Memorial Day: Remembering not just their sacrifices, but also how they won … and lost

My father was 16 when the joined the Army by lying about his age. He was in Pearl City when the harbor was bombed, and hopped islands across the Pacific with his artillery unit until the war ended in victory on two fronts.

The war was waged with determination, skill, industry, sacrifice, pride and eventually the most destructive weapon ever used in war.

Obama at National Defense University. (Getty Images via WSJ)

My generation was tasked with stopping the falling dominoes of communism. Politicians dictated strategy, technology and even targets. That war ended with the April 30, 1975, big bug out.

This past week at the National Defense University, President Obama basically declared a unilateral end to the  “global war on terror.”

In a 7,000-word speech that covered reducing drone strikes, closing Gitmo and reciting a litany of terrorist attacks, Obama said:

“We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the wellspring of extremism, a perpetual war — through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments — will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.

“So the next element of our strategy involves addressing the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism — from North Africa to South Asia.  As we’ve learned this past decade, this is a vast and complex undertaking.  We must be humble in our expectation that we can quickly resolve deep-rooted problems like poverty and sectarian hatred.”


Osama bin Laden was the son of a billionaire Saudi construction magnate. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were well educated and well off.

Sectarian hatred, not Islamic hatred? He said “the United States is not at war with Islam.”

He went on to say:

“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue.  But this war, like all wars, must end.  That’s what history advises.  That’s what our democracy demands.”

Claiming the “best analogy to the current conflict is the Cold War, which lasted more than 40 years from the Truman Doctrine through the fall of the Soviet Union,” he seemed to forget the never ending war on poverty and war on drugs. He also neglected the point that while a few Islamic terrorists have been killed they have not “fallen,” as Fort Hood, Benghazi, Boston and London attest. Meanwhile, Islamist dominoes are falling from Libya to Egypt to Syria with one despotic regime being replaced by another equally as despotic and hateful of America.

In Vietnam they called it winning the hearts and minds, but nonetheless Obama calls for:

“For what we spent in a month in Iraq at the height of the war, we could be training security forces in Libya, maintaining peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors, feeding the hungry in Yemen, building schools in Pakistan, and creating reservoirs of goodwill that marginalize extremists.  That has to be part of our strategy.”

It worked so well before.

Obama seems oblivious to the potential for terrorists to use chemical weapons from Syria or nukes from Iran or North Korea.

Maybe we should just call this Obama’s big bug out. Give them all lawyers and Miranda rights and televise the trials.

On a day on which we pay homage to the veterans of past wars, perhaps we should pay heed to what they did that worked and what failed.

How do you win these hearts and minds?

11 comments on “Memorial Day: Remembering not just their sacrifices, but also how they won … and lost

  1. Rincon says:

    Today, we express our gratitude to those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. We should never be anxious to put them in harm’s way unless there is little other choice.

    While we exhaust ourselves running around the world trying to whack-a-mole, China quietly gathers her strength. Our debt handcuffs us while China enjoys a massive surplus. Russia didn’t collapse because it’s army was too small or not utilized enough. Our downfall may come in a similar way unless we start thinking long term and stop playing whack-a-mole.

  2. How do we keep moles from whacking us?


  3. nyp10025 says:

    You know, Mr. Mitchell, there is so much that can be said in response to your post. But I will confine myself to remarking on how striking it is that a self-acknowledged libertarian with a professed revulsion for the power and trappings of the modern state would be so comfortable with the notion of a war of infinite duration against an ill-defined concept, constitutionally grounded in a decade-old resolution of Congress addressed to an entirely different set of military circumstances.

  4. nyp10025 says:

    By the way — in which part of his speech did President Obama “declare a unilateral end to the  ‘global war on terror'”?

  5. John L. Smith says:

    Good column, Tom. Thanks for the nice time. Jls

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. Wendy Ellis says:

    What really gagged me was the Campaigner in Chief, giving a speech to a group of young military graduates, on “sexual misconduct.” Obama is completely As a veteran, it occurred to me that this was not a theme designed to encourage young people, who are beginning their military careers. Why do you suppose this is even an issue to begin with? Perhaps a factor is the forced gay military thing, which was never spoken of, or accepted when I served in the USAF from 1976-1981…and as a young woman (age 18), it was made clear to me that fraternization was plainly discouraged.

    There was nothing in the oath I swore upon enlistment, which had anything to do with sexual preference, etc. Our military has a distinct mission, and it has nothing to do with “courage” in coming out of the closet. In fact, our dorm rooms (and lockers–our closets) were inspected without notice occasionally. Anything which might prove to be embarrassing, was put on display for all to see!

    Barack Hussein Obama has no business lecturing anyone in the US military, or pushing his agenda to a captive audience.


  7. nyp10025 says:

    For some loopy reason, Wendy Ellis thinks that the fact that gay Americans are now allowed to serve in the armed forces explains the recent epidemic of male harassment of female service members. And she also believes that the Commander in Chief should not Ddress this problem.

    I disagree.

  8. Wendy Ellis says:

    NYP10025: You neglect the fact that a number of complaints come from male members of the armed forces. You also neglect to state your name. I stand behind the comments I make. I bear no ill will towards anyone, based on whether they are gay or straight. Sexual preference is a private matter, and is not supposed to interfere with the mission of the US Military. I cannot recall a single time during my service, when this issue was brought up in either casual conversation or official briefings.

    Comments and lectures about such things by the “Commander in Chief” have no place in such a ceremony. Yet the audience is forced to listen to the remarks of a political opportunist, who says nothing encouraging to them. The president’s goal is to diminish our military, and turn them into sissies.

    Why won’t you stand behind your own comments?

    You call my reasoning loopy? Bring it on–you are a coward.

  9. Nyp says:

    “The president’s goal is to diminish our military, and turn them into sissies.”

    Nope, no homophobia here!

  10. nyp10025 says:

    Here are the President’s remarks to the graduating midshipmen — the ones that Wendy Ellis says contained “nothing encouraging”:

    “So Class of 2013, I cannot promise you a life of comfort and ease, for you have chosen an ancient path — the profession of arms — which carries all the perils of our modern world.  And just as classes before you could not know that they would find themselves at Coral Sea or Midway or Fallujah or Helmand, we cannot know sitting here today where your service will carry you.

    But I do know this.  As you say farewell to Bancroft Hall, as you make your way down Stribling Walk one last time, you’re becoming the newest link in a storied chain.  As I look into your eyes today, I see the same confidence and the same professionalism, the same fidelity to our values of those who’ve served before you — the Jones and Nimitz and Lejeune and Burke, and, yes, the Snyder and the Lampert — Americans who surrendered to nothing.

    And I’m absolutely confident that you will uphold the highest of standards, and that your courage and honor and your commitment will see us through, and that you will always prove yourselves worthy of the trust our nation is placing in you today.”

  11. […] an earlier posting I remarked that Obama’s speech this past week at the National Defense University was […]

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