I like Pete Wehner’s writing a lot. I don’t always agree with him, but I often do, and I always enjoy the way in which he develops his ideas. This column, about the post-Vietnamesque horrors that Obama is cheerily planning for Afghanistan (although I’d say the Taliban will be even more savage than the North Vietnamese) is a perfect example of Wehner at his best.
When I read about Obama’s drawing down troops so that he’d send tens of thousands home right before the election, I said that I didn’t think this would make the troops vote for him. Barry Rubin kindly pointed out that the calculation wasn’t to get troop votes, but to get votes from his antiwar base. Barry’s right, of course. That’s obviously Obama’s calculation.
What I’ve been wondering is how I managed to get it so bass-ackwards. I’m usually at least slightly more astute than that. I think it’s because my instinct is that, when push comes to shove, the anti-war crowd is going to vote for Obama regardless. After all, despite his getting us into a third war, and one that was unnecessary for promoting America’s interests (although withdrawing early from that one will be yet another black eye on America), Obama’s base has not taken to the streets. They may grumble, but they’re not using war as a means to undermine his presidency.
These Leftist voters are going to support the Obama “package” no matter what. While a few may be one issue nutroots, with their issue being the war in Afghanistan, the vast majority are true Progressive believers. They may decry the war, but they’ll still go with the guy who hits all the other sweet spots: Big Government, abortion, climate change, bows to dictators, etc.. There is no way in Hell that they will abandon that package in favor of a conservative candidate. In other words, whether Obama leaves troops in Afghanistan, or withdraws them despite all military advice, his decision will not change what the base does.
As for the non-base, meaning the mushy Democrats and the disengaged Independents, even those who don’t like Afghanistan aren’t going to change their vote based upon a troop draw-down. These people are looking at the economy. If it’s good, they might vote for Obama; if it’s bad, they won’t. The numbers in Afghanistan will be irrelevant to that calculation.
In other words, withdrawing the troops from Afghanistan puts Americans in harm’s way for no good reason. The nutroots will vote for him regardless, and the rest, although not thrilled about Afghanistan, won’t let it affect their votes one way or another.
Peter Wehner writes about Obama’s decision to draw down troops in Afghanistan, something that (just coincidentally, of course) will take place right before Obama’s reelection bid. Wehner is appalled, and he explains that this gross political calculation isn’t the way it needs to be:
I have the advantage of having served a president during wartime. And whatever faults one might be tempted to lay at the feet of George W. Bush, he never allowed politics of the Obama kind to infect his decisions. I know of what I speak. In September 2006, with the midterm elections approaching and the war of Iraq floundering, Senator Mitch McConnell, then the Republic whip, asked to see the president alone in the Oval Office. “Mr. President,” McConnell said, “your unpopularity is going to cost us control of Congress.” When President Bush asked McConnell what to do about it, McConnell said, “Bring some troops home from Iraq.”
Four months later, Senator McConnell got his reply. President Bush – who faced far more ferocious political opposition to the war than Obama ever has – not only did not withdraw troops; he increased them while embracing a strategy that came to be known as the “surge.” And he blocked every attempt at a premature withdrawal.
There are many factors that explain why the Iraq war turned around, but the fortitude of President Bush surely ranks high among them. That quality looked impressive then; it looks even more impressive now.
Apropos that not so coincidental timing, the conventional wisdom is that the troops, grateful to return home, will cast their votes for the Democrat who made it so. I wonder if that’s true.
Obama has consistently proven himself profoundly ignorant of the military mindset, something that’s true for most Leftists. Leftists are feral fighters, not principled fighters. While feral fighters will fight quite ferociously if threatened (which is why Leftist leadership works mightily to keep its followers in a blind panic, as with global warming), what Leftists really want is for the threat to stop affecting them personally.
Principled fighters, however, are willing to take ultimate risks for a cause greater than themselves. It’s a much more altruistic approach to war, and one that sees people willing to make great sacrifices for a final goal that may not even benefit them directly.
Because Dems are feral fighters, they assume all wars are Vietnam. Back then, the draft and the upheaval in America meant that way too many Vietnam troops didn’t believe in their mission, and were desperate to have a political change that would get them home. These are the kind of troops Dems recognize.
I don’t think we have a Vietnam military today. Instead, our military is made made up of volunteers, who either embrace fighting generally (the adrenalin junkies) or embrace the larger existential battle raging throughout the world, a war that burns especially hot in Afghanistan. Rather than thanking Obama for bringing them home, these principled or professional warriors may resent the way Obama is dragging them away from the good fight, destroying their hard won gains, and handing victory to an exceptionally brutal enemy who will reengage us both at home and abroad.
