Go to previous post:
Lazy blogging.

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
And how was your Thanksgiving?

Our Admirable Sponsors

November 29, 2003

False colors. Matt Taibbi can be a sharp journalist at times, but this is just dumb:
It had always troubled me that people opposed to the war could have seen something in Wesley Clark. Because it seemed to me that no person who found the Iraq war morally repugnant could have gone on television and talked sunnily about how this or that weapon was ravaging Iraqi defenses. I remember watching Clark on CNN, and at one point he was actually playing with a model of an A-10 tank-killer airplane, whooshing it back and forth over a map of Iraq, like a child playing with a new toy on Christmas morning. A person who was genuinely opposed to the war as wrongful killing would be sick even thinking about such a thing.
I’m not a Clark supporter, and I’m definitely opposed to wrongful killing. I’m also opposed to being ignorant about military matters. Clark was on CNN specifically to explain what was happening, based on the fact that (unlike me or Matt Taibbi) he has actual experience of being in charge of a war. Characterizing him as “like a child playing with a new toy” because he uses a prop is a cheap shot, and unfortunately typical of the sort of attitudinizing and mind-reading that runs through this entire Nation cover story. As far as I can tell, Clark is bad because anyone who talks about the technical details of combat without displaying enough sick-at-heartness to please Matt Taibbi must obviously be part of the problem.

As it happens, I know a lot of people who don’t like war, who would like for there to be fewer wars, and who are opposed to this war. Several of them are current or former members of the United States military. Any of them might have made a point, in a conversation with me, by using a model airplane as a prop, if one happened to be to hand. Perhaps that makes them morally obtuse children, as Matt Taibbi would evidently have you believe. You know something? Perhaps not.

Elsewhere in the piece, Taibbi makes some decent points, most notably that there’s something a bit disquieting about the messianic fervor with which Clark supporters view their guy. As Taibbi reminds us, there are good historical reasons to be dubious about Men On Horseback. However, with all due respect, the news that Clark jokes about his favorite dessert being “a napoleon” does not really seem to me to rise to the level of Reason For Alarm. Indeed, the news that Clark cracks jokes would seem to contradict Taibbi’s earlier characterization of him as disturbingly blank-eyed and flat-affected, and suggests that the real problem is that Matt Taibbi doesn’t get the wavelength on which guys like Wesley Clark joke. Then again, I really don’t get the sense that Taibbi is interested in making an argument, as opposed to appealing to an old sentimental sensibility—the belief that, war being bad, the way to oppose war is to oppose and condemn anyone who knows anything about war. [10:34 AM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on False colors.:

Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 01:20 PM:

Mr. Taibbi should remember his history; Robert E. Lee had a famous phrase about war that I can't quote accurately (something like "better we not engage in it often, lest we enjoy it too much"), and Sherman's quote ("War is hell") was not pro-war at all. The practitioners often hate it most of all; who better to know about it?

tost ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 02:59 PM:

I'm not a Clark supporter, although I think the Democrats could do a lot worse. In fact, a Dean/ Clark ticket would probably be my first choice. It's interesting, though, that Clark seems to be taking hits from both sides. He's getting trashed by Franks and Sheldon, his old army bosses, for being something of an anti-establishment military guy - maybe not an oxymoron, but probably close to it - while at the same time getting whacked by liberals who don't think that the military can produce a decent, empathetic leader. Which leads me to believe that he may have a fair amount of potential after all.

One thing that doesn't quite mesh with Taibbi's impressions of Clark as a heartless warrior was Clark crying - amazingly, his tears seemed genuine - on a recent 60 Minutes interview. The interviewer (seems to me it was Mike Wallace, but I'm not positive) commented on how emotional Clark became when talking about genocide in Kosovo. Clark, to his credit, didn't really play the empathy card, but he did get straight to the issue. If you can't get emotional about saving hundreds of thousands of lives, what are you going to get emotional about? I'll reserve the right to change my mind, but for now Clark seems like a rarity - a talented individual with liberal social tendencies and a long and distinguished service record. The man has potential.

PDM ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 06:07 PM:

IMHO, Tabbit is so right on. The General is one of the reasons I am rebelling against the 2-party duopoly plantation----because all they had to offer is Bush-lite bastards like Clark & Dean---all DemRep apparticks of the Amerikkkan ruling asses!

