Peggy Noonan has a great comment on our unfortunate tendency to turn soldiers as social workers:
I saw it last month, when we met with a tough American general. How is the war going? we asked. “Great,” he said. “We just opened a new hospital!” This was perhaps different from what George Patton would have said. He was allowed to be a warrior in a warrior army. His answer would have been more like, “Great, we’re putting more of them in the hospital!”
The rest of the column isn’t about the military-it’s a meditation on how the U.S. appears to others around the globe-but I’d like to stick with military matters. The role of soldiers isn’t the only thing about which we are confused. We don’t really remember what the point of a war is: winning. Our Libyan adventure is, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, a “half-hearted war.”
Rebels fight with aging rifles and other weapons that often don’t work or lack ammunition or spare parts. Their leading generals can’t decide who is subordinate to whom. The U.S. has handed off responsibility to NATO for maintaining the no-fly zone and enforcing U.N. resolutions, but the alliance has proved to be a coalition of the ambivalent and the unwilling. Only six of its members-including Britain, France and Canada but not the U.S.-are carrying out air strikes. Those strikes are increasingly ineffective as Gadhafi’s forces adapt by taking cover behind civilians.
In an April 14 London Times op-ed, Mr. Obama, along with Britain’s David Cameron and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, painted a dark picture of Gadhafi’s abuses and warned that his continuance in power would turn Libya into “not only a pariah state, but a failed state too.” The trio went on to demand that the colonel “must go and go for good.”
Yet having willed the end, the three gave no indication that they were prepared to will the means.
The editorial refers to the “coalition of the ambivalent.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that we are sending the rebels unsecured radios and halal meat. Halal? Hello? I know Napoleon said an army marches on its stomach, but it still needs materiel. The president has sent in the predator drones, which, in this particular instance, looks a lot like fighting a war and at the same time remaining above the fray.
Actually, I wouldn’t care if we pulled out of the Libyan adventure altogether. We’d look feckless, but we couldn’t look worse than we do now. If you are going to war, you have to think out your goals first. President Obama has accomplished the impossible: he has outdone Jimmy Carter in making us look helpless.
Just want to circle back to Peggy Noonan’s column. She makes some very good points about American culture, but I have to take issue on one: she describes the “utilitarian ugliness, the abjuration of all elegance that is Penn Station.” Peggy, Peggy, Peggy. New York’s Penn Station isn’t as elegant as Grand Central or Washington’s Union Station. But I love it. I love the pizza joints, the way the big board turns with a whirring sound, and the overall utilitarian beauty.