UPDATE: Barry Rubin, after reading what I wrote, thinks there’s something different going on: “Obama is NOT doing this to win votes in the military. He has no illusions about that. He’s doing it to win votes from average Americans to whom he can say: I brought the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. And it will work UNLESS those situations visibly collapse and even then it will gain votes for him.” As Barry sums it up, “Obama is making a good political calculation at the cost of a strategic miscalculation.”
Barry is so much more astute and well-informed than I am, that I don’t doubt that he’s right about Obama’s calculation. However, I do wonder how the Average American (or the Progressive voter) will view Obama’s involvement in Libya when making a balancing of interests. I also wonder if the ultimate pass will always be abortion. Since the anti-War protests stopped when Bush left, even though the wars continued and even escalated, I suspect that, while war is a real concern to the Democrat base, it’s abortion that will always be the kicker for his core constituency. And really, when one thinks about it, that’s a pretty strange issue to use as the final determiner when deciding the person for whom to vote.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News
Does the administration’s decision to arm the Libyan rebels remind you of anything? It does me. It reminds me of the Reagan administration’s decision to arm the rebels in Afghanistan.
Back then, the rebels were not our enemy, and they were fighting a sworn enemy against whom we’d been engaged in myriad proxy wars for decades. This time, the rebels are our enemy, killing our civilians and soldiers all over the world, and they’re fighting a government that hasn’t does us any active harm in recent years.
Somehow, despite our pure and fairly reasonable thinking back in 1980s, I seem to recall that our decision to arm and train radical Islamists proved to have bad and lasting consequences for us. (Hint: the Taliban.) This time around, we don’t even have the excuse of ignorance. The Libyan rebels we’re arming, comprised of useful idiots, Al Qaeda operatives, and Muslim brotherhood members, were our active enemy yesterday; they’re our active enemy today; and tomorrow, pumped up with our weapons and supplies, they’ll still be our active enemy, only more dangerous.
Years ago, in another life, I dated a man who had worked for Rolling Stone and personally knew Jann Wenner. (My ex-boyfriend claimed that a well-known Rolling Stone photographer was the one who introduced him to and got him hooked on cocaine. I have no idea if he was telling the truth or not, but it made for a good story.)
My old boyfriend had cleaned up his act by the time I met him, and was decently reticent about his past, but it was pretty clear from the few stories he told that (a) Rolling Stone personnel, at least at one time, had embraced the drug culture with gusto and (b) that it was a sleazy, counter-culture magazine. Today, all you need to do to know that it is still a sleazy, counter-culture (read: anti-American) magazine is to buy a copy at the store — or, better yet, leaf through one and then abandon it without bothering to buy it. As for the drug issues that were once a part of the magazine’s culture, perhaps the drugs’ legacy lives on and helps explain the shoddy, vicious journalism that routinely emanates from that saggy, flabby, 1960s era hangover.
Don’t believe me about shoddy, vicious journalism? I understand that. My old boyfriend’s stories about the magazine’s past are pure hearsay. But right now, today, Michael Yon has actual percipient witness journalism on his side when it comes to challenging Rolling Stone’s most recent smear piece about our troops in Afghanistan. Read Yon and your blood will boil.
Huge kudos to Yon, not only for his own journalism, but for his willingness to take on one of the old media’s sacred cows.
Will Democrats once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
Here’s a very encouraging report about the latest NATO (mostly American forces) offensive in Helmand province, one of the last redoubts of the Taliban. I don’t know how much play this will get in the Mass Media, as they generally don’t like to talk about American victories.
I am still seething about the Vietnam War, which helped to define my generation. It was a war we won militarily at great sacrifice and lost politically, when we betrayed our treaty obligations to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I believe that the point at which the Vietnam war was lost was when CBS’s Walter Cronkite pronounced the Tet Offensive as an American defeat (it was quite the opposite).
So, here is my question: will the Democrats and MainStream Media repeat history and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or will they play this to a conclusive victory?