As in 2000, Ralph Nader offers a choice, not an echo. Run Ralph, Run!!!!!!!!!!!!

Griff ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 06:33 PM:

I agree with PDM. I cannot recall the exact date of the article, but The New Yorker ran a story about General Clark attacking a large number of Iraq troops when there was no need during Gulf 1, i believe after the cease fire was enacted. I do not want a warrior nation, or to be led by a new age warrior. Supposed buisness type administrations that cater to a global economy are bad enough, since their new hostil take overs are done thru war. I can only imagine what a warrior, that will in my opinion cater to a war crowd would do for us in the future. Bully for anyone who points out the actions of want to be rulers. It is again time for a new government, one i heard of in grade school, one for the people and by the people.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 07:06 PM:

I just want Andrew Northrup to know that the next time he wants to post parodies into my comment section, he's welcome to do so under his own name.

I liked "appartick of the Amerikkkan ruling asses," though. Nice touch.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 07:27 PM:

Patrick, does that mean you don't want me to do the obvious thing to them?

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 07:34 PM:

Besides, I more than half suspect they're right-wing trolls. "Apparticks" -- yeah, right. If you know the word well enough to be the first person in the conversation who uses it, you should be able to manage a closer approximation of apparatchiks.

Must try harder, kids.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 07:36 PM:

93Amerikkkan94 looks like it92s half-disemvoweled already.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 08:26 PM:

"I cannot recall the exact date of the article, but The New Yorker ran a story about General Clark attacking a large number of Iraq troops when there was no need during Gulf 1, i believe after the cease fire was enacted."

No wonder Griff can't remember the date of the article. During Desert Shield/Desert Storm GEN Clark was assigned a mere half-the-world-away at FT Irwin, CA, running a training command.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 09:26 PM:

Indeed, "Griff" is thinking of this piece from the May 22, 2000 issue of The New Yorker: "Overwhelming Force" by Seymour Hersh.

The subject of Hersh's article is General Barry McCaffrey, not General Wesley Clark. And "Griff" is either, as Teresa speculated, a right-wing provocateur--or, as the above suggests, a moron.

I'm betting "moron" myself.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 10:14 PM:

Oh, I don't know. It's tough telling generals apart. They all dress alike, you know.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 10:17 PM:

(Though I will say that only a moron would vote for Nader this time around....)

Griff ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 10:38 PM:

OOOPs, I stand corrected it was Mccaffery, and i linked the two together....oh well. It is tough to tell the Generals apart, so many wars and so much killing, hard to keep up with the Basra Highway, and the high level bombs falling on civilians and embassys in eastern Europe....I will accept moron, but i prefer buffoon. I have enjoyed your forum since the spring when I happened upon it... I was only trying to give my two cents worth, sorry again about the mistake in incidents and Generals. No they do not dress exactly alike, but they are cut from the same cloth, a cloth i prefer not to see worn by the commander and cheif in the White House.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 11:18 PM:

Actually, I'm starting to think Teresa's theory has a lot going for it.

"Commander and chief," indeed.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 11:23 PM:

Not "chief", Patrick, "cheif". I before E except after C, you know.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 12:16 AM:

I was being polite. No fair marking people down for spelling errors.

Anyway, "I before E except when it's not." After all.

Mr Ripley ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 12:22 AM:

Taibbi has always enjoyed seeing every quality and act of his opponent-du-jour as evidence of his/her utter corruption. It's what makes his articles on Tom Friedman and Ann Coulter such fun. Once he decided not to like Clark (for which I don't blame him), it was inevitable that he'd frame his argument in that adolescent style. Which would work for me if he'd stuck to his over-the-top satirical tone, but when it combines with a house style that's always risking sanctimony, you get unredeemed cheap shots such as the one PNH noted.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 12:51 AM:

Griff, how many generals have you known?

Griff ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 06:46 AM:

Known? I suppose that you would have to define known. I have met a few, but only as, or in civilian roles. I never served under one, or had an intrest to. Im not the kind of person who takes the job of being put in a position to kill lightly. Not that he does, or others in the military do, but as for me i wouldnt, couldnt be a soldier on any level.

