Sunday, February 6, 2011
Football (and War) is about Winning
The film, “Patton”, opens with George C. Scott giving an abbreviated version of General George Patton’s actual speech to the men of the Third Army on the eve of D-Day.
Today’s wars apparently require a different kind of general; one who gets combat ribbons for testifying before Congress and giving press conferences. They could win wars if the pukes in Washington would let them annihilate the enemy.
Patton’s actual speech was laced with profanity of the kind any man who has spent time in the Army or other branches of the service understood. Patton began by saying “Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle.”
“When you, here, every one of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball players, and the All-American football players. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards.”
The late comedian George Carlin had a routine in which he compared baseball to football. In baseball, he said, you play “in a park.” In football, you play in a stadium “on a grid.” Carlin knew that football is as much about war as it is about winning. The very image of a football player is a large, intimidating man clad in body armor.
The Superbowl is a clash of titans, men who have fought for every inch and every point until the whistle blows and the game is ended. We don’t go to the games or tune in on television to watch women play football.
We don’t want women analyzing the game afterward. We don’t even like seeing them interview the players on the sidelines. We do like the cheerleaders in their skimpy outfits. That’s the only place for a woman anywhere near the field.
Vietnam War veterans will tell you they were winning in the field and they were. The problem was that we had been in Vietnam for seven years by the time the politicians, yielding to a weary public, pulled the plug.
Fifty thousand-plus lives were lost, mostly due to a lack of resolve. Out of Vietnam came the doctrine enunciated by Colin Powell who had fought there and rose to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He said America must only go to war with overwhelming numbers and force.
That was applied in the first Iraqi war (1990-91) called Desert Storm and it worked. George H.W. Bush, probably because of pressure from Middle Eastern allies, stopped well short of going into Baghdad. It was left to George W. Bush to do, aided by our British and Canadian allies.
On March 20, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced. U.S. forces arrived in Baghdad with too few troops to control the crowds and with no plan beyond finding Saddam Hussein. What followed was yet another long, meandering war without an end date though combat has ended.
This has been repeated in Afghanistan. How long have we been there? Can anyone remember? Have we “won”? Is it, by any definition winnable?
Throughout the 2008 campaign, Obama, carped about Iraq and called Afghanistan the real war. As president he increased the number of troops in Afghanistan and it is still a stalemate.
We have troops in Korea, in Japan, in Germany. Even when we “win” we never leave. When not killing the enemy, we build schools and clinics. For this we get little thanks and no respect.
“Americans play to win all of the time,” said Patton. Well, we used to. Our victories since the end of World War Two have ended in stalemates. It’s not that we lack the capacity to win decisively and impose our will on our enemies; it’s that we lack the will to do so.
Unlike the Superbowl where millions tuned in to watch, I doubt you have seen any coverage of the war in Afghanistan in a long time. After a year, the Iraqis have managed to cobble together something they call a government.
We have two carrier groups parked off the coast of Iran and the Iranians have recently announced they are going to put some warships through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean off the coast of Israel.
“Sure we want to go home,” Patton told his men. “We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards that started it.”
Good advice then. Good advice now.
© Alan Caruba, 2011