Peter Wehner describes the conduct, but I think, when you behave as Obama as, the word “contemptible” can apply, with equal aptness, to the man himself (emphasis mine):
I have praised President Obama in the past for his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. New facts have come to light since then. And, arguably, I should have better understood the true nature of the man in the Oval Office. Either way, the president, rather than distancing himself from the July 2011 draw-down date, has doubled down on it. He has said things in meetings and on the record that underscore his equivocation, his doubt, and his lack of fortitude when it comes to this war. And so it is fair, I think, to render a judgment I much rather would not: What President Obama is now doing – both escalating and undermining a war at the very same time — is not only unwise; it is contemptible. He has a constitutional duty and a moral obligation to choose one path or the other – to prosecute the war with commitment and resolve or to leave.
The president still has time, but not much.
Phibian, who is one one of my oldest blog friends, explains at Big Peace how the President’s entirely artificial time line for withdrawing from Afghanistan not only emboldens the Taliban (and makes a negotiated peace impossible), but also destroys all good efforts at future planning in that theater.
If you like Phibian’s writing (and who wouldn’t?) you can check him out at CDR Salamander, his own cite.
My (conservative) book club read Victor Davis Hanson’s A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War. One of the points Hanson makes in the book is that Pericles embarked upon a new type of warfare:
Periclean strategy . . . defined the new war as battle not between hoplites or even sailors but rather soldiers against the property of everyday folks. . . . Sherman, Lord Kitchener, and Curtis LeMay . . . all argued that battle is ultimately powered by civilians and thus only extinguished when they cannot or will not pledge their labor and capital to those on the battlefield.
Hanson goes on to comment that many Athenians thought this new civilian focused warfare was immoral. Our group discussed whether including civilians as part of the battlefield was, or was not, immoral.
Our conclusion was that it is absolutely true that civilians finance war through their labor, direct (munitions factories) or indirect (economic infrastructure). If you are fighting a war to win — and you’d better be sure you believe in your cause — one of the most effective ways to win assuming equality on the battlefield is to destroy the labor/economic infrastructure. If this means pulling a Sherman by destroying the depot that not only supplies arms to the troops but also food to the civilians, you’re going to do it. The same thing goes for bombing a munitions factory, even if you know civilian employees work there.
What we all had a problem with is targeting civilians simply to slaughter them, which is a Nazi and a Muslim tactic. This tactic is not meant to destroy the war’s infrastructure and end the war but is, simply, meant to kill the enemy because you hate them, want to terrorize them, and don’t think they are worthy of life. Unsurprisingly, when an army resorts to these tactics, the slaughter is usually distinguished by the utmost cruelty. At the end of the day, a dead child is a dead child, but I still think there’s something morally different between a child killed when a bomb explodes at the IED factory next door versus a child killed when the soldiers personally toss it in the air and use it for target practice.
What do you think?
Please keep in mind as you grapple with the question that right now, today, this is not a hypothetical question. Our troops in Afghanistan have already died in unnecessary numbers because of Rules of Engagement that value the civilian population over the lives of our own troops.
If you want to see how this can result in a massive f*ck-up for Americans, just read Marcus Luttrell’s tragic Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. There, the fear of running afoul of political rules that elevate Afghani lives over American lives (and that have the power to destroy a SEAL’s career) led the SEALS to release an “innocent” shepherd, who promptly reported the SEALS’ position to the Taliban. As a result, more SEALS died on that day than on any other day in SEAL history.
Right now, General Petraeus is trying to change these ludicrous rules that emanated from the halls of academia, rather than the real world of battle. Even as he goes forward with that effort, though, the administration is pushing an award (posthumous, obviously) for “Courageous Restraint.”
It seems to me that either we raised our boys right, or we didn’t. Either they have a moral compass or they don’t. And either we have a decent military infrastructure that, after the fact, can distinguish between legitimate battle necessity and brutal sadism — and, after the fact, can punish the behavior accordingly, thereby setting the correct example for other, future troops.
Certainly it makes sense to have baseline rules to protect prisoners of war, such as the Geneva convention. However, to send our troops out with the instruction “Thou shalt not kill unless you’re absolutely sure you’re killing some who is from a properly identified military unit and who manifestly intents to shoot you . . . right . . . about . . . NOW” is insane and, in itself, immoral.
UPDATE: I just want to throw into the mix the peculiar war between Israel and the Palestinians. It is asymmetrical, because Israel has the big guns. Israel, however, allows her morality to restrain her from using those big guns. She is blamed continuously for anything she does, despite her herculean efforts to strike at only true military targets.
The Palestinians do not have big guns. Both tactically and for obvious pleasure, they deliberately target civilians. They aim their rockets and their suicide bombers at schools, hospitals and buses. When they get their hands on individuals, they subject them to horrific torture before murdering them (and this includes people they class as “traitors” in their own midst.) They are applauded continuously for their committed heroism.
