Washington D.C. – Monday, May 14th CCU students gathered on the top floor of the American Enterprise Institute. The room could almost be mistaken for a combat command room thanks to AEI scholars leading students into a military simulation of the March 2002 Operation Anaconda during the Afghanistan war. The operation lasted several days and resulted in a Coalition victory with nearly 100 casualties and 500-800 Taliban killed.
Students were tasked with roll playing key persons in the U.S. attack. At the end of the simulation students were asked a very straightforward question “was this mission a success?” The majority of students seemed to think that the mission was not a success due to confusion and the loss of U.S. soldiers in battle. Now it is clear that, having gone through the simulation, aspects of the operation were not handled properly and that mistakes were made; but is it unreasonable for us to look at a battle where fifteen Coalition lives were lost en route to disbanding the largest gathering of Taliban and killing 500-800 enemy fighters? I think so.
We are at a strange time. With great advancements in technology we are made to think that anything is possible and in an arena where human lives are on the line we are hesitant to accept any loss. But this is still war and the men who fight for this country believe that there are certain things worth dying for. I believe we all should take such a noble stance and honor their sacrifices and acknowledge the great victory of this battle. Of course I pray that no life is needlessly lost, but I will not look on this battle as a loss.
For the information given to students by AEI click here.
There was NBC's Andrea Mitchell a while back, huffily saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had treated President Barack Obama "like a schoolboy" in disagreeing publicly about enemy-surrounded, tiny Israel giving up borders providing it with a crucial buffer zone in event of war. Check out Internet videos. In dutifully and inescapably speaking on behalf of the survival of his country's 7 million people, Netanyahu was subdued, polite and deferential. Mitchell's was a fairly mild transgression. Her spouting off about a possible speck of dust landing on His Majesty was not just oblivious to substance, however, but the kind of spin you too frequently get from hard-news reporters. Some stray from their role as conveyers of current-events information to take on the work of editorial writers or columnists, interjecting their opinions amid cheers from more and more colleagues contending objectivity is impossible and the search for truth paramount.
Well, yes, pure objectivity may be an unreachable ideal in the formulation of news accounts that require some degree of non-verifiable interpretation to make them coherent. But getting to Truth of the "Big T" kind is a tougher goal, can easily end up as a resort to bias and, when reporters abandon the criteria of balance and fairness, can cheat news consumers of a chance to weigh matters themselves.
The ethics codes of top news organizations still call for impartiality, and there are -- or at least were -- realizable rules of the game, such as giving other sides of the argument in a story focusing on the explication of some clearly controversial issue. Do those who want to say this is nonsense also want to call it nonsense to give the defense a chance to call its own witnesses in legal cases where law enforcement officials are satisfied the accused is guilty? I'd suggest that when you are a chief supplier of news to the people of a self-governing society, in certain stories you have a responsibility not wholly unlike a court to avoid one-sided favoritism. If labeled as such, commentary is fine, fooling no one as somehow shorn of intervening attitudes, a valuable, dialectical way of seeking out meaning, provoking thought, moving toward answers -- and providing me paychecks. Long may opinion writing live, then, but not in the guise of reporting the public sees as having different objectives. "The Media Elite," a 1980s book that surveyed the politics, psychology and products of 238 news gatherers at 10 top media organizations, announced to great notice that most were left of center, that their politics were the way they saw reality and that, when they inserted their views in stories, they believed they were just telling it like it is.Some people have quarreled with the book, saying, for instance, that it itself was biased (although it refrained from using that word to describe reporters) and the sample too small. And yet a number of national surveys before and since have come up with the same conclusions, and as someone who has spent 45 years in the company of reporters, I can promise you most have a liberal world view that can get reflected in their copy. It doesn't follow that there is no such thing as conservative bias in reporting even as reporters of all political persuasions are, in my view, generally honest and dedicated to the common good. Surveys do show they have less and less credibility, though some of this has to do with apolitical issues, such as blaming the messenger for the message. Such matters have been on my mind more lately as I take on a second job that includes work with the Centennial Institute on a project concerning news in the 21st century, including such topics as the rise of the Internet, media bias and maintaining free speech. I will also be teaching part of a Colorado Christian University course dealing in part with media literacy and learning how to judge unreliability in news content. What's dismaying, in looking for examples to talk about, is finding a great many of them.
Jay Ambrose was formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver. He is now a syndicated columnist living in Colorado, as well as a Centennial Institute Fellow and co-director of our project on News in the 21st Century.
Everyone has an answer to the simple question: Why did you join the Army? The answer is far more complex and often times is touching and compelling, true to the character of our nation. Most of all, it is restorative to those who may have doubts about our nation and its greatness by offering a sense of inner peace in the perpetuity of our nation.
The narrative that was most poignant in my soul was that of Major Sandra Mason, or “Mom” as I affectionately refer to her as, who served as a military assistant and my direct supervisor within the Department of Defense. Major Mason was a strong woman of faith and conviction, always ready to offer encouragement and kindness, and ready to adopt any “young kid” she encountered. Last summer, I was blessed to be the kid in her life. Halfway into my position, I casually inquired Major Mason why she had joined- - the story she told I will never forget.
"Son" and "Mom," Summer 2010 at the Pentagon
Upon graduating from Our Lady of the Lake University with a Masters of Social work and motivated and inspired by her father, a retired Army Tech Sergeant, as well as her conviction to serve, Major Mason, then 2LT Mason, commissioned into the Texas Army National Guard as a Medical Services Officer. She deployed to Afghanistan and served with valor, returning home to work at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas as a Counselor Advocate.