If I look at any Generals position, I have to reach the conclusion that he was, is an over-achiever (i before e) in the buisness of being a soldier. I would have to see that he has been all he could be for the military. I know that we have had Generals in the White house starting with Washington, but I dont like the idea of having one there today.

For me I have seen what the Presidents that focus on the economy have done. In my humble moronic opinion they have focused on money, and allowed the heads of companys to rape the American public. They have set up a nation that will do anything for MORE. They have allowed the offices from local government to the office of the President to be filled with whores. Give me the cash, and you will get what you need. So, the capitains of buisness get more freedom to do as they will. The government gets more "contributions", and we get more also, more pollution, more taxation without representation, more crime, more national debt, and so on.

That being said, I just cant wait to get a life long military person in charge of all the toys. Do I know what he would do with them, no, but I didnt see George W being more than a bumbler either.

Maybe I rubbed you the wrong way because I agreed with a post that was made by this PDM, who according to Mr. Nielsen is not using his real name. Maybe it is because I am a moron, because I dont proof what I type and let it all go, bad spelling, grammer,switched at birth generals, and all. Maybe it is bacause I stepped on your toes when I voiced a negitive opinion of General Clark. Maybe it is because I dont mind the style in which Taibbi writes. I do hope that the reason for the name calling is one of the above, and not just because I had an opinion, and put it on your board, but this is your house, and i understand that, and thank you for suffering a fool. By all means, may you get the president you want.

Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 08:27 AM:

"Amerikkkan" isn't disemvoweled, it's hyperconsonant, perhaps as a (somewhat ineffective) precaution against disemvoweling.

Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 08:52 AM:

By all means, may you get the president you want.

Dude, you clearly need a Care Bear Stare, but I'm not sure that Sober Bear is on call at the moment.

Shawn Scarber ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 10:06 AM:

God, I love this. If I were a south-paw I'd cringe at the infantilizing of my party. What a great show this'll be over the next year. Send in the clowns...

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 10:06 AM:

So, Griff, I take it you’d also be opposed, on principle, to a general like Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler?

Elric ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 10:56 AM:

(Thanks for the link to the Smedley Butler quote. I liked that.)

I'm writing from the front lines of the Democratic primary, right next to Manchester, New Hampshire, where I've been listening to a lot of candidate interviews on the local radio. I have signed up as a volunteer for the Dean campaign. This is the first time I've ever actively suppoorted a candidate in this way, but I like Dean enough to feel that I want to work for him and talk to total strangers about him.

I have listened to interviews with Clark, and he is very impressive. Based on what I know now, I'd rank Clark and (probably) Kerry as the two Democrats I'd most like to see as nominees if Dean doesn't win the primary race.

The most important part of all is to get the Shrub out of the White House.

Interesting sidebar note--last Sunday we were working at the Manchester office. A number of people have been coming up from New York and points less local to spend weekends as Dean volunteer. We were talking to one woman who "ran away from her husband for the weekend" by driving from near Atlantic City to Manchester. We talked more because my grandparents lived near her home. Turns out that she's a Republican who is actively supporting Dean.

It looks as though he's getting his word out.

Griff ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 11:02 AM:

Thats a different era. A question to you, what would Smedley make of the wars fought today? To bad he cant answer for himself.

On a personal level, if my neighbor came at me with intent to kill, i would defend myself to the extent that i may kill him in order to stop him. On the other hand i would not take from my neighbor what is not mine, or cook up a story to take something from my neighbor, or to do him harm. I could not follow orders from anyone that i was not fully in agreement with. So if one of my other neighbors wanted me to join in his campaign against another neighbor, i would probably beg off, and advise him to seek help from the police. I would not sleep well turning the power over to a person with whom i did not fully trust to police me or my neighbors. When choosing the leader of all the neighbors, and police, and warriors with almost complete power and control, sorry, i do not trust Wesley Clark. I did not trust Nixon, Reagan, Bush 1 or 2, but i did have a level of trust in Carter as well as Clinton.