This is asymmetrical warfare with a sick international audience that prefers the snuff film to the movie that has a moral to the story.
UPDATE II: And apropos Israel, an essay suggesting that she get tougher, or more serious, in her pursuit of this existential war — since it is her existence that is at stake.
UPDATE III: Caroline Glick on another facet of civilians in war, and on the will to win. (H/t: Sadie)
I feel I should say something, so I will. Being me, of course, what I say will be discursive.
Re McChrystal: An excellent general who didn’t hit it off with Obama from the git-go (blame lies, I believe, with Obama), and who failed utterly in the diplomatic discretion category — something that’s true whether you regard the revelations in Rolling Stone as big deals or little ones. Was the latter a firing offense? I don’t know. It depends on how the Commander in Chief chooses to handle it. Which leads me to Obama….
Re Obama: As I noted earlier, Obama is either apathetic or agitated. One of the things about which he’s never been sufficiently agitated is the war in Afghanistan. Sure, he didn’t pull out immediately, but his initial decisions to announce a withdrawal time table and to refuse to meet with McChrystal until McChrystal was forced to use the media against Obama (something that probably created a bad precedent in terms of McChrystal’s ideas about using the military to achieve his goals) show that he never gave a flying whatsit about American troops trying to win against Muslim jihadists.
On the other side of the scale, the things that do agitate Obama include the Joos; attempts to stop potential new Democratic party voters from sneaky in over the border and sparking crime waves; and offenses to his dignity. McChrystal committed the latter crime. Obama could have glossed the whole thing over, downplaying McChrystal’s errors (as he’s done with every one of his other appointees) or he could have done what he did, which is to fire McChrystal for having hurt his feelings. The only way to come out smelling like a rose from letting his ego lead was for Obama to have appointed someone better than McChrystal. Which leads me to Petraeus….
Re Petraeus: When Obama was a Senator, he denigrated Petraeus’ task and, by his behavior, Petraeus himself. Petraeus, however, is the real deal when it comes to counterinsurgency, and I can’t think of a better person to try his hand at Afghanistan. Peter Wehner spells out Petraeus’ virtues:
General Petraeus is the man who, more than any other single individual, turned around the war in Iraq. It was a nation on the brink of civil war when he was named commanding general there — and today it is a nation on the mend. That is the result of many hands and many hearts — but no single individual is more responsible for what happened in Iraq than Petraeus. In addition, General Petraeus literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency, having authored the Army’s manual on the subject. Petraeus, then, is both the intellectual architect of our COIN strategy and its best practitioner.
Beyond that, Petraeus — like McChrystal before him — has the confidence of President Karzai, which U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and National Security Adviser Jim Jones (among others) do not. He understands, unlike others in the Obama White House, that the way to deal with someone like Karzai is to support him in public and make demands of him in private. Nouri al-Maliki was no walk on the beach, either; but Petraeus, along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, dealt with him extremely skillfully, holding him close while moving him along the right path.
What is also significant is that Petraeus has the confidence of our troops because of what he has achieved. He is not only a respected figure; he is very nearly legendary among them. The troops in Afghanistan will treat him as college basketball players would treat Mike Krzyzewski, if he took over another basketball program. There is instant trust, instant credibility, and instant confidence. And that matters.
I wish Petraeus every bit of luck available to him. Combine that luck with his skills and intellect, apply all those to the best military in the world, and there might be a good outcome here (including Obama being able to back down from his withdrawal timetable while still saving face).
Conclusion: Obama first seeded the lemons, starting with his long-ago refusal to take either General McChrystal or the Afghanistan war serious. He harvested the lemons when he elected to let his ego lead in what could have been a down-played, and therefore negligible, situation. And he managed to create lemonade by replace McChrystal with only the best general out there. Let’s hope the best general chews up Afghanistan, rather than vice versa.
(Just FYI, The Anchoress has a stellar round-up of responses to the whole saga.)
UPDATE: Bruce Kesler, who understands more about what’s going on than I ever could, is pleased okay with Petraeus’ appointment, but would have preferred General Mattis. Blackfive thinks the timing of this whole thing is more than a little suspicious. (The first story will make you happy sanguine; the second, angry.)
UPDATE II: Was Obama just trying to keep Petraeus out of the 2012 race? I doubt it. For one thing, that’s two years ahead, and a lot can change between now and then. For another thing, I have it on good authority that Petraeus is saying right now, with a straight face, that he’s not running. If this is preemptive action, it’s really preemptive. Sometimes a cigar is just a smoke.