Often times, we ask “why did you join” and our answers are manifested in a quick reaction but the question, “what inspires you to be a member of our armed forces”, those are the furthering questions that really scrutinize the inner root of one’s decision. It is here where Major Mason’s story takes root.
While working at Brooke Army Medical Center, Major Mason had the opportunity to take care of Sgt. Merlin German and assist his family. Sgt. German had burn injuries to over 95 percent of his body due to an IED attack in Iraq. His initial prognosis had been harrowing but through nine months and over a 100 operations he survived.
And through the heartaches and struggles, Major Mason witnessed the very essence of the human struggle for life as well as the beauty of life restored. Sgt. German began to gain a nickname on post - - ‘Miracle Marine’. Major Mason tearfully recalled that after 17 months, Sgt. German was able to leave the hospital to stay at the Fisher House with his family who had been through the pain and suffering, and the utter triumph, together.
Sgt. German learned to live with pain and to stare at a stranger's face in the mirror. He learned to smile again, to joke, and to make others laugh. But that wasn’t enough for the Miracle Marine; he decided to start a non-profit to help burn victims, particularly for burn victims who were children.
In spring 2008, just when the doctors had begun to declare the culmination of his triumph, Sgt. Merlin German, USMC, lost his battle.
Major Mason ended her story with tears in her eyes. This narrative and the hundreds like it inspired her to come to work every morning and give it her best. It was her love and passion for our wounded warriors, especially those who struggled to return to society after their service, which allowed her to take solace even after witnessing the horror that is war.
She then turned back to her work and I did to mine. But there was this poignant silence, broken only by the silent rapid clicking on the keyboard, which held within the office. Sgt. German’s story is one of many narratives. A Tech Sergeant, who was also severely burned in Iraq due to an IED, also described the pain and suffering of surgeries and his fight to overcome the odds. His simple desire - - I want to be there for my son.
The Tech Sergeant was worried that his three year old son would be afraid of his appearance but as soon as he arrived home, his son ran to him and embraced him. The Sergeant tearfully stated that this was the best feeling in the world. When others told him he was a hero, he replied: “I was just doing my job. I just don’t see myself as a hero”.
This is our impetus to serve and the essence of our nation. It is that spirit to not give in to a definite negative prognosis but to fight with our very will and essence. It is why I am convinced that although my generation will face the greatest challenges our nation has witnessed since the post World War II era, we will also find our greatest triumphs. It is time to step into our role as the next greatest generation. We already have the essential foundation - - heroes.
Your Fellow American,Karthik
This is Part 1 of 2 of a new blog series “The Next Greatest Generation”. My next blog will be covering the story of Megan and Ashley Bunce who began their own non-profit, Grateful Nation, in response to their Marine brother’s injury while serving in Iraq.
For more information on today’s story, please see the following articles: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-05-24-miracle-marine_N.htm
Fisher House is a non-profit that Major Mason referred to in the piece. More information can be found here:http://www.fisherhouse.org/
(CCU Student) Recently Kim Jong-un was deemed the prospective heir to replace the aging Kim Jong Il. Reading over the article on bbc.uk titled, “Boy Meets World”, I could not help but ask, “What IS the Obama administration’s plan for North Korea?” On November 23, 2010 the Korea DPR fired missiles onto a disputed territory (island) off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, and again on the 26th—yet our President appears to not have an elaborative and definitive response.
Lately it appears coverage of North Korea is seemingly decreasing in popularity—unless of course lives are lost: e.g., Yeonpyeong island (2010), Rangoon bombing (1983), shooting down Korean flight 858 (1987), or the ROKS Cheonan sinking (Mar. 2010).
Unfortunately, people forget this is the only sovereign nation using concentration camps. Chol-hwan Kang describes his life testimony in ‘The Aquariums of Pyongyang’, where he spends nearly a decade in Camp #2915. Here, besides undergoing coerced self-ridicule, wearing uniforms identical to Holocaust inmates, witnessing executions, and foraging for rodents, he meets one of the football players from the 1966 Korea DPR national football team. After defeating Italy 1-0 in group-play, the team lost 5-3 against Portugal in the quarterfinals (despite taking a 3-nil lead after the first 30 minutes).Popular media has the team listed as, “Having been welcomed home as national heroes”, but that appeared to be quite the opposite.
According to Chol-hwan Kang, he met one of these footballers in camp #2915. The man briefly told several inmates (Kang being one of them) that the entire team was welcomed; Kim il-Sung coerced the media to fabricate stories portraying them as heroines and then sending them to concentration camps. Interestingly enough, the 1976, 2006, and 2010 teams received reasonable amounts of media attention—none of which pertained to topics insinuating concern for the players’ safety.
Popular media covering and responding to the current attacks have forgotten two key elements as they devise plans to ‘come alongside’ South Korea’: (1) listening to defectors, (2) understanding their Juche system.
For starters, last week according to this article in BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11755258) the number of defectors successfully reaching South Korea just hit 20,000. Of these, the majority of whom are alive and talking—why does our administration not listen? I ask people ignoring the defectors, “Now that you understand the catastrophic event of the Holocaust more clearly, if you were to have met an escapee of Auschwitz in 1942, how would you have acted?” When Kim Yong, author of ‘Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor visited the National Holocaust museum and saw the uniform worn in NAZI concentration camps, he said, “That is what I wore”. Although the conditions mimic gulags and not death camps, we have similar scenarios playing out in real-time (and in case you do not recall—MORE people died in Soviet Gulags than the entire Holocaust). We have 20,000 people to ask questions to—let’s utilize and learn from the important input they can provide.
