Horses and Bayonets: Debating the Indefensible

By | October 25, 2012 | 1 Comments


U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan

The final debate was marked by Governor Romney complaining that planned defense cuts will reduce our Navy to fewer ships than it had in 1916. President Obama retorted that we also have fewer horses and bayonets. He was correct about horses, but wrong about bayonets. But in any case, Obama’s remark was rude, condescending – and irrelevant.
I would have retorted, “Yes, and we also have a commander-in-chief who can’t tell a corpsman from a corpse-man.” But wisely, Romney retained his dignity and let the insult go. Regardless of the irrelevance of Obama’s remark, it does show that he is quick to attempt to defend his position.
In the classic film “Waterloo,” Wellington wanders through his army on the night before the battle. He comes across an Irish regiment and stops a soldier with a bulging backpack. Reluctantly the soldier opens the pack and reveals a squealing piglet. Wellington reminds the soldier that the punishment for looting is death. The soldier stammers that he found a lost piglet and is trying to locate its relations.
Wellington bursts out laughing and tells his aide, “Promote that man to corporal – he knows how to defend a hopeless position.”
In the debates, especially the final one, President Obama demonstrated that he also knows how to defend a hopeless position. The problem is that he is not trying to avoid punishment and be promoted to corporal. With proper training, Obama might make a good corporal. Instead, he is hoping to be given another four years as president, in order to do more of what he has been doing. That’s a really big problem.
Just as the piglet proved that the soldier had stolen it for his dinner, the last four years prove that America doesn’t need – and may not survive – another four years of Obama’s policies. And just as the soldier’s inventive explanation for his looting proved he was good at self-justification, Obama’s inventive defense of his record proves the same.
But excusing wrongdoing does not mean that it is not wrong. And inventive self-justification does not mean that we should also justify bad behavior. Looting a piglet for dinner was wrong but forgivable. Looting a national economy for political purposes is much more wrong and much less forgivable.
Nevertheless, Obama supporters are willing to forgive – no, ignore – virtually anything:
● They ignore an ever-larger government usurping the rights of our citizens. Isn’t this a moral as well as a political issue?
● They shrug off the expanding nanny state, which controls everything from light bulbs and toilets to dishwasher detergent to what our kids eat for lunch. Yes, this is a moral issue. It means the demotion of the individual human being created in God’s image to a mere subject of the state.
● They gloss over an enormous, incomprehensible health-care law, which will be enlarged by thousands of pages of arbitrary regulations. They thoughtlessly hand over to remote bureaucrats the power to make life-and-death decisions for themselves and their families. If this isn’t a moral issue, nothing is.
● They make light of a government that spends money it doesn’t have, and never will have, by heaping debt on our children and grandchildren. Talk about taxation without representation. And this too is a moral issue.
● They pay no attention plans to gut our national defense in an increasingly dangerous world, where fanatics scream “death to America!” while building nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. This is a matter of national survival.
● They close their eyes to mobs invading embassies and consulates – that is, U.S. territory – burning American flags, and killing our ambassador and three other diplomatic personnel. They forgive an administration that takes two weeks to call it “terrorism,” much less what it really was – an act of war.
In spite of all this, Obama supporters remain resolute. They vote Democratic because they always have. They advocate leftist policies because they always have. They won’t vote for a Republican because they never have. And this stubborn refusal to change is called “progressive,” though it represents looking backwards to programs that have failed to produce the desired results. But Obama supporters still believe that he – and they – are smart enough to make these programs work when all others have failed.
Obama supporters feel they must oppose Republicans, because they regard Republicans as “dangerous right-wingers,” “the lunatic fringe,” “the extreme right,” and even “war-mongers,” “oppressors,” “racists,” “anti-woman,” “anti-child,” “fascists,” and, yes, “Nazis.” But at the same time, Obama supporters regard themselves as “tolerant,” “inclusive,” and in favor of “diversity.” Self-awareness is never easy, but at least you have to try.
Liberalism has two prerequisites: (1) Denial of reality, especially with regard to the evils of totalitarianism. (2) Egotism, especially with regard to their ability to make socialism work, when it has failed and is failing elsewhere.
Whatever your opinion of who won the debates, you must admit that President Obama, like the corporal, knows how to defend a hopeless position. But on second thought, Obama probably would not make a good corporal. He has no personal knowledge of the military. A corporal leads a fire team. He and his men trust their lives to one another. Egotism and divisiveness are of no use here – group cohesion is vital to achieving a common goal, and even to survival.
In the corporal’s world, talking glibly about something just doesn’t cut it – you actually have to do it. Academic theories have no value here – only practical knowledge is useful. From sad experience, the corporal knows that in the real world, Plan A may not work, so rigid adherence to it can be fatal, and a Plan B is often a life-saver.
And if some of the corporal’s men were under attack for seven hours, as our people were at Benghazi, he would not hesitate to come to their aid. He surely would not ask outsiders for permission. There might not be a pre-approved plan for a rescue, but the corporal had been taught to improvise, adapt, overcome – and surely not to do nothing, and then try to conceal his failure with confusing verbiage.
Although he is only a corporal and not the commander-in-chief, he can distinguish a horse from a warship. Unlike Obama, he knows that regardless of technical advances, it still requires men on the ground to take and hold territory. And unlike Obama, the corporal knows that in extreme cases, a bayonet still comes in handy.
So I apologize to the corporal for the unfair comparison with President Obama. After all, the corporal was on the winning side at his Waterloo.


M9 Bayonet

Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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