Recalling Wisdom of Two Great American Generals

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Some in the middle east and elsewhere now profess anger and outrage at the brilliant success our brave forces have crafted in their stunningly swift conduct of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Keep in mind these are the very people who danced with rapture on September 11, 2001 upon learning that 3,000 innocent people had been served up as a holocaust in Lower Manhattan.

As the dangerous mopping up phase proceeds toward conclusion in Iraq, we would do well to recall the advice of a pair of Army generals.


George S. Patton argued that by 1945, we had the muscle in place to send the Soviets reeling back to within their own borders. That action, if taken, would have spared Europe more than forty years of iron curtain division and considerably lessened the Soviets’ turf from which to wage cold war.

Douglas MacArthur believed that in war there is no substitute for victory. He argued we had the forces in place to strike vulnerable support targets beyond the Yalu River to halt the Chinese invasion of North Korea. Instead we spent years (and thousands of lives) at inconclusive “armistice talks” that left a dictatorial regime in place for more than half a century to brutalize its own people and threaten its neighbors under the fig leaf of a mutual cease fire.

In both instances, we decided expedience was best and opted for a cautious path of weakness in the name of “peace”. Patton was benched. MacArthur was fired.

In his 1963 classic film, “Lawrence of Arabia,” David Lean attributed this line to then-Prince Feisal: “The virtues of war are the virtues of young men, bravery and courage; while the vices of peace are the vices of old men, mistrust and caution.”

Can we learn from our mistakes of the past? Are we really interested in long term peace in the region as a way to thwart terrorists? If so, now is the time to recall an ancient maxim: The road to Damascus goes through Baghdad.

Syria should be made to answer for the deaths of 241 Marines their terrorists killed in a single explosion in Beirut almost two decades ago, their absorption of Lebanon and the continuing support they have given the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein ever since. We now have the forces in place to call Syria to account. We have a perishable opportunity to eradicate evil doers who dwell in the Beka’a Valley and others in Syria who continue to terrorize innocent people with impunity.

Once Syrian centers of terror activity have been neutralized, we can — and I believe should — turn our attentions east and a bit south toward Tehran. Those who seized our embassy in 1979, treated our innocent countrymen with cruel imprisonment for 444 days and have since vigorously continued to support international terrorism also have much to answer for.

As for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, we can afford to bide our time. Even now the “Dear Leader” in Pyongyang is learning anew what was meant by the motto emblazoned a tattered old flag we once flew long ago: “Don’t tread on me”.

A decision will soon be upon us: Shall we again sow the dragon’s teeth of future conflict by ending this one too soon?

”’Thomas E. Stuart is a resident of Kapaau, Hawaii and can be reached via email at:”’