I dont like the field that the Dems are running against Bush, again it seems that it is the lessor of the evils, or a "best of" vote for me. I also do not split the vote, and go out on a limb for a darkhorse alternate canidate. I do wish there were a real alternative. I personaly am fed up with the status quo.

You know i cant speak to Smedley Butler ,or U.S. Grant, or Eisenhower, nor can they address the issues that face us today, but i can hear and see Wesley Clark, and i just dont feel at ease with him.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 11:36 AM:

"Maybe it is bacause I stepped on your toes when I voiced a negitive opinion of General Clark."

Yeah, that would definitely follow from my observation that "I'm not a Clark supporter."

Anyway, as to Teresa's suggestion: certainly, it's impossible to imagine that American Presidents, in wartime or otherwise, would deploy provocateurs to disrupt dissent or make the opposition look foolish. Never happen!

Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 12:41 PM:

Pity this administration wasn't in the hands of someone who had some actual experience of war.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 01:04 PM:

Griff and PDM are real. PDM is Peter D. Muir of Alameda, CA, a.k.a. Northern (California) Lad. He writes a lot of reviews, especially on Amazon, and used to write letters to Salon. I don't think he's the same Peter Muir who posts a lot on the Internet. Griff is Jim Griffith, a real estate agent with the New Horizons Realty Group in the Winter Park/Orlando area in Florida. There92s about a zillion Jim Griffiths out there, many of whom have ties to the real estate industry; so if they aren92t using the specific address I have for him, I can92t tell which one of them is this Jim Griffith.

Kip, part of the point of disemvowellment is that anyone who's interested can puzzle out what the poster said and find out why they lost their vowels. ... The hyperconsonantal Amerikkkan, a.k.a. mrkkkn, is a marker for one of the less effectual segments of the Approximate Left. I somehow forgot to mention it in my post-election screed on real-world political action. I was thinking of re-posting that thing anyway, assuming I can replace the dead illustrative links, so maybe I'll repair the omission.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 01:18 PM:

I thought of a lot of things I might say in response when I read Griff's remarks, especially his "Im not the kind of person who takes the job of being put in a position to kill lightly," but for the moment I'm standing back to see whether any of our more qualified readers want to speak first.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 12:09 AM:

Let's see if I have this figured out. Griff, in order to show your disdain for killing, you support a guy who went out and started a war? Do I have that right?

Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 09:53 AM:

James, to Griff's credit, he did say "I did not trust Nixon, Reagan, Bush 1 or 2, but i did have a level of trust in Carter as well as Clinton." He appears to be against Clark more than he's for Bush. (And he praises Carter, who was in the military.)

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 10:17 AM:

Griff--You say you don't trust Clark because of his military experience, but you did trust Carter (or do? he's still kinnd of a minister without portfolio, e.g. his recent trip to Cuba). And yet of all the presidents you name, Carter is the one with the most serious military career--he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served 6 years as a naval officer.

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 10:19 AM:

And let's not forget that other bloodthirsty warmonger, former bomber pilot George McGovern.

Mris ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 11:29 AM:

Griff, do you have any evidence that generals are all more or less alike ("cut from the same cloth")? And do you have any evidence that members of the Armed Forces take killing lightly? My grandfather and uncle, retired Marines, don't take it any more lightly than my father, who was a conscientious objector during Vietnam; in fact, Grandpa went to Dad's hearing to help him get his CO status because he respected his beliefs.

I grew up in Omaha. With SAC/StratCom right there, it's a military town. I wasn't in Omaha when people started leaving for Iraq this time around, but I was there when Desert Storm started, and the whole town (several hundred thousand people) was subdued and terrified. We all knew people in the armed forces. They were our cousins and our siblings and our friends. My junior high principal was a reservist who got called up. There was nobody I knew who could stand back and label members of the military as someone else's; they were ours. (Incidentally, Omaha supported two SF bookstores and a good dozen gaming stores for years, mostly on the strength of people from the base. They're that flavor of ours, too.) And nobody wanted to see our men and women go shoot and get shot at. It was personally frightening. There was no way for us to make it impersonal the way you just have. "A warrior who will cater to the war crowd?" Most of the people who actually fight those wars would really prefer to pass out food to starving kids or do other peaceful/peacekeeping missions. What "war crowd" have you seen Clark allying himself with? It's only people who don't know members of the armed forces very well who can decide that they take killing lightly and love going to war.

