Skip to comments.In good company...
Posted on 02/26/2005 2:59:11 PM PST by pickrell
As the President wraps up his sojuorn into the land of the Hittites, we are left to wonder about the concept of command responsibility.
Some history buffs are no fans of Dwight Eisenhower, our Supreme Allied Commander of World War Two, faulting him for allowing political considerations to interfere with military objectives. I've been guilty of that myself in the past. Now I have to revisit those thoughts. Maybe not to abandon them, but at least to take another thorough look.
Ike found that among his many difficulties coordinating a retaking of Europe, an annoying weed called Charles DeGaulle kept popping up. This frenchman, slumming it in England, seemed to have an endless list of demands but few resources of his own. One of the most telling of those "resources" surfaced as our troops went ashore in North Africa. There, the Vichy french troops treacherously opened fire on our forces, killing and wounding many of the men who came from across the water to liberate them.
Our forces held fire at first, believing that it was all a mistaken case of friendly fire. They soon understood that they were wrong.
They were facing a new sort of mindset, that I would steal a phrase to label "Old Europe". After we finally opened up on them, and they sorted out among themselves who was the big dog on the beach that day... they came to the conclusion that they were our long beloved friends after all, and threw down their weapons. It was a familiar reflex for them.
It was then that we knew.
Degaulle could demand that Eisenhower stall the entry of Allied forces into Paris, so that the "Free French" could don their parade ground uniforms and hurry to the front to be first to enter the city. The implication was clear. We can't help with the fighting since we aren't constructed like Americans, but we have treachery refined to an artform.
If you don't secumb to our demands, we can't be responsible if the persons you come to liberate turn on you and join their German masters. Afterwards they will surrender of course, but how many American troops will die because we "just couldn't seem to convince our people in time ... not to shoot a few Americans first?" We risked that the delay would buy time for the Germans to hot-foot it back across the border and stiffen defenses there. But more casualties here among the "friendly" natives would weaken perhaps not our troops numbers... so much as their resolve.
Americans instinctively fight harder to free those who weren't born with flat spots on their knees. Kneeling is something we only do to one Lord.
I suspect that to Eisenhower, the thought of those pointless deaths were so anathema that he forced himself to treat with that... Frenchman. The mission was paramount, but any G.I. deaths that could be avoided by Ike forcing back his disgust, would be his duty as he saw it. Many of us might disagree. Many of us also weren't on the front lines those days when one had to be alert not only for for German uniforms, but also for the Waffen SS frenchman in civilian clothes. I suspect that I will no longer be so assured as to judge a commander who must deal with the unsavory, while fighting his way through the merely evil.
After all, watching our performance at Kasserine pass in the early stages of the war, the British soon muttered to themselves about the Americans being "...our Italians...". War is a tough brutal thing and mistakes will be made. Our parents and grandparents gathered themselves back together and steeled themselves to a hellish task. They must have spit at the thought of the Europeans who joined their masters' forces and served at their feet.
And so now Mr. Chirac, the most recent reincarnation of the Vichy, demands of the President of the United States that, though the French were not only absent from the fight to begin excising evil from the Middle East, but were instead actively working against us before, during, and after the fact, the French and their cronies on the continent must nonetheless be allowed to parade magnificently through Baghdad.
After all of that dangerous dying business is all over, of course.
French businessmen who sold weaponry and materials to madmen in Iraq have lost their markets. Further alarming them is the recent tilt of Iran away from their European collaborators and towards China. It's not that the Iranians have any illusion about the Europeans contracting a sudden case of contrition, realizing that all of their duplicity was responsible for so many deaths.
Rather, it's just starkly apparent to the Iranians that only China will have the muscle to shield them in the future. After all, the Europeans demonstrably can't deter the Americans from toppling madmen... but the Chinese may be a different breed of cat altogether, since Hazel O'Leary was so helpful to them last decade in solving their warhead miniaturization and guidance problems.
The Europeans, who haven't quite grasped yet that the tide has turned, still hope to use a now non-existent trade monopoly with the Iranians to dissuade them from the Balrog of nuclear weapons.
Those who are smart enough to wait until the cameras have been gently but firmly removed from Tienamen square, before crushing under their own malcontents, demonstrate the cunning and ruthlessness, the viciousness and the power, to dance with the Mad Mullahs of Mordor. The Europeans were merely blind dates found wanting.
The Europeans simply couldn't see that Iraq wasn't a replay of Vietnam, as Ted Kennedy wanted to portray it, and willed it to be. Those who want to master the future... need to study the past. Iraq wasn't a replay of Vietnam- it was a replay of Guadalcanal, as many of us have been warning all along.
There was a huge difference.
In World War Two in the Pacific, the tide of the war changed not at Midway, but at Guadalcanal. Midway pitted strategy and airpower against sailing vessels serving as mobile airfields. It set up the real contest, that of Guadalcanal.
