The Antiwar Crowd Forgets We're All In This Together

Once, a long time ago when I was just getting started in commercial aviation, I was forced to fly with an insufferable Captain.  Though I had more and more varied experience in the military version of our aircraft than did he, the man exerted his authority constantly and in no uncertain terms.  After particularly egregiously overbearing behavior in one incident, I sat back in my seat and said to myself, "I can't wait till he screws up again.  He'll not get one bit of help from me."
 
It was then that I had a revelation; with a blinding flash it dawned on me that my attitude about him could get our whole crew killed.  I realized that no matter how much I disliked him, it was in my best interest to accommodate myself to him and make our crew function as safely as possible.

My realization in the early '80's about the importance of getting along as a crew soon became a hot topic as airlines tried to find ways to cut out the human factor in their quest to reduce accidents.  Usually called Crew Resource Management, it was an attempt to learn from sometimes—disastrous experiences how to get along better in the cockpit and react as a team in emergencies.  Aircrews and cabin crews had periodic joint training sessions where modes and styles of communication were discussed and practiced, and problems of communication and coordination were worked out, resulting in changes to checklists and procedures and a significant reduction in crew—related accidents.

The guiding principle was that we were all in the same plane together, and we must work together to defeat the enemy, either by 'trapping' mistakes that could lead to an accident, or by working smoothly to cope with emergencies that arose.

Thoughts about how we deal in aviation with these problems have caused me to view with dismay the way our elites and politicians are dealing with the war against Islamofascism in which we are presently engaged.  More than six decades ago, Pearl Harbor and Hitler's declaration of war galvanized a previously ambivalent, Depression—battered American populace into becoming, in just a few years, a well—armed and implacable foe of the two totalitarian regimes we faced.  Later, we undertook a 'long twilight struggle' against a third totalitarian regime and its clones around the world.  We won that one too in a remarkable triumph of ideas.  In each case politics was generally subordinated to the necessity of winning the conflict.

Wellington is reputed to have said, "A great nation cannot fight a small war." His country's success in the 19th century belied that idea for Great Britain, but our experience in Viet Nam and Iraq lends some credence to the phrase.  In neither place were we ever in any danger of losing militarily, but in each our adversaries have focused on the real center of gravity, our self—confidence and will—to—win. 

Our enemies are vile and heartless but they are not stupid.  There is a direct bright line from the Buddhist monk's self—immolation in Saigon in 1963 through Somalia in 1998 to Abu Ghraib and every suicide bomber driving the streets of Baghdad today.  They know we are susceptible to what the media, by its institutional imperative, wants to show us, and they exploit our openness.  That fact of our society is a given. 

What is not a given is how our elites have reacted.

Imagine an explosive decompression at 37,000 feet handled in the manner in which our elites and politicians are dealing with this war.  The First Officer would berate the Captain for failing to set the pressurization switch in the right position.  In the course of that argument he would threaten to tell the FAA that the Captain had made a serious mistake and needed counseling.  At some point in their rancorous discourse they would pass out and the plane would crash with all aboard.  They would have forgotten the first law of Crew Resource Management: we are all in this together. 

Our elites and politicians have failed to realize that the best chance we have of winning this war quickly and with minimum losses is if our adversary sees a united, resolute America putting its disagreements aside so that it can bring maximum power and ingenuity to bear on achieving its objectives. If we foreclose the only avenue they have of ever coming close to defeating us, the war will soon be resolved.  We can argue the origins of the war, the faulty intel, and all those presently irrelevant issues when our boot is on the bloody neck of the last terrorist. Until then we should concentrate on winning.   No one on this planet can defeat us.  We can only defeat ourselves.

Mr. Hapke is a retired airline pilot and former Marine officer.

Once, a long time ago when I was just getting started in commercial aviation, I was forced to fly with an insufferable Captain.  Though I had more and more varied experience in the military version of our aircraft than did he, the man exerted his authority constantly and in no uncertain terms.  After particularly egregiously overbearing behavior in one incident, I sat back in my seat and said to myself, "I can't wait till he screws up again.  He'll not get one bit of help from me."
 
It was then that I had a revelation; with a blinding flash it dawned on me that my attitude about him could get our whole crew killed.  I realized that no matter how much I disliked him, it was in my best interest to accommodate myself to him and make our crew function as safely as possible.

My realization in the early '80's about the importance of getting along as a crew soon became a hot topic as airlines tried to find ways to cut out the human factor in their quest to reduce accidents.  Usually called Crew Resource Management, it was an attempt to learn from sometimes—disastrous experiences how to get along better in the cockpit and react as a team in emergencies.  Aircrews and cabin crews had periodic joint training sessions where modes and styles of communication were discussed and practiced, and problems of communication and coordination were worked out, resulting in changes to checklists and procedures and a significant reduction in crew—related accidents.

The guiding principle was that we were all in the same plane together, and we must work together to defeat the enemy, either by 'trapping' mistakes that could lead to an accident, or by working smoothly to cope with emergencies that arose.

Thoughts about how we deal in aviation with these problems have caused me to view with dismay the way our elites and politicians are dealing with the war against Islamofascism in which we are presently engaged.  More than six decades ago, Pearl Harbor and Hitler's declaration of war galvanized a previously ambivalent, Depression—battered American populace into becoming, in just a few years, a well—armed and implacable foe of the two totalitarian regimes we faced.  Later, we undertook a 'long twilight struggle' against a third totalitarian regime and its clones around the world.  We won that one too in a remarkable triumph of ideas.  In each case politics was generally subordinated to the necessity of winning the conflict.

Wellington is reputed to have said, "A great nation cannot fight a small war." His country's success in the 19th century belied that idea for Great Britain, but our experience in Viet Nam and Iraq lends some credence to the phrase.  In neither place were we ever in any danger of losing militarily, but in each our adversaries have focused on the real center of gravity, our self—confidence and will—to—win. 

Our enemies are vile and heartless but they are not stupid.  There is a direct bright line from the Buddhist monk's self—immolation in Saigon in 1963 through Somalia in 1998 to Abu Ghraib and every suicide bomber driving the streets of Baghdad today.  They know we are susceptible to what the media, by its institutional imperative, wants to show us, and they exploit our openness.  That fact of our society is a given. 

What is not a given is how our elites have reacted.

Imagine an explosive decompression at 37,000 feet handled in the manner in which our elites and politicians are dealing with this war.  The First Officer would berate the Captain for failing to set the pressurization switch in the right position.  In the course of that argument he would threaten to tell the FAA that the Captain had made a serious mistake and needed counseling.  At some point in their rancorous discourse they would pass out and the plane would crash with all aboard.  They would have forgotten the first law of Crew Resource Management: we are all in this together. 

Our elites and politicians have failed to realize that the best chance we have of winning this war quickly and with minimum losses is if our adversary sees a united, resolute America putting its disagreements aside so that it can bring maximum power and ingenuity to bear on achieving its objectives. If we foreclose the only avenue they have of ever coming close to defeating us, the war will soon be resolved.  We can argue the origins of the war, the faulty intel, and all those presently irrelevant issues when our boot is on the bloody neck of the last terrorist. Until then we should concentrate on winning.   No one on this planet can defeat us.  We can only defeat ourselves.

Mr. Hapke is a retired airline pilot and former Marine officer.