I knew exactly one member of the armed forces who took killing lightly. He was 18 this year, and they sent him to Iraq, and he wanted to go shoot up Hussein's guys. He doesn't take it lightly any more. He can't.

Clark would not be my first choice for President, but deciding that all generals are alike and that they all take killing lightly is not a very bright move. It's like deciding that Carter must treat nuclear waste casually because of his nuclear background: unsupported by evidence. Just not true. "Feelings" of comfort or unease are not the way to make an informed voting decision. Or even an argument on someone's web forum.

Paul ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 11:59 AM:

"The Capitains of Business" would rock as a band name.

So far, I've supported Dean, but I'd still work for Clark in a heartbeat if he got the nod. I'm still holding out for a Dean/Clark (or Clark/Dean) ticket. I've heard Clark eviscerate the Iraq adventure and he's truly impressive to hear on that subject. I wish I thought his grasp of domestic affairs was as good. Clark obviously regards himself as a "gentleman-soldier" sort and it's possible that what Truman said of Eisenhower, "Poor Ike97it won92t be a bit like the Army. He92ll find it very frustrating" could be said of Clark, too. But it's ludicrous to fear Clark because he's a military man. I mean, GWB is a draft-dodging frat-boy and look what he's done.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 12:49 PM:

"Apparticks" -- yeah, right. If you know the word well enough to be the first person in the conversation who uses it, you should be able to manage a closer approximation of apparatchiks.

I assumed he was punning...parasites on the body politick and all that.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 01:10 PM:

In this mention of generals I'm seeing the long shadow of General Sir Douglas Haig.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 12:58 AM:


I've known a few generals. One of them still owes me a six-pack from when he was a Lieutenant Colonel.

I've read the writings of a lot more.

The Lee quotation is (as best I remember it) "It is a good thing that war is so terrible, else we might grow too fond of it." (there was a sgt, in the drive to Baghdad who stopped to take photos of the effects of his Bradley's weaponry on the Iraqis. One of his fellows asked him what the hell he was doing, he said, "I'm taking pictures for my son, so that if he ever wants to join the Army I can show him what we do.").

Even Patton, who liked war, said, "I do love it. God help me, I love it so."

Generals are a sort of demi-god. They cease to wear branch insignia, belonging now to the Army as a whole, and owning large chunks of it. My Btn Commander can get me killed, but only if the Commanding General lets him. The General has the power, he needs the reserve and the distance that not belonging to the Infantry, or the Armor, or Military Intelligence gives him, because he carries the weight of at least a brigade's lives on his conscience.

And that is a great weight. The only presidents in recent memory to know anything about that weight are Truman, and Carter. Bush pere doesn't count, he never had to wear the mask of command (he was a pilot in the navy, he had a crew, but all the decisions were split second, never for him the agony of pondering the effects of his orders).

One of the reasons I think Gore would be a better leader in a war (say the mess in Iraq) is that he was in a combat zone, as a private. I'm rambling, but the question is about generals.

I'll take Wesley Clark, and certainly I'll take him over the present occupant of 1600 Penn. Ave. He may not be the best man for the job, but if he looks to be, then I'll vote for him.

One of the things that generals have to do (apart from being a bit driven, and a bit talented, and bit of a dab hand at politics) is rise to the rank. No one comes into the Army a general. They start as 2LTs, shave-tails, butter-bars, the lowest of the low (what's the difference between a private and 2LT? The Lt. has to salute everything that moves.). Nothing is held in more general disregard than a brand new Lt.

Why? Because they are ignorant, they don't know the least thing about really being in the Army, yet they have life and death power over one. They have to learn to be father figures to their men, some of whom are older than they are (and by decades). They grow into it.

They become Captains, with a grasp of what they can, and can't do. They learn what life is really like for the troops (and troops are like horses, one has to see to their needs first).

Then to a Majority, learning staff work; the nuts and bolts of making a Bn run.

If they are good at it they will make LTC, and with that a command, perhaps. If they are really good they will get a Bn, as a Col.

The good ones look back and see the best parts of their careers behind them, the time as an LT and a CPT, when they lived with the men they served.