My sense is that Petraeus genuinely doesn’t want to run. It’s a lousy job, and Petraeus isn’t an egotist. He is, however, a patriot. If he feels that America truly needs his unique skills, Afghanistan will be the smallest part of the U.S.’s problems, and he’ll run regardless.
[I'll keep this at the top through Memorial Day. Scroll down for lots of new posts.]
Several years ago, as part of a 9/11 commemoration, I wrote the following words as part of a post I did about Lt. Brian Ahearn, one of the New York fire fighters who perished on that day:
My son, who is seven, is obsessed with superheroes. His current favorite is Superman. After all, when you’re a little boy, battling your way through the world, what could be more exciting than the possibility of being “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” I’m bombarded daily with questions about Superman’s ability to withstand extreme temperatures, his flying speeds, his ballistic capabilities and, most importantly, his bravery. It’s here that my son and I run into a conceptual problem. My son thinks Superman is brave because he gets involved in situations that involve guns, and flames, and bad guys. I argue — and how can you argue this with a seven year old? — that the fictional Superman, while good, is not brave, because he takes no risks. Superman’s indestructibility means that his heart never speeds up, his gut never clenches, and he never pauses for even a moment to question whether the potential benefit from acting is worth the risk. In other words, if facing a gun is as easy as sniffing a rose, there is no bravery involved.
The truly brave person is the one who knows the real risks in a situation, but still moves forward to save people, to fight a good battle or to remedy an intolerable situation. The attacks against America on September 11, 2001, revealed the true superheroes among us — those New York firefighters who pushed themselves past those second thoughts, those all-too-human hesitations, and sacrificed themselves in the hopes of saving others. Lt. Brian G. Ahearn was one of those superheroes.
I’ve been thinking today about that moment of insight I had about courage and heroism, because I’m finally reading Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. I say “finally,” because the book came out in 2007, and it took me three years to gather my own courage just to read it — and I did so only because of the possibility that I may soon meet the mother of one of those “lost heroes.” Considering what her son did for my country, forcing myself to read a book about great heroism seemed like the least I could do.
Funnily enough, the book isn’t as painful as I thought it would be. This is partly because Luttrell, with novelist Patrick Robinson’s able assistance, has a wonderful voice. His is not a ponderous tome but is, instead, a human story of an East Texas boy who, buoyed up by patriotism and sheer grit, made his way through the insanity of SEAL training, and then found himself in Afghanistan, working to protect American interests and freedoms.
Luttrell’s upbringing, so different from my girly, urban, intellectual childhood is a story in itself. As for his descriptions of what men push themselves to do to become SEALS — well, I’d heard about it academically, but I’d never understood it viscerally.
To be completely honest, I still don’t understand it. As a card-carrying wuss, as someone who has always respected her personal comfort zones, and avoided challenging herself, I really don’t “get” what would drive young men, men in their 20s and 30s, to push themselves as hard as these men do. And the rewarded isn’t a glamorous job, a la Hollywood or Manhattan, with fame, wealth and women. Being a SEAL is the toughest job in the world, because SEALs end up doing the most dangerous jobs in the world, under the worst, scariest circumstances imaginable.
If you lack physical and mental will, not to mention the overwhelming training SEALs receive, you’re simply a statistic waiting to happen. But if you do have that stamina, one that resides as much in the mind as it does in the body (perhaps even more in the mind than the body), and if you have this amazing commitment to your team and your country, you can move mountains.
Or sometimes, as SEAL Team 10 so sadly demonstrated, the mountains turn on you. I am not giving away anything about the book, of course, when I tell you that Luttrell was the sole survivor of a firefight in the Afghan mountain ranges that ended up being the single deadliest day in SEAL history. Reading about the fight and the deaths of Luttrell’s team member, not to mention his own story of survival, is harrowing. I don’t want to say I cried, but I’ll admit that my eyes were leaking prodigiously. Knowing that this would be my inevitable reaction is part of why I avoided Luttrell’s book for so long. (To excuse myself a little bit, I also wasn’t sure I wanted to get too close to understanding what my father experienced during WWII, as he fought in some of the worst battles around the Mediterranean, including Crete and el Alamein. Sometimes, empathy can be too painful.)
