A New Yardstick

At a very young age I had the good fortune to learn a life lesson that appears not to have taken hold among the Democrats' elite, nor much of the legacy media and only scarcely among academics.

As a very young child I was fascinated by all things military.  In my free time, I read of the great campaigns, famous generals and the development of military technology.  In reading the histories of wars, I noticed a consistent pattern: there always seemed to be many more wounded than killed in combat.

In WWI, for example, some 204,000 Americans were wounded and around 53,000 were killed.  WWII saw 292,000 killed Vs. 670,000 wounded.  Korea and Viet Nam saw similar statistics in that roughly three times as many men were wounded as killed.

Being a future commanding officer of, oh, the 82nd Airborne (or so I planned) I had an unusual resource in my uncle who had been a West Point classmate of Pete Dawkins and Rocky Versace.  In addition to serving in the Korean DMZ and Viet Nam, my uncle was a graduate of the U.S Army War College, the elite school for officers who were slated for eventual promotion to General.

The War College teaches the philosophy of war and is a challenging intellectual proving ground for the men (and now women) who must provide leadership that extends far beyond the basics of supply, ordnance and training.  To lead great armies, generals must be great thinkers, so the War College prepares rising officers for the responsibility and duty of leadership not of squads, platoons or even companies, but of armies.

As my uncle was something of a scholar and intellectual, he took to the War College challenge as a natural.  He was a combat-hardened artillery officer who had then been moved into the sensitive job of providing nuclear artillery support to our German allies during the Cold War.  It seemed only natural to pose my insight to him in the form of an obvious question.

If the objective of war is to slaughter the opponent, wouldn't it make sense to destroy their ambulances, their medical support and their hospitals?  That way, those who were merely wounded would die and the casualty counts would be higher and victory for our side assured.

My uncle's response was simple but significant.  We do not target medical resources, because the objective of an army is not to slaughter the opponent but to break his will to fight.

That bears repeating: 

The objective of military action is not to kill the enemy, but rather to break his will to fight.

Years later, in an academic study of "conflicts other than war", terrorism and "low intensity conflict", I learned that this principle is actually taught at all levels of our military.  From the lowest level squad tactics to the curriculum of the War College, military people are repeatedly taught and seem to simply understand that their job is to break their opponent's will to fight.

If this thought is so obvious to our military leadership and extends to the lowest level Marines and Soldiers "stuck in Iraq" as John Kerry would say, why is this concept so foreign to the leadership of the Democrat Party?   How can our media "experts" fail to understand this simple thought mastered by privates and corporals who didn't attend Ivy-League J-Schools?

And any rugby fan who has seen the Maori dance performed by the New Zealand All Blacks, or any sports fan who has witnessed the trash-talking before a big game or boxing match understands intuitively that the concept of beating your opponent mentally is often as important as beating him physically.

Setting aside several obvious answers for why so many seem so clueless, let us simply establish a conscious yardstick by which to measure our leaders' actions in the war on terror:
Does this action weaken or strengthen our opponents' will to fight?

And the corollary is similarly straight-forward:

Does this action strengthen or weaken OUR will to fight?

How does announcing a pre-determined withdrawal date affect our opponent's will to fight?  It seems obvious that it gives them a goal to aim for.  They merely have to hang on until this date and victory is theirs.  Ask any athlete which is easier - to run a known distance or to simply start running until the coach tells you to stop?  And further, ask anyone who has experienced it how psychologically debilitating it can be to be told you must run a certain distance, only to have the coach (or drill instructor) decide to make you keep running after you reach the "finish line".

The simple answer that any high school athlete, every soldier of any rank and most everyone else understands is that giving al queda a timeline for our withdrawal from Iraq strengthens their resolve.

In the months ahead and the all-important run up to the '08 elections, I would argue that this yardstick will help us differentiate between those with legitimate differences of political opinion from those who seem intent on surrendering to the murderous thugs of al queda and their various government sponsors.

Al Qaeda and the other terrorists and their sympathizers will to fight can and must be broken if we are ever to be safe and free.  A fixed pull out date as envisioned by Congressional Democrats strengthens our opponent's will to fight.  It encourages the car and roadside bombers to persevere until America quits and goes home.  How many more Americans will die (or be wounded) because of this renewed will to fight?

Surely the least we can expect of our elected representatives is that they do our country and the men and women who fight for us no harm.

Nathan Hale is the pseudonym of a professional whose firm serves many liberal clents.