Second, people creating any sort of plan must understand the true nature of the Juche ideology. What we see in North Korea is something never seen before (at least to this extent) in human history. Kim Jong Il, Kim il-Sung, and Kim Jong-un are literally viewed as deities. The 22 million citizens of the isolationist dictatorship view each of these men as gods! Recently there was a documentary filmed by National Geographic where a Nepalese cataract surgeon was permitted to enter Pyongyang to perform as many surgeries as he could in ten days. After completing his goal and curing the sight of just over 1,000 people, NOT ONE of these thanked him. In fact, the first thing each and every one of them did was stare at the portraits of Kim Jong Il and Kin il-Sung, weep, yell hysterically, and thank them (and only them) for restoring their vision. If you do not believe how passionate these citizens are in their beliefs, watch their reactions of the death of Kim il-Sung: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbM8Iu-547k.
I have been regularly watching news covering the North Korean situation for several days now, reading articles, and asking people their opinions. So far no one has suggested we take note of this. We arguably are dealing with 22 million people who will be hysterical and uncooperative if we do anything to disturb their ‘gods’. In addition, we have 20,000 defectors who for the most part will be extremely cooperative.
In conclusion, here are a few simple steps we could take to better insure this matter is handled more promptly and properly. Naturally, this is not a surefire panacea—but some basic principles one might want to keep in mind. Many current actions have actually followed several of these—so this is not by any means a criticism. There are obviously more than are just on this list:
1) Remember that they have nuclear capabilities and have no moral regard for anyone or anything outside of their isolated country. Anything one does, says, or does not do to them will be irrationally taken into consideration and then acted on—whatever that means is unclear to anybody.
2) Read: “Under the Loving Care of a Fatherly Leader”, “The Aquariums of Pyongyang”, and “Nothing to Envy”. They are books describing life inside North Korea—the life tourists are shunned from on privately guided tours—or witnessed by foreign embassies in Pyongyang.
3) Interview both concentration camp survivors and defectors (many people merely defect because the government wants them for petty crimes such as listening to South Korean radio, spreading a rumor, leaving their ‘area’ without a permit, etc.)
4) Have talks with L.I.N.K. (Liberation In North Korea)—a great organization who has done everything from follow media, interview defectors, and spread awareness of the horrors occurring in North Korea.
5) China! Keep talking with them and keep pressure reasonable (don’t aggravate them). Remember they are still communist. Additionally keep in mind where the defectors go first—China! Right now, they have repatriotism agreement with North Korea. The DMZ is impossible to cross; causing 99% of defectors to first go through China. They are also virtually the only allies of North Korea!
6) Most important to the Christian community: this country does not welcome Christianity. Of the 22 million citizens, we would be accurate to assume over 99% do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. In North Korea, even suggesting there are any other deities is punishable by death. This could mean a prison sentence, public execution, torture, or a myriad of any of such punishments. I implore Christians to PRAY!
(See Editor's Note) Dear Dr. Watson: Recent news reports have shown that less that 1% of our great nation has fought in Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. We have a population of over 310 million people and about 2.2 million soldiers have served in both wars. Defense Secretary Gates brought this fact to light at Duke trying to encourage more people to volunteer their service to this nation. Of the 2.2 million soldiers that have fought or are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan about half of them are from the Army. The Army is about the size of the Air Force, Navy, and Marines combined. So it is natural the Army bears the burden of these two wars.
Editor: Joshua Ruskiewicz was commissioned through ROTC as an Army 2nd lieutenant upon his graduation from CCU in May 2009. He had returned to college after prior enlisted service in Iraq, as explained below. His wife Cherise and young son Tiberius, 11 months old, currently reside at Fort Hood, Texas. This is from a letter he sent by email to William Watson, CCU history professor and Centennial Institute Fellow.
This is only my second deployment, and many soldiers have done upwards for four and five deployments. Is it fair that so few bear the burden for so many? Probably not, but each soldier knows that the person to his or her left or right is a volunteer. Maybe tough economic times have motivated more people to volunteer, but in order to volunteer, one has to understand the risks associated with the job. It is not only us who our volunteers though, our families bear the burden of our deployments. Our wives, husbands, children, and parents all deal with the deployment. They all wonder when will I talk to my soldier next? Is my soldier ok? Moms and dads become single parents for a year at a time. The deployed soldier misses a lot of firsts like teeth, words, steps, etc. We sacrifice a lot for this great nation and we are proud to do it. Tiberius is getting ready to take his first steps, he recently got his first teeth, and his first words came a couple weeks after I left and that has all been in the last 79 days. I still have around 290 to 376 days to go.
My first deployment was in 2003-2004. We came into the country to liberate it from Saddam Hussein and make the world a safer place. We went to fight the Iraqi Army and quickly found ourselves in a counterinsurgency. We went from fighting conventional warfare to counterinsurgency, which involves a whole different skill set. We still have to fight the insurgents and terrorist, but we also have to focus on the population. We have been asked to be fighters and nation builders. We interact with Provincial Council members, governors, judges, ministry officials, Iraqi Police, and the Iraqi Army. We are now advising and assisting the Iraqis to protect their country. The population is the key to winning in Iraq. We have helped to provide security with the surge in 2006. Now, we are here to close out a war that people said was unwinnable.