But really, I shouldn’t have avoided the book. Yes, the deaths of LT Michael P. Murphy, Matthew Axelson, and Danny Dietz, as well as 16 SEALs and Nightstalkers, whose helicopter was shot down during the rescue mission, is heart wrenching, but the overall tone of the book is still uplifting. Luttrell’s deep patriotism, his belief in the mission (not any specific mission, but the SEALs’ overarching mission to protect and defend), his abiding love for the SEALs, and the message that there are those who are willing to protect us, often from ourselves, ranks right up there with the most cheerful “feel good” book you can find.
So many people live pointless lives and die meaningless deaths. One of the tragedies of the 6 million is that they were herded to death like cattle in an abattoir. I don’t blame them. They were ordinary people, living ordinary lives, when suddenly they were ripped out of normalcy, and without warning or preparation, sent straight to Hell on earth. Had I had the misfortune to be a Jew in Poland in 1942, instead of a Jew in America at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries, that would have been me. Not just a short life that made no difference, but one that ended with a death that didn’t make a dent in the hide of my murderers.
Some people, however, seem to have bred in the bone and the heart the belief that they will not be ordinary in life or in death. Mercifully, these are people who don’t need the tawdry fame of Hollywood. They don’t need the quick fixes of drink and drugs. They don’t need to become bullies who control others, whether their control is exercised over a country or an office. Instead, they prepare themselves to serve causes greater than their own egos. Their lives have purpose and their deaths are never pointless.
Because the genesis of my post is Luttrell’s book, I’ve written this as an homage to the SEALs. Everything I’ve said though, can be applied equally to the men and women who have fought and, sometimes, died for America, beginning back in 1774. The fact that they didn’t do it at the level of pain and training one sees in the SEALs does nothing to minimize their courage, their patriotism and their sacrifices. They are the backbone of our country, the defenders of our freedom: “The truly brave person is the one who knows the real risks in a situation, but still moves forward to save people, to fight a good battle or to remedy an intolerable situation.”
(Luttrell, the sole survivor of the SEALS pictured here, is third from the right.)
Other Memorial Day posts:
Blackfive (yes, again)
Florence American Military Cemetery (slow-loading, so don’t worry if nothing happens right away)
As I’ve mentioned just a few times, I just read, and was very moved by, Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. A liberal I know flipped through the book’s first few pages and had a very different reaction. The following passages bugged the liberal:
My name is Marcus. Marcus Luttrell. I’m a United States Navy SEAL, Team Leader, SDV Team 1, Alfa Platoon. Like every other SEAL, I’m trained in weapons, demolition, and unarmed combat. I’m a sniper, and I’m the platoon medic. But most of all, I’m an American. And when the bell sounds, I will come out fighting for my country and for my teammates. If necessary, to the death.
And that’s not just because the SEALs trained me to do so; it’s because I’m willing to do so. I’m a patriot, and I fight with the Lone Star of Texas on my right arm and another Texas flag over my heart. For me, defeat is unthinkable. (pp. 6-7)
[As they're taking off from Bahrain to Afghanistan:] There were no other passengers on board, just the flight crew and, in the rear, us, headed out to do God’s work on behalf of the U.S. government and our commander in chief, President George W. Bush. (p. 12.)
[Of the Taliban/Al Qaeda enemy in Afghanistan:] This was where bin Laden’s fighters found a home training base. Let’s face it, al Qaeda means “the base,” and in return for the Saudi fanatic bin Laden’s money, the Taliban made it all possible. right now these very same guys, the remnants of the Taliban and the last few tribal warriors of al Qaeda, were preparing to start over, trying to fight their way through the mountain passes, intent on setting up new training camps and military headquarters and, eventually, their own government in place of the democratically elected one.
They may not have been the precise same guys who planned 9/11. But they were most certainly their descendants, their heirs, their followers. They were part of the same crowd who knocked down the North and South Towers in the Big Apple on the infamous Tuesday morning in 2001. And our coming task was to stop them, right there in those mountains, by whatever means necessary. (pp. 13-14)
The liberal felt that the above passages showed that the writer was simplistic and primitive in his thinking. The whole notion of simple patriotism offended the liberal, who also thought it was just plain stupid to seek revenge against guys who weren’t actually the ones who plotted 9/11. My less than clever riposte was, “so I guess you would only kill Nazis who actually worked in the gas chambers?” Frankly, given the differences in our world views, I’m not sure there is a clever comeback or, which would be more helpful, a comeback that actually causes the liberal to reexamine those liberal principles.
UPDATE: Here’s an apt quotation, written by John Stuart Mill, in 1862, as a comment upon the American Civil War:
A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.