Drop everything and head over to the Weekly Standard and read Robert Messenger’s “Theirs But To Do Or Die.”
The subtitle of his piece is “Dien Bien Phu and the twilight of the warrior”, and if there is any flaw in this beautifully written article, it is that its true name has been hidden here. The article is constructed so well that Messenger’s words flow right off the page and right into your head: there is no stumbling anywhere.
But I warn you: there is an intense melancholy that suffuses his writing that will be hard to shake off. And maybe it shouldn’t be—shaken off, I mean. Towards the end he makes an observation that serves as a warning:
Our most recent presidents have known nothing of that great life having nothing in the way of war records, which were once a prerequisite for the highest executive power. Men like McChrystal and Petraeus do the bidding of men like Bush and Obama, but can there be any doubt as to where the honor in the relationship lies? (This is one of the underlying currents in the Rolling Stone piece that led to McChrystal’s resignation.) Just consider the fate of Stockdale. To a small percentage of Americans, he is a hero of incomparable stature; to the rest, because of an ill-fated few weeks on a presidential ticket with Ross Perot, he is the butt of late-night comedians’ jokes.
I’m not certain which word is more wrong, comedians or jokes. That brave men like Admiral Stockdale and General McChrystal are ridiculed and cast aside and replaced with simpering, ungrateful, ignorant, ideological, facetious fools like David Letterman and John Stewart, men who have become trusted culture heroes, positively demonstrates that we have become a nation of self-satisfied idiots.
Our reporters now come equipped with “degrees” earned in “J” schools, institutions which instill the idea that the highest honor is had by exposing Military setbacks. If you doubt that, just think: who are heroes to most modern journalists, of what events do they hold to be historic? You will not find any of the names, places, or events on Messenger’s list among them.
But I’d better stop. That’s as much as I can stomach on this topic for one morning. Besides, I’m off to teach my High School Algebra Redux class; of which the majority of students, incidentally, are Communications majors.
Hat Tip as always to Arts & Letters Daily.
Update That should read High School Algebra Redux Sans Algèbre.