People wanted for us to leave Iraq in defeat, there were chants for us to leave Iraq immediately. We held on fought the fight and now are about to close out the Iraq War with a “W”. Was it always pretty? No. Are there rough patches ahead? Most likely. The biggest questions we now face are: will the US armed forces really leave on December 31, 2011? That answer depends on the formation of the new government. There are many Iraqis who want us to stay to continue to provide security. The other question is what happens when we do leave? That question is a lot harder to answer. The Iraqi Security Forces are more competent but the Shia/Sunni issue will always exist. And of course there is also the Kurdistan issue. The Iraqi Security Forces have to be able to look past the sectarian lines in order to provide security to the entire country when we leave. There are many problems that the Iraqi government needs to come together on and work as a nation to solve. Iraq is still a young democracy and I think for us to assume their democracy is going to advance quickly is naïve. The Iraqi’s are more competent than they were a few years ago.
For now though, I am ready to end this war, and be able to put a mark in the win column. This is a different kind of win though. In the World Wars, we were able to beat our enemies into submission by bombing them and beating their armies. This time we beat the Iraqi Army pretty quickly in March 2003 -- but win here is leaving a functioning country behind. It will not be perfect by any means, but they have the tools and the ability to run their country now. What they do with it is their fate now.
"Bear in mind your past battles and fight like brave men worthy of yourselves and your country." -- Publius Scipio Africanus
My most unusual email of this Independence Day weekend came from Colorado National Guardsman Hal Jennings, who wrote to commend the Centennial Institute for sponsoring such events as the John Guandolo briefing on jihad and sharia (June 15) and the upcoming Western Conservative Summit in Lone Tree (July 9-11). His is also the most conclusive can't-come explanation we're likely to receive. As for you, never mind the explanation, just come. WesternConservativeSummit.com has all the details and an easy reservation link. We'll hope to see you there. Jennings' email, and a photo of him in Kabul, are below.
Keep up the good work, John. Looks like a great summit and would love to make it but I'm activated again with Colorado Guard and won't be back from Afghanistan in time. I've spent this tour at US Headquarters and worked quite a bit with our NATO partners. It's already the 4th of July here [he wrote late on July 3, Denver time] and I started it off by flying an American flag of mine over the compound. What a way to start the Holiday. Catch you at a future summit. Hal Jennings / Parker
With the Colorado’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund already out of funds and borrowing over $122 million dollars from the federal government, it is time for Washington, DC to do more than just talk about creating jobs. One of the Colorado’s greatest assets, its highly skilled and trained aerospace industry is withering on the vine, as politicians continue to eliminate jobs and allow others to be shipped overseas. These contracts, along with American technology and our national security are being outsourced like our other manufacturing and textile jobs. Colorado has a proud history of leading innovations and helping keep America the superpower in the sky. However, with cuts to NASA and the US Air Force, Washington has slowed our advancement and taken countless jobs along for the ride. Obama has continued to slash American’s aerospace industry with canceling our Space Shuttle program, eliminating the F-22 Raptors and other projects. Nearly 50,000 Coloradoans work in the aerospace industry. We have recently slipped from being the second largest aerospace space employer in the nation to third, now trailing Texas. We may continue to fall as politicians look to cut military contracts and postpone research and development. Despite fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and growing threats from Iran and North Korea, Washington has stalled on programs like missile defense and continued to play political games on projects like the next generation of refueling tankers. These programs not only will make citizens of Colorado safer from our enemies, but will create jobs that will bolster Colorado’s economy. The mid-air refueling tanker is a prime example of political gamesmanship putting both the economy and national security at risk. The current fleet of tanker planes have been in use since the Korean War. These Eisenhower era flying gas stations refuel American fighter planes, bombers, cargo planes and other Air Force and Navy aircraft as the complete training, humanitarian and military missions all over the world. Many a graduate from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs can attest to the necessity of having these refueling planes meet them for a mid-air refueling before they can complete their mission. The contract to replace these aging aircraft has been fought for nearly a decade. Not because of problems with the plane, technological questions or military readiness, but for purely political reasons. After the Air Force announced the criteria for the proposal, France-based Airbus dropped out of contention. This caused some European politicians to cry foul and threaten to punish American companies attempting to bid on foreign contracts. Not concerned with the ability of America’s military to have the modern weapons at its disposal, the safety of Air Force and Navy pilots and crews, the European nations and the American companies they partner with seem interested only in the $35 billion and tens of thousands of jobs a lucrative American military contract would provide their citizens. As a result of the European complaints, there are calls in Washington to further delay the awarding of this contract – currently the only bidder is American company Boeing – until Airbus and other companies can make a competitive bid. While the Pentagon and European Union (EU) are locked in political contests, Colorado unemployment is at nearly 7.5% and the jobs the tanker contract would create, around 50,000 nationwide, are left in limbo. Yet Washington still insists on playing a waiting game leaving our military and workers to wonder. In March, the WTO finalized its ruling that Airbus had received billions of dollars in illegal subsidies in an effort to undercut American companies and bring contracts and jobs to European manufacturers. The European governments recognize the importance of aerospace jobs, yet ours risks eliminating them. In April, President Obama announced cuts in several NASA projects leaving even more Colorado companies anxious as to their fate. These companies will be unlikely to hire employees, make investments in research and development and expand with their future in doubt. While our space program is downgraded, other nations like India and China are rapidly expanding their space race. Since President Kennedy challenged America to go to the moon, our nation has realized the advancements our space program made impacted the technology we now take for granted. However, to pay for projects like our recent government takeover of healthcare and dozens of other pet projects America’s aerospace sector must suffer, and with it Colorado’s jobs. Barton Winfield is an investor, author, and former military officer now living in Granite, Colorado.
