I guess it’s just human nature for people to want to elbow their way to a microphone and declare failure, especially when it comes to wars and military actions. Over the years we have observed notables including such opposites as Bill O’Reilly and Harry Reid, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, along with various activists, celebrities, and wanna-be public figures relishing the opportunity to shape a miserable narrative of defeat to describe our post 9-11 fight. It has become fashionable, even socially requisite, to agree that the Iraq war “was” (a bad selection of terms since we are building up troop strength there) a mistake.
After catching their breath from this kick in the gut, those who stepped forward when they were called are disillusioned by the lie and begin to question their own wounds and the loss of their brothers in arms to something the gaggle of political opportunists who only see a military adventure to be decried, and a point of view a gullible public swallows as prefabricated, easily digested political judgment requiring no critical thought. Soon that same crowd, in their insatiable desire to declare something a failure, will call Afghanistan a mistake as well, and then anything else they can attach their attitude to.
The September 2011 attack was intended to tear into and tear down America’s economic and military confidence, and its essential leadership position in the world. Instead of recoiling, America responded. Regardless of arguments about strategy and tactics, and regardless of how those strategies and tactics were diluted by micromanaging political amateurs, there was one lesson made clear in the minds of strongmen and heads of state throughout the world, especially in the Middle East. Don’t mess with us. Things will change, and leaders will fall.
“Mistake” is a qualitative term that changes on the whim of the political winds, and appears on a misplaced template a dozen years after the fact. It is also a term that savagely cuts the hearts of bloodspattered men and women who literally and figuratively cradled perishing soldiers, and then came home guilty and lost because it was someone closer than a brother who died and not them. The term tears at the souls of families who gave up their own and whose emptiness will now never quite be filled. They all stepped up and became the agents of change, a change we mandated, and that term’s knife of hypocrisy goes deep into the back of those who answer the call, face the enemy, and win time and again, no matter the odds, no matter the mission.
The word “mistake” means nothing when it is applied to the past by the self-righteous, whether a presidential candidate (both D & R) ducking and dodging to reposition for political advantage, a celebrity vainly attempting to display sophisticated understanding, an activist rudely looking for attention, or just a reader of this column.
If you are ever tempted by an opportunity to generally and arrogantly proclaim the Iraq war a mistake, you would do well to let the impulse pass, for it serves no purpose to hear your own voice, or to join the chattering crowd of hypocrites who, in their self absorption, indifferently turn their backs on those who raised their hands and said “I’ll go."