Coming off the heels of commemorating the sacrifices of our soldiers this Memorial Day, it is incumbent upon our civilian political leadership to think long and hard about foreign policy and how best to craft policies that will ensure the lives of our troops are not needlessly put at risk. At its core, this means when the U.S. goes to war and our troops are sent into harm’s way, it is done factoring in the best interests of our troops.
George Patton was famous for saying, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” This salty Patton adage could be just as relevant today as an admonition to the civilian political class not to let political correctness, poor planning, lack of strategic goals and defined outcomes, and tepid rules of engagement needlessly kill or maim our troops.
Reasonable people can disagree over the prudence of a particular military engagement, but once our troops are sent into battle, the first priority must always be to achieve the mission with as little loss of life to U.S. soldiers, not to the other side – not even to innocent civilians. If the cause is just and the engagement deemed necessary, responsibility for civilian casualties lies at the feet of the enemy. If our political class is too squeamish about collateral damage and is intent on gratuitously risking the lives of our troops, they should not go to war in the first place.
This is a sacred goal and commitment all American leaders used to understand. We paid a heavy price for the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, with nearly 2,500 American fatalities. But thanks to meticulous planning, a clearly defined mission, and a no holds barred desire to achieve that mission, a continent was freed and the world was saved just one year later. This was all done despite bad luck, dismal weather, and mechanical failures that plagued the assault at Omaha Beach – and all without the enormous technological advantage the U.S. military enjoys today over its contemporary enemies.
To this day, families of WWII veterans can stand on the hallowed ground of Omaha Beach and solemnly reflect with pride on the enormous ground taken and preserved in the fight to protect our national interests and those of all humanity.
If our soldiers are willing to pay the ultimate price for our freedoms, the least we can do is ensure that as few of our brave men and women are killed in action as possible, and that if they ultimately give their lives for this great nation, their sacrifice is not countermanded by the shortsightedness of those who send them into battle.
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