View Full Version : Winning's Everything

05-06-2006, 05:29 AM
6 May Washington Post - Winning's Everything (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/05/AR2006050501475.html) by Henry Allen.

"In war, we have to win," said Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap.

This was on television about 20 years ago, a PBS series about the war in Vietnam. Giap was sitting behind a desk, as I recall, a picture of lethal ease. He seemed amused to think he knew something that the Americans still hadn't figured out. He added: "Absolutely have to win."...

We have to be fighting for freedom and national security.

We have to get the will of the country behind the war.

We have to maintain a strong economy to pay for the war.

We have to have allies.

We have to have God, freedom, the inevitability of history or some other philosophic entity on our side.

We have to have well-trained and motivated troops armed with the latest weapons.

Sure enough, we started out with all of that in Iraq, as we did in Vietnam.

But do our high-ranking leaders believe, like Giap, that we have to win?

... As all of our war planners are quick to point out, they had the best of intentions, although they forget to mention that good intentions don't win wars. Certainly intellectual acuity has abounded, too. Who is smarter than Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice or Dick Cheney, all of them with graduate degrees and the sort of quick thinking we began to admire during the presidency of John F. Kennedy, who said, "There's nothing like brains. You can't beat brains." As it happens, you can, or we would have won in Vietnam. Strange: This has become an age in which intelligence is seen as a moral virtue, like courage or perseverance -- two elements of winning. Of course, intelligence is just a tool, it has no more moral virtue than Arnold Schwarzenegger's bicep or the ability to ace the SAT, but we honor those who possess it. Could we be confusing intelligence with the skill of winning?

Some possibilities about the people running our wars:

One: Winning isn't the point to them -- they use the military as an instrument of policy, and winning or losing anytime soon is irrelevant. Their consequent fine-tuning of political and diplomatic niceties leads to complaints of micromanagement.

Two: They don't worry about losing because winning to them is a foregone conclusion, as it has been to a lot of Americans since World War II, despite our history during the past half-century. Besides, all the way through school, graduate programs, internships, and corporate and political bureaucracies, they've always been winners. How could they lose?

Three: They know we have to win, but they don't know how to win. Do they know that winning is a skill in itself, a skill that stands apart from tactics, equipment and righteousness?...