After all of that, the better part of 20 years of training, they cross the gulf, the get a star, and the men they served, and served with, become tools, the pieces for solving the bigger problems.

Clark, from what I know, had a most enviable position, as NATO commander he had the power of a four-star, and the relationship with his troops of a one/two-star. And a two-star can be almost intimate with the troops (and all generals are intimate with the NCO who moved with them, from the sgt. who dried them off behind the ears [and I got to help with that in Iraq, God I hope I did it right] to the Sgt. Major who kept it together when they first had to monitor 1,500 men in a Bn.

Apart from anomolies like Patton (throwbacks to the age of heroic leadership) not a general in the world wants to go to war. They know the cost. They look at the names on the monuments and they can see the list growing, and it disturbs their sleep.

Which makes them, as a rule (look at the advice given to Linclon, and Davis and Pickens; before the start of the Civil War) reluctant to start a fight. They may be blood and thunder once engaged, but they go in slowly, because, as Lee said, "To be a good general one must love the army, and be willing to risk destroying the thing one loves."

So with that sort of background (and the scuttlebutt I know of him) I'd be willing to serve under Clark.

Terry K.

rea ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 12:31 PM:

"And that is a great weight. The only presidents in recent memory to know anything about that weight are Truman, and Carter."

Great post, Terry K--but you forgot Eisenhower :) Maybe JFK, too, although his experience had something in common with that of Bush pere.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 02:23 PM:

rea, the difference (with respect to Terry's point) is that when Bush went into combat, he went alone (at least I think he flew solo); when Kennedy went, his crew went with him.

There's a big difference between going into danger, and taking people whose lives are your responsibility with you.

But I think Terry is talking about sending people into danger that you won't be facing yourself, which I suspect (without first-hand knowldege) makes the decision even tougher.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 04:12 PM:

rea, he did say RECENT memory...I was alive when Eisenhower was prez, but I don't remember him. I'm not sure how old Terry is, but I'd guess he's younger than me.

Eisenhower is "in history," or even "in the past half-century." But "in recent memory" is pretty subjective, and I wouldn't count Ike there.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 09:28 PM:

"And that is a great weight. The only presidents in recent memory to know anything about that weight are Truman, and Carter."

Great post, Terry K--but you forgot Eisenhower :) Maybe JFK, too, although his experience had something in common with that of Bush pere.

rea


I did not forget them, I left them out of the accounting. JFK, for much the same reason as Bush pere (in a PT boat the desicions that matter are taken in the heat of the moment) and Ike because his service was anamolous. Almost all of his career was spent in staff work (IIRC from his making CPT on).

Not that Ike didn't feel the weight of his decisions, but he didn't really have the visceral connection to what life in the front lines was like.

Terry K.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 11:20 PM:


Xopher,

Truman was before Ike. I left him out for other reasons (the war he had to deal with was not one he started).

Jeremy,

You caught much of my intent. Bush pere flew the TBF Avenger, a three-seat torpedo bomber (though with his dates of service he flew it in the bomber role). In his biography he relates bailing out (he pulled a Ford and smashed his head against part of the frame) and the sorrow he felt that his crew failed to make it.

On the flip-side, one of the most interesting evenings I've ever spent with Jerry Pournelle included him talking about his time in Korea, and having to send a detail out to a nearby hill to cover the withdrawl of the battery he was commanding. Some thirty years later it was still hard for him to relate, since he knew they had small odds of coming back, which they didn't.

Terry K.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 11:54 PM:

Yes.

But that is the very essence of what we're talking about. Do the leaders who send the troops out to die feel it?

Jerry did (hell, he still feels it). Truman did (he led an Artillery Bn in WW1). Ike did, at a remove.

Bush? I don't think so.

That lack of feeling (as I see it) is why, I think, he doesn't go to funerals. He might have to face the pain, and admit some of it to himself.

Were I a more cynical man, I'd say his religion makes it possible for him to not feel it, "God will choose the slain," and he has no real guilt.

Certainly the comment, "Bring it on," shows a lack of empathy with the guys who have to take it. I suppose I am never going to be one of the chosen to eat dinner with him, all I can respect is the rank.

Terry K.