Jim Watson/Getty Images (left); Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call (right)
The Greatness Agenda

McRaven and Mattis:
The M&M’s of Perpetual War


- October 18th, 2019
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Give writers their pens, soldiers their swords. Do not, however, salute old warriors who write in defense of war without end.

Do not let retired admirals and generals end the peace with their pieces about the honors of war. Not the horrors of war, of the dead and disfigured, of the living dead who have nothing but their discharge papers and paper prescriptions, of minds deadened by killing and bodies dying from painkillers.

Do not let Admiral William H. McRaven and General James Mattis blind us with their medals and stars. Do not let them bask in the sunlight of courage, in spite of the darkness of their words and the depravity of their threats.

Do not let them convince us that the greatest crime of war is the refusal to wage war. Do not have them reduce a speech by one president into a gag order for our current president: to ask not. Do not let them overrule the prose of democracy with the poetry of the light brigade

Do not let them have us ride into the valley of Death. Do not let them ruin our military by drafting men who know not to reason why, but to do and die. 

For McRaven and Mattis, the fate of all men hinges on the fortunes of a thousand men in Syria, that the road to Damascus is for our tanks to clear and our troops to control, that the road is ours to traverse, that the road is a parade route for freedom-loving travelers throughout the world.

Here is the real test: whether we choose to hear the summons of trumpets without the sound of the bugler’s call, because death in combat is the price of glorifying war.

McRaven and Mattis would have us choose the rhetoric of Kennedy over the realism of Washington and Eisenhower.

They would have us go abroad in search of monsters to destroy, ignoring the wisdom of Adams and the warning of Nixon.

They would have us destroy anything in order to save nothing but their pride.

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