Lions Led by Donkeys

ASYLUMNote: Regardless on which side of the aisle you sit, this is a must read by every American concerned about our military and what is happening to it — and why. David French is an attorney, a staff writer for National Review, and a veteran of the Iraq War. Like Mr. French, I also do not believe military experience is a prerequisite to become POTUS, but the smart person will surround himself with people who have the experience he lacks, not people who are as ignorant as he.

by David French

In 14 years of continual combat, has there ever been a greater disconnect between our warrior class and the civilians who purport to lead them? American politicians still don’t understand our enemy, still don’t understand the capabilities and limitations of the American military, and worst of all, they still seem unwilling to learn.

They come from an intellectual aristocracy that believes itself educated simply because it’s credentialed and they tend to listen only to those who share similar credentials. They’ve built a bubble of impenetrable ignorance, and they govern accordingly.

During World War I, German general Max Hoffman reportedly declared that English soldiers fight like lions, but we know they are lions led by donkeys. Over time, his criticism stuck, and popular opinion about the war hardened into a consensus that the horrors  of the trenches were the product of stupidity and lack of imagination. Callous generals, the criticism held, safely ensconced themselves in the rear while sending young men to die in futile charges, unable to conceive of the tactical and strategic changes necessary to deal with the technological revolutions that defined the war. This criticism was unfair then, as generals on all sides suffered high casualty rates and dramatically changed tactics during the course of World War I, but it’s entirely fair now.

Just look at the collection of senior talent advising President Obama on ISIS. Stanford and Oxford-educated National Security Adviser Susan Rice has no military experience, was part of the team that disastrously botched America’s response to the Rwandan genocide, and is notable mainly for a willingness to say anything to advance the electoral prospects of her political bosses. Stanford and Michigan educated and leftist Valerie Jarrett, by many accounts, President Obama’s most-trusted adviser She also has no military experience, spent much of her life toiling in Chicago municipal politics, and has gained influence primarily through her steadfast loyalty to the Obamas.

Yes, Yale educated John Kerry served in Vietnam, but one of his first acts upon returning home was to turn on his fellow veterans and slander them as war criminals. He has minimal credibility in the military. Perhaps worst of all is Smith College¬ educated Wendy Sherman, the lead negotiator of the administration’s disastrous Iran deal. She has zero military experience, started her career as a social worker, and then made her name in radical pro-abortion politics as the director of EMILY’s List. Sherman played an instrumental role in the failed North Korean nuclear negotiations during the Clinton administration, so naturally Obama put her in charge of the Iranian debacle. Incredibly, this gang of cocooned leftists has reportedly aced the Pentagon out of the decision-making process and pushed military frustration to the highest level in decades.

But the politicized Pentagon bears its own share of the blame, beginning with a politically correct culture where discrimination complaints are more harmful to careers than battlefield failures. Yale and Oxford educated Ash Carter is no doubt intelligent (he has a theoretical physics) and may be an upgrade over Chuck Hagel, but he has exactly as much experience in uniform as the commander-in-chief.

On his watch, the Pentagon has maintained rules of engagement that have so dramatically hampered American forces in the field that terrorists routinely and easily find safe haven from the world’s most capable military.

And while military experience, even experience on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan, is no guarantee of either wisdom or policy agreement (after all, even the most hardened post-9/11 veterans can and do disagree on tactics and strategy), there is a reason Senator Tom Cotton stood alone in voting against the disastrous Corker bill. He has seen jihad up close, and he knows that it cannot be appeased.

Republicans, while possessing a bit more clarity regarding the nature of our enemy, suffer from similar defects in experience. Not one of the leading GOP contenders has served one day in the military, and this experience deficit could be one reason that they sometimes substitute the foolish pacifism and appeasement of the Left for foolish saber-rattling. The Republican candidates, near-lock-step support for a Syrian no-fly zone (with the notable exceptions of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump) reflects the worst sort of strategic thinking.

Chris Christie’s vow to shoot down Russian planes if they violate such a no-fly zone was an embarrassment.

I do not believe that military service is a prerequisite for the presidency, but lack of service, especially lack of service since 9/11 should lead to a degree of humility and openness to counsel that our political aristocracy self-evidently doesn’t possess.

I know their world. I’ve lived in their world. This is a political class that reflexively distrusts the military, believes the right kind of experience can be gained by attending panel discussions from Boston to Geneva to Istanbul, and claims to gain on-the-ground insight from quick, guided tours of the safest sectors of Iraq and Afghanistan.

They know nothing. Worse, they learn nothing. The American people deserve better. This is a nation that has supplied an all-volunteer military with elite warriors for 14 consecutive years of combat. This is a nation whose sons and daughters keep exhibiting  the courage of the Greatest Generation and the generations of soldiers who came before.

We still raise lions. But alas, the donkeys rule.



3 thoughts on “Lions Led by Donkeys”

  1. Hi there. It’s not our leaders who are scary it’s our policy towards the military and our foreign policy which is ill conceived. We can’t read minds so we have to look at the qualities of the person. Someone who is against imperialism is at least someone who would only “break open in case of emergency.” I served in Iraq too and did not trust what we were doing had any lasting importance. And, as we see, my and your brothers who died there, died in vain. The real issue is war itself and listening to anyone including Christians who say we will see if the sand glows is no better, none whatsoever. “Agree with you on the foolish sabre rattling.” These people are scary except the ones who are adults and see imperialism and war as going hand in hand. Isn’t it really our foreign policy of preserving our energy rights and our stubborn blindness to what happened in Palestine the problem? We have to deal with the fact that Palestine was Palestine and the displacement of Palestinians started the fight. Now, sadly, there is no memory of what started all this, only that we will make the sand glow. I’ll keep reading, like the passion. The second truly scary issue with our leadership towards the military started in 1992. The degrading of our readiness due to a social experiment sparked without necessity is truly scary and leads one to think are they just stupid or extremely smart. Serious implications in either scenario.

    1. Joe, I could not agree with you more.Yes, it all did start in 1992 and the social engineering of our military has not stopped. In fact, the issues at hand currently, will — I believe — make our military second and maybe even third-rate. Sad, sad, sad!

  2. This is entirely true. A physics gent cannot repair your car. A lawyer does’t know squat about long distance logistics. And if you’ve never heard the snap crack of rounds close by nor be too wet, too cold, too hot, too filthy, too hungry…short of ammo and your platoon has taken too many losses due to stupid orders or shitty luck, you don’t really know much about war. Yes, you don’t need the resume of John Basilone to play an important role in the military services….but if you’re a civilian decision maker and you’ve little military experience you are morally bound to seek folks who’ve seen the elephant and can explain in some detail the pluses and minuses of various courses of action. Damn good essay.

Please leave a comment on this post or on any subject; all are appreciated. Thank you and Semper Fi, Jim