Thursday, March 01, 2007

Supporting The Wrong Team

Tuesday, 25 February, at lunch, after picking up a sandwich from a Cambridge deli we detoured through Hahvahd Yahd with a couple of colleagues. While hustling across the quad with streams of students we spied four students holding a pair of Palestinian Liberation Organization flags and a sign. I couldn't read the sign, and the students stood peacefully, largely ignored.

We commented to our colleagues that this a great place where you can stand holding the flag of a sworn enemy of our country and no one bothers you. One colleague commented sarcastically that they were exercising their First Amendment rights. We asked what would happen if we stood across from them with an Israeli or a U.S. flag; or let them know that we thought them idiots. Somehow, we knew that our exercise of our own First Amendment rights would not have been viewed as kindly upon HU's hallowed campus.

The third member of our trio is dating a Marine Aviator currently on station in Iraq. She wondered what would happen if she carried the Marine Corp flag across the quad. We laughed, because we all the knew answer.

In a terrific article in today's WSJ, Daniel Henninger writes about this divide between the men and women of our armed forces and the civilian establishment. He relates the tale of U.S. Army Major Bruce Crandall (ret.) and his recent receipt of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the lack of coverage of either the feat or the ceremony in the mainstream media.

Henninger writes the following about the words of Gen. Peter Shoomaker, the Army chief of staff:

"Look at his words and consider whether they still stand today, or whether as a matter of the nation's broader ethos of commonly accepted beliefs, they are under challenge. Gen. Schoomaker said: 'The words of the warrior ethos that we have today--I will always place the mission first; I will never accept defeat; I will never quit; and I will never leave a fallen comrade--were made real that day in the la Drang Valley.'"

Henninger continues:

"The secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey, went on in this vein: 'The courage and fortitude of America's soldiers in combat exemplified by these individuals is, without question, the highest level of human behavior. It demonstrates the basic goodness of mankind as well as the inherent kindness and patriotism of American soldiers.'"

The "warrior ethos" and soldiers as exemplars of "the highest level of human behavior" are certainly not views held by critics of the war in Iraq, the military or the bush administration. Henninger concludes:

"All nations celebrate personal icons, and ours now tend to be doers of good. That's fine. But if we suppress the martial feats of a Bruce Crandall, we distance ourselves further from our military. And in time, we will change. At some risk."

Indeed. To the protesters on the Harvard Quad, celebrate Bruce Crandall. Celebrate the (true) warrior ethos of our military. Honor the exemplars of human behavior who serve in our armed forces -- not the PLO.

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