuts the hearts of men and women who literally and figuratively cradled perishing warriors in their arms, and came home guilty and lost because it was someone closer than a brother who died and not them.
The term tears at the souls of families who gave up their own and whose emptiness will now never quite be filled. They all stepped up and became the agents of change, a change we mandated, and that term’s knife of hypocrisy goes deep into the back of those who answer the call, face the enemy, and win time and again, no matter the odds, no matter the mission.
It is an arena that has no room for perfidious musings being passed off as opinions by people of the kind Theodore Roosevelt referred to as those “cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
The word “mistake” means nothing when it is applied to the past by the self-righteous, whether a presidential candidate (both D and R) ducking and dodging to reposition for political advantage, a celebrity vainly attempting to display sophistication, an activist rudely seeking attention, or just a reader of this column.
None of us today, whether a president, or a candidate, or anyone else, can legitimately pontificate on the subject and pinpoint blame on someone in the other political party. It is empty rhetoric with no purpose.
Anyone tempted by an opportunity to generally and arrogantly proclaim the Iraq war a mistake would do well to let the impulse pass, for today it is no more than a meaningless rant serving no end other than hearing one’s own voice, joining the rest of the chattering people who, in their self-absorbed babble, indifferently turn away from those who raised their hands and said “I’ll go.”
In his varied career, Myles C. Culbertson has been engaged in agriculture, banking, international trade, economic and technological development, regulation and law enforcement, and specialized projects for both industry and government. His history includes service as executive director of two state agencies, under four governors, addressing numerous domestic and international economic, regulatory, and resource issues. He is currently president of Myles Culbertson Partners LLC.