So President Nobomba has decided he can avoid war by playing nice with our enemies. Now all he needs is Neville Chamberlain’s umbrella to complete the picture. But reliable Leftist Robert Sheer is rejoicing. The president finally is earning his Nobel Prize and “at last, a believable sighting of that peace president many of us thought we had elected," writes Sheer.
Sheer’s applause is not surprising but his reasoning is. The president is right to back away from the use of nuclear weapons in order to repudiate President Truman’s use of the bomb which was, to Sheer, “the most atrocious act of terrorism in world history.” Goodness. The most atrocious? Really, Robert, that honor surely goes to one of your Leftist heroes. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragically killed two hundred thousand civilians. Stalin killed thirty million, Mao sixty million, and Pol Pot’s killing fields annihilated Cambodia’s middle class—about two million more. Surely these would get some mention in Sheer’s “Most Atrocious” category.
But back to Truman. Leftists countenance no use of the military—unless they are murdering the bourgeoisie. Truman’s “act of terrorism” is precisely the kind of life-saving act the military is designed to produce. Consider:
**Truman wasted no time on whether or not to use the bomb. It was tested on July 21 and dropped August 6.
**The death toll for both cities was lower than the number killed in the “Rape of Nanking” by the Japanese military in 1937. (300,000—another candidate for worst atrocity.)
**The U.S. military calculated it would lose at least 500,000 men if they were forced to take the Japanese main islands by conventional means. That would have doubled our World War II death toll. Maybe Sheer would like to go to every one of those families and explain the deaths of their sons in order to avoid the “worst atrocity in world history.”
**The U.S. also calculated that the Japanese civilian death toll would have been upwards of 15,000,000 in a conventional siege. More deaths that Sheer is apparently OK with.
**The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki gave the crazed Japanese military a face-saving device and allowed the Emperor to capitulate.
**The bombs, tragic as they were, showed us how bad nuclear weapons could be and none have been dropped since. That’s why David Drehle of Time Magazine said the real winner of the Nobel Peace prize should be should go to the nukes.
Sheer is a typical Leftist. He has absolutely no sense of perspective. And the American military he despises have allowed him to live comfortably at peace and given him the freedom to spew forth his nonsense.
The bad news is that Nobomba’s foreign policy is based on “sheer” fantasy and has no correlation with the real world. The good news is he has never kept a single promise he has made. I hope he doesn’t keep this one.
Review Essay on Lewis Sorley’s A Better War(Centennial Fellow) In the sixty-five years since the end of World War II the most significant and formative single event in American history- beyond any question- is the Vietnam War. It reshaped our domestic politics, foreign policy, military doctrines, and popular culture in ways that still resonate powerfully nearly two generations after it ended. The Vietnam War was waged not just in the rice paddies of Southeast Asia but also in the streets and campuses of the American homeland. It divided families and regions in a manner not seen since the Civil War. It shattered the Great American Consensus that was forged in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and that had endured through the first half of the Cold War. Millions of Americans viewed opposition to the war as high idealism, while millions more saw it as bordering on treason. Politically the Vietnam War ultimately entirely captured the Democratic Party and profoundly influenced the Republican Party. Every military conflict involving U.S. forces since has evoked dire warnings about “another Vietnam”. A recent Newsweek cover story labeled Afghanistan “Obama’s Vietnam”. Our national conversation on foreign policy repeatedly invokes warnings against failure to heed the “lessons of Vietnam”. What are the “lessons of Vietnam”? The received wisdom that has become embedded in our national consciousness rests principally on three ”truths” : 1. The war was “unwinnable” from the start; 2. Vietnam was a “war of national liberation” in which the Viet Cong were legitimate representatives of the people; 3. The South Vietnamese government were essentially American “puppets” with no popular support or willingness to fight. Though the American phase of the war in Indochina lasted from 1960 to 1975 in the minds of most Americans the war ended in 1968. The “annus terriblus” of 1968 effected the most dramatic changes in American History since Pearl Harbor. The year began with the momentous “Tet Offensive” which thanks to television was graphically brought into nearly every American living room. What shocked Americans saw was not “light at the end of the tunnel” but a savagely determined enemy attacking virtually every corner of South Vietnam even including the American Embassy compound in Saigon. In short order following the perceived calamity of “Tet” the revered sage of America’s media Walter Cronkite declared the war a “stalemate” (“They won’t quit, and we can’t win”). Eugene McCarthy, and then Robert Kennedy entered the Democratic primaries on an anti-war platform intending to overthrow the sitting President of their own party, and with great suddenness the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson collapsed amidst the wreckage of his Vietnam policy. Additional high drama- King and Kennedy assassinations, race riots, Kids versus Cops in Chicago- punctuated a tumultuous presidential campaign in which both parties competed over who had the best plan to get out of Vietnam. After 1968 as President Nixon’s “Vietnamization” policy accelerated, American troops and casualties diminished rapidly, and media coverage of the war declined proportionately. America’s last memorable snapshot of Vietnam was of those desperate people clinging to the skids of the last helicopter lifting off the roof of the American Embassy as the victorious North Vietnamese overran the entire country. That event in 1975 seemed to put the final seal on the first “lost war” in U.S. History. Though there was little general interest at the time, and even less among subsequent historians the question remains: What happened during those final seven years and should it matter to us? All of which brings us to an examination of Lewis Sorley’s masterful history A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam. First appearing in 1999 Sorley’s book received limited attention even though – or perhaps because- it