Saturday, June 23, 2012

Warriors and Politicians

Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian military theorist once said in his treatise "On War" that "War is a continuation of politics by other means".  He said a lot of things actually, but I have always been struck by this one quote.  It strikes me because Politicians often make poor Warriors, and Warriors often make poor Politicians.  Indeed the only thing the two professions seem to have in common is that they are both filled with uncertainty.  What your enemies do, as well as what your allies do, and what random third part involvement might give you might totally change the fortunes of any venture, be it war or politics but that, is really where the similarities end. 

Soldiers are not always plain spoken, but more often as not they have to be.  If you use to much flourish in language when giving orders on a battlefield you might well cause a "charge of the Light Brigade" just by saying the wrong thing, in the wrong way.  One must be clear in their orders.  One must be clear when reporting to superiors.  If you lie about even minor things, your superiors will act on faulty information, compounding whatever error you are attempting to hide. You can be reserved in your speech, you can be cautious but you always try to get the most direct meaning in as few words as possible.  Sadly many Soldiers that have gone onto politics have been much maligned for this trait.

Politicians and political speech is anathema to a warrior.  Sure generals play politics, and have to craft their words carefully, but you can always tell a general that's a fighter, and one that is a POG.  Pure and simple the flowery language, which allows a man to go on stage and spend two hours without giving one concrete thought that can be made into discernible action, is both a talent, and one that can be used to great effect, though often causing more harm than good.  Rare is the politician that says "I was wrong" and rarer still is the politician that states that they may not succeed in everything they set out to do. 

There have been many memorable speeches in the history of both war and politics.  But by far the most memorable things always are actions.  Who then has the clear advantage?  The Soldier may go out to war at the politician's behest, but it is the actions the Soldier will take that are remembered.  In 100 years only historians may know who Harry Reid is, but they will know that when America looked like it was going to lose, it was the Soldier that averted disaster, despite (not because) of the politician. 

It is clear to see why Soldiers often hold such contempt for Politicians. A political minded person will find ways to avoid responsibility if the consequences are negative, whereas a warrior will accept, and learn as much as possible from all mistakes made.  Should the consequences be positive it is truly like a stampede of humanity, all trying to get in front of the camera first to claim that they were proud supporters of this or that all along.  When a Soldier does a job well, they might get a small rest-bit but then it is time for an even greater task than the one before.  The punishment for a job well done. 

It is also clear that political influence can corrupt even true heroes who are laudable, even in disgrace.  Randy "Duke" Cunningham one of only two aces in Vietnam, was caught taking bribes.  His actions are no less heroic, and yet the tarnish of the office is such that we must now view him in such a way that less respectful.  It is really a shame.  He, sadly is not the first, nor will he be the last warrior corrupted by the soft offices, and on call perks. 

There are always exceptions.  George Washington was not a politician by any stretch of the imagination and yet he managed to draw together and lead the nation.  The leadership skills that served him well as a soldier also served him well as a president.  Dwight Eisenhower was both politician and soldier, a manager that was able to keep disparate personalities in check, and manage a country with such a gentle and fair hand that some thought he was asleep at the wheel, even though the 50's were chaotic times in America.  In more recent times Rep Allen West has used his plain spoken soldierly ways to shake up the status quo, when we desperately need someone willing to tell us not only the hard facts but the brutal realities involved. 

I think we have had far too many political creatures for our own good.  President Clinton's evasive language and rhetoric have pervaded the political elite, and the hangers on in such a way that no one wants to admit to the American public just how bad things have gotten.  Political screw ups of such magnitude almost always lead to war, if not immediately then they certainly lay the conditions for the most desperate and brutal battles.  For too long we have allowed politicians to tell us what we wanted to hear, and now it is time for a plain spoken warrior to take up the fight.  The words must be truthful actuate and to the point, because the more time that is wasted the less time we have.  Let us make war on our own iniquitous decision making processes.  Let us fight not for "social" justice but for true justice where we are judged and either rewarded or censured by our merits, not our economic background, racial traits, sex or religion. 

We have a chance, to steer away from oblivion.  But it will require hard choices.  There will be cuts.  Painful ones.  But the choices really are clear, cut now or later you'll have jack and squat.  The world is in upheaval, and we will need leaders that are willing to make hard choices.  No doubt there will be cries for us to get involved in Syria, and if not there, then perhaps Somalia (again) and we may have to say "no".  We may simply not be able to go where needed as we once were.  Dropping a $20 Million Smart Bomb on a $5 hovel to get two guys just may not be an option anymore. 

To all Warriors out there that think they can make a difference, I say stand up and be counted.  You may not be an economic wiz, or a legal guru, but we've had those a plenty.  What we need is a SGT that is willing to say "pull your head out of your 4th point of contact" to an individual that is stonewalling.  You took an Oath once to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and bare true faith and allegiance to the same".  If things keep going the way they're going that Constitution you swore to defend will not amount to much more that some really old paper.  you were once Guardians of Freedom.  Now I ask you, I implore you, I am even willing to get no my knees and beg, you are needed now more than ever.  Take office.  State, Local, Federal, it doesn't matter, all will need warriors willing to make hard choices and speak plainly.  You country needs you to save it again.  Answer the call!

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