This has not been a good week for America’s pride and purpose. In fact, it hasn’t been a good 50 years.
A nation that boasts, often arrogantly, of being the world’s greatest military might, walked away from another conflict while our enemies celebrated. And with the 20-year anniversary of 9/11 approaching next week, our ability to defend ourselves and our principles, remains shaken.
Until we are steadfastly committed to fighting and winning wars, our allies and enemies will never respect our promises or actions.
We stopped winning wars when fighting became part of the news cycle. Wars are ugly. The real purpose of battle is to break things and kill people until they surrender. In Vietnam and Afghanistan, our militaries suffered unspeakable losses and injuries, and yet our mission seemed focused more on the hearts and minds of our opponents. When we ask our sons, daughters, moms and dads to stand in harm’s way, it should be to break things and kill people, not hand out chocolate bars, build schools and make friends.
Television crews and print reporters provided daily details from Vietnam. Back home, residents soon realized they didn’t have the stomach for the true horrors of war. Our armies were limited to how, and when, they could attack – especially when the cameras were rolling. We needed to appear humane in a firefight, even as we dodged bullets and buried our dead.
So we lost and we were embarrassed as we escaped in retreat.
We did it again in Afghanistan. We should have sent the terrorist networks back to their caves or their graves. Then we should have gotten out. We, instead, wanted to play nice with the people who were fighting us. It allowed the Taliban and other radicalgroups to form and grow. Because every move became part of the 24-hour news cycle, our mission wasn’t to break things and kill people.
So we lost and we were embarrassed as we escaped in retreat. Again.
The debate of whether we should have been in Afghanistan may never be resolved. We’ll leave that to historians. But when you make a commitment to send your military into battle, we have to let them do what they do best – fight until the last enemy either is killed or waves the white flag. It shouldn’t matter if CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS and the New York Times don’t like how it’s done.
What can’t happen is running away as we did in Afghanistan. President Joe Biden called our retreat one of the greatest airlifts in world history. The problem is, it was an emergency of his own doing.
When our military was ordered to leave in the middle of the night, we left behind our citizens, allies, partners and equipment. We also created a vacuum that allowed the Taliban to overrun the country in a weekend. That meant we had to send our soldiers back to correct a military mistake that never should have happened. You get your people and equipment out first, and you let the military turn out the lights as they leave.
To watch our Commander in Chief then angrily and defiantly defend what happened was galling. Calling it an “extraordinary” success is an insult to anyone who’s carried a weapon and stood a post. When you leave 10% of your people behind, it’s an extraordinary failure.
Our American military never leaves anyone behind. They also never lost wars until they started playing out on the evening news.
My father fought in Vietnam. He didn’t speak about it 20 years because he was so disheartened by the mission. There were three C-130s in his group, and his plane was the only one that came home. Everyone else died. He saw the carnage; he smelled the death. But what was unsettling, he said, was knowing if wanted, it was a war we could have won in a matter of weeks. We’d spend days taking a hole in the jungle, then we gave it back. It was a bloody game of tag.
Let’s hope we never have to go to war again. They’re ugly. They’re messy.
But if we do, our task must be simple – break things, and kill people until they quit.
Then come home.