Friday, January 16, 2009

Our Commander-in-Chief, Too

From NRO:

Conservative vets will give Obama the chance Democrats denied Bush
...The slow erosion of a “country first” ethos—prominent in the politicization of some Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at home—comes at a high cost for the military, most significantly and consequentially in the eyes of the general public. When politicized, the military becomes a predictable messenger for a partisan camp rather than a personal and passionate messenger for the best tactical and strategic national-security policy. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are ambassadors for the military and those still serving—and our actions shape public perceptions of our profession.As the famous military theorist Carl von Clausewitz once observed, “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” For our generation, the inverse of that statement—politics a continuation of war by other means—is also true. Some veterans, and others invested in America’s conflicts, have turned the policies of war overseas into a zero-sum political battlefield for public opinion at home.As conditions in Iraq deteriorated, any semblance of dispassionate advocacy on the war evaporated. Anti-war veterans' groups seized on the situation and Iraq became “George Bush’s war,” rather than our war. And when conditions worsened considerably, prospects for battlefield success became linked to disdain for President Bush. For many veterans, defiance of the commander-in-chief started to look like a duty.
I, too, was frustrated by the conduct of the war when I returned from Iraq in mid-2006, and advocated a new strategy. Had America continued a fundamentally flawed policy—at the cost of even more lives—I would have constructively opposed those who decided upon such a continuation. But with the new surge strategy, the opposite occurred. America changed course in Iraq, and the war turned around. The test of intellectual honesty was thrust into the laps of those veterans who, nonetheless, continued to call the war a failure. Too many failed the test. Success on the ground in Iraq was politically damaging to their cause, and those veterans—aligned with many Democrats—ceaselessly took shots at President Bush, willing to sink the chances for their comrades in arms in order to sully a Republican president....(more)

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