Guadalcanal pitted the gritty determination of ill equipped U.S. Marines against a boogeyman that the world trembled in front of. Earlier British General Percival had surrendered his 120,000 man force at Singapore to an oncoming 70,000 man force of Japanese soldiers. It wasn't because Percival was a bad man, it was because the mystique of the invincible Japanese soldier had not been broken.
At Guadalcanal, bayonet met bone, and the code of the samurai wilted under the unflinching steel dealt out by teams of men uninclined to surrender. At that "island of death", as it came to be known by the Japanese, the myth was shattered.
Further, it became a trap for the soldiers wearing the Imperial Chrysanthemum. They couldn't abandon the island to the Americans. In the words of their commander, "From now on, the eyes of the whole world will be upon this island. We must not expect to return, not even one man, until victory has been won for the Emperor. You must show the hard qualities as of steel or of rock." More and more Imperial soldiers were poured into that island by the "Tokyo Express". It was a border that we couldn't seal, and in places of top strategy didn't want to very badly. It drew the bad guys in to where we were set to deal with them, rather than Hawaii... or California- at a time of our choosing, rather than theirs.
They took their attentions away from the threats that they could have posed to anywhere in the entire Pacific and to our entire west coast, and were neatly locked into sending their kamikazis to oblivion on Guadalcanal. The cream of their fanatics died there, having been neatly ensnared by the Marine core equivalent of saying in front of the world, "...bring it on...".
When the Marines won, and the shattered remnants of the Japanese retreated from that island in the dead of night, it began a long trail of defeats that ended the threat forever in the Pacific.
The mystique was shattered, and we knew then that we could win. It didn't mean that the battles were over- it just meant Mission Accomplished. That mission. That fight. But the spirits of the men who would have to fight the rest of the war had been bouyed up immeasurably.
So in Iraq have the Marines once again stood, "insufficient in number to do the job", "in a coalition of the coerced and the bribed", "immersed in a quagmire, unsupported by the indigenous people", in the quest to bring a vote to "the inhabitants of that hopeless land", and break the hold of evil.
And once again because of their courage, (aided by the ever-steadfast and perceptive Australians, who themselves once faced the threat of the Imperial Japanese soldier, and aided by the Poles, the Brits and a few others), they have turned the tide.
The French think that all men inside are really as craven as they are. Or at least hope that they are. You tend to ascribe your worst opinion about yourselves to other men. You wait until the storm passes, crawl out of the tall grass, and then look for a lever to try to control events.
The Americans can't believe that so many men can be as craven as they seem. Or at least hope that they aren't. They tend to ascribe their best aspirations to all men. They see the storm coming and prepare to protect those who are helpless in front of it.
The war isn't over, and great perils still face the nation.
But a group of men have written their names beside Chesty Puller, John Basilone and those men who handed a chance for a future back to the world, in 1942. My God, I'd be proud to have been one of either team.
They are in good company.
But leadership matters, and a determination that we will not kneel seems to be a particular American failing, as I read the world press. At least infecting that "cowboy" President of ours.
How odd they will feel, if once again, after America takes action, the world has another chance. How regrettable it will be that all of their "help" in this cleansing... will be a matter of public record.
When it can't be denied or ignored that Afghanistan's women are no longer property, Iraq's children learn to read, Libya's citizens no longer wait for the nuclear retaliatory strike, the Palestinians have homes to go to, the Israeli hospitals have more need for Ob/Gyns than trauma surgeons... will the "Guardian" still assure the world that the Americans are the greatest threat around?
It is in times like these that we need to remember which nations and which men stood with us... and which hid instead in the tall grass. If diplomacy requires that our President tries to show them a way out of the trap they have dug for themselves, than we must hold our noses, and be glad that such a distasteful yet necessary task falls to a man prepared for hard things, and who values results more than "approval" by the world media.
Still, after the Americans, at the cost of some many of our best young lives, have finished removing the threat of world-wide religious warfare from the world's cities, will it be safe then, to demand that the United States forces be subject to the direction of the French?
Or will they insist that the rapists in the United Nations peacekeeping force be the ones they want instead, to help them look for and feed tsunami victims, and guard their daughters?
Which men in uniform will they consider good company?
Well said! Applause!
When Eisenhower let de Gaulle march triumphantly into Paris, the only alternative might have been to occupy France as we did Germany, until we straightened them out by force. We could hardly spare the troops to do so, with Germany still unconquered.
The problem was that half the French at that time were Nazi collaborationists, and the other half were Communists. If De Gaulle did nothing else, he prevented France from slipping into the Communist orbit, which they might easily have done in the years after the war. Italy and Greece were in similar peril.
"Retreat hell! we just got here!"
Well written article Mr. Pickrell, and right on target.
You hit it precisely on the head. It will always be easy for the network talking heads to solve problems "better", after someone has already solved them. As they sniff and look down their noses at "mistakes" made in Iraq, they hope to divert people's attention from the aid and comfort they, the "network heroes", provided to that same enemy during the darkest periods. But if we don't teach our children just what you've pointed out, that sometimes you have to work with bad people, to stop even worse people, from hurting other people whom you may never even meet... then the odds are much greater that those children will have to once again face the steel and the fire.