I’m sure that headline might upset some people, but if you will read on and let me tell you a story, you may see my point.
Once, when I was a young soldier, in a land far, far away, I was ordered to guard a prisoner until whatever spooks from headquarters were interested in him arrived to take him into custody. He looked to be only a couple of years older than me, and I have no idea what the fellow’s background was, but he was obviously important enough to warrant special attention.
I spent most of a day sitting in a hut with him, where he was handcuffed and shackled. I learned a lot that day, and it has stuck with me ever since. He spoke very good English, and after two or three hours, he said “You know your country will lose this war, yes?”
Now, I was an eighteen year old kid raised on John Wayne and the legacy of my World War II veteran father and uncles. In my world, America did not lose wars. So I told him to go to hell, we never lost.
“I have watched you today,” he said. “You are smarter than these other men. If you will listen to me for a few minutes, I will tell you why you are going to lose.”
Having nothing better to do with my time, I told him to go for it.
“Where were you a year ago?” he asked me. “What were you doing a year ago today?”
“I was in high school,” I told him.
“And if you survive your time here, where do you hope to be a year from now?”
“I don’t know. Back home, I guess,” I replied.
“Do you know where I was a year ago? I was in the jungle fighting. Do you know where I was five years ago? I was in the jungle fighting. Do you know where I was ten years ago? I was in the jungle fighting.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, but before I could reply, he went on; “Do you know where my father was fifteen years ago? He was in the jungle fighting the French. Do you know where he was 20 years ago? He was in the jungle fighting the French. Do you know where my grandfather was 30 years ago? He was in the jungle fighting! And his father before him, and his father before him. This is what we do! This is what we know best. And yet you think that you can come here and win in one year?”
He shook his head and looked at me, then said “If you and one of your comrades gets into an argument and begin to fight, you hope you do not lose a tooth or he breaks your nose. For me, if I have to die for my cause, it is a good thing. What am I but one man in the large war? My death means nothing, if I can hurt my enemy at the same time. So tell me, American soldier, how can you win this war?”
And I realized that he was right. And we did lose that war. Not because the troops on the ground didn’t do their job, but because we were fighting an enemy who was never going to stop coming at us, and who played by an entirely different set of rules than we did. And because our decision makers would not allow us to do what it would take to win, because we were the “good guys.”
It’s the same way with the terrorists. How can we possibly win against an enemy who is willing to fly himself into the side of a building to kill innocent civilians, all for the glory of his cause? We want to think of ourselves as civilized and honorable, but there is no room for civilization or honor in a war. Especially not a war like we are embroiled in today.
Our enemies are zealots who think nothing of dying, or of killing women and children to get their point across. When they capture our people, they behead them on camera and broadcast it to the world. Meanwhile, it’s called torture if we don’t treat prisoners with kid gloves, or if we do anything to get information out of them that could save lives.
Our troops are required to follow a rigid set of rules so they don’t offend the sensibilities of the local people, while they dodge roadside bombs and ambushes set by many of these same locals.
We allow politicians to direct our wars. We let public opinion dictate policy. We are the good guys, in a war with animals. Their culture and history is one of war and brutality. This is what they know. This is what they do. It’s what they live for. How can we win?
Tags: ambushes, American soldier, culture of war, die for my cause, eighteen year old kid, enemy, French, guard a prisoner, handcuffed and shackled, John Wayne, jungle fighting, kill innocent civilians, killing women and children, politicians, public opinion, religious zealots, roadside bombs, terrorists, torture, troops, Vietnam War, War On Terror, World War II veteran, young soldier