In the Benghazi talking points scandal, there seems to be no incredulity among the members of the press corps about the idea that was put forth by then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that:
“This is not 9-1-1. You cannot just simply call and expect within two minutes to have a team in place. It takes time,” Panetta said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
He continued blaming the lack of intelligence that would have allowed the military to respond more rapidly to the crisis. According to a report published by Fox News on October 26th, Panetta expanded on that. According to the report, the U.S. military did not quickly intervene during the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya last month because military leaders did not have adequate intelligence information and felt they should not put American forces at risk.
While I am sure that there are many in this nation who might believe the fear of risk for the members of our military is in fact an admirable trait for the Secretary of Defense, there is most likely a far more sizable number who cannot accept such a rationalization at face value. Who are these doubters? Well, military veterans sort of springs to mind.
There is never perfect clarity of information when men and women are being sent into harm’s way. For those of us who served, particularly those of us who served in combat, we pretty much took that as a given. Why else would the phrase “the fog of war” even exist?
Planning is essential in any military operation, and there is nothing that can substitute for having a plan to follow that everysingle member of a unit can grasp. However, there are two things that must be noted about the idea of plans.
The first comes from the great military thinker Carl von Clausewitz who inspired German General Helmuth von Moltke to say: “No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy.”
The other comes from Sun Tzu, the renowned Chinese general and military thinker. In his book The Art of War, Sun Tzu states that there are five serious flaws in any general that will lead to defeat. The most applicable in this situation is:
“There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general … over-solicitude for his men …”
Every veteran, from chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the most junior private instinctively understands the truth of these two propositions. Apparently the then-secretary of defense Leon Panetta does not. When you are in the service, risking your life in fulfillment of the mission is a given.
But what about those who have no military experience? Can they possibly understand how this could work? If they have never been in the military, or had a family member in the military, probably not. A mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle or grandparent would understand. When their son or daughter went into the military they would go to bed fearful every night and pray that this night would not be the one when they got a phone call advising them that their own, personal, veteran had been wounded or killed in action. But as much as they feared the outcome, they understood that that risk was part of being in the service to the country.
But for those who are still blissfully unaware of what life in the military is like, I would suggest that a similar effect can be seen every single day on television. There are scores of police-centered dramas broadcast every day of the week, and inevitably one of the police in the show is shot and wounded.
And then a brother officer makes a radio call that consists of only two words. Just two. Not an Obama length speech. Just two words: OFFICER DOWN!
For a change, the script writers need only reflect the reality of the world in this situation to produce the heightened drama that television needs. When a call goes out that an officer is down, every single officer, whether a state trooper, county sheriff, a city or town cop, even meter maids, immediately begin moving. And they are all, every single one, moving toward the sounds of guns. No hesitation, no second thoughts, no lengthy risk assessment. They just start moving because a brother officer is down. A brother officer. A phrase that has come down through the centuries from Shakespeare who, in 1598, had his character, Harry the King in Henry V, describe the relationship so well:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother
That’s the response of police to the potential loss of a comrade. So too is the response of every member of the military when told one of their own is in jeopardy.
So is an order to “Stand down” (or in the latest iteration of nonsense from the White House, “not go”) because of the risk believable?
What the administration fails to understand is that Americans will forgive a failed attempt to save the lives of Americans. We see people die every day in this country trying to save someone else who is drowning. We see ordinary people take risks just to help another human being. That is part of the American personality. It is part of the American culture. That is part of being American.
Apparently those creatures in the White House have failed to learn these things.
Perhaps this scandal will help them learn that although Americans will forgive a failed attempt to save lives, they will never forgive a failure to make that attempt.
Originally published on American Thinker