“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.
(Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
No one can say with certainty the Day or Time, or even the Who, but at some point, the American policy in southeast AsiaÂ turned from what John Roche (one of its war’s architects) called “the last great liberal war” (wrong) to defeat the spread of communism (wrong)…
…into a cynical war to protect the reputations and careers of its architects.
About the Who, and there were only a few, and God knows who they are, even if we can’t be so sure. (Don’t try.) And there has been a reckoning, I’m sure, as most have passed on.
But about those who died obediently… Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why… pursuing this fraud, there were many.
What Americans today need to know is that once this subtle change occurs, military casualties then become murder, and as Lord Tennyson reminded us, every soldier who ever sallied forth because of a vainglorious order.. died a victim of another man’s indifference.
This is always how it has been, or will be, for the soldier. This is why Americans still honor young men who lined up to fight in the Wehrmacht, yet despise Quisling’s liars such as Bradley Manning and John Kerry who betrayed their mates to make a reputation. They too will have their reckoning.
Of course, this possibility always exists with any American Commander-in-Chief, or SecDef, or for that matter, any CG in a forward area.Â But as a rule, the further removed from “the forward” one becomes, the greater the possibility for the indifference. And we have never had a C-in-C more further removed than this one.
The American Covenant With Its Soldiers
Earlier here at UP I’d written about the novel relationship America developed with its civil employees, where the duty of those employees to serve the people, rather then manage them, became both law and custom.
This was, of course, due to this strange new idea that the citizens were the rulers, not the ruled.
This same new understanding of a class of citizen-legislator carried over to the idea of a citizen-soldier, where George Washington, forever known as “General,” nonetheless voluntarily stepped down to become simply Mr. Washington, neither king nor general.
In like manner, a military of civilians, a military of free men defending free men, and the children of free men who had done the same for each other for generations, looked upon their duty differently…and still do.
Law: No one in America sends his or her son, husband or daughter into harm’s way to project a goddam policy.
In America, there are generals and there are soldiers, but they were all cut from the same American cloth, laid across the same table, to be then marked and cut and sewn, each bearing the stamps of earlier layers.
As each American soldier passes on the battlefield, and is kissed by that angel St George Frederick reminds us, almost every day now (from Afghanistan), he is also passing a handshake …not just from a grandfather to a father to son…but from general to a private.
In America, that handshake, just like the other handshake between men at the top of the hill and those still climbing it, is a covenant between free men, and a promise that “we will never forsake you.”
It is not for me to say that the men dying today in Afghanistan are now victims, but we are getting close,Â if not already. I can’t know the hearts of the policy makers. But God does, and His ear is close, very close.
I simply know that for those men to die for anything less than the vanquishment of the Evil that oppresses those people of Afghanistan, and the threat they present to America…