seriously challenged the conventional wisdom regarding the “lost war”. Nonetheless, given its’ highly impressive research base- tapping heretofore untouched primary sources- and simple but compellingly argued thesis the book was respectfully reviewed even by traditionally liberal outlets such as the New York Times (“ a comprehensive and long overdue examination of the immediate post-Tet offensive years”) and the Washington Post (“the post-1968 war clearly deserves more attention and a more positive appraisal than most historians have given it. A Better War helps fill the gap.”) Foreign Affairs described the book as “Forcefully and convincingly argued… a provocative and important contribution to the history of the Vietnam War” and the Wall St. Journal noted that “the successes in 1968-72 period have disappeared down the memory hole. Lewis Sorley fills in those blanks with his important new book”. A Better War has received a new prominence in recent years because of its great relevance to the American challenges in both Iraq and Afghanistan. David Ignatius of the Washington Post called it “the hot book among Iraq strategists” and noted its presence on the bookshelves of senior military officers in Baghdad and in the speeches of Condoleezza Rice. A third generation graduate of West Point who also holds a doctorate in history form Johns Hopkins university, Lewis Sorley served as a tank commander in Vietnam and on staff at the Pentagon. He later was a senior civilian official at the Central Intelligence Agency, and since retirement has been the author of several well received military histories focusing on Vietnam. At its heart A Better War is about one horrible mistake that brought catastrophe to America and Vietnam, and one extraordinary man who heroically came very close to redeeming that mistake. The mistake was the appointment and sustaining of General William Westmoreland as supreme U.S. commander in Vietnam (1964-68). Westmoreland will go down in U.S. history as the most disastrous senior commander since George Mc Clellan led the Union armies in the Civil War. McClellan very nearly lost the Civil War for Abraham Lincoln. Westmoreland did lose the Vietnam War for Lyndon Johnson. Westmoreland was selected from a list of four senior generals submitted to Johnson in January 1964. He owed his appointment to a chance fortuitous encounter with John F. Kennedy and the behind the scenes machinations of General Maxwell Taylor. The three generals who were passed over all were advocates of and would have pursued a Vietnam strategy called “clear and hold”. Westmoreland thought differently. He inaugurated and for four years doggedly pursued a strategy called “search and destroy” predicated on the notion that if you killed enough enemy soldiers (hence the infamous “body counts”) they would eventually give up. To achieve this goal Westmoreland constantly asked for- and almost to the end always got- “more troops”. However even when he commanded over half a million men Westmoreland found that North Vietnam was replacing its soldiers even faster than he could kill them. The Tet Offensive was but the final and very public demonstration of the total bankruptcy of Westmoreland’s “search and destroy” strategy. David Halberstam’s classic The Best and the Brightest brilliantly chronicles this failure and the foolhardiness of the senior officials- L.B.J., McNamara, Taylor, etc.- who supported it. The bulk of Sorley’s book commences its account of the war at precisely the point where most American people and politicians had concluded that it was a lost cause. It revolves around that extraordinary man who came very close to retrieving the colossal blunders of Westmoreland and his superiors, and in fact very close to winning the “lost war” outright.That man was Creighton W. Abrams (1914-1974) who succeeded Westmoreland in 1968 and served four years as American commander in Vietnam. Though the war would be lost-not for military but for political reasons- after Abrams departure in 1972 his accomplishments during his four year tenure distinguish him as the greatest American commander since World War II.In 1944 the brilliant though egomaniacal General George Patton said “They say I am the best tank commander in the U.S. army, but I have one peer-Abe Abrams”. Building on his magnificent performance in the Battle of the Bulge which occasioned Patton’s high praise, Abrams served with distinction through twenty years, and in 1964 was one of the three men LBJ passed over to appoint Westmoreland.In mid 1968 Abrams succeeded Westmoreland and immediately implemented a dramatic change in both strategy and tactics. He abandoned “search and destroy” with its costly large unit sweeps through the remoter and thinly populated regions of Vietnam.Abrams decided to let the enemy come to him and fight him while protecting the Vietnamese people. Instead of the large unit actions where the enemy always knew what the Americans were up to and thus could always choose points of battle favorable to them, Abrams substituted constant “patrolling” by large numbers of small units (5 to 10 men) that continually probed the countryside gathering intelligence from local people, and destroying enemy supply caches and generally disrupting the foe’s movements before he could concentrate.Tet had been a propaganda triumph for the communists but a military disaster. The price they paid was the near total destruction of the indigenous Viet Cong. Thereafter-as Abrams knew-all enemy soldiers and supplies had to come from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia via the “Ho Chi Minh Trail”. Accordingly Abrams gave high priority to sharply upgrading both human and electronic intelligence so that soon Americans knew in great detail the movements of the thousands of Chinese and Russian made trucks ferrying men and supplies from North Vietnam. After 1968 the sharply increased volume and accuracy of American precision bombing at all junction points along the Ho Chi Minh Trail had devastating effect on North Vietnam’s ability to sustain its war effort.Very soon after the 1968 U.S. Presidential election Abrams knew that Richard Nixon’s plan for Vietnam involved a responsible but rapid draw-down of the 543,000 American soldiers under his command. Thus in Abrams view he had a specific “window of opportunity” to win the war- always his main objective- and hand over responsibility for the security of the country to a South Vietnamese government and military that could successfully maintain it at the very same time his army was heading home. (Does anyone doubt how closely Generals Petraeus and McChrystal read this book?)Westmoreland had essentially decided that Americans could win without much help from the South Vietnamese to whom he gave inadequate support and less