Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Wrong Accusation at the Wrong Time

In a recent post, David Horowitz takes John Kerry to task for claiming that Iraq is the “wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.” According to Horowitz:

"Republicans are too polite in dealing with the Democrats' attacks on the war in Iraq. The level of these attacks is unconscionable and unprecedented in wartime. During the debates, the President said to John Kerry 'When you say that this is the wrong war, in the wrong place at the wrong time, that confuses people.' But it does more than confuse people. If you are 19 years old and a Marine in Fallujah and you hear the leader of the Democratic Party who is within a hair's breadth of the presidency say that you shouldn't be there in the first place, that does more than confuse you. It demoralizes you. It saps your will to fight. And it can get you killed."

This was a betrayal of our men and women in battle that Americans will not soon forget.

I for one don’t think that Iraq is the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nonetheless, Horowitz’s comments are clearly off base. To understand this, you need to know that the phrase “wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time” did not originate with John Kerry. In fact, Kerry was quoting General Omar Bradley. Bradley, for those who might not know, was one of the heroes of World War II, when he led an American Army Group in Western Europe after D-Day. Correspondent Ernie Pyle dubbed him “the GI general” for the meticulous concern he showed for the men who served under him. From 1949 to 1953, Bradley served as the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 1950 he was promoted to General of the Army (five stars), the highest rank in the U.S. military.

Bradley offered up the “wrong war” line in May 1951. At the time, the Senate Armed Services Committee was holding hearings on President Truman’s conduct of the Korean War, specifically, his decision to remove General Douglas MacArthur as commander of U.S. forces in Korea. MacArthur and others claimed that Truman was pusillanimous in his conduct of the war after the Chinese intervened in late 1950. MacArthur, declaring that there was “no substitute for victory,” advocated waging all-out war against the Chinese instead of the more limited war in Korea conducted by the Truman administration. At the hearings, Bradley defended this limited-war policy and strongly criticized the wisdom of opening a wider war against China:

"I am under no illusion that our present strategy of using means short of total war to achieve our ends and oppose communism is a guarantee that a world war will not be thrust upon us. But a policy of patience and determination without provoking a world war, while we improve our military power, is one which we believe we must continue to follow….

Under present circumstances, we have recommended against enlarging the war from Korea to also include Red China. The course of action often described as a limited war with Red China would increase the risk we are taking by engaging too much of our power in an area that is not the critical strategic prize.

Red China is not the powerful nation seeking to dominate the world. Frankly, in the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this strategy would involve us in the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy."

To Bradley, a war against China would have been a disastrous diversion of U.S. military resources from the far more crucial mission of defending Western Europe from a potential Soviet invasion, and in that way his comments were similar to Kerry’s claim that the war in Iraq was a dangerous and unnecessary diversion of resources from the pursuit of Osama bin Laden and the remnants of Al Qaeda. Of course, Kerry (and Bradley, for that matter) may well have been wrong, but I hardly think that his statement, any more than Bradley’s, “demoralizes” or “betrays” the troops. As I said before, I support the war, but there's no place for accusations like Horowitz's that elevate legitimate questioning of the war and how it has been conducted to the level of near-treason.


Falc said...

Well put, sir! I wish the ability to compromise, agree to disagree, and respect one's opposition you exhibit was more common in the modern political arena.

Richard said...

Bradley's comment referred to a war that was being contemplated rather than one currently being fought by American soldiers on the ground, right? Is this not a substantial difference? Am I missing something?

Horowitz said...

Phil misses the point here. It's not just the comment; it's the messenger. First Kerry supported the war both before and after the fall of Saddam. He changed his position 180 degrees because Dean was about to win the Democratic nomination. So this was not even a serious criticism of the war by Kerry; it was a finger in the political wind; shameful. However, the real kicker is that Kerry shortly became the Democratic nominee and could have been President. Therefore his comment, in addition to being hypocritical and without gravity (unlike Omar Bradley's) was a signal to men in the field, that they could be pulled out shortly by a man who appeared to consider their sacrifice and risk worth nothing. I stand by my harsh words against Kerry and don't for a moment extend these to other critics of the war (Kennedy, Gore and Carter excepted).