Sunday, January 20, 2008


I am currently reading T.R. Fehrenbach’s “This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History.” The author speaks to both the origins and capacity of the Chinese soldier that fought the United States troops to a standstill and to the Vietnamese troops that did the same to the U.S. in the sixties.

For Lin Piao (Lin Biao, Wikipedia ) the military was not just a job but a way of life that he pursued for most of his life.

Commanding the Red Army's First Army Group, Lin defended the Jiangxi Soviet against Chiang Kaishek's Extermination Campaigns. During the Long March (1934-1935), Lin's unit formed a vanguard. While crossing the Dadu River, Lin was responsible for capturing the Luding Bridge, a truly heroic feat. In Yan'an, Lin headed the Worker-Peasant Red Army University.

In Vietnam, General Giap dedicated his life to defeating the Japanese, the French and then the United States.

What these two Generals and a significant portion of their troops had in common was that they were into the war for the duration. No four year enlistments, no 15 month deployments, no PXs, no fancy dinners on Thanksgiving. No sir-ree. In the mid-thirties Lin Piao led 20,000 troops on a 6,000 mile trek on foot averaging 24 miles a day avoiding the Chinese Nationalist army in pursuit.

There are a lot of striking similarities when one compares the U.S. experiences in Korea, in Vietnam and in Iraq. As opposed to the Roman legions that stayed for many decades in many foreign lands, America wants a quick solution.

Growing up in America means one finds a solution for the current problem and then goes on to the next problem and then to the next. American Revolution, War of 1812, American Civil War, settling the American West (forcing native Americans onto reservations) and on and on. And, “oh,” we don’t consider “racism” a problem. It is only a problem if it affects folks who are white and protestant.

The United States, as a nation, suffers from a ‘short attention span.’ We do not have the national fortitude for the long haul. Maybe we can call it the “TV Syndrome” where the hero solves the thorniest problem in less than an hour, in primetime, of course.

Basically, we do not have the national will to export “democracy” at the end of a gun and stay around until it may flower & grow. We do not want to deploy, not just the Army, but individual troops, to Iraq for a decade or more. We are not willing to ask our soldiers and sailors to dedicate their individual lives to the spreading of democracy.

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