Monday, July 05, 2010

Meet the New Boss

The Washington Post goes all ga-ga over General Patraeus' assuming command in Afghanistan:
Seizing the flags of U.S. and NATO forces Sunday morning, Gen. David H. Petraeus formally took hold of the war in Afghanistan and began the daunting task of turning around an ever more deadly and unpopular conflict.
A general with a sterling reputation for military creativity and political acumen, Petraeus, 57, struck a determined tone in his remarks to fellow officers, foreign diplomats and Afghan officials, insisting "we are in this to win."

The accompanying photo shows a smiling Patraeus clutching a green flag. He looks happy to be where he is. Afghanistan is his chance to do what no American general has ever done: finally win the Vietnam war. No wonder he's smiling.

Read Patraeus acceptance speech and you will see the same words used four decades ago to keep America locked into an extended war that had no legitimate purpose. Those fine phrases are all back, along with international terrorism and "America, be afraid" hyperbole. Rhetoric and national pride prolonged the Vietnam war by at least five years after public support turned against the war. Rhetoric and national pride will do the same for this war. The Big Lie has a long shelf life.

The loss of public support for Vietnamwas not opposition to war as policy but simply the realization that there was no point to it, especially at the cost of my son's life. At that point, the Big Lie evaporated like the Wicked Witch of the West. And it still took years to finally end that war. That's why we have a "volunteer" military--to keep the public sufficiently removed from the most direct consequences of war so they won't be so quick to object. That combined with fear tactics has buttressed support for military action after the 9-11 attacks. Only now are most Americans beginning to look at the never-ending war as simply not worth it.

Now comes David Patraeus to show Americans that the effort is not only worth it but will succeed. For a general, there can be no greater opportunity.

This time we'll win it! It's just a matter of _________ (fill in blank).

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