Giving Thanks To The Necessary Men
posted at 1:07 pm on November 25, 2009 by Doctor Zero
It’s traditional to welcome the Thanksgiving holiday by expressing gratitude for the great people in our lives. I had a sizable list of such sentiments prepared for a Thanksgiving essay, but last night I set it aside. Recent events have given me two specific expressions of gratitude to focus on.
First, thank God for the Navy SEALs accused of punching out that Iraqi terrorist.
Soldiers have to follow the rules of engagement. The discipline of our soldiers is one of the things that makes them so vastly superior, both operationally and morally, to the terrorist murderers they’re fighting. However, the pursuit of discipline can pass from the realm of common sense, and become a fetish. Common sense tells us that fighting an enemy defined by its refusal to honor any rules of conduct, or standards of human decency, will require us to get a little dirty. Navy SEALs are not cops, and al-Qaeda terrorists are not street criminals. The refusal to understand this simple truth produces a cognitive dissonance that will soon blossom into a lunatic circus, in the courtrooms of New York. Soldiers in the field cannot afford that kind of dissonance. The civilian command owes them the logic and dignity of setting rules of engagement that sane men can follow.
What is needed, in our appraisal of military actions, is a sense of proportion. Even if the fat lip of that Iraqi terrorist is definitively traced back to a Navy fist, the idea that we might pull vitally needed special operators out of the field over something like this is insane. If our system of discipline and military justice would threaten the careers of these SEALs because they punched a terrorist they had every right to vaporize, the problem is with the system, not the SEALs.
Very few men have what it takes to become members of special forces units. I had lunch with a SEAL a couple of years ago, and based on what he was allowed to tell me, I sure as hell couldn’t do it. My sleep is untroubled by this knowledge, because it says more about him than it says about me. Every soldier in the field is the product of dedication and courage multiplied by training. Those who make it through special forces training have succeeded where plenty of good men gave honorable efforts that didn’t quite make the grade. SEAL training is not like public school, where everybody gets a B as long as they show up at least half the time, and remember all the words to the Obama worship song. You can be a fine man of extraordinary courage and superhuman will, and still wash out before graduation.
This doesn’t mean we should give valuable special forces soldiers free reign to do whatever they want. I’ve never met a single military man who thinks we should. It does mean we should view their actions with care, and give them the benefit of the doubt… and I don’t mind saying I’ve got plenty of doubt about anything said by anyone affiliated with al-Qaeda. Even if the Iraqi terrorist is telling the truth about getting punched out, treating the SEALs as if they had randomly opened fire on the Baghdad peewee soccer team is ridiculous. At the dinner table of warfare, eating your salad with the wrong fork is not the same as stuffing the turkey with a live grenade.
SEALs belong on dangerous beaches. Terrorists belong somewhere other than civilian courtrooms. If civilian support for these SEALs can help to restore sanity and protect their careers, I offer mine without hesitation or reservation.
My second Thanksgiving blessing is for Allahpundit.
Allahpundit is the reason I know what blogging is. A friend sent me a link to his blog during the 2004 presidential campaign. I devoured every post he had written, then found Ace of Spades through his blogroll, and ended the evening in tears of laughter after reading Ace’s thoughts on which D&D character would be played by each of the Democratic presidential hopefuls. I remember visiting Allah’s old blog site after he abandoned it, disappointed that nothing new would appear.
I disagree with his take on many issues. In fact, I guess I’ve ended up with the exact opposite opinion, as often as not. I really hate the notion that total agreement is required to find someone’s writing interesting, or that supporting someone’s position on a single issue means complete solidarity with everything they ever write. I wouldn’t want anyone reading this to believe their only options are complete agreement with me, or absolute contempt.
I’m not going to challenge anyone’s anger over the post Allahpundit wrote on the Navy SEAL situation. People are entitled to their feelings, and getting mad at people for being angry creates the kind of whirlpool that swiftly drowns reason. I’m not going to defend Allah either, because he doesn’t need me for that. I will say that I don’t see the point of choosing insults when reason is available. I’ve learned a lot by reading the responses to Allah’s post from active and retired military people.
I write as often as I can, and hope to post four or five times a week. Allahpundit cranks out more than twice that much in a single day, sometimes within minutes of a major event. Is it unreasonable to make generous allowances for error on such a blistering schedule, for a perspective offered in real time? Besides, what’s more stimulating than a well-written opinion you disagree with, prompting your own heartfelt response? A lot of my essays began that way, because Allahpundit got there first. I never understood the point of mocking him as an “Eeyore.” Nothing makes my optimism flare up faster than a dose of someone else’s pessimism. Look at it this way: if you have to take the Hundred Acre Woods gang through SEAL training and lead them on a mission, you’re going to trust Eeyore with the explosives. You’re certainly not going to let Tigger carry them. That’s just crazy talk.
Anyone who finds merit in anything I have written should consider that you probably wouldn’t have read it, had I not followed the trail Allahpundit laid to Hot Air. In this place, among its remarkable writers and amazing readers, I have discovered something of great importance to my life: a joy I can only hope to receive with proper humility. I have Ed, Michelle, and Allahpundit to thank for this opportunity. I spent far too much of last night listening to one of those people called a douchebag.
Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have become irritated when told he was “necessary,” because the necessary men are the first ones lined up and shot after a crisis passes. We should treat them better than that. I know he’s an atheist, but I hope somehow, tomorrow evening… as he roasts his turkey over a pile of flaming Yankees fungo bats, and a quivering Humpbot plugs in its carving knife accessory… Allahpundit hears the toast I plan to raise in his name. Well, his alias. I hope the one I raise to you reaches your heart, as well.