respect. Abrams took the opposite approach. He knew that in the end the South Vietnamese would have to do the job without much help from the Americans. Accordingly he sought to gain their trust by offering a full measure of support and respect.In pursuing his tasks Abrams was fortunate to gain two extraordinary partners within the same year he arrived.Ellsworth Bunker, a courtly low-key septuagenarian international businessman turned diplomat replaced the often overbearing and manipulative Maxwell Taylor as U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam and rapidly built a trusting and respectful relationship with the country’s President Nguyen Van Thieu.Soon after taking command Abrams fired Robert Komer, the erratic and arrogant head of the rural pacification program and replaced him with the highly talented William Colby, a career CIA officer who would later head that Agency. Colby entirely reconstituted the pacification and strategic hamlet program and launched Operation Phoenix which rooted out the Viet Cong’s “shadow government” and in close cooperation with President Thieu swiftly spread an umbrella of security, support, and land redistribution throughout South Vietnam’s countryside.Together for four years this highly simpatico trio gave the American effort in Vietnam a cohesion, energy, imagination, and deep sense of mission that had been entirely lacking in the Westmoreland era.Central to their achievement was the vital growth of the popularity, effectiveness, and military capacity of the South Vietnamese government as it gradually and successfully took up the daunting challenge of standing on its own in the wake of the rapidly accelerating American troop withdrawals.By 1971 Ambassador Bunker could report his ability to travel throughout the countryside in an unescorted open Jeep- always wearing his signature suit and tie –for days without seeing any evidence of communist activity, and he also reported that the million plus residents of Saigon “enjoyed a higher level of safety, law and order than their counterparts in Los Angeles or Chicago.”Abrams took particular pride in the continued high morale and effectiveness of U.S. troops even as their numbers dwindled. He greatly resented the misleading media stories about rampant problems regarding drugs and race relations, and pointed to surveys showing that such problems among soldiers in Vietnam were significantly less than among service personnel serving elsewhere in the world and markedly less than among comparable populations in the United States.Abrams was also at pains to debunk the media myth that the Vietnam War was largely fought by draftees from the underclass. Of the 2.6 million men who served in the Vietnam theatre fully two thirds were volunteers and demographically almost a perfect reflection of the U.S. population as a whole. Surveys taken at the time and even twenty years later after the war had been lost showed, that U.S. soldiers overwhelmingly took pride in their service and regarded their mission as an important cause.By 1972 Abrams command was down to a mere 49,000 soldiers. He wryly noted that it was the first time an American army had gone home and left its commander behind.In contrast South Vietnam had 1.1 million men under arms. In another major departure from the Westmoreland era Abrams gave high priority to seeing that the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) received high quality equipment and training.The dramatically improved ARVN fighting qualities and their ability to hold their own against North Vietnamese regulars was shown clearly in the two largest set piece battles of the entire war. The first –Lam Son 719- in the spring of 1971 saw tens of thousands of ARVN troops entering the Laotian panhandle unaccompanied by any U.S. ground personnel to interdict a major North Vietnamese offensive aimed at the South. At the height of the battle the two armies had over 100,000 men in the field. The ARVN was severely mauled but the losses sustained by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) were so severe that they were unable to launch any further offensive activity for the remainder of 1971.The second major battle was the Easter offensive of 1972 which the NVA launched directly across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in South Vietnam. This proved to be an even more devastating defeat for the NVA which suffered over 100,000 casualties-about 40,000 killed – and lost over half its tanks and artillery. These losses were so severe that the NVA was unable to launch another major offensive for three years, and also led to the removal of the NVA’s legendary commander General Vo Nguyen Giap.While the might of U.S. air power-from helicopters to B-52 bombers- was a critical difference maker for ARVN, these troops again and again showed themselves in combat to be as tough and tenacious as their enemy.While the focus of A Better War is on events in Vietnam, the book like the war itself unfolds against the critical backdrop of the political situation in the United States and the ongoing peace negotiations in Paris.By the end of 1972 Richard Nixon’s “Vietnamization” policy had achieved a remarkable level of success. Ninety percent of the 543,000 American troops serving when he took office had been withdrawn from Vietnam; their combat role successfully taken over by ARVN troops. Vietnam had been pacified, the government of President Thieu enjoyed wide popular support, and had shown it was capable of defending itself against North Vietnamese aggression.In giving Nixon a landslide re-election victory over Democrat George Mc Govern the American people affirmed their support for the former’s approach to ending the war on honorable terms.Absolutely essential to sustaining the success of “Vietnamization” was America’s determination to continue strong logistical and financial support for South Vietnam much as we had done for South Korea.When North Vietnam withdrew from the Paris peace negotiations in December 1972, Nixon demonstrated such determination by ordering resumed B-52 bombing of rail yards, marshalling areas, petroleum storage facilities, missile storage sites, docks and warehouses in the Hanoi- Haiphong area. North Vietnam’s official history- which Sorley utilized extensively- conceded that “Nixon proved extremely obstinate and reckless, and did things Johnson never dared to do”.After eleven days bombing Hanoi reversed their bargaining position and on December 28th announced they would return to the peace talks.Describing what he called the “ultimate irony” historian George Herring stated that “the U.S. position in South Vietnam was stronger at the end of 1972 than at any previous point in the war.” Respected Vietnam authority Sir Robert Thompson said that the U.S. at this point could have dictated peace terms and that “the war could have been won, in that a real and enforceable peace could have been obtained”. He further added “In my view, on December 30, 1972, after eleven days of those B-52 attacks on the Hanoi area, you had won the war. It was over!”So, if the “unwinnable” war had been won- confirmed by the signing of the Paris Peace Accord on January 27, 1973- how was “defeat snatched from the jaws of victory?”Sorley answers this question persuasively by using the words of North Vietnamese leaders as found in their extensive memoirs and official histories. Ever since the U.S. domestic upheavals of 1968 North Vietnam’s leadership saw U.S. political turmoil as their best hope of victory. NVA Colonel Bui Tin wrote how “Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American anti-war movement. Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda and former aAttorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses.” The North Vietnamese were also keenly aware of the Democratic controlled Congress’ visceral antipathy toward Richard Nixon, a sentiment strongly shared by American media and intellectuals.Though all American troops were gone soon after the signing of the Peace Accords, and the NVA – in violation of the Accords- almost immediately began launching attacks, the South Vietnamese more than held their own. As U.S. observer Major General Ira Hunt reported “for about two years (1973-74) the ARVN were cleaning their clocks. The South Vietnamese were giving more than they were getting, there’s no question about it. But when we pulled the plug logistically there was no way they could carry on.”And “pull the plug “ was exactly what the Democratic Congress did in rapidly escalating budget cuts during the same two year period until by early 1975 all support- from air power to money- was completely cut off- all this at the very same time that both Russia and China were dramatically increasing their support and supply for North Vietnam.The Democrats ability to do this so completely was greatly facilitated by the political destruction of Richard Nixon by the Watergate scandal of 1973-74. As the NVA’s Colonel Bui Tin observed, the resignation of Nixon on August 9, 1974 was final proof to North Vietnam’s leaders that they would win the war.Though ARVN fought valiantly in the final six months of the war, at the end many of their troops were reduced to having to purchase their own bullets and grenades, while their enemy bombarded them with a limitless supply of artillery shells made in Russia and China. This led Sir Robert Thompson to observe “that perhaps the major lesson of the Vietnam War is: do not rely on the United States as an ally.”The title of Sorley’s book comes from an observation made in Saigon in 1969 by the New Yorker correspondent Robert Shaplen: “You know its too bad. Abrams is very good. He deserves a better war.” Many years after the war ended someone reminded the eldest of Abram’s three sons –all army officers- of Shaplen’s remark. Without hesitation young Creighton replied “He didn’t see it that way. He thought the Vietnamese were worth it.”Among other things Sorley’s superb book is a rumination on the element of chance in history. What if the general LBJ selected in 1964 was Abrams not Westmoreland. What if Abrams had successfully pursued his preferred strategy in the four years prior to 1968 when the American people, the Congress, the Democratic Party, and even the media supported the war rather the four years after 1968 when all of the above had essentially given up.How different might the outcome have been for a still polarized American Society? How different for the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam, or the 275,000 ARVN killed in action, the 465,000 dead civilians, the 65,000 executed by their liberators, the 250,000 who perished in the brutal “re-education camps”, or the 2,000,000 who became refugees?When another great war hung in the balance Winston Churchill memorably observed that “the terrible ifs accumulate.” America today is still haunted by the terrible ifs of Vietnam.______________________________________________________________________William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissior. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and Human Events.Note: A Better War is available in paperback from Amazon. com
(Centennial Fellow) Here's a sampling from the major news outlets this morning and how they are covering this story. Note these key points: 1) Most barely touch on the fact that Hasan was Muslim, despite the fact he shouted "Allahu Akbar" before killing 13 people at Fort Hood. 2) The commander of the base and the investigators are still "stumped" as to the motive of the shooter. 3) Nearly all reports contain a portion of the press release from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR - known Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas entity). 4) The New York Times and CNN make no mention of the facts that Hasan is Muslim, went to Mosque, or attended the Muslim Community Center, Silver Spring, MD.
Remark: They say Hasan shouted “Allahu Akbar” before shooting, yet investigators are still stumped as to the motive.]
Their angle... Still unexplained last night was the motive for Hasan's attack. Asked if it could be considered a terrorist attack, Cone replied, "I couldn't rule that out" but said the evidence does not point to that
Their angle... Hasan's motive remains unclear, although various sources said he is a devout Muslim who is opposed to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq and was upset about an imminent deployment. He also had expressed some anger about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Their angle.... Before Thursday's shooting, Hasan reportedly gave away all of his furniture along with copies of the Koran to neighbors, KXXV-TV reported… Authorities have not ruled out that Hasan was acting on behalf of some unidentified radical group, a senior U.S. official in Washington said. He would not say whether any evidence had come to light to support that theory….The motive for the shooting wasn't clear, but Hasan was apparently set to deploy soon, and had expressed some anger about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said generals at Fort Hood told her that Hasan was about to deploy overseas
Remark: No mention he is Muslim, attended mosque or Muslim Community Center
Their angle... A senior U.S counter-terrorism official said Thursday night that the Army and FBI were looking into whether Hasan, who is Muslim, had previously come to the attention of federal law enforcement officials as the suspected author of inflammatory Internet comments likening suicide bombers to heroic soldiers who give their lives to save others.